Southbound

And the path starts… now. Closed my front door this morning, locked it, slipped the house keys into the mailbox for the landlord and set off towards the street. Right. Left. Right. Left… right.

I’ve moved many times in my nine years in Seattle. Moved from apartment to house, to California and back, lived with friends and by myself, but always with a tangible plan spread out before me. This move feels more like… that moment when you go to dive, arms spread wide in the air before forming an arrow that will lead you decisively into the water. That moment when your toes aren’t quite on land but haven’t fully committed to the air. That moment when your eyes want to instinctively close but you keep them open anyway to see what’s ahead of you. Leaping into the unknown. Eyes wide. Body tense. Wind in your hair. Lungs at capacity.

Being on the road feels good. Natural. Travelling with my dad is something so familiar to me; we have used roadtrips and car time—‘Wanders’—as our time since I can remember. “Where should we go, Wup?” he’d ask. “North or South?” Today we go south. In a month, I’ll travel further west on a plane than I’ve ever been. (Although really, when you’re going that far, east and west kind of lose their meaning.)

I’m going west, to the East.

It has been nine years since I moved to Seattle. Nearly a third of my life has been spent exploring the Pacific Northwest, a region I knew little about and have grown to love immensely. “You’re going to Seattle for College? It rains a lot there, doesn’t it?” Yes, yes it does. Salmon. Cedars. Native Americans. Punk rock. Grunge. And then you live here, and there’s just this certain something about it—like you are an integral part of this beautiful, tiny corner of the world full of cyclists and foodies and craftsmen and the most delicious fucking beer you’ve ever had. Surrounded by people who enjoy good things and take the time to do them right. We would. It’s raining outside.

Leaving seems… well, beyond the sheer feeling of adventure, it feels like crawling out of a warm blanket and into the cold, crisp, potentially brutal air of possibility. Seattle will always be a home for me, but I do believe there are others to be found out there. Korea may or may not be one, but I have no doubt it will be a lover of mine for a while. Seattle, you’ve done me well. Within you I’ve gained lifelong friends, loving family, and a sense of self. I have no doubt or regrets about you. And perhaps that is why I can leave you knowing that the part of my heart I leave behind will always be kept safe. Don’t change too much while I’m gone (and for goodness sake, stop building condos).

Farewell, my Northwest home.

I, Freedom(the camper), Yonder(the truck), my dad, and a U-Haul containing my material life head South. So does the rain.

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Travel and a sense of Self

Last night I flew from Seattle to Oakland, CA where I am spending a couple of weeks with family. After devoting myself almost exclusively over the past month to getting this website up and running, the change in scenery was a shock to my system.

I love to travel. I could wax poetic about scenery and freedom and seeing new things but what I really get out of traveling is a true, simplistic sense of self. When I’m traveling I’m not surrounded by the daily reminders of routine and responsibilities, nor by acquaintances, nor my apartment full of ‘stuff’ that has come to represent the physical proof of my existence. When I travel those things break away and I am left with just me. Sometimes that’s a scary realization: I am who I am independently of my external surroundings.

So this morning when I woke up I had one of those “where am I” experiences. Since I moved to Seattle from the Bay Area both of my parents have moved a few times, so when I come to visit the feeling of ‘home’ centers around people, not places. Lying there on the hide-a-bed in my dad’s home recording studio, it really hit me that when I travel I break myself down and find the essence of ME.

Last April I was lucky enough to travel to Italy for two weeks where I spent my first few days wandering Roma solo (sola). Before leaving Seattle, I comically spent three weeks cramming on Italian language CD’s yet made the (somewhat irrational) decision to just immerse myself as much as possible once there, sans map. I landed at Fiumicino airport with directions to the hotel I had booked for one night and not much else. Over the next few days I just walked. I had been to Rome once before in 2003 so I had an idea of the places I wanted to revisit and things (mostly art) I had missed the first time around but was determined to avoid ‘a plan’ as much as possible.

After two days of aching feet, a full belly, two memory cards full of pictures and a new-found appreciation for the Italian way of life (and homemade pasta), I noticed that the anxiety I sometimes experience before throwing myself into a new situation had never even come up. I reflected on this over many cappuccini. Like I did this morning, I came to the realization that traveling by myself in a new environment had stripped me down into my component parts and what was left was a true sense of self. Once this idea had sunk in, it was like a fire had been lit inside me. With everything else stripped clear, I felt shiny and literally able to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I was also so far removed from my usual surroundings and acquaintances that all ties felt severed and I was free to just EXPERIENCE without external influence.

In those two weeks I just ABSORBED. Having a true sense of self in an unfamiliar place was like a license to try everything on for size to see how it fit. I very much admire people who are present enough to experience this daily. Apparently I need to get out of dodge before the realization hits.

Have you experienced this before?