What is that odd shift which occurs when one stays in the same lodging for the third night of an extended trip? The moment when you turn the key in the lock, or wake in the morning and something in you has made this "home". A sense of familiarity washes over you. You drop the key on the table, kick off your thongs and walk barefoot on what was, only a moment before, a cringingly suspect surface, or you roll over, snuggling down in this bed that felt all wrong just last night. Perhaps the surest sign of all is actually sitting, not hesitantly or gingerly, but with assurance and intention, on that toilet. Whenever that moment is, one enters into a new state of traveling, affectionately known as "being home", and it is this great reprieve from the work of traveling that allows me to live out of a backpack in a series of strange smelling places for many months at a time, unfettered by desire for my house in America.
An aside for public transportation. Admittedly, I do occasionally long for the luxurious spaciousness of my Dodge van with plush seats, enclosed on three sides by privacy, tinted windows, dry and comfortably clean with my own dirt, where my entire length (and that of my husband's) may horizontalize itself without touching another human, knowing that if I roll over it will be an inanimate car wall separating me from possible embarrassment or contamination with god knows what unfamiliar, contagious particle left for me in a manner I cannot bare to ponder. Steadfastly, I quash those moments of straying from the mysteriously satisfying travel by public conveyance...third class trains, racing night buses, donkey carts, rickshaw, tuk-tuk, bechaks - all riding me along the fanciful edge of death, or minor catastrophe. Perhaps I intuit that it is that quarter turn toward nostalgia that can threaten my joy in travel.
In other lands I sleep in the most unlikely of places, covered and not, safe and not, rarely bug or rodent free, and covet the stories those nights breed. Covered by only a scratchy, odiferous camel blanket in the Tar Desert, I am reassured by my husband squeezed in next to me, and later by the mound of sand blown toward and over us in the night. Very cozy. Crowded into a six foot square wooden box of a cabin with one twelve inch square hole with shutter, my husband, son and I roll to the middle of a hammocked mattress, Golden Triangle monsoon turning our space into a sauna. But, in Iowa or Seattle, San Diego or Tucson, I will not turn toward the nostalgia of survival in those other far-flung lands and check into the NoTell Motel. Too much risk of what? Bedbugs. Pubic hair. Athlete's foot. Crabs. I do not let go of the sure knowledge gained in high school that one can get crabs from the toilet seat. Motel 6 is as low end and I go, and as I work my way into my fifties, I feel myself upgrading to Red Roof Inn. Has there ever been a good story born at a Red Roof Inn? Reluctantly I check into Motel 6 where just a short time ago, somewhere nearby, in Illinois perhaps, or Georgia, they uncovered a meth lab set up in two adjoining rooms.