Leaving home showed me how I find home wherever I go.
I learned all I need is a place to nest and familiar faces.
I was concerned about myself after we got into my aunt’s cabin after three or more hours of driving from the Denver airport and all I wanted to do was be alone. But once I finally nestled into the top bunk of the children’s room, surrounded by bedtime stories and outlet covers and swaddled in safari print sheets, I felt it: I just needed a nest. Once I got that, I could open up some more. I needed some place to call my own for the time being, where I could think – Colorado was completely new to me and I wanted to futz around with what I’d seen so far before commenting on it. (For I had no comment on the steely peaks and curves of deep blue mountain water lining the highways since they were, in fact, breathtaking.)
When we trekked through Colorado Springs and down to Santa Fe, I nested in the third row seat of my aunt’s SUV – which we lovingly called “the way, way back” – with the tipsy cooler and sack of snacks as my seat partners. My only escapes were through the trunk or over the second row seats and I loved it. I was named “a trooper” for sitting all the way back there, but any writer will know that she all she needs is a good perch:
I was the only person in the car to be able to see everyone and everything at all times. (And I could stretch out my legs.)
During my two-week stay, I gathered that Colorado is a place known for, but not limited to: perpetually dusty cars, fluffy and personable dogs, a variety of cuisine, large populations of grasshoppers and birds, horseback riding, very fit people, loyal mountains that follow one wherever she goes, and dispensaries. There is also a western pride in Colorado – people like living in Colorado. So much so, that next to nearly every flying American flag was the state flag. I didn’t know what the Pennsylvania state flag looked like until I went to Colorado and quickly looked it up so I would know a little more about my home state. Colorado residents know a lot about Colorado. How to get from place to place, what kind of bird that is, which mountain is tallest, when snow is expected…I know less than that about my hometown, let alone the entire state!
I also learned about travel, itself. It’s stacked with sacrifice: oodles of money, hours of sleep, stressful airport drama (like, ahem, staying on a cot in Chicago O’Hare airport because of a canceled flight), cultural differences, sharing things one normally wouldn’t share, ear popping, greasy travel food…Why do we do it?
For the experience, of course!
(click on the pics to look through the full-size ones)
Some might say that sleeping in an airport sucks, and while, yes, it does indeed stink compared to other sleeping arrangements, I secretly enjoyed it. This is not a common story one has the privilege to tell! It was so fascinating to see hundreds of people trying to sleep among strangers, waiting in lines for the bathroom with toothbrushes, snuggling any way they could with the provided blankets and rock-hard pillows. It was nice to see humanity cooperating. We all just wanted to sleep, that’s probably why.
The West is certainly different from the East. However, it is still American soil, and that fact made the differences I found not so great – merely landscapes and colloquialisms. On the 4th of July, people still drank beer and ate greasy grilled food and wore red, white, and blue, and found reasons to like where they live. Sure, while a camel and mariachi band walking in the parade might not have happened where I come from, it was still a relatable experience.
“Could you see yourself living out here?” my mom asked me one morning, sitting on the porch observing some horses grazing and hawks flying around.
“I can see myself coming back,” I said, “but I like the East. It’s where I’m from.”
Like I said, I need a place to nest. And so far, the rings of urbanization, mix of grudging diverse peoples, and decent – but not great – public transportation have worked for me.