Travel,  Writing

Home is Where I Write

I did not choose travel.

Travel happened to me frequently when I was young, most often without my permission. Three cities. Ten houses. Two middle schools. Three high schools. A thousand different phone numbers.

In the final days of ninth grade I came home and found my mom in tears. Crying because we were being evicted and we had to be out the next morning.

I couldn’t understand her tears. Even then, at 14, I was too practical.

There was work to be done, moving everything into storage in one night. And after, I had exams to study for. I went to my room and packed my things, then moved methodically through the rest of the house.

The next day, when I went to school, I didn’t know where I would go when the final bell rang. I didn’t talk to my friends or look my teachers in the eyes. I knew that, after I took exams, I would not be seeing them again.

At the time, I viewed travel as a disability. I thought it was breaking me in a way that would leave me perpetually homeless and friendless. Rendering it impossible for me to form meaningful, long-lasting connections. And because I was learning to feel less each time it happened, it was effectively making me less human.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Fast forward three years. When I finally went to college, I vowed that I would continue to get good grades so that I could get a good job, so that I could have a home I would never have to leave. I would never move again and my phone number would always stay the same.

I was lonely at first. Two friends from high school went with me to the University of Michigan but I had not known them for long, because I had only attended school with them for two years.

I did not think we would last as friends, so I set out to meet new people. It was hard to do as an introvert, but by this point in life, I’d had lots of practice being the new girl.

I met many people who would become good friends. Well, for a semester. Or a year or two. Some even for the full four years. I knew from experience that many of the relationships I was building would last only for as long as we had class together, or were in the same club, or on the same intramural team.

Then one day, I met this other freshman girl at the bus stop. She was from Ivory Coast. We struck up an immediate friendship.

I thought she was like me—lonely and poor. I might have been right that she was lonely, but she was far from poor. I was very surprised to learn that, financially, she wanted for almost nothing. Growing up, she had even had servants. I learned so much from her travels.

After college, I split for Phoenix, Arizona. I don’t remember putting much thought into it. I loved Ann Arbor, but I couldn’t picture myself staying there permanently. My family had moved again from Grand Rapids to Lansing, and I didn’t want to go there.

My junior year in high school, I had started writing a psychological bildungsroman about a girl who fled her chaotic life in Michigan to start fresh in Arizona. I’d only made it 70% of the way through the manuscript, realizing that there was only so much about Arizona I could manufacture in my head. Maybe that had something to do with my choosing to move there five years later.

My style of travel is more of a mini-immigration. James Clifford (author of Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century) describes experiences like mine as “experience[s] of dwelling.” I am a traveler who likes to “stay and dig in.”

Red rocks in Sedona, one of my favorite places to visit with friends.

I stayed in Phoenix and dug in for five and a half years. I fell in love with the beautiful friends I made there and the astonishing landscapes. I finished the manuscript. And then I left.

Now, I write from Florida.

Saturday mornings writing on Coquina Beach

Catherine Watson’s poignant story about a Minnesotan woman, a mini-immigrant like me, who temporarily found home on Easter Island realized her calling was, not to stay, but to “go away, have experiences, find stuff out and then come back to tell it to the folks at home.”

I consider writing my home. When I go away, I will come back to this blog and tell you about it, whether I go to a new city, a new country, or a new world.

The travel I am most interested in is the kind that changes people and places. I still go back to Michigan once a year, when possible. Each time, I find that I have been changed by the places I’ve been to. I find that the people I’ve left in Michigan have changed too, for usually they have been on journeys of their own. Physical journeys. Intellectual journeys. Spiritual journeys.

Steve Clark (editor of Travel Writing and Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit) writes that travelers are “susceptible to perpetual redefinition through encounter.” I am constantly redefining myself based on the people, and landscapes, and cultures I encounter. Each time I find a new place to call home, and each time I leave it, I carry it with me.

I did not choose to travel in the beginning. It happened to me, and I grew into it. It did not break me or sever me from humanity. It built me up and gave me connections that transcend time and distance and location.

My two friends from high school lasted through college and beyond. I’ve even reconnected with a few more friends from my several high schools. I have a best friend in Ivory Coast. Another in Arizona. A few in Michigan. I keep the same phone number so that we can always reach other.

I visit them where they live, and these places too are my homes.

5 Comments

  • Haley Stammen

    Hi Ty,

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences growing up and how they have shaped your views on travel and home. There is a lot of really interesting information throughout your blog, some of which left me wanting more! There is a couple areas that you could expand on, but overall, I really enjoyed reading about your experience!

    The title definitely caught my attention, especially with the tension between “home” and your experiences growing up with moving around. That engaged me as a reader. Bringing in and defining the concept of home throughout the first couple of paragraphs will help to further explain your view of home and travel. Adding a little more within the intro and body of the blog with these will help strengthen your conclusion, as your readers will have a better idea of what home looks like for you!

    These first short paragraphs address the main points that you will be discussing throughout the body of your paper using a chronological approach to situation your current writing with your past experiences and relationship with travel. Within your blog, I might look at your pacing as you revise. Within the first section, you talk about being a teen, then college. When talking about Phoenix and Florida, those sections happen really quickly. I might add in a little more detail throughout those sections to relate this back to your definition of home/ travel. The idea of “travel as a disability” was fascinating. I’d love to see more discussion about this idea and what lea Perhaps bringing in some discussion from the Clifford or Rubies reading here would be helpful as you revise to support this important idea with research before you refute it within the next section.

    The use of images and visuals in effective throughout your blog entry. One the photograph with the beach, you might be more specific and mention the name of the specific beach you are on. It’s a beautiful places that one of your readers might want to go! With the photo of the Red Rocks, make sure to mention Sedona within the body of your blog if you include a photograph.
    Great job using sources throughout the paper. I appreciate that you used a more informal citation style, versus APA or MLA. All of the information information (author, title of large work, etc.) was there. It fits well with the genre of travel writing. The sources were well integrated within the section. They felt really natural, which I think is super hard to do when you are required to include readings into more creative works.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your writing here! I look forward to reading more of your blogs this semester.

    Haley

  • Stacy

    Hello Ty,

    Your post is spot on! You’ve incorporated the readings from module 1 quite stealthily and smoothly. Your introductory paragraph ties in extremely well with your final thoughts. Also, the way you mention the phone numbers at the beginning and then come back around to them at the end is very satisfying to read. I also noticed the way you chose to format the blocks of writing and thought it is a pleasing way to organize your words. The way you give a bit more space between your block of writing seems to work well to keep the eye moving along. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Also, I looked at that picture of your towel and speaker on the beach and the first thing I noticed was your pen, it looks like a great pen!

  • Bryce

    Hi Ty,

    Fantastic work here. I loved reading about your perspective as someone who was an inadvertent traveler from a young age. It’s a point of view that I’ve rarely seen in travel writing, and in turn you were able to use your experience to craft a really interesting narrative and make poignant connections with the texts.

    I also liked seeing photos from the places you’ve lived over the years. It helped me contextualize your travel experience from your point of view. The photos also had narrative significance – once you had agency over where you traveled, you finally had the opportunity to show your audience visuals from your perspective.

    Great work here!

  • Katie Hundley

    Hi Ty,
    I love the narrative run of your post! It transitions smoothly and comfortably for your readers. I also love how you tied everything back in at the end.
    I thought the two pictures you included were lovely, though I wonder about adding more personality to other places in your blog. Your writing is beautifully personal and the blog itself rather plain. I wonder, maybe about putting a picture at the top as well? However, you may have been looking for something simple and clear. In which case, you’ve got it.
    I also like that your writing feels more personal and less like you’ve forced the readings to become the focus. They work into your thoughts instead of you working around them.
    I look forward to more.
    -Katie

  • Rosanne Orta

    Hi, Ty
    I was immediately drawn into the travel experiences you wrote about. What drew me in the most was how you have been able to take your experiences of moving around and view them as a rare privilege that others just didn’t get to experience. It’s all about perspective. Your title was clever and yet so clear that writing is where you return to connect to all that is familiar. No matter where you go, there is always writing to return to.
    From your main points, I know that your blog will be about the places life takes you, whether it’s because you want to use the new location in a piece of writing, or if you have business to conduct there. I was convinced of the fact that you may not always make long-term planned decisions about where you will take trips or vacations, but while you are there, you will make sure you enjoy the landscapes and take in all the location has to offer.
    It thought that you wrapped up the first entry in a way that left me wanting to read more, and at the same time have closure for this particular post because you go back to the idea of writing as home.
    The image of the beach was so Zen for me. Writing on the beach must be such a comforting and inspiring experience.
    I see that you have drawn in outside reading and evidence. I would like to feel more of a connection between the evidence and the connection to your blog. It doesn’t feel as organic as the rest of the writing, but it still fits in nicely with the point you are making.
    Thanks for sharing your writing with me! I’m doing quite a bit of traveling this summer, and this is a great inspiration for me.
    Rosanne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares