Personal Growth

Traveling Roots

Traveling Roots December 11, 20141 Comment

hotel room

According to Hodding Carder, “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”

Is it a Really a Bequest?

One of the more intelligent assessments I’ve heard about parenting, but it gave me pause. Is wanderlust a hereditary trait? Will scientists soon report that they’ve discovered the gene for itchy feet?

I got a lot of encouragement to travel from my family.  Visits from my maternal grandfather were initiated with the cry, “The Avion is here!” and I would run out to see his bullet-shaped, silver motorhome pulling into the driveway. Years later, when I was twentyish and itching to tramp around Europe, I used a Savings Bond he’d given me to buy my plane ticket. The bond would have reached ten times its value if I had let it mature, but even my parents encouraged me to buy the plane ticket. “Look at it this way,” my mother said, “It’s what grandpa would do.”

Then there was my father’s repeated suggestion that I should become an airline stewardess when I grew up. There was no pretending that this proposal didn’t include an element of self-interest. Family members of airline employees got discounts. (I wonder if they still do.)

But if wings were my family legacy, then I seem to have missed out on the roots. Perhaps all of those went to my sibling, who rarely travels and still lives in the house where we grew up.

What Makes You Feel Rooted When You’re Traveling?

Arriving in my room, I open my pack and dig to the bottom for some possibly superfluous, but much desired item. My belongings get strewn everywhere, but I don’t care. I’m treating myself to a great luxury – staying in the same room for more than one (maybe even several) nights. I’m not sure why this always feels like a fabulous indulgence. Perhaps it’s because it allows me a break from having to be organized.   Or perhaps it is simply a relief to stop moving.

Making myself at home in  my hotel room...
Making myself at home in my hotel room…

In my mind there is sort of a scale of rootedness when I travel;

  • Only staying one night– no roots
  • More than one night – that’s settling in
  • More than one night with the means (sink in my room and plenty of drying time) to do laundry – now I’m down right relaxed
  • More than one night, means to do laundry and access to a decent kitchen – hell, I could stay here forever

On the road, my sense of rootedness seems to be closely aligned with my ability to do (or not do) household tasks, cooking, laundry, housekeeping. When I’m not traveling, my sense of rootedness comes from having a routine, the key to happiness according the Dalai Lama.

Grafted to a New Home

At this point I’ve been completely transplanted and am thriving in my new home to degree that never happened where I originated. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my hometown. Every time I turn around someone has written a new book about how cool Portland is.

Portland is a great place. It’s just not for me. My skin and sinuses prefer an arid climate. My metabolism works better at 7,000 feet elevation. And I absolutely love living in a place where it’s more convenient not to have a car than to have one.


Scott Clark's photo of Guanajuato.
Rooted in my new home. Photo by Scott Clark.

Finding a new home was not what I expected. It is a happy surprise. Some of my friends appear to be less than thrilled about my choice, seeming to take my decision not to live in the Northwest as a personal rejection. I think my trajectory has had as much to do with time as with space. I found my wings first and they brought me to a place where I want to put down roots.