Post (and Pre) Travel Displacement: On Settling Down, Sort Of…

The wingtip of my plane leaving behind the northern coastline of Africa

When I was in my mid-20s, a couple of friends took me to a fancy white-tablecloth restaurant in Dallas. None of us knew it but men were required to wear a jacket in the dining room. We weren’t wearing proper clothing and so jackets were provided by the maître d’.

Mine was forest green and ill-fitting. I felt ridiculous. It didn’t bode well for the evening. I couldn’t shake off the feeling I didn’t belong, as if I had slipped in the back door. I felt out of place.

For different reasons — and certainly not as intensely — I’ve felt out-of-my-element since returning. Yes, it’s good to be back at home and seeing my friends. It’s lovely to be sharing a meal with Bill again. It’s pleasing to have the comfort of predictability, the pleasure of repeated tasks and these familiar surroundings…

Is it because of the travel?

This period of travel in 2016— unprecedented in my life — has been extraordinary. It still seems unreal that by the time I return to teaching in August, I will have been away from home for three and a half months and traveled more than 58,000 miles. I’ve visited seven countries and have now been on every continent on the planet, save one: Antarctica.

But I’ve felt oddly disjointed since being back at home. I think my head is still somewhere in the clouds, headed to a new destination.

Because life has been hectic?

I had less than a week to recuperate then I drove to San Jose to get my sister. She had been flown out by Acer Corporation along with eleven other tech experts from around the country. For four days she answered questions and provided feedback to companies like Microsoft and Google about the technological needs of students and educational institutions. Katie is the Technology Director for a school system in Texas.

My sister and I at Vista Point, high above Sonoma County in Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve, just north of Guerneville, CA

I drove her up here for a weekend with us — we had a blast together. I felt as if I fell in love with her all over again. No one can make me laugh like she can.

After much searching we bought a circa-1900 hutch for our kitchen. Katie helped us find it. We’re in the process of filling it and clearing out things… although clutter seems to be our natural state.

We’ve been getting bids for drywall repair. We killed two sick chickens — extended illness endangers the other birds. We’ve been to two dinner parties, one in Monte Rio and one in San Francisco. We’ve hosted two dinner parties here at home. It’s been… our life. Our daily life.

I haven’t been able to get much work done. I’ve drafted some new poems and have been outlining the novel’s middle section, but neither of these activities feel very productive. Why doesn’t working feel like working? Why doesn’t being at home feel like being at home?

Is it because there’s more travel ahead?

I go to Texas June 25th to attend our family reunion on July 4th (the 63rd one) and to be a part of Katie’s retirement party on July 9th my parents are hosting. She’s retiring at the tender age of 53 (and yes, I’m envious.) She has a successful furniture store in Waco (Shades of Shabby) where she plans to devote herself full-time.

I fly to Vancouver, British Columbia July 16th to explore that city for a week with my good pal Jeff, who will fly there from Houston.

Maybe I’m experiencing Betwixt-and-Between — not traveling, but not really at home, either.

I guess I’m waiting for that sensation of belonging. Maybe once I’m back at home for good I’ll be able to feel as if I’m where I’m supposed to be.

And that fateful dinner in Dallas?  I remember my anticipation for when the meal would finally be over and we could pay the (exorbitant) check. What a pleasure it was to remove that stupid jacket, step outside into the warmth of the evening and feel like myself again.

8 thoughts on “Post (and Pre) Travel Displacement: On Settling Down, Sort Of…

  1. Looking forward to BC and your green jacket reminded me of a Melbourne restaurant story. Don’t let me forget to tell you!


      1. I shall be moving to Sonoma County in August, to attend Sonoma State, so I won’t be around Mendo much after that – but perhaps we could meet up somewhere closer to home sometime? I would dearly love to catch up!


  2. Ah. I like this piece! And it makes me ache for you, Bart. If only this was as simple as removing that ill-fitting green jacket! 😉

    But I bet you are right—it may be all of these things! And no doubt once the rest of your many travels are over you will be able to settle again at home. It may be that because you have traveled so much it may take LONGER to settle than you have experienced before, and because you are leaving again soon, your body and your spirit know they don’t yet get to stay put.


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