Photo: Tobin Akehurst/Shutterstock

I No Longer Have a Home. Here's Why Travel Makes That OK.

by Mateo Askaripour Jul 3, 2017

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home” – Matsuo Basho

IT’S AUGUST 15th, 2016 and I’m seated in my Brooklyn apartment, ready to purchase a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. My rent is $1,607 per month. I’m a Director at a rapid-growth New York City tech startup and making over six-figures. I have a pseudo-girlfriend, a Vespa, and student loans that are paid each month. Finding a friend for a meal or a drink is only a text away, and my family lives an hour from me. This is my life and my life is my home. With a click, I change my life.

Why I decided to leave my job and the home I created for myself is another story for another time. But, my story is no different than the hundreds of other I-felt-unfulfilled-at-my-job-so-I-decided-to-quit stories that have become almost cliché. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. With my possessions in storage, I spent 2.5 months exploring Costa Rican waterfalls, sleeping on volcanos in Guatemala, and sweating myself to death in Cuban nightclubs. I met new people, felt the most alive I had in years, and began to focus more on what I love most; writing.

When I returned to the States, I slept on my parent’s couch. There was no closet to call my own, no bed, no room and no sense of roots other than being surrounded by people whom I loved and who loved me back. I began to consult remotely, focus on securing an agent for my book, and make sense out of the feeling of displacement in my own country. But, this feeling of being rootless persisted. So, I packed my bags and decided to embrace it instead of ignoring it.

Ten months later, as I write this from Thailand, I have a clearer idea of the direction in which my life is going, but much of what will happen next is still uncertain. What’s most surprising is that only now, almost a year from when I first embarked on this journey, have I come to terms with the fact that I don’t have anywhere to call home. And this fact, this feeling of weightlessness, is both exhilarating and terrifying, especially as I prepare to return back to the States for an undefined amount of time.

The journey has become home for me. Gravity, which held my two feet as firmly to the ground as possible, released its hold on me when I bought that one-way ticket to Costa Rica. And while this feeling can sometimes be anxiety-inducing, I’ve discovered a handful of reasons to both embrace and love it.

You’re never too comfortable.

Being in a constant state of transition makes it so that you’re never too comfortable in any one place. For me, this was the main reason I decided to leave home the second time and head to Southeast Asia. Being unmoored means that I’ve met women in cafes on Bali, spent days getting to know and like them, only to have them leave in a week to return home; I’m often 11-12 hours ahead of the time zone my friends and family live in; the Internet anywhere I go can be choppy; there are power shortages; and I’ve found myself unprepared for a host of unexpected scenarios — like a minor earthquake, relentless monsoons, and intimate feelings for people I’ve only just met.

This lack of comfort has become one of the best parts of not having a home because it forces me to never be too complacent. I can’t expect that what is here today will be here tomorrow. And, most of I find that my creativity is being sparked in a way that staying in one place for too long would only stifle.

The world is at your doorstep.

Moving from place to place, whether hostel to hostel, couch to couch, or bungalow to bungalow has turned my life into more of a question mark than a period. I never know who I’m going to encounter, and it’s because of this room for spontaneity that I’ve met people who have truly changed my life. The rising singer from Singapore who inspired me to skip heading to Vietnam and lock myself in an apartment for a month to make progress on my book. The Swedish man and woman who told me about a 10-day silent retreat in Indonesia (no speaking, reading, writing, listening to music or eye contact) which I took part in. The eccentric Frenchman on Gili Meno who taught me how to snorkel then saved me from a water-snake. These relationships have already made the uncertainty of my future worth it. And, as a writer, I’ve only gained more material to write about.

Home is what you make it.

Once I no longer had a place to call home, the world became a home to me, and I realized that who I am as a person, is more critical to the concept of a “home,” than the location, building, or neighborhood I’m in. And while the saying, “Home is where the heart is” has become a bit corny, it couldn’t be truer. As long as you bring the best parts of yourself to wherever you go, you can make a home anywhere in the world regardless no matter how long you stay in a place.

In Guatemala, I slept on the bare floor in the cabin of a stranger whom I had only met the day before. There were guns, knives, and a harpoon on his wall and I was a bit hesitant to crash there but didn’t have anywhere else to go. What’s most surprising is that, after sharing a meal with him and speaking for a few hours, I felt more comfortable sleeping on that floor than I had sleeping in a luxurious bed in Costa Rica. It was much more the mindset and energy I had brought with me that truly determined if I was going to feel “at home,” and be happy, than the comfortable familiarity of the bed I slept on or the room I found myself in.

Freedom is more than a word.

Freedom has become my lifestyle, whether I wanted it to be or not.

When I realized my time in Indonesia was coming to an end, I didn’t feel obligated to stay because of worries about a lease, roommates, or other obligations that I had back when living in New York. Instead of “freedom” being an abstract concept that people often aimlessly strive towards, when you decide to live this type of life, you and your lifestyle become the embodiment of it, which is both scary and exciting.

However, it’s important to remember that freedom is relative. Taking off a day from work to spend time alone or with friends and family could be your version of freedom. Spending time painting, writing, or going for a run could be another. It’s on you to decide how you define being free and never allow yourself to get sucked into thinking that someone else’s definition has to be yours; you don’t have to wake up and implode your life one day like I did if you already truly feel happy and free.

Fear is normal, and to be expected.

This is where I contradict everything I just wrote by admitting that I am afraid. I am afraid that choices I make today may end up biting me in the rear if the plans I have for myself don’t work out. I am afraid I’m allowing meaningful relationships and friendships with family and friends back in New York to wither and fade away because of the journey I’m on. I’m afraid of the fact that I don’t have all of the answers, and often don’t know what I’m doing.

But, what I do know is that when you drastically change your life in order to increase your happiness, fear is a necessary part of the equation. Lying awake at night wondering what is going to happen is normal. The feeling of sweat forming a light film over your palms when someone says, “So, what’s next?” is okay. And feeling stupid for leaving behind what should have been “a good life,” is acceptable. Because I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned for any amount of security. I have faith that my life will all work out, even if I do end up sleeping on a couch in my parent’s house and living out of a suitcase for the foreseeable future. And because I know that betting on living the life you want versus the life you think you’re supposed to want, is always the better choice.

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