FISH GUTS, Montana- It’s over. The reception has come to an end, my job in Montana is done.
I’m impressed at what my sister has built out here. Her house is beautiful — a big backyard with gardens and trees and places to hang out and enjoy it — her kids are smart, compassionate, and fun, and her new husband is ultimately an alright guy. She’s highly educated, is able to choose her job, and live the life that she imagines.
She moved out to Montana to strip off outside influences and the chains of habit to get to the root of who she is and what she wants. And over the past ten days I had the privilege to see what this is. She took in my family and shared a bit of her life with us. It left me impressed.
I’ve never had a house. I’ve never had a long-term job. I’ve never filled a role in a community. Hardly anyone that I meet with face to face even knows anything about me.
When I was a kid I was always mystified about how people become adults — about how they transition from young people partying and doing whatever they wanted to bona fide grown-ups with houses, cars, and responsibility.
I never made that transition.
But my sister has, and I can see the benefits of going out into the world and finding a place to call home.
I’ll probably never bother doing this but I appreciate it nonetheless.
I don’t admire the lives of travelers — traveling is the easy way out, it’s an expedient way to get what you want … if you happen to be one of the billion or so people in the world who is entitled to a grade-A passport. I admire the lives of those who stand in the ring, who wake up in the morning and face the day. These are the people who weave the stories for me to retell.
There is a reason why the backpacker hostels of the world tend to be socially drab, startlingly un-loquacious places. Deep down travelers know that the lives that we live are boring and uneventful. What’s there to talk about? “I went and took a picture of the same rocks as everybody else.” We go around, see shit, and feel embarrassed, as we know there’s nothing to it. The travel experience as-is is ultimately not much to write home about.
The richness in life is stirred thick by the people doing what my sister does: building homes and building lives. I could never cultivate the excitement and drama that she does daily while living on the road. No, the traveler doesn’t struggle, the traveler leaves. But the stories of life is found in the struggles. Travelers move through the world like a eunuch in a brothel, vicariously ingesting an act that we ultimately cannot do.
My sister’s family stood outside of their white picket fence as we got into our car to leave. Petra tried to hide inside their house in hopes that we wouldn’t notice and leave her behind. When we finally routed her out she was crying. She said she didn’t want to live with us anymore, that she had found a new family.
We somehow managed to get her in the car. As we drove away Nicky’s youngest son chased the car as we drove away on his scooter. He gave up the futile attempt at the corner. I looked back at him through the rear view mirror as he stood there defeated, watching us sadly until we turned the corner and were gone.
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