I’ve happily enjoyed much of the past decade on the road, sleeping in hotels, living out of a suitcase, which I eventually reduced to a backpack, as I couldn’t be bothered with plane-side bag check with some of the tight connections the travel department booked. Bag must fit in the tiny space above little puddle jumpers, making longer business trips a wee challenge (I’m practicing my Scottish). Without fail, my first birthday and Christmas cards were from Marriott, wishing me all the best. I spent countless weeknights alone, working on my computer from the crisp, almost always totally clean, white sheets of the bed, over time developing many theories on hotel cleanliness and a strong aversion to hotel remote controls. Seriously, think about it.
And then I would fly home late Thursday night, just to take off somewhere else right after work on Friday, come back Sunday night and fly off to work on Monday. I have loads of multi-colored, strongly highlighted planners documenting my adventures, which Soren, my project director in Colorado liked to poke fun at when I hauled it out to schedule work trips. Here we are, in the electronic age of iPhones, iPads and fancy apps that do everything from take your pulse to manage your financial dreams, and I, a relatively grown, sort of professional woman, relied on a colorful, hand-written notebook of calendar squares to bridge the gap between my work and personal life. I am convinced Soren was happy to work around my personal life just so he could catch a glimpse of the infamous hyper-color calendar.
I mean, it was sort of a spectacle to behold. Every weekend box was filled with something else: simple road trips to visit friends in Minneapolis and Chicago, leaf-peeping weekends in Door County, long bicycle rides through the countryside, ski trips here and there, camping excursions everywhere, following the Brewers to a new city to cross another ballpark off the list, international explorations occupying many weekend boxes and the weeks in between. White boxes meant Madison (home), and Soren once asked me where those were. I looked and couldn’t see many either. They were covered with my life, I guess.
It’s been four months since my departure from Life As I Knew It, and recently people started asking me if I feel homesick. I don’t know why, but I don’t. I guess it’s hard when you don’t really have a home to be sick for. I mean, even though I own a physical house in Madison, Wisconsin, collectively, I’ve spent more time away from Madison, than in Madison. Over the past years it served as more of a pit stop than a home. I’m used to being away. Eight years on the road kind of prepared me for this. I was talking to my dad about my lack of homesickness, when he countered, “Maybe the road is your home?” He used a question mark, but it was really more of a statement. And maybe he’s right.
Do I miss things? Oh, sure. I miss Wisconsin IPAs, I miss watching the Brewers, especially since they are actually playing baseball this year. I miss getting wine drunk, turning up the music as loud as it goes and dancing around my living room in my underwear, because hey, isn’t that what owning your own home is all about? I miss my bicycle and Madison sunrises and that sweet smell of a Midwest summer. But my time in Glasgow reminded me what I’ve been missing the most: those priceless personal connections, the ones that exist without even trying.
It’s not like I haven’t made personal connections since I’ve been traveling, I definitely have. With nature and dogs and neighbors and sheep and strangers. (I practically forced Dave and Tokes, my Airbnb hosts in Edinburgh to be my best friends, and it’s totally working. When I suggested a Guest of the Month Wall with a permanent photo of me, they kindly mentioned I would also fit into The Weirdest Guest of the Month Wall, which I can’t argue with. Regardless, I can pitch my tent in their backyard any time.) And it’s a wonderful experience, but all that newness can sometimes leave you longing for a bit of oldness…a sense of familiarity, something easy.
I’ve always been fiercely independent, uncomfortable asking for help, letting people pay for me or help me out in any way, which is silly considering how much I enjoy doing all of that for someone else. I like to think I can take care of myself, that I don’t need anyone for anything. That I can figure it out. But since quitting my job, I’ve realized that’s just stupid. And unnecessary. Throughout this journey I’ve discovered the benefits of taking people up on all of their kind offers, from buying me a beer, to giving me a lift, to basically allowing me to move in for a week, completely invading their slice of life, no questions asked.
I wasn’t even planning a visit to Glasgow, but when my friend Michelle mentioned she’d contact her friend David, whom I had met briefly when his job moved him to Chicago for several years, an event neither of us really remember, due to the Lollapalooza Effect of rain, booze and basement bars, I jumped at the chance.
Those of you who know me in all my glory understand I can be a bit of an overwhelming experience, and I apologize, but I just don’t know how to be an underwhelming one. And signing up to host me for a whole week might make you question your future generosity. But staying with David has reminded me how much I miss that human connection, especially with my people. I have great friends and I trust their judgement; while I may not have known David before last Friday, he knew people I knew. We had conversations that we mostly understood, until we realized we actually weren’t understanding what each other was saying at all, which happened roughly 62% of the time, as neither Scottish nor ToshTalk are entirely English. This whole week I’ve been less interested in exploring Glasgow and more into hanging out with someone who feels like a friend, one that you can just be yourself around (though I might have pushed the limits on my conversation topics) because you feel like you’ve known him for years, get boozy and attempt to eat back-to-back dinners because while you’re waiting for the Vietnamese place to seat you, you decide to check out an Indian place for an ‘appetizer’, point out side and front boob sightings (which is way more common than one would think) instead of keeping them to yourself, extend your night with Dial-A-Booze (yes, this exists) and random people who don’t feel random at all, because neither of you are very good at sticking to your initial “we should go home” statements, and then do a good solid nothing for a few days and still be wholly entertained.
There is this thing between the people of Edinburgh and Glaswegians, about which city is better and what each has to offer. David knows how I feel about Edinburgh, and probably thought I was crazy for not getting out and exploring as much as I could and maybe should have, but I was enjoying the taste of familiar ground too much to care. Edinburgh felt like magic, but Glasgow felt like home. And I definitely made myself at home (sorry, David).
So, admittedly, I may not have given Glasgow the attention it most definitely deserved, but it gave me exactly what I needed.
And somehow, that always wins.