It’s been one year since I stopped riding my bike and flew home with the intention of staying. I could have easily not boarded my twice-changed plane home. I could have stayed in Tasmania, Melbourne, or Stewart Island. But each time I came to a stop, momentum moved me forward. Something deep in me pointed me to the north and west.
And now, as I sit here, enjoying snow the fall for the first time in the valley this season, I finally feel at peace with a visual representation telling me that I have stayed somewhere for a full trip around the sun. From one snowfall to the next.
I’m still just shy of 9 months in my job, and only 3 in my current house, but already, all the lives I lived before this one feel apart from me. When I boarded that plane, I knew I was making an irreversible decision. I had spent so long on the move that people traveling without purpose became uninteresting to me. Moving for the sake of moving wasn’t satisfying anymore. I was now most intrigued by people who dedicated themselves wholly to something, people who knew what they wanted in life, and went for it. I was interested in people who stayed put, and were thrilled about it. I didn’t want to move move move any longer. I didn’t want to spend all my energy on wishing other things, or for the hardest part of my day to be deciding if I’d pedal 16 or 60 miles. I wanted my struggling to mean something. Movement didn’t stir me anymore, it only calmed me. And I knew that I now had to find calm in the staying.
Alot was happening back home – my sister was pregnant, my grandparents were turning 90, my best friend was getting married. Life would continue back home with or without me as it had for the previous six years. I just had to decide if I wanted to be a part of it.
All the movement showed me the struggles and joys of venturing into the unknown, alone. I was tested as much as I was blessed, and learned that both have their value. It taught me that the largest struggles lead to the biggest joys, that life is bookended by leaps of faith, in vulnerability and touching encounters with creatures, which I now know includes the two-legged variety, not just the four.
After all that time alone, weaving in and out of inspiring, generous individuals’ lives, it taught me that while passion is a necessary ingredient for a good life, the people are what make the place home. They aren’t the icing on the cake, they’re the whole damn thing.
A year later, and I’m putting my energy not on going or staying, but on doing, on getting to where I want to go, professionally, not geographically. I already have so many things I yearned for on the road. I am living in my own place, I have a year-round job, and I am writing everyday. I’m not getting paid for it yet, but I’m writing. Movement introduced all the possibilities to me, and eventually, one I wanted to stick with. There was a great shift in things when I decided to stay, just like there are shifts in seasons.
I used to view staying as boring, unchallenging, unchanging. But as I look at the field outside my window, I sense the peace that comes with knowing a place. The relief in the peace coming to you, not chasing it. Soon the dandelions, salmonberries, and cottonwoods will bloom. The kingfishers and songbirds will return. The bears will crawl out of their dens and the snow will melt.
For the first time, I will be greeting these tiny miracles, and not saying goodbye to them. Spring will mean welcoming things home. I learned many things on the move, things that couldn’t be learned by staying in one place. But I’m learning that staying has its lessons too. It is teaching me balance and the perks and purpose of roots. It’s teaching me that like most things that require its opposite to exist, staying would not mean as much without the going, that the best part of traveling can be the coming home. What I didn’t know all those years was that staying can also mean letting the world come to you.