Just recently, I went on a two-week trip to the Pacific Northwest. (In fact, I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to take me back home as I type this.) The trip was overall an amazing, refreshing experience. I drove up the coast of CA, OR, and WA with some great friends. There was laughter, there was good conversation, and there were adventures. I was able to explore an area of the country I’ve never been to before, which–for an explorer’s heart like mine–deeply rejuvenated me both emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. It also got me thinking about the conflicting longings both to travel and to arrive home.
There are people content to stay in one place their entire lives. There are people afraid of other places, different cultures, things they don’t understand.
I’ve never been one of those people.
Every turn of an unknown road fills me with wonder, with an ache too deep to express. Every new place I see–every hill or valley, river or mountain–leaves me with a joy I can’t explain. I drove all the way up the West coast, and I probably could’ve continued to Canada or Alaska if money/time hadn’t been an issue. If I knew how to sail, then I’d go out on the ocean, too. There are moments I truly wish I lived in a RV and/or boat and could explore the world over, seeing different parts of different places.
There is a hunger for travel in me. And what where does the hunger come from?
In Portland, I stopped at the famous Powell’s bookstore and picked up several poetry books. One of the books was by the German poet Rilke. I’ve admired his work before, but this poem stuck out to me:
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one,
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
~Rainer Maria Rilke
For some reason, this poem gave me the answer. The hunger I feel for travel is homesickness.
You know what’s weird? I feel a homesickness even when I’m in my home (which at this moment is Colorado). But there’s always something calling me, calling me. I hear it in the wind, I feel it in the turn of the earth, I smell it in the rain. And the only way I feel like I can truly obey the calling is to travel. To seek out the homesickness, to explore it, to face it in all the places that people call home. Sometimes, I wonder: If they can find a home here, maybe I can? Or is there no home for me?
I imagine more people than not feel homesick, even when they are comfortable in their familiar surroundings and relationships. Deep inside, this ache doesn’t ever completely leave. Most run from the feeling or stifle it. Some are consumed by it. Strange thing is, running and being consumed are often the same thing.
For me, I’m willing and ready to acknowledge that I’m homesick. I’m not sure I’ll ever find home. No matter how much I travel or how much of the world I see, the homesickness will live evergreen in my heart. Ultimately, my heart is yearning, yearning for the eternal. For something apart from this earth. For home found in God’s great love.
Every time I travel, I feel God’s great love. I see a different country or a different state, I find another part of God there I didn’t even realize existed. God’s love for liberals and conservatives, for small towns and big cities, for sunsets off the coast and quiet forests. God’s love is an infinite tower of strength–a strength that holds together the universe–and we spend our lives traveling, traveling, traveling, going deeper and wider.
Learning more and more and more.
There is no end to God, and thus there is no end to our human spirit. Maybe part of the delight in traveling is the delight in seeing the places we know in our hearts. I want to witness the vastness of the human soul stretch out before me in the expression of land or water. I want to see the ruggedness unfold as I feel it in my heart. I want to taste the wild I so often try to choke or deny inside me. The human heart is an ever widening circle, if we let it be. It’s an ever yearning place seeking, seeking, seeking love. Maybe part of being truly whole and human is to acknowledge this deep ache, this longing for something we never seem to truly find apart from the eternal.
On the flip side, the ache I have to be home (even on the best adventures) helps me realize that life is, too, a journey. When I feel disheartened, unsettled, and alone (even when surrounded by friends) there is a reminder that nothing can truly satisfy me except the vastness of God. And the restlessness I feel points me back home into God’s embrace. I can use the homesickness to turn me towards deeper connection with Love so that I am not looking at others to quench the unquenchable ache.
So will I, then, turn this homesickness and yearning into a song? A song of the eternal constantly calling? A song of my small part of the earth when I must stay at home? How do I live in the familiar when I dream of the new, the unexplored? How do I take the love for travel and manifest that right in the small circle right around me? How to I learn to live in Love when I begin to feel unsettled and restless and homesick?
These are questions I will continue to ask (and answer) until I finally reach my Home.
Until then, I remember that every time I travel, something in me widens. I get to experience vastness and smallness, the unique and the familiar. I get to visit people in their homes, hear their stories, catch a glimpse of their lives. To realize that Over There, as well as Here, people are all going through the same things: heartbreak, health problems, love, work, life. We are all part of humanity. We are all infinitely loved. We are all homesick and longing and searching for Home. The ever widening circles help me realize this more and more.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Syda Productions