By the time I had a car, I was storing half my closet in the trunk and on the back seat. I could undergo a wardrobe change like Superman, going from family-appropriate outfits that covered (most of) my tattoos and made me look like a respectable member of society, to hippie-punk-hobo-metalhead in the blink of an eye.
Now that I live in the big city, meaning no car, I lug as much as possible around with me in my purse and backpack. But the nickname (non-politically-correct that it is) has taken on another meaning.
I’m not quite sure where ‘home’ is. Or maybe I have three of them. All I know is that I have a tendency to refer to ‘home’ as wherever I am not, which is a testament to the nostalgia inherent in the word, one which, in the English language, is clearly differentiated from the term ‘house’, indicating only the structure.
I know a lot of people in Europe, many of whom self-identify as ‘expats’ who similarly experience the ups and downs of being far away from family and friends. Of course, there are the benefits of being an expat, like making everyone back home jealous by taking lots of pictures of delicious food and the beautiful weather while you sit on the street at a Roman bar.
But it’s not always easy
Here are my top ten tips to being a perpetual wanderer:
Learn to pack light. Seriously. Because wherever you go you are going to buy lots of new things, and throwing stuff away is never fun. But then, neither is paying for extra bags when you move on to your newest (or back to your old) home.
Get a really big backpack. Roll-y bags suck. They are not convenient, despite what you may think. You must carry them up stairs and across cobblestoned streets. They also get in everyone’s way and are incredibly annoying. Backpacks, on the other hand, free up your hands for other things, and if you learn to follow rule number one, they won’t hurt your back and shoulders too much.
Go to the gym. Some countries don’t have many elevators. And your new-found muscles will be helpful when it comes to carrying around your backpack.
Forget about all of the things you love about ‘home.’ Ok, not really possible, but you must not dwell on them. Or dwell on them as little as possible. Because trust me you’ll already be obsessing about how much you miss Cool Ranch Doritos the entire time you’re in Rome, and once you’ve moved on to London you’ll be pulling out your hair wishing for some Mozzarella di Bufala. None of this is productive. So try to enjoy the amazing things you have right now…like…really cheap multi-packs of beer at Tesco.
Buy sleeping pills. This one is self explanatory. There is always a small baby on really long flights, and sometimes there are small children whose parents allow them to wander the aisles poking passengers.
Start writing. This goes with the nostalgia bit that is unavoidable when you have multiple home bases. Writing about what you miss takes away that pang in your stomach, and if you’re careful to write the bad along with the good, you might come up with a story that people actually want to read.
Don’t delete your Facebook. I know deleting Facebook makes you seem really super alternative but it also means you can’t keep in touch with all the people you meet while wandering. Some of my best friendships took years of long distance chatting to become what they are today. Plus, keeping in touch with those people means you can host them and they can host you when visiting each other. Friends in exotic locales always a plus.
Remember, the grass really is always greener on the other side. Don’t start idealizing your friends back home, the lifestyle back home, the weather back home…a little bit is also inevitable, but do your best to avoid these pitfalls. Remember that memory really does give everything an unrealistic sheen and you’ll be much happier in the present. Plus, if you remember things as being really terrible back home, the reality will (hopefully) always be better than what you’d imagined.