Coming Home

How to bring home adventure, even if you never left.

Posted Mar 16, 2018

Do you ever feel like you just need to shake things up in your life? I did. So for the last two years, I’ve lived a mostly nomadic existence. I’ve wandered across multiple continents, living out of two suitcases. I sold most of my already minimal belongings and keep a few remaining boxes in storage (and an obscene number of books in my mom’s basement in Iowa). I have a PO Box, but no actual permanent residence. “Where do you live?” is a complicated question. And the suspicious looks and confused grunts I receive when I try to explain how I live reveals that many think I must be on permanent vacation, am never working, and/or refuse to “grow up.”  

But the purpose of this piece is not to explain to you how to look like you’re always on vacation while constantly working your butt off (we can deep-dive into that another day). Instead, I want to talk about the journey home.

In Theodore Zeldin’s gorgeous book, An Intimate History of Humanity, he includes a chapter called “How travelers are becoming the largest nation in the world, and how they have learned not to see only what they are looking for.” (Yes, his chapter titles are the best. Another is called “Why there has been more progress in cooking than in sex.”) It’s a book that appeals to me in many ways, but I’ve always felt this particular chapter on the nation of travelers was speaking directly to me.

I’ve previously written about the value of experiencing foreignness to make you “better” and happier in your everyday life, and in the spirit of practicing what you preach, I’ve certainly taken my own advice and bathed in foreignness for these two years. That part comes easily to me. I’ve lived in a lot of places so far in this life, and I’m most “at home” when traveling. But now I want to grapple with a new challenge: Bringing the adventure home.

I am now in one general zip code, with the intention of staying for a chunk of time (even without a permanent address or a couch. Baby steps.) And while the place may change and I will eventually leave again, I am committed to learning to be adventurously at home.

For me, home is more of a concept than a literal structure. It’s a feeling, a moment, a person. This broad definition is both liberating and frustrating. While it makes it easy for me to be a global citizen, it makes it more difficult for me to take root and stay put. Because if I’m in one place, I’m missing all my other current and potential future homes. It’s like a weird type of home FOMO.

But there is value in finding an actual place to call home, at least for some period of time. Relationships — of all varieties — benefit from regular maintenance. And it can be difficult to do that with continents between you, even in the age of all-the-time smartphones. The same goes for community. Reaping the benefits that come from belonging to a larger community requires consistent participation — not just novelty tourism.

Anna Akbari
Source: Anna Akbari

So maybe right about now you’re saying, “Look lady. It’s cute that you went on some Eat, Pray, Love journey, but I’ve got a job, a family, a mortgage, and I can’t plan a weekend getaway, let alone a two suitcase existence.” To which I say: Touché. BUT —

I promise I’m still talking to you here. Because bringing the adventure home (even if you never really leave) is something we all need more of. It makes us love our place and our people that much more. And it staves off mindless convention and boredom, which most people erroneously think are requirements to qualify for membership in the Adulthood Club (which, I promise, is grossly overrated).

However: bringing the adventure home does NOT mean you can no longer take pleasure in the small, mundane stuff. Quite the contrary. I just want you to both get a rise out of hate-watching The Bachelor AND find regular outlets for taking risks and making discoveries.

Because here’s the thing about home: it’s rooted in comfort. Familiar surroundings, beliefs, routines, people. But what pushes us to grow is the opposite of that. The unfamiliar. The uncomfortable. Greatness requires more than the confines of home. And yet, some type of regular home-like refuge nurtures and replenishes us so we have the fortitude to make the journey (if only in our minds) in the first place.

So what I’m saying is this: what we often see as an either/or choice is really both/and. I can either have an exciting life OR I can be a responsible adult. I can either raise a family and have a “real” job OR I can be a forever-22 wanderer.

Well, I want both. I want home — the comfort, the community, the familiarity — but I also want to be scared and clueless and get lost regularly. I reject this false choice and commit to consciously creating a life where these two seeming extremes can coexist.


Well, the first requirement is NOT that you need to become obscenely rich. I’m not and you don’t have to be either. Yes, money makes this mode of living easier. But it isn’t a prerequisite and it may actually be more rewarding without an endless supply of cash, because every choice is that much more deliberate; it matters that much more. And you’re less likely to take any of it for granted.

So while you need not be rich, you do need to start consciously (re)writing your own rules. I can’t tell you exactly what is the right home + adventure formula for you, and it’s likely that there will be moments or even long stretches of time when your life will skew further toward one end of the spectrum than the other. But you’re in it for the long game. And a perpetual 50/50 balance of anything in life is neither realistic nor particularly fulfilling (more on that in the weeks to come).

You may be thinking this sounds fine in theory, but totally confusing in practice. So here’s my current personal commitment list for bringing the adventure home. Yours may look a bit different, but perhaps this will get you thinking about where to begin:

  • Dive deeper into new hobbies. I got really into hanging upside doing aerial yoga (which makes my back feel amazing) and horseback riding (which makes my everything feel amazing) while abroad. I’m committing to making those a regular part of my life at home. Not to worry: you need not invert or hang with large beasts to make this work. Ask yourself what interests and activities make you feel great, but never seem to make it onto your prioritized to-do list. Schedule them and commit. Everything and everyone in your life will benefit when you make time for challenging, satisfying outlets that exhilarate you.
  • Stop overlooking the awesomeness at my doorstep. While I was living in Australia, I was constantly shocked by how few people had been to New Zealand, despite the fact that it is a short, cheap, 3-hour flight away for most Australians (many of whom make regular trips to Europe). New Zealand is the most beautiful place on earth (find me a prettier one and I’ll go there tomorrow), and yet, many Australians felt it was not far enough away or “exotic” enough to warrant exploration. We do this constantly: overlooking the bounty already at our fingertips. I happen to be making my home in Southern California, an area rich with nature and abundant in adventure. I don’t need a passport to find myself in awe on a regular basis and neither do you.
  • Remove logistical hurdles to adventure. Thanks to ride sharing apps and the fact that I’ve spent my entire adult life in major cities, I have managed to avoid one of the main adulthood rites of passage: car ownership. But sometimes the addition of one type of responsibility can actually facilitate an opening. I always thought of the car as a long-term commitment and a financial burden (it’s actually been cheaper for me to use Uber/Lyft for getting around town than to lease a car, especially with my travel schedule). But if I’m quantifying every car trip, it discourages a lot of everyday exploration. Whereas if I’ve already paid for it, I want to really get my money’s worth, so taking a day trip becomes the “responsible” thing to do… And with startups that offer affordable month-to-month lease options, I get the best of both worlds. Examine whatever your excuses are and find realistic paths around them.

You get the gist. It really doesn’t matter how similar your list is to mine. What matters is that you create one, commit to it, and keep adding onto it.

To be clear, this was not some grand life design. I didn’t plan to go on a two-year journey. It just sort of happened. Nor did I plan how long it should be or what would happen at the end (life mantra: plan less, experiment more). And while I don’t intend to retire my passport anytime soon, I am ready to move into a new phase.

I am and always will be part of Zeldin’s nation of travelers, which means I will not only see what I am looking for, but notice the weird, wild, unexpected stuff I’m not seeking and never could have imagined — even in my own backyard.

“Adventure starts in the imagination,” Zeldin reminds us. Dreams, curiosity, discovery, transformation. This is the stuff of travel. We burst with it in new time zones and foreign lands. But it can also be the stuff of home.

Where do/can you locate adventure in your everyday life? How do you continue to transform, even when submerged in familiarity? Tell me in the comments and share this with anyone in need of some homey spice.