This week, New Yorkers seem more bitter than usual. (It’s like the difference between a tidal wave and a typhoon, but what’s a good lunarial shove between friends, eh?) Might be the summer winding down or just the fact that we’re between seasons of Real Housewives. I know I’ve been feeling unsettled.
I’m planning to spend the month of September working from my home in the mountains of Appalachia. This is a source of great joy and great stress. It’s also causing me to look too far forward; I find myself buying one orange, thinking I won’t eat more than that before I have to leave. I should say that I’m the kind of girl who can eat an orange per hour, so this is quite a cutback, since I have a full three weeks before departing.
Along with my trip home, I’ve been feeling the urge to travel abroad.
Last year I visited a friend living in the Netherlands. I came away with an appreciation for canals, a slight fear of Belgium and knowing the Dutch word for garlic. (Knoflook.) What I remember most, though, was my first night there. I arrived about 6 a.m. in Den Haag, having been up about 24 hours. She deposited me at her house and toddled off to work, and I promptly fell asleep. When she got home, we went out into a beautiful early fall sunset and walked round her lovely city. I, like any good tourist, nearly collided with a bicycle every chance I got. I also dropped the little plastic fork I was meant to eat my pommes frites with and had to ask for another. My most bourgeois moments.
That night, my hostess went to bed, but I was wide awake. I stood in her living room and looked down her beautifully narrow European street into an open square. I saw the fountain being turned off. I watched the moon hang over nearby apartments. I took this photo.
I flipped through her foreign channels and found reruns of an old Australian show called The Secret Lives of Us. It was one of those elusive television moments when you stumble upon something that will become so much a part of your psyche that you can no longer remember if it was you or the protagonist who developed an opinion or preference or catchphrase. Forget instant play, this show and I were instant friends. I sat on a creaky Dutch couch and ate stroopwafel with thick strawberry yogurt and chunks of real, rich European chocolate. Everything was dark and still and quiet, and I couldn’t have been happier.
This is what I envision when I think of living abroad, the sense of newness and satisfaction that comes with traveling outside your comfort. It’s so much easier to imagine a different version of oneself with a drastic scenery change. I’m reminded of stage managers calling for a bath of blue lights, then red, as people dressed in black scuttle around, pushing fiberboard cutouts around.
My mind knows this is not the reality of moving out of the United States. I can convince my brain of the obvious problems and setbacks. But, right now, my angsty New York feet are aching to be somewhere else, though I know I’m home.