I almost bought a house last year.
I sometimes say that I wonder why, but I do know why: interest rates had fallen to an enticing low, I could have gotten the generous tax credit for first-time home buyers, and my employer, as part of a program to build home ownership in my city, was offering money toward anyone buying in certain neighborhoods. And with the economy at such a low and arts organizations shrinking and crashing and struggling, I felt grateful for my job in the arts and fairly certain that I wouldn’t be going anywhere else anytime soon.
When I’d decided to buy a place that I’d fallen in love with, I called my parents. They’d seen it; they’d helped me work out my budget. They asked the most important question: “Do you feel good about your decision?” I said yes. I was sort of lying, and I knew it.
I worried. I stressed. And I finally realized that I wanted out. I didn’t want to sink every spare penny into this project. I didn’t want to cut off my ability to travel for a few years. I didn’t want to worry about scrimping to be able to record my band’s next cd. I wanted freedom and flexibility and all the things I already had. And so I didn’t buy the house. And I’m glad I made that choice.
Several of my friends own houses, and their home improvement projects increasingly strike me as alien. I can’t understand the obsessive quest for the perfect bedspread or light fixtures, the long-term commitment to a place implied in plans to knock out a wall or add a new bedroom. Their houses are gorgeous, warm, welcoming. I love visiting them; I know my friends are happy. But I don’t want a house of my own.
The past couple of years, I have felt the most at home when traveling. I feel at home when I’m on the move, when my home is countless miles away, when I’m struggling to remember six words of a new language, when I’m tilting my head back to absorb a new, beautiful sight. Traveling is when I feel most alive, most myself.
When I came home from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan last summer, my disorientation was fierce. I walked to work staring at the streets, not quite believing that they’d ever seemed the right width, that the buildings stood just so, that drivers and pedestrians and bicyclists moved and interacted in the orderly, Westernized ways that they did. I couldn’t remember how I’d ever felt at home in this scene, this everyday activity of walking to work. And it does feel familiar again, and it is my life, and it is a good one. But I’m restless.
As winter settles over New England, I have become increasingly grateful to have a warm home and plenty of food to eat. I plan my next trip, thinking of the places I will see and the people I will interact with. And I know that when I’m away, I’ll be back in touch with that part of myself that craves exactly what I’m experiencing.