Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On the Road Again... Like a Rolling Stone

I love when people get it. Recently, I was surprised by the positive I-know-exactly-what-you-mean response to a blog post I wrote about how more stationary souls sometimes view my peripatetic life, glamorizing it, occasionally even expressing a burning desire to be walking in my traveling shoes. To save space in my suitcase, I do most of my traveling in my John Varvatos boots (which are murder on the bunion on my left foot), not my Havaianas, so it's not the most comfortable experience. I don't know why they wouldn't opt to get around wearing someone else's footwear.

My brother and my best friend Lori both recently described me as "rolling stone" -- an apt description if I've ever heard one. (Lori also recently used the phrase "restless romantic," and although she wasn't talking about me, I haven't been able to get it out of my head because it applies to me even more perfectly than "rolling stone.")

What struck me about both "rolling stone" comments, aside from their accuracy, was that they were made without a hint of judgment or jealousy, from a purely objective, journalistic point of view. I wish more people would see me and my life that way.

As excited as I am by my upcoming travel itinerary that will take me from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi and Dubai today (until early Monday morning), then to Berlin for one month, then tentatively to Italy (Venice, Milan and Rome), Tel Aviv and Egypt (if I'm going to be in the Middle Eastern neighborhood, I can't miss the pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza), and then to Cape Town, just in time for spring to make me fall in love at first sight, I'm a little bit scared, too. I'm about to fly into a great big question mark, several times over. Who knows what will be waiting for me on the other side of the next runway?

Sometimes when I wake up with nagging doubts and fear in the pit of my stomach, having slept single in a strange double bed yet again, I look over at the empty space to the left, to the left, and wish there were someone there. I wish I were waking up in a house that was also a home, with two healthy, beautiful children still asleep in their rooms down the hall. My Facebook friends who are tied to one place because of family and economic responsibilities have it a lot better than some of them think.

I guess birds of a feather do eventually end up flocking together because in the last two and a half years, since I've been, as Argentina's AFIP tax collectors in Buenos Aires recently pronounced me, "a man without a country," due to my lack of a full-time address where I actually live, I've met a number of the people in the same boat -- or train or plane. They spend most of their lives on the road (again), whether it be for business or pleasure or both. Although many might view their peripatetic existence, too, through a gauzy dream-like lens, for the most part, these frequent travelers don't seem to be any happier than the folks back home with husbands and wives, kids, mortgages and full-time jobs that tie them down to one place.

The other day I was expressing some of my frustration to a friend in an email: "People talk about how lucky I am, and what a great life I must lead. They don't even know all of the disappointment and rejection I've had to face the last two and a half years (professionally and personally). It's been a beautiful and brutal experience."

I knew she'd get it -- one of the things I've admired most about her during our 20-plus years of friendship is that she never candy coats her life or anyone else's -- but I didn't expect her to nail it so precisely:

"People get on my nerves. They are so judgmental, when they have no idea what it takes to walk in someone else's shoes. While I admire your ability to live abroad, I certainly doubt it is an easy life. And it has nothing to do with luck. You made a lot of sacrifices to do what you do. No one is paying your bills."

Exactly. There's no wealthy benefactor shouldering my financial burden, no rich, generous parents, no well-employed boyfriend. (I've been on my own since I was 18 years old, and since then, I've never received a penny from anyone that I didn't work hard for, and as I've lived without roommates, not even a single live-in lover, since October of 1992, there's been no one footing part of my bill.) Sometimes I wish I had one of the above, or a loving partner and kids down the hall, but then I'd be living someone else's story, not mine.

Though I wouldn't say it's a sad story (most of the chapters are filled with neither joy nor pain but something in the middle that feels more neutral, merely ordinary routine in different settings), it's not without some blood, sweat and tears on its pages. Speaking of music, have you ever noticed how songs about drifters (aside from the 1980 Willie Nelson hit that gives this post its title) often sound kind of sad?

"Drifter," Sylvia



"Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan


"Wayfaring Stranger," Emmylou Harris



"Travelin' Prayer" (Billy Joel cover), Dolly Parton


"Trains and Boats and Planes," Dionne Warwick


"Travelin' Man," Ricky Nelson


"Another Suitcase in Another Hall" (from Evita), Madonna

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