I started this journey, almost two years ago, uncertain where it would lead me. Some days I thought it would take me back to Chicago, to settle down where I came from having grown into my own skin. Some days I thought it would lead me to a new place in America, perhaps Hawaii, perhaps DC, perhaps somewhere I hadn’t thought of yet. And some days I thought I might end up a nomad, backpacking the world.
It turns out that happiness, for me, is settling here in Beijing with people who understand the call for travel. Back in the States, travel was something my friends and I dreamed of but never did. Here any random long weekend is an excuse to see something new.
I had a week off work, I went to Egypt. I landed and within twenty four hours, my friends and I were debating a trip to Russia for Christmas. We literally have a three day weekend, to us, that means heading somewhere new and exploring the world. The only reason I’m not planning on being in the air on New Year’s Eve is that I’m getting a new tattoo.
This is how I live my life. This is who I am. This, I’ve learned the last few months, is my home. I carry it inside me as I travel the world, learn about other cultures, other people, other places, and learn just as much about myself.
Home, for me, isn’t a place. It isn’t a person. It’s nothing I can safely arrive at through some flight plan, job offer, or relationship. Home is being at home in my own skin. It’s seeing a selfie in front of a pyramid and focusing on the adventure instead of the way I look. It’s sitting in a foreign cafe and enjoying the rich dessert the waiter recommends as his favorite without worrying about what it will do to my waist. It’s writing memoirs on an airplane, walking through the worst, most colorful parts of my life, and thinking about where it’s lead me instead of letting it drag me down.
There is no long way home, because I had it within me all along. There’s only a long way to recognize and embrace it. Now I’m here, allow me to welcome myself –
Welcome home, Ari.