It struck me as I reached the top of the path up from the embarcadero. The boat ride was unusually slow and I was unusually tired. The long trek across two countries, two overnights in sketchy hostels and the weird food that ensues on trips like that had taken their toll.
We breathed a sigh of relief as we stepped ashore, and wandered up the path, waving to our veggie sellers, stopping long enough to read the sign advertising live music at Paul’s place the next evening. Derek was walking ahead of us with the kids, having run into us straight off the bus in Panajachel. Jeff and Wendy piled out of a tuk-tuk at the top of the hill, next to the ball court and enveloped us in big hugs as Darius excitedly bounced from one “Miller kid” to the next chattering like a magpie.
We were home.
Home is a nebulous thing for us, having sold our four walls and become homeless by choice. It’s been almost exactly three years since we hit the road as a lifestyle and we haven’t looked back.
For a year we called our green tent home. We’ve rented homes, complete with linens and dishes in the Czech, Tunisia, France and even on Cape Cod. We’ve lived out of our van while driving 10,000 miles over four months. We’ve summered in a little camper on the fringe between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. For now, home is a happy yellow cottage on a perfect lake.
But really, home is none of those things.
For us, home is people.
First, it’s one another. Anywhere Tony and the kids are is home to me. Even if it’s actually Marcello and Margarita’s tiny apartment in Rome. Even if it’s hammocks hung in the jungle.
Second, it’s people we love.
- When I flew to New Hampshire last month, I said I was going “home,” even though we sold everything that tied us to that state.
- When we flew down here we left from “home,” in Indiana.
- When I’m asked on the road where “home” is, I always answer, “The Thousand Islands, in Canada.”
- Saturday Tony is flying “home,” to Massachusetts to do a little work; at least we have a camper there, which makes it a little more like “home.”
- The kids have been lamenting the upheaval in Tunisia and wondering if things near our “home” are okay.
In none of those places do we own anything like a home, but we have roots planted deeply in the hearts of friends and chosen family that cause us to feel at home.
It’s good to be home.
We’re half way through our six months on the Lago and we’re definitely at home. The thing we’re enjoying most is the sense of community we’ve found here. It’s different than other places where we’ve spent some time and felt at home. I can’t explain it entirely.
This week I’ve been thinking about it more as I’ve walked in and out of the puebla on my daily errands. I can no longer make a “quick trip” in for veggies.
David found me on the path, a backpacker we’ve befriended. He was walking out to the cottage for a visit and a bread making lesson. He walked back into town and we had an orange juice at Ganesh, where we ran into Wendy and Darius who were running errands. We visited a bit before checking in on the kayak rental place (closed, as always) and dropping of my wash at Paco Real. He’s good company.
I went in for veggies yesterday afternoon and spent a half an hour conversing with Jose about his wife’s health. She’s had an operation (I can’t tell for what, my medical Spanish stinks) and isn’t doing well. He wasn’t in his usual spot on Thursday because at two in the morning he had to take her back up to the hospital at Solola. This is an expensive proposition for a guy with four kids whose whole living consists of selling a handful of veg on the roadside.
Jeff stopped me on the path down the valley the other morning. We chatted about Darius’ adjustment to the Waldorf school (where they teach in Spanish and Ka’chiquel) the colds he’s brought home from school that they’re all suffering from and when would be a good time for him to come down and swing on the vine with the boys. Then I ran into Derek at Herman’s store and heard the story of how half his tooth fell out at breakfast.
There’s always someone to talk to. People drop by nearly everyday. We’re back to having rotating seats at our dinner table and it’s beginning to feel very much like we’ve always been here. And yet, we haven’t. It’s been just three short months and in three more we’ll be gone, back “home.” On to the next adventure.
In the meantime, I’m savoring the sense of community. I’m loving that Carlos stops me to make sure we’re bringing the boys to the Super Bowl party and to let us know that there is going to be a GREAT Irish band next weekend. Living in one of the smallest pueblas on the lake has it’s advantages. We might not have a bank, an ATM, anything that passes for a grocery store, or anyone who sells meat in the whole village, but we do have what matters: we have home.