I think I was born a nomad. In my first few years of life, I lived in roughly six different apartments or houses while my dad was finishing up graduate school and studying abroad in Italy. So I suppose it never felt strange to me once I left for college that the longest I stayed in a place was nine months. Then I decided to move to Chicago for two full years of graduate school.
Living in one place for nearly a year and a half now (with six months left to go!) has been simultaneously strange and wonderful. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, I’ve found myself torn between my innate nomadism and my newfound permanence.
Within six months of moving to Chicago, I started feeling that recognizable itch, a desire to get out, to move. But this time, there was no campaign ending, no new job in a new city. This time, I had very concrete plans to stay put. So what to do?
Travel of course! My parents took my sister and I on an amazing trip to Venice last year for Christmas and New Years, and it was there, while sipping spritz in a cafe overlooking Piazza San Marco (because what are awe-inspiring spaces for but to make you reflect on your life?), that I realized that travel fills a special space in my soul. It pushes me outside my comfort zone and teaches me to learn about new cultures that I could never have fathomed while growing up outside of Washington, DC. I made a pact with myself on that trip that I would set aside money each year to travel someplace new every year.
After a solo trip to Paris, Vienna and Salzburg over my last Spring Break, however, I realized that part of the rush and exhilaration of exploring a new place is the counter feeling of returning to the familiar. Travel feels more fulfilling when counterbalanced with a sense of settlement and home.
While my nomadic days were invaluable, I have found a new itch for “nesting”. Throughout last several months, I have spent time, energy, and money into making my grad school apartment feel like a home. I’ve hung photos and meaningful art on the walls. I’ve organized my knick-knacks so that everything has a home. I own placemats and a spoon rest. I even actually cook in my kitchen (thanks to Blue Apron)!
Though I’m planning to leave Chicago following graduate school, it’s no longer because of some nomadic itch. I’ve finally found the balance between the yin and yang of travel and nesting, and I’m excited to pursue that balance in a new city (one that hopefully doesn’t have -15 degree winters!).