Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Exploration of a Different Kind

My pal Laurie is a former expat (Libya, Japan, and Singapore to name a few) and intrepid traveler.  We've known each other for years and can often be found swapping stories about our various trips or talking about how we can save the world.  We both love volunteering (in fact, that's how we met), and planning our next adventure.  But every traveler has a transition period, and this is a post about a transition to permanence...and then moving back into transience.  Both are extraordinary places to explore...and this is Laurie's experience.


                         Exploration of a Different Kind                            

By: Laurie Winfield

So in this series, we were asked to write about exploring.  Exploration is of course a very broad term.  In its most literal sense, it conjures up for me a picture of a Ponce de Leon or  Magellan type-guy with a funny hat, a fleet of ships and a faraway look in his eye.

But in reality, we are all explorers. A baby explores taking its first steps; an adolescent explores a first brush with intimacy; and a college student may go abroad for the first time to explore the world—a kind of modern-day Ponce de Leon with his parents’ debit card, a high-tech backpack and a supply of American condoms. As time goes on, divorces, diseases or general dissatisfaction may lead us to a more inward journey to discover a bit of ourselves we misplaced along the way.

I’m fairly sure that since the day I was born, or even before, I was meant to explore the world and its inhabitants, not in a scientific way but more in an anecdotal way. I am told that when I was a barefoot, tow headed, drawling five-year-old, I walked up to an aging great Aunt and told her I was going to be an international correspondent and travel to all the countries in the world. High and mighty words from an oil field kid in a small Texas town, no doubt.

My parents unwittingly enabled that prediction to come true by moving the family to Libya and beyond during my childhood and teenage years, which fueled the fire for more work and travel abroad in my adult years. While I’m not an international correspondent, I do own a trench coat and I’m a communicator of sorts.  I haven’t been everywhere, to be sure, but tallying almost 40 countries isn’t  too shabby  for a girl who might have just as easily morphed into an early Honey Boo Boo.

My travels have not rendered riches--mostly just stories and the realization that there is nothing nearer Nirvana to me than sitting in a Croatian coffee shop, or a Spanish dive bar or a hotel lobby in Chiang Mai, listening to multiple languages and planning my next excursion. To some extent this touch with Nirvana has also been a curse. It has created both a yearning for roots and a disdain for being tied to one place or way of life. I have an early-ish memory of listening to the song “Brandy” on the short-wave radio in Tripoli and identifying both with Brandy’s yearning for a secure love and with her sailor’s notion that he could never give up the sea, even for love.

It was with trepidation that almost twelve years ago, I explored what I deemed to be settling down when I bought my first home. This is something I’d resisted for years in favor of keeping things boxed up and ready for the next adventure should it come along. Yet unpacking photo albums and all the things I had collected through the years was, in an odd way, a freeing experience. And becoming the Empress of my own little empire where I could decorate, cook, throw parties and plant a garden was as much of an adventure to me as hopping a plane to parts unknown. It helped me understand that finding a home and putting down roots didn’t have to be at odds with my inner Magellan.

As I get ready to pack up and move on to my next phase, I will be eternally grateful for the chance to explore 1616 Bridgeway Drive in Austin’s “04.”  After all, it gave me a place to hang my trench coat.

Exploration of a Different Kin


  1. Laurie, I enjoyed reading this and it made me laugh . You write well and if you were to write a book I would buy it as I have been left yearning to know more about the Croation coffee shop , dive bar in Spain and Lobby in Chiang Mai .



    1. Gina, You are a doll. Thanks for saying that. Hell, why don't we just go to those places and see what happens! Seriously I am working on something. First a blog and then maybe a book of essays aptly named, "I Was a Teenaged Blonde in Libya." Lol..

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