If you want to feel out of place tell your friends you don’t want to travel. The looks you’ll receive in return will run the gamut from shock and disgust to quiet pity. Admitting this is pretty much declaring ignorance and isolationism. It’s tripping down the stairs while crawling back into your doomsday bunker. Good, self-actualized people travel. If they don’t, they want to.
Somehow getting on a plane and going far away became the highest form of purchasable enlightenment. To experience real life is to experience it somewhere else. As a homesteader I chose the opposite. I haven’t left this farm for a single night in over five years, but I think my experiences have been just as life changing as the inkiest passport.
To love travel is to love the feeling of being uncomfortable in a controlled environment. It’s a very expensive roller coaster ride. You board the plane knowing that maybe some new experiences will slide out of your comfort zone, but they are still choices you made. We’ve all seen the Instagram feeds of zip lines, SCUBA dives, long hikes, and drinks on the beach. Whatever the itinerary it’s understood there’s a safe hotel room booked, plenty of cash set aside for meals, and soon they’ll be home again to explain how the temperature of beer served in restaurants varies based on country.
I see these pictures and feel no sense of envy or desire. I always saw travel as something anyone can do with enough money, time, and the wits to book a flight. By its nature travel is flirting. There is no commitment to the destination, only pleasure. Guest is a title travelers learn to accept. That word makes me cringe.
If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment ― I chose the opposite. I’ve spent half a decade being cozy in a very volatile environment. I nested hard on a few acres on the side of a mountain. I run a four-season livestock farm alone.
“If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment -- I chose the opposite.”
Imagine taking yourself out of your regular career and landing on a mountain farm with a flock of sheep. You have lambs to raise, a horse to ride, pigs to butcher, poultry to sell, vegetables to grow, honey to harvest. All without a spouse, children, or family members. It’s just you and the network of fellow farmers and friends you managed to cultivate. Now throw in hobbies like falconry, fly fishing, river swimming, archery, home brewing and the fiddle. Welcome to your new jobcation! Now don’t leave for 20 seasons and see what kind of person you turned into after all that. Beer temperatures vary based on exhaustion levels.
Both sides sound romantic and unrealistic to most people. Few can afford the time or money to travel the world or buy Heidi’s Grandfather’s place on the side of a mountain and get rid of their cell phone. The traveler and the homesteader are two sides of the same escape fantasy. Rivendell or the Shire? Do you want to relax around a different culture without responsibility or dig into your own so deep you’re weeding your tomatoes for fun?
I see how people could assume my farm is a cage. Some bluntly call it that to my face, which is a funny thing to hear from grown humans who will get in trouble with another adult if they aren’t sitting in a particular chair on Monday morning...
I don’t want to work a job I tolerate just to afford two weeks of entertained distraction from the previous fifty. If that means choosing this life that doesn’t allow travel, so be it. This place feeds me, needs me, and keeps me learning from mistakes while celebrating constant resourcefulness. It taught me what I am capable of and how strong I can be.
My vacations instead come two hours at a time every day. I can leave my computer to ride my horse up mountain trails or gear up for a hunt with my hawk. I can choose to take a ten mile run across the landscape I know as well as the sidewalks I strolled to school on as a child. I can nap in a hammock, pour a drink, or watch a movie. Not as sexy as a story about band I loved in a Dublin bar, but tangible every single day. I chose commitment over flirtation. I am not a guest.
“Travel if you want to. Don't travel if your couch makes you happier. No one is winning if they're chasing someone else's idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own”
Travel if you want to. Don’t travel if your couch and a Game of Thrones marathon makes you happier. No one is winning if they’re chasing someone else’s idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own.
The truth is you can’t buy enlightenment from a travel agent or harvest it from vegetables in your own backyard. We grow slowly over time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in an Ashram or Akron ― becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older. For some it’s raising babies. For others it’s taking up politics, art, athletic endeavor or public service. Finding what you want out of life and working to keep it is the trick, without being sold any fantasy as salvation. You can’t speed up life lessons by changing your coordinates or refusing to chart them in the first place. But you can feel happiness if you learn how to eventually read your own damn compass.
Mine points to here.
Jenna Woginrich farms in upstate New York and blogs regularly at Barnheart.com