Mesa, AZ – I have no home. The majority of my belongings are stuffed into a 5ft x 7ft x 8ft wooden crate, which I’m told is sitting in a large storage facility somewhere in Croydon, England. (Croydon is a run down suburb of London. Zone 5, I think.) My stuff has been there since 3 June 2014. I only have a vague recollection of what is in there. Clothes. Kitchen gadgets. Pictures I’ve collected on my travels. And my extensive collection of memory boxes. (That’s a story for another day!).
Packing up my flat, where I had lived a freedom-filled, hectic, London life, on my own, for the past 5 years, was hard. I loved that place. It was my sanctuary. Four walls I could escape within after a stressful day of work. My place. Where the food I left in the fridge was still there waiting for me when I craved it, not eaten by a housemate or boyfriend who fancied it before I did. I could do as I pleased there. I could leave the dirty dishes in the sink and a pile of worn clothes on the sofa. I also hated that place. In fact, I spent very little time in it apart from when I was sleeping. I hated it’s emptiness. I hated that no one greeted me at the door at the end of a long day or at the return of an amazing holiday abroad.
Perhaps one of my favourite aspects of traveling is the community I feel a part of. Yes, I usually travel on my own, but I am always around other like-minded travelers be it in a hostel or on a group tour or just catching some local transportation (where gringo spotting is easy!). I love starting the day in the hostel communal kitchen, chatting with other travelers about their plans for the day ahead. Sometimes, if itineraries marry up, you head off together, sometimes, I like to venture off on my own. But here’s the thing. At the end of the day, everyone meets back up in the communal kitchen. We swap stories of our days adventures. We gain valuable advice on what we must do, and where we definitely should not to go. Then we make a plan to head off to dinner somewhere together. It provides a ready made community. Yes, a rather transient one, but a close-knit one that bonds just as quickly as it will inevitably get disbanded. I love it. I love having crazy different people around me.
It was this exact lack of community that made me grow weary of London. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore London. It is the place I most consider as home. It is where my heart and soul lies. I just hate the fast pace and the difficulty it puts up in creating a consistent and constantly available community. I remember a time when I came back from a two week holiday in Cuba. I wanted to catch up with one of my closest friends. She lived only a 20 minute walk from me. She was home, but exhausted from a stressful week at work and couldn’t find the energy for me to even come around in sit in her garden for 20 minutes and have a cup of tea. I didn’t take it personally. I understood that London can knock you down like that. However, it was at that moment that I knew London wasn’t the place for me to live long term, if the pace, and craziness meant it was a challenge and a struggle to catch up with even your closest of friends.
What I dreaded most after my year of traveling was coming back to London and living on my own again. The thought of coming back to an empty house, void of human life, easily persuaded me to extend my traveling by another two weeks to go trek gorillas in Uganda. Eventually though, I did have to come back, as I had no money left. I was lucky enough to be taken in by own of my best friends, who provided me a sofa-bed (which was a massive upgrade from the tent and sleeping bag I had been enduring for the last 56 days camping through Africa). She welcomed me into her home. Parts of me missed my own space, but this far outweighed being part of their family. Sharing the burden of running a home and sharing the joy of companionship – and a G&T and a girly chat at the end of a long day – brought me happiness in a way living on my own never did.
Now I find myself in another home that is not my own. This time crashing with my brother, his wife, and three white fluff-ball pets, in Phoenix, AZ. They also have graciously opened their home to me for an indefinite amount of time until I settle on my next adventure. Again, I love being part of the family. Of having someone to converse with at the start and the end of the day. Of having a ready-made group of people to call upon to do something with. And I will enjoy this for as long as I can.
But it begs the question, “How do I create this type of family/community living long-term, with my own space, when I’m single?” I know I can’t keep crashing at family and friends. And part of me would like to have all those things – MY things – that are in storage in MY own space. But I don’t want to live on my own. And I don’t want to just have a random lodger who I don’t really like. Does anyone have a solution for this? Is there anyone single out there that has created a community, away from their family? I’d love to hear your answers.