To get lost is one of the virtues of travel. In Florence, La Spezia and Milan, Italy, I circled, lapped and swept along alleys, piazzas and bustling cobblestone streets. I would say I was lost most all of the time, but to be lost would mean I had a destination. Save the desire to make it to the obligatory tourist sites and back to the train station, I was free to wander or to flâneur as was the way of the 19th century French pedestrians. Does not flâneur sound far more sophisticated than wander? To flâneur I turn off the Google Map and follow the compass of my intuition.
Released from schedules and constraints, my peripatetic ways followed the winding streets of Florence to find the beauty of the people, the buildings, and even in the laundry hung from window grates. The people hold more fashion sense in their pinkies than I will hold in a life time of ogling. Even the women serving gelato in Milan are brilliantly chic, but the Italian beauty extends beyond the olive skin and stylish clothes. It existed again and again in their patient helpfulness. While I am not fluent in any language, save English at times, I find a smile and my ability to repeat thank you a multitude of times in the native tongue carries me far beyond the confines of the foreign boulevards.
For those that have followed my travels as Camper Yogini, you know I have traversed the country with a tent and a mat, to camp in more than two dozen national, state, city, and BLM sites and found my way to beautiful Baranof Island for several months. You may think that I, like the air plant which grows without dirt, dismisses the idea to dig deep into a place. While this traveler has discovered that home can be found just about everywhere, I do desire an address with a little more permanence than General Delivery.
Home may be defined for some people by the place they were born or in the address they have held for a multitude of years. For others of us, it is where we connect sincerely, often quickly, and without reservation. I felt home in the small town of Buffalo, Wyoming, and thought I could make the leap to live there. I have certainly found home amongst the Skookum society of Sitka, Alaska, who I will hold in austere gratitude for opening their arms and drawing me in to their hearts. I will, of course, also maintain a strong connection to the zip code 27403, which I have dedicated an address to for some two dozen plus years.
But as I flâneur a grand tour through Italy and France to celebrate my last year of my fifth decade, I know that home also means a commitment to community. I realize that it is as much of a risk to hang my hat in one place as it is to get myself lost in a foreign country. Yet, I desire now to rest the traveling shoes – well, at least to a degree – and create home.
As I enjoy my final day in Europe, I sit in a Paris cafe in the 5th arrondissement with familiar streets all around and the cafe sirens calling to me to partake in my daily espressos at the bar. I stay in this beautiful moment with the sun-filled sky and streaks of clouds over the Panthéon near Rue Saint-Jacques. Yet, even in the magic that is this moment, I am ready to make a move to a place that has held my heart, intrigue and desire.
From Paris, this Camper Yogini heads west. In the coming months I will settle in – or more aptly put: discover the west coast and the Bay Area of California. I will surely get lost as I continue to flâneur my way around the hip, big cities. I will most definitely maintain a bit of wanderlust, and perhaps I will wonder at times if this is home.
Each of our lives are filled with obligations, commitments and expectations and often hold us to stay in one place. Yet, I believe, there stands an invitation to let ourselves get lost. We can flâneur our way through areas we thought we knew by heart and discover something new. Perhaps what we discover is something new about ourselves and it is in that place we can grow and change in the beautiful land of home.