It was almost exactly a year ago that my husband and I landed in New York City. We lived there for ten months and had the time of our lives. Instead of being homesick, as I’d expected, I kept feeling that we’d run away from home and were having a great adventure. Hell, how often do you get to have a great adventure when you’re our age? Not often enough.
Now, we’ve been back in Texas for a couple of months. It’s home and I love it — even if the politics drives me crazy. We’ve answered the questions over and over: Yes, we loved it, had a wonderful time. Yes, we went to the theater all the time; want to see my stack of playbills?; no, I didn’t think so. Yeah, we ate out two meals a day for ten months; good thing we don’t eat breakfast.
Do we miss it? Speaking for myself, I have to say no. But then, I think about how wonderful it was to be able to walk everywhere and take mass transit — and I really miss that. I find I resent the time I have to spend driving here. It’s such a waste of time and energy. That’s one reason we’re going to be putting our house on the market and moving to a downtown condo. We like to walk.
But there’s something deeper here, more than where we live and how we get around. It’s taken me awhile to understand it, but I think I get it now. What made our sojourn in New York so wonderful was that it was always temporary. We arrived there with a few suitcases; we rented an apartment. We had no past there — and our present was limited. We were always passing through. We had a few close friends there, but mostly, it was the two of us.
For ten months, we were able to do what I try — and fail to do — when I go to yoga and as I live my life. Since we were more or less cut off from our old lives and lasting connections, we lived in the present. A time like this is what I think makes travel so valuable, too: You’re somewhere else, it’s temporary, you’d better pay attention. Everything else falls away. You stop focusing on next week, next month, next year.
Sometimes, when we’ve traveled, I’ve thought it doesn’t necessarily matter where we go. Paris is always wonderful, sure — but so was our crazy driving trip through the desolate stretches of West Texas a couple of summers ago, when we stumbled across the Prada art installation in the middle of nowhere.
Back home, we have a wonderful house that needs care, plans that have to be made, responsibilities, friends who are sick. These things are what tie us here and enrich our lives and I can’t imagine living without them. But it was wonderful, too, to slip away and live moment-to-moment. You can do that and love it all the more since you always know you’re coming back.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite early posts from New York on the lessons of the streets