Vagabonds at Last

27 Oct 2010
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Yesterday I walked around Sweet Home for the last time, as Gunsan Education Office employees removed the last of the government-supplied furniture. The place was much as we had found it two years ago, but somehow looked a little less pregnant, and a little more abandoned.  The wallpaper was new back then (though just as floral), some of the furniture was already in place, and of course we were arriving, instead of leaving: bringing through the door some hopes and expectations (would we have a tub to shower in, fingers crossed?), but mostly just energy and excitement, and a little bit of luggage.

A little bit of luggage that had expanded greatly with hardly any effort, as we discovered in the last few weeks of emptying our lives out. We wanted our house to feel like a home, so we invested in furniture and fish tanks, TVs and candle holders, bunny rabbits and picture frames. Neither Marisa nor I have lived anywhere for much longer than two years, so as far as we’re concerned it’s “get comfortable” in that amount of time, or don’t get comfortable at all.  So we made the place home, with a name coined by my first co-teacher, Mr. Song, who used to come and collect me at the end of the day and say with a clink of the keys that it was time to return to my “sweet home.” Then a drive through the rice fields, green or golden or gray, depending on the time of year.
Now our sweet home is empty and gone, and I am sitting on a bus on the way to the airport, watching the Korean countryside float by, as I have done many times before. But the difference this time around is that I have no place to return to—not in the immediate sense, and not in the long-term sense. Most people, when they travel, have some kind of base to go back to: a home, a family, a job, a city, a neighborhood, a country—a base that, however distance and loosely held, serves as a normal line on the horizon.  Sometimes people uproot themselves and sojourn to a foreign land to make a new base: their normal line lies not behind them, but in front of them in that new place, the home to be.
Marisa and I have neither of these things. Growing up with nomadic parents who left their homeland before I was born, my home was always wherever my family was living. Likewise, since being married to Marisa, our home has been wherever we’ve set it up: Carrboro, Minneapolis, Gunsan… the next place. But now, as we set out for a period of extended travel, that “next place” is gone as much as our current place is slipping away beneath bus tires. As I look out these large windows, past the emergency hammer that I think about using, there is no Sweet Home waiting in my future, no family or friends to go “back” to, no employment that I’m preparing for, not even a country that I can land in at some future point and feel that I’ve returned home, or at least found my destination. What do I have? A tent, a backpack, and some vague plan to make games about the things I see.
I’ve often felt like a vagabond, but never more than now. 

Sweet Home without us.

Beautifully written (who said

Beautifully written (who said you had to create computer games to be a travel writer?) -- and I want to say that I know exactly what you mean. Which, of course, I do in a sense, but then again, I'm sitting in my rooms at Oxford, with my own posters on the walls, not leaving behind two years of a world created for a future of a world unknown. I hope your travels lead to wonder and learning and joy, and that knowledge of self and others -- sometimes called identity -- which may be the closest thing to stability or "home" that we vagabonds will ever really own. I love you both, and wish you travel mercies, abundantly. Under the Mercy.

Thank you Karith :) . I think

Thank you Karith :) . I think that you have a very good idea of what I'm feeling... though I have to say that I am amazed at how different the start of this journey has felt to me compared to every other journey I've gone on. I have never felt quite so homeless, quite so much the reality of living day by day. One day in, and already the world is made new :) .