We shared a campfire with our dear friend, Patrick, recently, and he asked the question, “Have you always been nomadic, or did your love of travel develop later in life?” I wasn’t sure how to answer right off the bat because it’s complicated. I’ve always felt ‘stuck’ to a certain location, job, or situation. After a few days of internal analyzing of where the desire started, this memory stood out. This is the answer I should have given that night:
When I was about twelve or thirteen, my family lived on a farm in rural Ohio. It was a twenty-mile drive in any direction to the surrounding small towns. In spring, summer, and autumn the farm would be surrounded for miles by crops in various stages of growth, usually corn, soy beans, or wheat.
I went to bed one night in late summer being more than slightly bored. I was in the middle of nowhere, my friends were too young to drive to the ‘boondocks’ to visit, chores and other activities lost my interest, and my parents were fussing at each other. I was feeling lonely and possibly a little trapped. I remember going to sleep that evening imagining the freedom to soar the skies and travel the ribbons of highway. I think it was then dreams of nomadic pursuits were formed in my head, and the happenings of that night were too strange to discard.
Something was beckoning. I left my bed, drifted through the dark, quiet house, and onto the back porch, surprised the squeaky hinges on the screen door didn’t rouse my parents. The immense inky-blue sky was a backdrop for billions and billions of dazzling stars. The full moon radiated a soft glow over the corn field just beyond the freshly mown lawn. The sharp scent of cut grass and sound of corn rustling in the late summer breeze were magnified. My heart skipped a beat as a hoot owl cried out a resounding greeting. I moved farther onto the lawn under the oak tree to get a closer glimpse of the elusive bird. Normally, I would never have been outside in the dark by myself–my adolescent imagination would invoke morbid fears of the boogey man emerging from the corn. Tonight, there was no fear in the silky darkness, only a deep, unrelenting, and profound restlessness.
I started running across the yard at full speed, across the acreage to the outlying farm buildings, bolting passed the corn crib and cattle stalls toward our dilapidated centuries-old barn. My lungs pumped air in and out in deep gasps, a mix of sobs and exertion. Tears were flowing down my face. As if being chased by my own disquietude, my legs continued pumping faster and faster. Suddenly, my feet lifted off the ground and my stomach tickled like descending a hill on a roller coaster. As the ground got farther and farther away, my restlessness turned into joy as I spread my arms wide and continued to soar. I glided over the old barn, seeing for the first time the missing planks on the ancient roof. In the cornfield below, there was a small herd of deer feasting on the harvest treat. I ascended higher and floated above the oak tree, this time spying the hoot owl curiously studying me from the tallest branch. My hair tousled in the wind and gooseflesh prickled my arms and legs. I squealed with delight and wonder, unhindered and unchecked. I was flying. I was free.
Then, there was a sudden downward spiral. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stay up in the air. I flapped my arms wildly in all directions trying desperately to hold the momentum to keep me soaring. Instead I swooped back down into the yard in the exact same location I started running only moments before.
I awoke in my bed with my heart pounding, my face wet with tears, and taking sharp gulps of air to calm my shortness of breath. I was sweating. Most of all, I was sad. More than sad. I was deeply grieved. I was soaring in my dream, high above the place I called home, with such a deep desire to keep going. A need to go beyond the boundaries of my familiar surroundings and discover new sights and sounds. But, instead, I was in my bed. I’d never left. It hurt my soul to experience something so incredibly real only to be plopped right back in the place where I began.
I can still feel the exhilaration of that dream flight in my memory, just as I remember how devastating it was when I awoke and it wasn’t real. I’m convinced my subconscious mind was forming the love of being on the move those many years ago. I spent the subsequent years doing life society’s way and was always miserable. Some people are born to roam, to seek adventure, to navigate the unfamiliar, to learn about people and cultures. I’m one of those. I’m a nomad. I may not be able to fly by my own power, but there’s nothing like rolling along those ribbons of highway to a new destination. I’ve always had my wings, it just took a lot of life lessons and shattered dreams to master them.
I’m soaring with those mastered wings. In my spirit, I’m finally free.
Written by Dawn Gondeck.
Campfire Question: Where did your nomadic dreams begin? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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Great story, Dawn! You are a wonderful campfire story teller. Glad the cards came and that you like them. Appreciate the reviews on Etsy.
Thank you. I’m sending out one of your beautiful thank you cards this week.
What a marvelous story explaining your wanderlust!
Thank you. 🙂
Military family for generations so I guess it’s in my genes. Lol
Yes, it probably is in the genes. Please thank the servicemen and women in your family for their service! Dawn
Love the idea of posting campfire stories on your blog. I think my nomadic dreams started young, escaping to my imaginary worlds in my parent’s backyard. I could be all alone, only a five minute walk from the back porch, completely immersed in whatever land I wished to be in. As I learned how to ride a bike, drive a car, book a plane ticket, and live on a boat, my world continues to expand.
That’s a lovely explanation for wanderlust! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience. I’m so grateful the imaginary worlds in our heads still spin tales and create dreams.
Wonderful campfire story – thanks for sharing on this week’s Senior Salon.
I have lived a peripatetic life for the majority of it – beginning in childhood as the daughter of a man in the military. Oddly, I have always yearned for home – hoping to find a place to put down roots. If I could turn back time I would try harder to do whatever it took to remain in Manhattan. I was happiest on that particular island. Alas, not meant to be, so my wanderlust remains.
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Many thanks to your father for his service. I have never been to Manhattan or anywhere in New York, for that matter. We are hoping to discover that area in summer of next year. Hopefully, you’ll get the opportunity to land in the place you feel most at home. Thank you for stopping by and reading! Dawn
A beautiful story of your dream flight. Your love of Nature shines through.
Thank you for stopping by and reading!
You are so eloquent, Dawn! I felt myself right there beside you as you were soaring, and as you were grieving. I’ve never in my life lived in one place for more than a few years, so for me it’s just always been natural to keep moving.
Thank you, Julie. I think growing up in and around the military gives people a certain comfort and confidence in moving from place to place. Again, thank you for your service! Dawn
I grew up in similar surroundings, but in rural Minnesota. I’m not nomadic, as in traveling far. But I do enjoy exploring my and neighboring states.
This story really does explain how you landed where you are today as a modern day gypsy.
Thanks so much. I still love returning to farm country now and again to get recharged. I love your explorations. Dawn
You really make me think with your words! What an interesting post. I think my wanderlust came form my “Papa” – my dad’s father. While he was not a traveler so much, he loved to get out and see things in our area. I spent lots of time with him and “Nana” when I was young – mostly from toddler through grade school. Every night after dinner they took a drive – it might be around the town where they lived, or to a neighboring community or just through the countryside. Weekends often included trips a little farther from home, always something new to see and explore. I loved it and still do. Now we are preparing for a full-time life in our RV and while I hate leaving my family the need to go and see is calling me!
What wonderful memories! We used to drive around the area on Sundays. I would sit glued to the car window looking out at the passing scenery. The beautiful thing about living and traveling in an RV is the fact that we can pick up and go whenever we are missing family. We had planned to winter out west this year, but are missing the kids–so we are turning around next month and heading back to the east coast. I’m excited to follow your journey! Dawn
You are a beautiful writer.
So are you, my friend!
Lovely story. I got my wings from my dad getting me my first library card when I was five or six. It opened the world to me.
An interesting story, Dawn. Good writing. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. 🙂 — Suzanne
It’s an honor to follow! Thank you for stopping by and reading!