“Home is not a place; it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern
I feel fortunate to have found and known—and continue to find and know—home, a sense of home, in places around the world and among people around the world. I often find the people are more important to that feeling than the place itself. Though the two in combination, when the feeling is right, are quite a powerful force.
Of the places I’ve lived and traveled, Michigan and Patagonia carry the greatest feelings of home for me.
There’s seemingly always been a pull between here and there. But when I was unexpectedly back in Michigan in January and February and then again in May and June, that pull on my heart was different. It felt stronger in that I could more clearly see the value I find and feel in each place, if that makes sense. I could more clearly see what each place holds for me.
It was also different in that I wouldn’t describe this pull as a tug of war. It’s a gentle pull. There’s a respect between these two places that occupy my heart. They each carry meaning and importance. They each carry a significant part of me.
“Who would’ve thought that when we met five years ago we’d be trekking in Torres del Paine together?” I say to Lindsay as we hike from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande in one of southern Patagonia’s most famous national parks.
Life, and the crossing of paths, is a seemingly strange and mind-blowing thing. Today, our second of five days in Torres del Paine, my mind traipses through my story with Lindsay.
She and I met in August 2012. I was fresh out of college and looking for marketing work in the social impact space. Lindsay was the national director of Right To Play – USA, an organization I was keen to work with. We initially connected through email, and then, when I was traveling through San Francisco, we met for coffee on a Friday afternoon at La Boulange. Our relationship, a mentorship and now a friendship, has grown from there.
I wrote the following reflection in early April following a month with Unsettled in Medellín, Colombia. I never published it on my blog nor have I shared it with anyone, until now. I’ve been sitting on this post as I wanted to get it “right.” I wanted to capture exactly what my month with Unsettled meant to and for me.
In hindsight, I realize I’ll likely never get it “right” in that way. A month with Unsettled is something that needs to be experienced to be understood.
That said, rather than keep the reflection that follows to myself, I thought I’d share it here — on the eve of embarking on my second Unsettled experience in Cape Town, South Africa. I think it captures a large part of my motivation for living Unsettled a second time. So cheers to this next adventure, my expanding Unsettled family and many more moments spent embracing the unknown.
“You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney
I don’t know that there’s a better set of words to capture the feeling of exploring the world and building home and community in more than one place. Michigan will always be home – this visit was a good reminder of that – but every time I travel and connect, or reconnect, with people and places, I feel a pull on my heart; I feel the truth of Miriam’s words.
Leaving is not easy. Saying “goodbye” and “see you later” is tough – sometimes painfully so – for me. Especially when it comes to my family, pets, good friends, the places I love most and experiences that dig deep and leave me wanting more.
“You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy. You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output — how much you produce — not in terms of the quality of your life experiences.” — Jean Shinoda Bolen
Three weeks ago, my friend Ashwini and I were riding in a jeep through the Colombian countryside near Guatapé. As we took photos and marveled at the lush, green, thriving mountains and the adventure we were on, I tuned in and out of a conversation between the Irish guy and Canadian girl — two fellow travelers, not in our group — with whom we were sharing the jeep.
As the jeep lurched and hobbled down the dirt road, pulling us back and forth with it, the guy and girl began talking about St. Patrick’s Day. As they did, I became lost in a momentary conversation with myself.
“What month is it?” I considered the question in silence for moment before looking at Ashwini.
I returned to Buenos Aires last night after spending the month of March in Medellín, Colombia with Unsettled.
It was a fast, intense and incredible month, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I quickly fell in love with Medellín — what’s not to love about a city tucked in the beautiful Colombian Andes — but within a few days, I found my love, admiration and respect for the people I was in community with taking over. So after a month, you can only imagine how deep that love is. How hard it was, and still is, to realize I won’t be seeing them on a daily basis anymore.
I’ve never been around a group of people that was so ready to dive in, especially upon first meeting one another. This group was so willing to embark on this adventure together. We were willing to embrace the unknown together; willing to be open, honest and vulnerable with one another; willing to trust one another.
Within a matter of days, 21 strangers became friends, and within a month, those 21 friends became family.
“The truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live.” — Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
I recently uncovered this quote in Steph Jagger’s Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, and it feels fitting to not only this post but to where I’m at in my life right now, so I’m just going to leave it here — if for no one else but me.
This morning was our first official orientation as a group, and as Jonathan, Liza and Simmone introduced our group to both Unsettled and Medellín, I couldn’t help but be struck by something Jonathan shared. Among Unsettled’s principles is a commitment to being true to yourself. For me, among the exploration, the community, the friendship, the adventure, the intentionality, the unknown, the learning and the growth that this month will inevitably bring, I think this idea of being true to myself hits at the heart of what I want to get out of being here.