A life on the road can bring you ecstatic feelings of awe and connection, but it can also leave you feeling drained and lost. Opting for a nomadic way of life has despite its charms often led me to feel rootless and misplaced—but seven years down the line I’ve found a remedy in the form of yoga. The practice allows me to re-connect with the homeliest of all homes; the one within.
Homes away from home
Since leaving my parents’ home in Sweden at 18, I have lived in, worked in, or traveled through more than 25 countries. During these seven years of constant transitions, I have left pieces of my heart with people, and in places, sprinkled all across the world. And although these connections enrich my life just like colors enrich the world, at times they make me feel awfully fragmented.
Each time I’ve connected to a person, or a place, a feeling of home has arisen within me. And if I was to add up all my ‘homes’ by this definition, I’d be approaching 100 by now. To have this many ‘homes’ can feel both like a blessing and a curse, solely depending on your state of mind.
There have been times where I’ve cried myself to sleep, feelings of homesickness rumbling in my chest—but confused as to what that ‘home’ actually is. Is it a place I miss, or a soulmate in a different country, my family, my hometown, an old identity, a lover? At any one time, there are so many connections tugging at my heart, yet the urge to explore is stronger than them all.
The traveling high…
There’s not much that can compete with the feeling of swooshing past Balinese rice fields on the back of a moto, the humid morning air gently caressing your skin, and the warm rays of the rising sun kissing the world awake. Or the pure joy that surges through your adrenaline-filled body when floating at the bottom of a roaring waterfall, surrounded by rainforest and the majestic cliffs from which you leaped. There just really isn’t.
Experiences like these will stay with you forever, ripe to be picked out of your memory bank at any given time. Bite into them, and their sweet juice will flood your body with feelings of bliss and gratitude. However, depending on your current state of mind, they may leave a pungent, bitter after-taste once the sweetness subsides. If you’re feeling stuck, lost, or low, reliving this glory-day-type of memories can actually become a form of self-torture, as it shines a light on what you feel is lacking in your current reality.
…and the home-coming low
In terms of intensity, the only feelings that can compete with those born of life on the road, are the opposing ones you’ll experience upon returning home. Nothing but the experience can truly prepare you for that first homecoming, but if I was to try, I’d describe it as being woken up by a bucket full of ice water. All your new experiences will suddenly seem like a distant dream, and you may start questioning whether it ever happened at all. Robbed of experiencing foreign foods, smells, colors, and cultures, meeting adventurous people, and exploring new places, your existence will appear bleak and lifeless. Post-travel blues may hit you hard—it did for me.
Change is uncomfortable
See, I grew up in a loving but chaotic family of six. My older brother was often brought home by the police, and as a teenager I watched my parents’ fighting escalate, while their love for one another faded. When I left home, they were on the verge of divorcing. Leaving this environment, the next coming 18 months of freedom catapulted me out of my socially anxious past-self, into an adventurous, curious and joyful individual. I truly flourished.
Upon returning from my life-changing adventure, my parent’s actual split was happening. Most of my friends had by this point also left town, and I was experiencing reverse culture shock, big time. As a result, I fell into a depression, isolating myself and numbing my overwhelming existential angst with comfort foods, and other forms of escapist behavior—movies, reading, running, writing, filming—anything to not feel the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing.
The one thing that kept me going at this point, was the prospect of saving up enough for another adventure—and so that’s what I did. And then I left again. The next time I returned home, the reverse culture shock wasn’t as harsh as the first time—I started feeling life returning to me already two months down the line. I had also come to realize the need to actively smoothen out the process, if I was to continue down the nomadic path for the foreseeable future: Cue, yoga.
Tapping into the feeling of home—wherever, whenever
Since I started practicing yoga, I’ve become more accepting of discomfort within. In a gentle way, it allows me to face whatever I’m feeling at a said moment without external distractions, yet held within the borders of the sequence I’m performing. In my head, the framework of yoga provides the endless emotions with a boundary, which in turn makes them less scary to experience. And releasing the pent-up energy through somatic movement makes the process less intense.
The yogic system calls for awareness in all aspects of the word, which also helps me connect with the present moment. As a result, feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), lack or dispersed-home-sickness, make way for ones of groundedness. Each breath married to a movement draws me back into the present, helping me snap out of feelings of disconnect and fear.
Stepping onto my yoga mat and flowing through a yoga sequence, calming my mind with some breath work, or setting aside 20 minutes to meditate, helps me find my way back home whenever I feel lost. Just like with all my other ‘homes’, this internal abode stems from a feeling of connection—but unlike the others, this connection lies only within.
Through helping me connect with myself on a deep level, practicing yoga makes me feel grounded and at home no matter where in the world I’m located. Now, rather than feeling like I’m haphazardly searching for a home for the day, I feel more like a turtle—carrying my internal home with me wherever I go. And that shift has been monumental for helping me navigate life.
Exploring the external world comes naturally to me—it doesn’t feel scary, but exciting. And yoga is helping me realize that exploring my internal world is not dangerous either, but rather the opposite. Throughout my yogic journey, I have come to appreciate both the beauty and the ugliness of life—as within, so without—and this perspective changed my reasons for traveling.
I’m no longer pursuing external exploration to avoid an internal turmoil, but rather to create one—and to breathe through it, knowing that I’m safe. Knowing that my feelings are helpful guides sending me messages, and taking the time to listen in to them—but also knowing that I’m not my emotions, I’m just experiencing them. Having this tool to utilize when times get rough, brings immense peace of mind. And in turn, this tranquil internal atmosphere allows me to see the true blessings of being a multi-home-owner.
In this abundant state of mind, biting into juicy memories of the past leaves nothing but an irresistible sweetness—more than enough to satisfy my hunger, yet delicious enough to encourage the pursuit of new ones, once the nostalgic satiation subsides.
If you’re interested in picking up your own yogic practice, but you’re not sure where to begin, I’d highly recommend hopping onto Youtube. There’s a plethora of free content covering both the physical and the philosophical aspects of the practice on there. Happy searching!
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Photo: Amauri Mejia via Unsplash