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My family and I take turns around the holiday table and say what we’re thankful for each year. I’d forgotten about the tradition when it came up last Thursday. It caused me to pause.
Last year I spent Thanksgiving on the other side of the country. My boyfriend and I grilled a cheap steak in our cast iron skillet atop a Coleman camp stove. There were no picnic tables in the BLM land outside of Joshua Tree National Park, so we cooked on the ground, finally digging in at 10pm. I’d missed my family, who were asleep in New England, but I was with a man who felt like home.
When my turn came around, I realized I was thankful for constants. That sounds like routine and consistency, but that’s not what I meant. Sure, I drove across the country three times since last Thanksgiving. I could have said that I’m thankful for knowing where I’m going to sleep every night, for the luxury of time to grow my projects, for proximity to family. And these things are sweeter for having gone without.
But what I’ve come to appreciate are the things that haven’t changed whether I’m in a van, at home, or up in the air. I’m living in my home state for the first time in ten years. I love that I still want to jump out of the car when the fog rolls in over river water, or I spot the criss cross of naked branches at the last light of day. I still feel at home in flannels and boots. I worried that I wouldn’t be as inspired when I wasn’t stimulated by varying backdrops. It turns out what I was chasing (light and color, pattern and texture, connection and community) has stayed with me. I think I knew this all along.
A friend who spent some time on the road recently asked me – what’s it like for you to be still? The answer is, I’m not. Travel and (dare I say) exploring can be a way of life. It’s staying inquisitive everyday and it’s making time for trips. It’s not feeling restless, it’s staying present.
This holiday season I’m spending at home in New Hampshire and 3,000 miles away on the west coast. My boyfriend and I booked a flight for directly after Christmas to Southern California to do some backpacking and city dwelling. (The van is sitting this one out.) We’ll start to fill in the gaps from our previous visits there. We’ll stretch our legs and tire ourselves out on the trail. We hope to get some warmth and sunshine. We won’t really plan on anything though – we know that trains could be missed or the weather could go awry. That’s another constant I appreciate, the understanding that anything can happen.