Travel is an empowering verb. To travel is to challenge yourself, often to fail miserably, but also to find new self-respect in those moments when you master(ish) a new language, a new subway system or a new form of chili. Traveling forces you to put yourself out there and take stances on issues you didn’t know existed.
The downside of all this travel-induced decision making is that you can become a little too proud of standing on your own two feet. You feel like the master of the universe the day you can use a long drop without blinking an eye. You can take on the world the day you convince a Nigerian customs agent to let you through without your passport. You become a little too comfortable with knowing you’ll get from A to B, even if you don’t know exactly how.
Every year I interrupt my nomadic existence to go home, the place I grew up. Every Christmas the allure of exotic locales can’t manage to outshine the brilliance of Middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Funny what a nice family does to you. I crave corn fields over white sand beaches, and choose metro-Detroit potholes to a skydiving adventure elsewhere.
So it’s not that I’ve never retraced my footsteps. But up until now I’ve never re-visited one of the more exotic places I once lived. Then last month JD and I went back to South Africa. The reason: a fantastic family wedding in Johannesburg. Our detour to the city of Cape Town, where we spent three years together before moving on to Vietnam, seemed innocent enough. What I didn’t realize then was that an old home is like an old boyfriend: it can unexpectedly rekindle a fire you’d thought burned out long ago. Really, I should’ve known better. After two years as “just friends” on separate continents, JD and I were back together one second after we saw each other again. I have no excuse to underestimate South Africa’s charm.