Tuesday, August 08, 2017

One Foot Forever In Each Place

For the past month or so, I've not slept more than two nights in the same place as I've travelled around the great nation of Australia while speaking with teachers and parents at my stops along the way. I've had some memorable adventures, seen some sights, gotten lost a few times, and had the opportunity to play with some cool people. I've been to five of the six states and one of the two mainland territories, traveled thousands of miles by plane, train, and automobile, been frozen by the cold and made sweaty by the heat. No two days have been alike, with no regular schedule to guide me, and few touchstones of normalcy. There have been moments of great stress, of great joy, of deep connection, and of oppressive loneliness, sometimes all in a single day.

I'm exhausted right now, sitting on yet another hotel room bed writing this morning's blog post as I've done for the past few weeks. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again, to reuniting with my wife, and to returning to the routines of home and school, but there's a part of me that's sad to see it come to an end. There's something to be said for living out of a backpack, not really knowing what each day will bring. It's been a chance to learn new things about myself, things that would have remained unlearned were I to have just continued along my beloved and familiar track. Likewise, I've also learned new things about the world and the people I've found out here beyond my little bubble back home.

This is why we travel, of course: it's broadening. I write here often about the things I would change about our educational system were I in charge, but if I were given the power over just one thing, it would be to require all of us to travel, not just for a week or two, but extensively, exhaustively, to spend a month or months or even a year or years living abroad. As a child our family spent four years in Athens, Greece and as an adult I lived a similar number of years with my wife in northern Germany. I've spent months here in Australia and have had the opportunity to travel through much of Europe as well as Morocco, China, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. Nothing changes a person like travel. Nothing causes your old prejudices to fall away like spending time among people who speak, eat, pray, and generally just live in ways unlike those to which we are accustomed.

Each time I travel, I learn. Each time I travel I see my own life more clearly. Each time I travel I return simultaneously dissatisfied and grateful for the life I live back home. In the past couple years I've waved goodbye to Woodland Park families who have flown off for new lives in Germany, Italy, Japan, and other places around the globe. Those children and their families will never be the same. They are now citizens of both America and the world. When they return they will see their home as both better than they remembered and worse by comparison. It's in the nature of travel to leave the traveler standing forever astride the globe with a foot still planted in the lands she's left behind.

When I finally board the plane that will take me back home, I will, as always, feel a pull in two directions which is the blessing and curse of travel. But I can say that I've confirmed once more that my life in Seattle is the best life for me, although I can now also see that maybe some of my old routines, habits and attitudes, things to which I've clung, are in fact holding me back.

I am not necessarily a happy traveler, but as always, I'm happy I have traveled. And as delighted as I am to be soon winging my way home, I'm delighted to know that I will return again in a year's time, one foot forever in each place.

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