Coming to Terms With Changing Locations: When Travel Leads You Home

Two months ago, I moved to another city. And I still haven’t gotten over it.

This isn’t a tale of culture shock, though my old city and my new one are quite different. Nor is this a tale of hardship. My life is comfortable — more comfortable than most — and I didn’t have to flee war or famine to get to where I am now. My move was a professional and familial obligation, the kind of thing required by foreign service life.

Still I feel a void. I am caught up in a purgatory of unfinished business from my last city and the feeling of Torschlusspanik, the German word for the panic you feel when a gate is closing, the feeling that time is running out. There’s a gate (Tor) in front of and behind me and both of them are inching shut.

I want to follow the path in front of me and explore my new surroundings. I should be exploring them every day instead of following a routine that keeps me mostly at home in my big, new house. I want to get to know this new-to-me city.

But I am not eager to explore it. The lust for discovery and new adventures, that same lust that inspired me to start this blog so many years ago, has vanished. “Miss Adventures” is currently a misnomer.

Foreign service life and travel writing go very well together. But what happens when those two lifestyles converge and lead you exactly to the place you’ve always meant to be? Travel literature often talks about how going new places helps you to appreciate home. But what happens when traveling actually leads you there?

I’ve been turning these thoughts over in my head for weeks now, trying to figure out if I should even reveal them and how. I feel ashamed holding onto the past rather than looking to the future. Going public with my lament only makes me feel worse: “What does she have to complain about?”

But holding back my feelings leaves me feeling blocked, unable to get started on that book I’ve been planning and unable to start pitching projects related to my new city. I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, nor can I figure out how to retrace my steps. It’s as if I’m enveloped in a never-ending fog. The Fog of What Might Have Been. The Fog of What Could Be.

Have you ever had a dream and within that same dream you thought to yourself “I hope this dream never ends”? You look upon your dream world with awe and gratitude while your subconscious feels at peace. Everything is perfect and you don’t want to move, you don’t want to rouse yourself awake by doing anything. That’s how I felt in my last city. Each day I woke up and couldn’t believe how lucky I was. My dream and my reality were one.

For much of my life, I’ve looked forward to moving, to being the new girl, to being myself yet reinventing myself and adapting with each new place. With my recent move, however, that desire disappeared. I had finally found the person I wanted to be and I didn’t want to let her go. A reset felt unnecessary.

Yet here I am, searching for that reset button or, at least, a rewind button.

I’ve purposely left out the names of the cities and countries at the center of my story because the place I’m yearning for may be the one someone else is resisting and vice versa. I know my situation isn’t unique. Many others have discovered that “you don’t have to be born someplace for it to be home.”

How do you come to terms with changing locations and leaving what feels like your truest self behind? How do you justify homesickness for a place that isn’t in your blood but is in your heart? How do you get over it and move on? Do you? Or do you start scrambling towards that back gate, hoping you can get back to the other side without getting crushed in the process?

2 comments

  1. Vanessa says:

    I can relate to this 120%. Have been struggling with it for 20 years now. I have found that eventually the roads lead back to the place you think of as home, even if takes a while.

  2. Lenora Boyle says:

    Perhaps due to your career, you had to leave? Otherwise, why not follow your heart, especially when you found your ‘place’ and the person you wanted to be? Even though you were used to reinventing yourself in the past, does that mean you have to continue with that? Life is precious so let’s not waste a moment of it, especially when you’re clear about what you want (if it is in your control.) Good luck.

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