Rootlessness isn’t a bad word……

Posted: 13th December 2009 by admin in Uncategorized

Many images are evoked when someone mentions the word “life”. Mine has been one of constant change. I have placed my temporary roots over the stretch of three continents, lived in almost thirty different houses and visited even more countries while travelling or backpacking. It is safe to say that I have not known the meaning of the word “home”, at least in the conventional understanding of the word, the one house or place which you grow up in or return to when away, that house with familiar photos on the wall, familiar smells and feelings.
Home to me has always been the feeling or connection I get when around a select group of people, obviously my family, but also other TCK’s with whom you skip the irritations of explanations and get straight to the meat of the conversations and memories. It has also been the couch in a friend’s house, a hotel room, a hammock. I develop a feeling of familiarity very quickly, staying somewhere a couple of days can begin to feel like a “home”, even a hotel room can start to feel like the only place you have ever lived. I guess it stems from the fact that moving so often and to such opposite areas of the world demands you to settle quickly, since you don’t know how long you will be there and where you will be heading to next. Therefore you adapt to new situations and problems quicker than most people.
The flip side to that is that you can withdraw and deny the new place a chance since it will only be a few months before you are moving on, so why bother. I have never been like that, I have always had an enormous appetite to explore new places, feel like I know them or belong there in a matter of days, even hours, get familiar, get local friends. Even while backpacking and staying somewhere for a few weeks I can feel a sense of belonging when most backpackers treat hotels as a transient necessity. I feel a strong connection to many places, based on the atmosphere or the vibe in an area, something invisible that attracts and magnetises me.
It never seems to tire me to travel, its more draining to be in one place a long time, to be “settled”. I think four years is the longest I have lived in a single house, back when I was seven years old. Ever since that time the longest period has been a year or two, the shortest a couple of months. My body has become accustomed to moving, to packing, to sailing, flying, driving, so much that when I stay somewhere for a while I begin to think of where I could go next, or if I could hop over to the neighbouring country for a weekend or something. I see the need for a stable base, somewhere to call “home”, somewhere to collect and keep my belongings, and then to be able to settle for a longer period and travel out from there, knowing that it’s a place to return to. I have not found that place yet, but I will. Until then I suppose my lifestyle has made it increasingly difficult to lead a regular life, commit to a university or school for five years, study, marry, settle, grow roots. It doesn’t seem attractive to me, although I can see the benefits of it also.
Roots, many people ask me if I am rootless or restless. I guess to an extent that’s true, although I have grown up treating continents as neighbouring cities, countries as streets nearby. To me I have roots in many different places, scattered over seas, but all of them are such a deep part of who I am that I return to them often to visit the places I grew up, the friends I don’t get to see that often. My roots are longer than others, perhaps not deeper, but longer since they have to reach all the way to India while I am in Amsterdam, all the way to England when I am in Denmark.
The advice of many people is “settle down, get some roots, get rid of that restlessness, enjoy life”. That makes little sense to me, I have roots, I have enjoyed life to the fullest in the way I have been shown life, and yes I might be restless but the life of being settled and secure is just as alien and frightening to me as telling someone who has lived all their life in the same house to move to Indonesia for the next four years to get some experience, some new friends, some new strengths and insights.
Life is what you have been exposed to, have understood or have grown up creating. Mine has been one of constant change, of constant sorrow in leaving friends, of constant changes in climate and culture, language and attitudes, I belong nowhere but everywhere. I find a little piece of myself in many places, its impossible to collect them all and plant them any one place, since a tree cannot grow in the desert and likewise a collection of uneven pieces cannot be placed together perfectly. There will be holes. There will be problems, lack.
It seems though that as a TCK I have become accustomed to parting, to losing things I love. Therefore perhaps I am also hesitant to get involved in something long term from the fears that entail, giving up the freedom of travel, having to deal with problems, opening up to people without being able to suffer out the time until I knew I would leave again, off to another continent. But on the other hand I long for the closeness of friendship, since my friends are living in places all over the world, and I never get to see each of them more than once every two to three years. It’s a sacrifice to make with the lifestyle, as with anything there are pros and cons. Settled life brings contentment to some people, stability, friendship, familiarity, peace, belonging. To me travel brings those things in different ways. Although the stability is not the same way most people consider stability to me it has always been stabilising to know I am not tied down, that I could end up anywhere next year, in any place or situation.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Brice for your never ending, loving support. You really are an amazing person and I’m humbled to be part of your “movement” of TCKid. I’m not sure I did it accurately in 140 characters, but I did try!

    I was trying to keep it down under that level. Maybe an tougher exercise would be to do it in EXACTLY 140 characters. LOL

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are a gifted communicator Benjamin! I also would like to thank you for writing this.