Tales of a
21st Century Gypsy

April 24, 2006. Heading to Albuquerque

From Arizona I headed east. My general destination was Fort Worth, to visit a friend from The Gates in New York, and Dallas, to visit my cousin Sandy. But I wasnít in a hurry to get to Texas, and figured I should see what I could see on the way. Karl had told me that Albuquerque was just like Phoenix Ė cars and suburban development, no urban core. But there was a YMCA there where I could go for a swim, so I figured Iíd make it my next stop.

Traveling was beginning to get old, though. Two years ago, I was curious about every place, wanted to talk to strangers and find out who they were. I read guide books, studied maps, and made plans for places I wanted to visit. Increasingly, though, I no longer felt drawn by seeing new places or meeting new people. I was sorting out where I could put myself for a night or two, where I could get a shower, where I could use the pool, how I could get on the internet to check my email, and hopefully get some work done. ďWorkĒ meaning updating my website, writing an article about Malawi, following up on the feelers Iíd

gotten about going to Mongolia to work on tourism statistics sometime soon. It actually felt like the obligation to move from place to place and see the country was a nuisance. I just wanted to stop somewhere and spend my time getting things done, instead of spending my time in constant movement from place to place.

But where? I had no reason for any place in particular, not that I could think of.

I love New York, of course. But itís fantastically expensive, and living there would mean totally changing my life Ė selling my house, selling one if not both of my motor vehicles, getting rid of at least one of my kayaks. Without a car, how could I go kayaking? Or get out of town? Or continue seeing the USA if I decided I wanted to keep traveling? Iíd love to live in New York, but Iím not sure it will ever be worth what Iíd have to give up to do it.

There are lots of places I could live if I had to Ė if there were some other compelling reason to be there. The Bay area Ė San Francisco Bay, that is, not the Chesapeake Bay - is great, of course, but even more expensive than New York. Seattle is a good town. If I had to, I could find a niche in Indianapolis, or Minneapolis, or even Milwaukee, though fortunately I donít have to. Iím sure I could fit into Madison or Boulder or Austin, theyíre all excellent towns. But why would I? I really liked Port

Townsend, Washington, it seemed like a congenial place to stop for a few months. It had a nice campground, with electric hookups and nice clean showers, for only $10 a night. Great coffee, free wifi, Seattle not far away, lots of water (albeit to cold to swim in). But the Olympic Peninsula is very much the opposite direction from my plans to go to Buses by the Beach in Michigan, BusFusion in Ottawa, and the Maritime provinces of Canada. Besides, while Port Townsend would be lovely in the summer, itís not a place where Iíd want to spend in the winter in a van.

But am I about to sign a lease on an apartment somewhere? If I werenít staying in my van Iíd have to find housing, and make a real commitment to a place. And though my travels have not been driven by financial considerations, when it comes right down to it living in the van is a great deal financially. Iíd need a good reason to give that up. Hell, I might even need a job! Which seems like a bad idea no matter how I look at it. My thoughts went round in circles on the issue. I kind of

wanted to stop, but I didnít have any place I wanted to stop. What leads people to pick places anyway? Most people donít really make a deliberate choice. I moved to Rhode Island, way back in 1974, to go to college. I moved to Washington DC for a job a year later. I was aware of that choice Ė it was Washington DC, or the small seaside town of Marion, Massachusetts. Being in a metropolitan area tied into the whole world, or in a small town tied to the sea. I picked the city, though occasionally I still wonder what would have happened had I ďpicked the road less traveled.Ē Then I moved to Boston for school, back to Washington because it was the right place to look for a job. Perhaps Paris is the only place Iíve ever chosen to go simply because I liked the place. And I didnít stay there, though in some ways Iíd have liked to. After that Boston for school again, and Washington for a job again. And finally New Jersey for work. And after that the van because I was tired of being anyplace.

I donít think many people really consider all the options when they decide where to move. Thereís a reason for a place, so they go there. Or stay there. I have a friend in Michigan who has spent all of her life in that state, most of it in Grand Rapids. She never had a reason to go anywhere else, she said. She grew up there, her family is there. She married there, now her son is there, and her grandchildren. Her brother lives not far away, and until recently her sister did as well. She works as an accountant, so she could work anywhere. But what would prompt her to leave her family, or draw her to go to a different place? Nothing.

Some people move to be with someone Ė a life partner, or aging parents, or ďwhere all my friends live.Ē That wouldnít be me either. My remaining parent is in New York, but I already discussed the difficulties of moving there. I know people all over, but couldnít see choosing where I live to be with any of them. I once had a partner who lived in a different city from me, but from long distance we could never spend enough time together to decide that we wanted to be life partners, so we went our separate ways instead. Anyway, I donít have a partner, so thatís not an issue.

So Iím going around in circles. And in the meantime, for lack of any reason to stop anywhere, I headed to Albuquerque to see what I could see.

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