What is it like to live in one place for your whole life? I mean not staying in the place of one’s birth, but coming and going as you please. I mean living and staying in the same town, suburb, valley or small region – for your whole life.
I have been one of the few outsiders in a country town (a village really). The telephone system required one to turn a handle, speak with an operator and give a name or simply a single-digit number: ‘2 please’. I was regarded as a ‘blow-in’: the wind had blown me in and would soon blow me away. It would have taken a few generations of intermarriage to be regarded as an insider.
I have spoken with an older woman with whom I was – for some long forgotten reason – talking about travel.
‘I haven’t travelled much’ she said. ‘I once went to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup’.
That was it, the journey to a foreign place. When I mentioned I was heading to China, she was mesmerised.
As a nomad, I too remain fascinated. What would it be like?
Some years ago on a long ride, I pedalled out of a small country town at the beginning of the next day’s ride (I had been on the road for over a week). A child, who was playing the front garden of a house, stopped and watched me cycle past. Everything else was forgotten as he stared. What was he thinking, I wondered? I imagined he was feeling a longing to be on the road, like me, with the freedom to decide where and when to go. That can be a longing only if you have never left a place, or do not have the freedom to choose so.
I was that child once, living in a remote country town and subject to my parents’ wishes and plans. A moment in the run of everyday life remains etched in my memory. I was standing on a corner, looking out. Two motorcyclists laden with gear pulled up. They removed their helmets and gloves and pulled out a map. Would they take this road or that road? Within a few minutes, they had decided and were off.
I keenly desired to be in their place, to be old enough to have such freedom, to leave the place that was supposed to be home.
Perhaps it is simply a nomad spirit. Being in a place is predicated on the ability to get away regularly. And even if I have lived somewhere for a while, eventually I get itchy feet and look to move on.
Home is always elsewhere, it seems. As I search, I continue to wonder what it would be like to live somewhere for your whole life, with little movement beyond its borders. But perhaps home is a place we have never been, but we will know it is home when we arrive.