When traveling, often the first question people politely ask you is where you’re from. That is always such an awkward question to me, because I am not rooted in my hometown or frankly any town I’ve ever lived in. Still, there is truth in understanding someone based on where they’ve lived.
I’ve lived in many places so far, but this is the first time I’m living in the country.
So, to answer that initial question, I grew up in suburbia. East Petersburg, Pennsylvania
was a very, very small town outside of Lancaster, which is only slightly big enough to be called a city. East Pete was a lovely place for a kid: There was a creek that my friends and I could investigate, piles of leaves to jump in, honeysuckle to eat, wild raspberries to pick and not-too-crazy hills to sled and ride our bikes down. I could walk to a store with my friends, and that was about the extent of it.
When I was a little older, my family moved closer to the city, but not too much closer. It was still suburbia, with a few more shops in walking distance, a bigger creek to investigate, a pond to ponder near and hills to hike with my friends. Once I could drive, we’d escape the suburbs to go see live music in Philadelphia, which wasn’t too far away. But it was still pretty far away. In these small suburbs, I learned that the world is safe, fun and filled with family.
In other countries, the suburbs is even not a thing. Where I am now, in the countryside of Argentina, I’m either in the small Villa or I’m in the city. In between is vineyard, no subdivisions or strip malls. I tried to expand this concept to people in Dominican Republic and was met with very strange looks. And it’s true. The suburbs are strange.
At the first opportunity I had, I moved far away from suburbia. I moved to New York City. To anyone who lives remotely nearby, it’s actually called “The” City. That’s where I went to university, and I really enjoyed the first taste of independence as an adult. I bought this vintage, long, black pleather jacket with embroidery and a fake-fur trim, and I wore it over my bell bottom jeans and turquoise vintage printed top and walked down Broadway. And you know what? No one cared. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Unlike in suburbia where neighbors peer out their windows at you, I was completely free to be myself in all my glory. I learned during my time in the city that limits are really in your mind. I was immediately able to stop caring what other people thought of me. It was awesome.
But city life can be a drag, too. Although I checked out a lot of live music, museums, art exhibits, parks and awesome parties filled with creative people, I was tired and uptight. It is really hard to lounge around on a sofa all day when there are endless, interesting events going on all around you all the time. Some days, though, I really needed to relax. When I graduated, I moved to the beach.
Florida living was cool; I rented a house about five minutes from the beach. It was suburban, too, really, but different because I spent so much time in the ocean. For years, I spent all my free time snorkeling, surfing, bodysurfing, collecting shells and relaxing on the sand. But after a while, I couldn’t deny that Florida is also filled with strip malls and people honking at traffic lights. I went on a date with a man who was proud to have never read an entire book in his life. I had to go.
Suburbia, check. City life, check. What’s next? Sailing life, duh! I got rid of most of my things and moved on to a sailboat. I lived in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic for a year or so before moving back on to land in the US Virgin Islands. Caribbean living is very different as well. I learned a lot of patience there and embraced the joys of a life without endless consumerism offers. Then I sold everything I owned that I couldn’t carry and started traveling (missing not one but TWO Category 5 hurricanes, still feeling gratitude there). I
lived the last month housesitting in the desert, where I was reminded of the blessings I could offer the beings around me (and in turn, receive). It all helped prepare me for where I am living now.
As I write this, it’s still a little chilly here in the countryside of Argentina, but the intermittent warm days have ushered in fresh buds on the fruit trees. Since I don’t speak Spanish very well, I’m not doing a lot of socializing yet. Every morning, I wake up naturally (there isn’t even a clock in the bedroom) and put on coffee. I’ll make a little breakfast, then feed the dog and cat. If it hasn’t rained, I water the yard. There’s a horse that comes over and asks for water as well. One day I played my ukulele for her and she was so relaxed she almost fell over asleep! I felt like the horse whisperer. I like to pet that horse for a long time.
Every day, the dog and I take long walks by the riverside in the shadows of mountains. We trudge through a small swamp and then meander our way back through the brush. I have to watch where I’m walking because it’s a horse pasture. There’s shit everywhere, but then, I see horses grazing every day as well. The shorebirds yell loudly whenever we are nearby. There’s one big tree that is literally swarming with activity – I can hear the bee nest but I have yet to find it.
We turn the corner on our walk to get on a dirt road that leads back to the house. This is when I see the neighbors. One old man works every day in his yard, tending what seems to be a garden. He always stops and greets me as I pass. There’s a house across the road from his that is teaming with children. Dogs rush out to greet us. Sometimes a motorcycle goes by, and the driver will say “Hola.”
Sometimes I walk or ride my bike into the Villa, and some days a friend will drive me to the city of San Rafael for provisions. But I am really enjoying the quiet of the country. I write, play music, read, watch movies, practice yoga, cook and day-dream. If I want to interact with people, I turn to social media – but never for long. I’ve already learned that people who lack compassion need to be welcomed with an even more open heart.
Living in the country is a wonderful way to return to myself and listen to myself. When the big plan of the day is collecting the dandelion leaves from the yard for a salad, things are good. I am studying Spanish and practicing my music, focusing on my health while also enjoying a glass of local Malbec.
It’s the simplicity that is so magical. It seems too easy to complicate life in the suburbs and certainly in the city. On the islands, too, I seemed to have drama following me. Now the biggest drama is me breaking a glass jar filled with some nuts and dried fruit. My response? Get a broom and sweep it up. It’s really just that simple.