As often as not
“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
― Carson McCullers
The older I get, the harder travel seems to become. I don’t know if that’s due to changes in the industry itself– when did air travel become so stressful?– or because I’m more easily tired and discouraged now that I’m older, often without another adult to help when the going gets tough.
Yet I still long to travel, and dream of going back to places I loved on first visit, and also to places I’ve never been. I wouldn’t describe this feeling as homesickness, but maybe McCullers is right. After all, isn’t homesickness often a longing for something that may not still be there when we return? And isn’t nostalgia a hazy, rose-colored view of the past that filters out the very real struggles we endured during a now idealized period of our lives?
When I travel, I’m typically so caught up in the sights and sounds that surround me that I don’t consciously experience homesickness, other than missing loved ones who aren’t with me. Yet returning home to what is familiar is always a balm to a weary body and an overstimulated soul. For a brief time, the longing for what McCullers refers to as “the foreign and strange” will subside. But eventually, I know the wanderlust will return and I’ll start planning future trips again, dreaming of faraway places or nearby towns I’ve yet to see.
Some people seem to be content with returning to the same place year after year, where they spend their vacation in a place that is comfortably familiar yet different from everyday life. I can sympathize with this preference too, because it’s how I feel about going back to our York home. For over nine years now, it has been only a part-time home. I was recently surprised to realize that’s three years longer than it was our full time home.
Nostalgia is unquestionably part of the appeal of going back so frequently. But I doubt I will ever feel nostalgia for the times I’ve spent there since Jeff died. Still, I find it hard to think of parting with the home. When I do, I imagine it will be partly because the longing to travel to places I’ve never seen will outweigh the pull of returning to the familiar.
What about you? Do you every feel homesick for places you’ve never been? Or are you happier to return to what is familiar and well loved? And has this changed as you grow older?