Striking a balance between fixed life and wanderlust

November 9, 2012 in Philosophy

Everyone said that as soon as I stopped traveling, I’d miss it. And while I was traveling, I yearned for the comfort of routine.

Christine Amorose on a beautiful fall day in the Boston Public Garden

The grass is always greener, we always want what we can’t have–right?

There are days when I’m tempted to quit my job, stuff everything I own into a backpack and book the first ticket to South America or Africa or Southeast Asia. I daydream about working at a yoga retreat in Brazil, going on a safari in Africa, spending all day in sparkling turquoise water on a Seychelles holiday. I mentally add up how much cheaper life would be if I didn’t have to buy snow boots or pay a monthly utilities bill; I realize what I spend just on one month of rent in New York City would pay all of my expenses for a few months of gourmet living in Chiang Mai.

Christine Amorose's home office in Brooklyn, New York

Other days, I am so perfectly content with the little life I’ve carved out for myself in New York City. I love reading a library book on the train in the morning. I love my job and our coworking space and getting a paycheck every month. I love having colorful bedding, Carpe Diem pillowcases, photos of my travels on the wall. I love evening yoga classes and hot chocolate dates in SoHo. There is a wonderful California crew in this city, and it’s brilliant catching up with friends from high school and college while watching the San Francisco Giants or the 49ers at Finnerty’s (this city’s San Francisco bar!).

And I’ve realized it’s still fully possible to have a travel-centric lifestyle. Since moving to New York City, I’ve sailed from Panama City to Cartagena through the San Blas Islands and spent a weekend of fall foliage perfection in Boston. I’m going to S.S. Coachella–a music festival on a cruise ship to the Bahamas–and spending a few days in Miami with my best friend in December. And while it’s not a new destination, I am beyond thrilled that I’ll get to spend the holidays in Northern California this year.

Fall foliage in Central Park, New York City

And more than that, it’s fully possible to act like a traveler while living in one city–and perhaps no city is better to do that in than New York City. I’ve gone up the Empire State Building at sunset, wandered through the changing leaves in Central Park, spent chilly afternoons at the MoMA and the New York Public Library, soaked up the sunshine on the High Line. I’ve booked tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and my friends-giving plans consist of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ordering takeout.

When you move to New York City, seasoned city dwellers tell you that people WILL visit you once you move here. I was hesitant, as I couldn’t convince my friends to break open their passports and travel to Nice or Melbourne. But suddenly, my couch is booked through the end of the year and plenty more friends  (and friends of friends) are planning trips. Having visitors is the best excuse to rediscover a city and never let it become routine, a reason to try new restaurants and do all the touristy gimmicks. You fall back in love with your favorites when someone else falls in love with it too.

Manhattan skyline sunset from the Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn, New York City

The day I flew back from South America, I went for an afternoon run over the Williamsburg Bridge. I watched the sun set through a crisp, clear blue sky over the cookie-cutter cut-outs of the Financial District skyline, the overlapping outlines of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. More than anything, I felt unbelievably lucky that I was able to come “home” to New York City. I had just had two of the most incredible, relaxed weeks of my life in South America–and yet I was thrilled to be back in the city.

And I guess that’s what it comes down to. The most invigorating part of travel is the constant novelty, the ever-continuing discovery of new things. If you can train your mind to think like a traveler–to be grateful and impressed by every sunset, even when you’ve seen it from the same standpoint plenty of times before–you’ll stay refreshed, curious, adventurous. Perhaps it’s less about how far you go and more about how you think about where you are…

  • I definitely understand, even though I’m living abroad and having new experiences all the time, I still get antsy and feel the need to move! I think it’s always going to be a challenge trying to find that balance.

    I’ll be visiting my parents in my “new” home in NorCal for the holidays too! I’m super excited as it’s been 2 years since I’ve been to the Golden State, and 3 since I’ve been home for Christmas!

  • wonderfully written!! That’s GREAT that you’re still traveling, but it sounds like you’ve tipped the scales a bit so it’s more even. A little fixed life/a little travel life. Personally, since being back in my home city, I’ve often contemplated buying a ticket back to Asia. but then there are those girls nights with the friends you haven’t seen in so long, and a family dinner that makes you feel so warm and loved, and knowing my way around the city rather than getting lost because nobody speaks English. It’s nice to have a set home, and it’s also nice knowing the world is still out there to explore!

  • camorose

    I think that totally sums it: I’m just always antsy and ready for the next adventure, even when I’m loving the adventure I’m in. Need to get better about embracing the current moment and not looking to the future :) And yaaaaay Nor Cal!

  • Lindsay Rogers

    Great post! One of my favorite parts of working abroad in Madrid this last year has been being able to balance having a home base, job, big friend circle and still being able to travel lots during the holidays and long weekends. While part of me is looking forward to returning home next year to start my career, a big part of me is kind of freaking out that I’ll have to give up endless 3-day weekends, cheap flights to foreign countries, and lots of vacation time. Reading this gives me a little hope that I’ll be able to find that same balance back in the States!

  • This is a really good, interesting post for me to read. See we do it the opposite way and we travel like that all the time… we set up a “home base” (NY for you, currently WY for us) and work and have “normalcy” while we’re there. My husband has a lot of co-worker friends, I’m in a pre-natal fitness class, I have a few church friends, etc… but we have also been able to travel to places we never would have if we’d just driven through or stayed for a week. We’ve seen so much of Wyoming, and also parts of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado this way. Our next “home base” will be Utah and we’ll be able to see a lot of UT that way, and also ID, WA, OR and CA. I love that we get the best of both worlds this way, the travel AND the stability.

  • Love this post, Christine! I was curious though – where did you get the world map that you have posted in your home office? I absolutely love it!

  • Riana Autumn

    Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing this. You’re helping to alleviate a lot of the fears I have about getting tired of travelling or running out of money. And you’re helping to move NYC to the top of my must-see list!

  • I think that last line is exactly what it’s all about – you can “travel” anywhere, so long as you have the right attitude about it. I think that’s how I manage to survive even though I can’t be traveling constantly.

    But you’re right about NYC – it’s such a great place for a travel-lover to be based, because there are so many things to discover and fall in love with there!

  • I love this! I’m currently traveling through SE Asia, and sometimes all I want is to be home with my friends and family. But I worry I’ll get antsy once home. I think it’s important to strike a happy balance–try to make a routine while traveling, and once home, experience home as a tourist would!

  • One year ago I decided not to be nomadic and have a base in Toronto. The past year I have traveled an incredible amount of time – New York, Portland, Seattle, Montana, a month in Maui, twice to Mexico and I am writing this from London.

    It is absolutely possible to have a travel-centric life with a base.

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    I can’t wait to have a home base someday… right now I’m trying to travel as much as possible, but I know someday soon I will want a routine, a group of friends, a dog, etc. It’s best to strike a balance!

  • Well said – and encouraging to hear about someone mixing their ‘fixed life’ with their ‘nomadic life’!

  • It’s taken a LONG time for me to accept the fact it’s fine to have a homebase…and you know, actually ENJOY having a home. I think travel bloggers/writers tend to shame each other a lot into believing that being grounded means we’re materialistic and STUCK. Not true. You just gotta be smart about it. And you are!

  • It makes me feel so much better that you say that you struggled to convince your friends to come visit in France and Australia. I always think ‘but what a great opportunity for them to travel’ but I suppose it’s easy to forget that not everyone is looking for the same opportunities!

    Your life in NYC looks gorgeous and it looks like you’ve made a great start to striking a balance between fixed-life and traveler’s heart! Don’t ever lose that balance!

  • camorose

    I find I’m just automatically more relaxed and more adventurous when I’m living abroad, even with a job and a good group of friends. Being back in the American time zone is just extra pressure, from career to relationships to lifestyle–but it’s still totally possible to carry over a lot of those travel values to life here :)

  • camorose

    That’s definitely my same philosophy–there are SO many places in the world I’d love to live in for a while and be able to properly explore before moving onto the next.

  • camorose

    I found it on Etsy–the shop is artPAUSE. So many cool maps!

  • camorose

    I definitely get cases of wanderlust every once in a while, but it’s nice to be able to save up a bit of money and try to eat at half of the restaurants I want to try in this city. NYC is incredible, and I can’t imagine trying to do it all in just a few days or even weeks!

  • camorose

    I think NYC is the perfect place for a travel-lover: so many international cultures and cuisines, so many neighborhoods to explore and super easy to fly out of quite a few airports!

  • camorose

    Exactly! And I think it’s all about realizing that you can totally change your mind whenever you want to–never feeling trapped in either decision :)

  • camorose

    Yup, you’re definitely doing it right :)

  • camorose

    You’ve just got to make the most out of whatever situation you’re in at the moment :)

  • camorose

    It’s possible, I promise! :)

  • camorose

    Super true. I do think just the nature of having a home leads to more “things” but you can’t get too guilt-struck by it all. p.s. I’ve still never been to Canada. It’s GOT to happen in 2013, so ummm…let’s meet up?

  • camorose

    I couldn’t convince ANYONE to visit me in Australia–not even my family! I think it comes down to having different priorities, and totally accepting that they don’t necessarily want/need the same sort of travel I do–and that’s fine. I’m loving NYC, but I won’t lie–missing Sydney like crazy!

  • JulikaSarah

    Wonderful post, Christine! Usually when I’m at Ikea or visit (married) friends with neat homes I really dream of creating a little more permanent home for myself… But even when this happens eventually and I can’t constantly move or travel, there will be other ways to get around – like weekend trips and summer vacations. I’m convinced that I will not let the years pass by without me deliberately exposing myself to something challenging or adventurous from time to time. Also, I love perceiving the city I live in from a tourist perspective – meeting couchsurfers, walking around with a camera, attending tours, showing friends around etc.It’s all about the balance :)
    Oh and I adore the colorful map in your home office!

  • Really great timing for me! I have currently been traveling on and off for the past year and a half and oddly enough, after the new years, I don’t have any plans and the only thing I could think of was to go home.
    The biggest reason I didn’t want to go home was because I’m afraid that when I get home, I won’t ever get up and go again, that I’ll be too afraid to leave those I love at home again because I know how much they miss me when I’m gone and how much I miss of their lives when I’m jetting around. I know that I’ll travel again but it’s scary not knowing when I’ll be on a plane again.
    But this article really showed me that even if I have a semi-permanent lifestyle based at home or in the states, I can still fix my travel bug a little bit.

    Thanks again for writing such a wonderful post and have countdowns up for those fun trips you’ve got planned!

  • I moved to NY from Australia 8mths ago. The city is exciting and I love discovering a new part of the world but the travel itch won’t give up. I miss the natural environment, I miss early morning swims at the beach, I miss the lightness of being able to pack up and just leave. My travelling days are not over…they have only just begun.

  • Thanks! I know what I’m giving people for Christmas gifts! :)

  • Briel79

    So if I visit NY next year (and you are still there) can I crash on your couch? haha j/k but it would be fun to get a drink or something! I’ve been to NY many times but there’s still a lot I haven’t done. I haven’t been to the High Line or MoMA or gone up in the Empire State Building. Next time… :)

  • camorose

    Exactly: it all comes down to balance! The grass is always greener, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, but it’s figuring out a way to enjoy a bit of both traveling and fixed life :)

  • camorose

    Thanks for the sweet comment! I’m still trying to figure out how to travel as much as I’d like while still being based in NYC–it’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible :)

  • camorose

    Can definitely relate–the river is nice, but I miss being near an open body of water. Australia is still calling my name :)

  • camorose

    Absolutely! I’m always up for a drink or a coffee with NYC visitors–especially when they’re such loyal blog readers and commenters :)

  • I keep track even though I don’t comment much :))) courage!! :) I’m so happy for you, that it’s working this ”fixed” life :) bisous de Paris! :)
    Angela

  • camorose

    Merci! Really loving NYC so far :)

  • So true. I feel the same way about London. Isn’t it great when you have people visiting all the time, and get to do all the fun stuff in the city that’s your home base? Love it.

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  • camorose

    I do love it–but I’ve had people in town for the past five weekends and I am SO looking forward to a weekend of volunteering and relaxing and errands this weekend!

  • I’ve been saying the same things for years and years…there is NO reason why you can’t have both!

  • I can relate! It’s amazing to live in such a multi-cultural location with somuch diversity and a variety of activities. I also love the feeling of coming home after a long trip. Great post and thanks for sharing.

  • camorose

    It’s totally possible–not always easy, but worth it!

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it! I think NYC has to be one of the best places for travelers to live–there’s always something new and exciting to experience (and lots of great international food!).

  • Love this so much! I’m struggling with my longing to travel and my desire to have a place of my own that I can call “home.” Posts like these help me breathe a bit easier! I’m still learning how to have a “traveler’s mind” when it comes to living in one place for an extended period, but I’m trying!

  • camorose

    I’m definitely finding it’s all about your attitude–there are ALWAYS new things to discover, no matter where you live!

  • I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to have read this article. I was referred to your blog by Edna from ExpatEdna.com because I had expressed to her my current struggle of wanting a settled down life and a traveler’s life. I’m actually from New York and spent my life going to school and working in the city, but unfortunately, I didn’t love what I was doing and I think I took it out on New York a bit. I was so eager to leave, thinking that I just wasn’t happy with NYC, when in truth, I was just unhappy with my job and the industry I worked in. I’m living in Melbourne now and have a bunch of travel plans from now till the end of the year, but being away has given me a bit of perspective. There’s no city I’ve ever been to that keeps you so constantly interested and on edge as NY does. I’ve lived there my whole life and haven’t done even 1/4 of the things it has to offer. This post so eloquently consoled my fears of feeling too complacent if I choose to move home at the end of the year. I don’t think it’s possible to feel complacent in a place like NYC, as long as you choose to “think like a traveler,” as you said :)

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  • camorose

    Oh yay! I’m so glad that you found my blog and that you’re enjoying it. And yes–I think that NYC is an amazing place to live if you’re a traveler. So much to satisfy that wandering, curious mindset!

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