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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