Motionsickness

Ireland is dotted with prehistoric burial mounds covered in stone cairns. In folklore, these are known as Diarmuid and Gráinne’s beds. She was a princess, as far as I remember, married to Conor MacNeasa, the high king of Ireland. Diarmuid was one of his soldiers. Like Launcelot and Guinevere, they ran away together, and to avoid Conor’s wrath, they cris-crossed the country, sleeping in a different spot every night.

I’ve been travelling for ten months now, and in the last month alone I’ve slept in 25 different beds. I’m beginning to feel like a fugitive myself. I solve the same problems over and over—which hotel, which campsite, where’s the bus, how can I get my clothes clean. It still takes me half an hour to pack every morning, especially camping, as I try to cram all my gear into a too-small bag. I fret what to do when my current book runs out and I can’t find a new one.

Oddly, it was Quito that made me feel homesick. At the Casona de Mario, I had access to a full kitchen for the first time and was able to potter about making toast and coffee, pasta and salad, whenever I liked. I could sit in a comfortable living room drinking Chilean wine and watching HBO, or eat breakfast in a sunny room that reminded me of my Brooklyn apartment. I could even put music on the stereo. There were no other guests.

And those few days of domesticity nudged a craving for home that I’d managed to keep dormant for a good long time.So I bought a little in-cup immersion heater (which will surely kill me, given Ecuadorian wiring), and I make tea with bathroom water and powdered milk every morning. It’s immensely comforting. In my culture, milky tea cures all ills; home in a cup.

Then I started to buy cornflakes and UHT milk, which are cheaper here than they were in Asia. Breakfasting in private has become a treat. The traveller has to live in public, in other people’s spaces, and hugging a plastic bowl of cornflakes I feel I’m clawing something back.

I am still excited to be travelling. How many 30-year-old women get to shriek down Andean roads, freewheeling, or to learn to whitewater kayak in the headwaters of the Amazon? I know how lucky I am, and this is a country that would constantly remind me, anyway. But the official version of this trip, if one exists, is that it is a year-long absence from the United States to allow me to reset a work permit allowance. As the ‘official’ period draws to a close, I am looking forward and wondering just what home to be homesick for. So far, it is just an imaginary apartment where my books and clothes will live. Soon, though, I’ll need to narrow down a country, or even a continent. And I feel less American now than I once did.