Wanderlust and Chocolate
Yesterday I awoke with a start, the mid-morning light streaming through the tall windows of my bedroom and the dull buzz of a Kir Royale headache echoing in my brain. Stretching my legs under the comfort of my warm duvet, I negotiated getting vertical from horizontal. So far, so good.
The delightful aroma of chocolate and butter, two of the most amazing elements on the planet, filled my apartment making my stomach grumble as I slipped into the kitchen to start a pot of tea.
I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I can smell pain au chocolat from the boulangerie across the street while I float in early morning sleep.
My tiny 6th floor flat in a stately but worn eighteen-century building in the 6th arrondissement has everything I need and love: a cozy fireplace, sitting room with huge windows, a simple, but sunny kitchen; and an amazing bedroom with a claw foot tub under one window. I could easily stay in all day, enjoying the play between light and shadow as the morning turns to afternoon turns to dusk. Instead, I have a painting class in an hour and that bakery across the street has a croissant with my name on it.
Lost in reverie as I dress and consider my good fortune, an unwelcome intrusion imposes on my perfect Paris day. I wake up. For real. In my bed in San Diego. The incongruity of it all shocks me conscious. No smell of chocolate, no bakery across the street, no painting class to attend.
Now don’t misunderstand me, San Diego is a fine place, but it’s not Paris. Or Mexico. Or Argentina. Or Croatia. Or any number of foreign locales that get my wanderlust flowing. And while I don’t have a pied-à-terre in Paris, or any other town for that matter, that doesn’t keep my vivid dreams from insinuating themselves into my somewhat average life. I dream in color. I dream in adventure. I dream expatriate.
I dream of zipping from continent to continent, touching down for a few months at home, only to jet off to another home—just one of a few scattered about the globe like crumbs along my path.
I am afflicted, in equal parts, with wanderlust and the opposing need for rootedness, for a sense of home. Like the Pushme-Pullyu, Dr. Doolittle’s fictional two-headed llama, I am torn by the leave or stay dilemma, a situation that makes my life a moving target. Just as I figure out a new neighborhood or town, and I get my home set up and infused with the things that make it mine, I am ready to shove off again for another town.
More compelling than the itch to travel is my desire to move to another country. To be foreign, a stranger, the other.
I love the challenge and the sensation of being in an unfamiliar country forced to use all my faculties and abilities to navigate curious streets and colorful maps while steering clear of creepy areas and food that doesn’t agree with me. To wake up in Paris or Prague and sip a strong coffee from the corner bar in my adopted, regardless of how brief, neighborhood gives me joy beyond compare.
Lately, these travel scenarios have become a mainstay of my nightly dreams and my daily musings. It’s a sign that I need to get out and unfold my wings. It’s been far too long since I have left the comfort of my country and done something other than work. I think 2008 will be a year of new adventures, carbon footprint be damned. And who knows, perhaps I’ll come across my dream country—a place I can truly call home.
[This piece was originally published in All Things Girl, Dec. 2007]