Before moving to Mancos, I had never lived anywhere (as an adult) for longer than two years, often fewer than two.
Various apparent reasons: job, love, loss of job, loss of love, climbing. But beneath the surface there was a bigger, less obvious, reason: Wanderlust.
wan·der·lust (noun): strong longing for or impulse toward wandering
My mother is an adventuress – she loves traveling more than just about anything else in this world, except for her small, white, spoiled, dog. She is never happier than when she is preparing for a journey and then actually experiencing that journey.
She apparently passed this character trait on to her daughter. Her son, bless his heart, received the steadfast, routine-dependent, nesting genes of his father.
So I grew up wanting to get the hell out of Dodge as often as possible. My parents, fortunately, supported this, although I know that they often wished that I would stay put once in a while.
The difference between my mother’s wanderlust and mine is that her travels are always carefully planned out, thought through and fiscally possible. I am spontaneous and irresponsible.
After many years of vagabonding, I (we) moved to Mancos and 16 years later, here I am. Stunned and most definitely, at home.
I (we – since I was still married at the time) chose Mancos because it was perfect. It was also most likely going to be temporary. We were living in a van at the time — no way that we would suddenly become sedentary.
Then I got pregnant, then I got pregnant again, and somewhere in there we made friends and found great jobs and totally fell in love with this corner of the world. I became a Personwhocan’tlivewithoutthedesert.
Raising children leaves very little time to think about going anywhere. We did a little bit of traveling – some even out of the country, but not nearly as much as I would have liked because of pesky little things like money, jobs, school and mortgages. Throw in football and divorce in the more recent years and the wanderlust was pretty much squelched.
But suddenly, things are changing. My children are almost out of high school, which means an end to homework, parent-teacher conferences, and weekly games. I can actually see that the future may bring me a bit more independence and freedom.
In the past four months, I have been to Florida, the Bay Area and Montana. I have been on more airplanes than I have in the last 16 years combined. And while I hate airports, I love going places and with all of the adventure these last months, I have realized that there is a big f•$% world out there that I am missing.
I love Mancos – it really is “home.” I love knowing everyone, having my routines, being able to walk to work (which I never do but I love knowing that I could if I got off my lazy ass.) It is an amazing place to raise kids and the size and closeness of the community guarantee that my lovely children don’t get away with anything.
When I returned from Florida – my parents have moved back to my mother’s home town, a place where I have spent a million, happy, hours, and yes, a million happy-hours too – I was seriously contemplating a relocation to be closer to them in their twilight years. Although Florida might not be my first choice, thinking about moving away has definitely opened a door in my brain, in my soul – the Wanderlust has returned.
I could live on a beach. And I really want to live in a pink cinderblock house. My father says that if I am going to move there, I need to take the time (years) to do it responsibly.
My idea of “responsible” was to put an ad on Craigslist asking for that pink house and if something turns up – I will take it as a sign and start packing. I figure everything will work out one way or another.
The idea of moving into a completely new home in a new environment and beginning to explore a new community in an attempt to make it mine is SO enticing. I eat that stuff right up – it spurs my creativity and feeds a beast that can’t be sated any other way.
I love waking up and having that moment of, “Oh, I live here now – what shall I do today?” I also love the anonymity of it; I can pretend to be anyone I want to be and there is a brief period of being mysterious.
And then of course, I get to know people and they (and I) realize that there is not an iota of mystery to me.
So, with these cravings beginning to fester just a little bit, I went to my brother’s in California. Suburban East Bay holds nothing for me, but a day in the City and Bam! I was living right there, again, just a few blocks from Haight Street, eating a wide variety of ethnic food, breathing the sea air, shopping in unparalleled thrift stores and seeing live music every weekend.
Physical craving. Me, a total loner, thinking about living with the masses because I want to experience living with the masses one more time.
Then, two weeks ago – Bozeman, Montana. I would like to ask why no one ever told me before that Montana is insanely beautiful and magical and surreal. And cold and I really don’t like cold. But I discovered that sitting in the hot springs inside a National Park (and not just A National Park, but The …) will balance out that cold factor quite well.
There are bookstores, and theaters that show old movies, and restaurants that serve all kinds of food (except apparently our one staple, good Mexican fare.) There are art galleries, and music, and a university.
In other words, there’s a whole world out there of which I have not been aware.
And now that I have started wanderlusting, I am thinking that there are even more places to explore and try on.
It’s hard to imagine leaving here – it’s true, “There’s no place like home,” but Mancos has been here for a very long time and most likely will be for years to come, so I could always return.
I’m wondering if my children could graduate early so that I can start my adventures now.
And then, my neighbor takes his cow for a walk and I stop in the middle of Grand Avenue to talk to a friend while other cars graciously drive around without complaint, and I prepare for a dinner date with a local author and I have Girl’s Night Out with truly amazing women and my children seem to have 100 other mothers and fathers looking out for them and I wake up happy to go to work in a place with wonderful people and coyotes running outside my office window and I spend my Saturday in February running in shorts amongst the slickrock and my two best friends are pillars of the community (and my world) and I think:
I have found Paradise.
Suzanne Strazza is an award-winning writer in Mancos, Colo.