Some people are homebodies; others prefer to spend most of their time traveling, the farther the better. Why are we so different? And what do we get out of staying put or roaming?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a photo of a small glowing tent perched on the rock ledge of a remote Madagascar campsite at sunset. He wrote that this scene was what spurred him to make the long, difficult journey to that place. I had to smile. There is no way that scene, as beautiful as it is, would have made me yearn to get out of my favorite chair (in my imagination, there’s a warm fire, a book and a cat on my lap) and go there. In fact, I have been to that spot, or one very like it, but I feel the stronger pull of home no matter where I travel.
I have another friend who, when her husband died, spent more than a year after his death traveling most of the time, not on exotic adventures but to stay with her family in other states and countries. She returned from time to time, but the house she and her husband had designed and lived in for a decade no longer felt the same. Wherever she had family became home.
The story I’m working on now begins with the female protagonist at home and then she sets off on a photo safari after the end of her marriage. This isn’t an Eat, Pray, Love imitation but rather my way to work out what it is that makes a home. Robert Frosts’s famous definition of home is, “Home is a place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”* That’s not only grim, it may not even be a good idea. What if the person who shows up at the door is a drug addict? Consider all the pop psychology warnings: wouldn’t taking him in be “enabling” the habit? The concept of home is complicated.
*[Robert Frost, who was manic-depressive, had a life that was in many aspects grim, so it really is no surprise that his definition of home isn’t of a warm and welcoming place.]