Hi, my name is Sara, and I love to travel. 

If you know me, this confession probably isn’t all that shocking. 

I grew up in a family that didn’t really travel a lot. We weren’t big on vacations, both out of financial constraints and general lack of interest on my dad’s part. (He’s a real homebody, and we like him that way!) Almost every member of our extended family lived out of town so most of our travel time was spent trekking across the state of Tennessee for long-term visits. We looked forward to those trips every single summer and holiday season because it meant time with the people we loved. 

So all in all, I didn’t really know what I was missing in the world of travel until I actually set foot on a plane. I was 19 years old when that happened, and my first official trip was a big one: a mission trip in Africa. It was my first time out of the country, my first time on a plane, and my first real experience away from my family for an extended time. You would think I’d have been really nervous or even afraid at the thought of this new experience, but I wasn’t. Not in the least bit. I was truly and genuinely excited. 

And the trip didn’t disappoint. From a safari inside a crater in Tanzania to a visit to a Maasai village to new foods and new friends, that trip changed my life. It was the first time I saw the world for what it was: big and wide and ready to explore. Turns out, the world is a lot bigger than just my corner of the state of Tennessee. There’s so much more than just the people I know, or the perspective I have, or the culture I’ve experienced. And just like that, I wanted to experience it all—here, there, and everywhere. 

The travel bug officially bit me that summer, and I haven’t shaken it since. 

The next year, I hopped a plane with the same group of people on a mission trip to Bolivia. I’ve visited Estonia, Amsterdam, and the Philippines on similar type trips over the last decade, too. When my friend Mary lived a semester in Australia, I booked a ticket to take weeklong road trip down the coast with her. I tagged along with my friend Chelsea for a weekend in California. I’ve taken multiple trips to New York City (my favorite city in the world #iwishiwasmegryan). My mom and I take an annual beach trip every May to kick off the summer season. When I turned 30, I spent the week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican with all my best girlfriends who were also turning 30. And two summers ago I made the last minute decision to meet up with two friends for only four days in Iceland. For many reasons, that trip remains the best one I’ve taken to date.

The point of all this isn’t to give you some cool list of places I’ve been so far. It’s to say that since I got back from that first trip to Africa when I was 19, much of my life has been spent looking ahead to when and where I’ll be on the road to next. 

I came home from another trip to New York this summer filled with good friends, good food, and good theater only to hop in the car a few days later for a week long beach vacation with a few of my favorite friends. (It was all fun and games until the stitches that week.) When that trip ended, I came back to Georgia, unpacked my borrowed suitcase, and got back to life as usual. 

But life as usual hasn’t been all that much fun. It’s been a lot of unexpected stress, and disappointments, and decisions—a bunch of adult stuff that sucks. And this week, when I looked at my calendar, my travel happy heart sunk further when I realized that for the first time in a long time, I have no travel plans on the horizon. No flights booked, no excursions planned, no vacation days taken, and no new places to see. Without the time, or the money, or the freedom from all that crappy adult stuff, it’s just life here in Georgia for me for the foreseeable future.

And for some reason, this reality has left me in a funk.

I’ve never been afraid to be in one place. I’ve lived here in Georgia for more than a decade now, and while I’ve moved homes (a lot!), I’ve been here consistently. And I love it. I love the way community and longevity build roots in a place. 

And I like having roots. 

But roots don’t always make you feel like you’re home. And weirdly, I think home is still sort of what I’m looking for. 

It’s a strange thing to be 34 and still looking for your place. It’s a strange thing to be building a life for yourself, by yourself. It’s hard to fully embrace a place or a season when you feel like this picture of home you have in your mind isn’t what your life looks like now. Though I’m rooted, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m home. 

I think that’s what makes this season of being settled and kept in one place for the time being feel a little scary. Because when home doesn’t feel like home—when it doesn’t look the way you thought it would—it makes you wonder if maybe home is somewhere out there still.  

Over the years, my counselor has taught me to do this exercise she calls, “Looking forward to…” It’s essentially just a list of things that I have on the horizon of life that keep me excited about pressing on when things feel stressful, or heavy, or hard. The more steps forward I take, the closer I get to the next thing I’m looking forward to on that list. For me, nine times out of ten, those things have been travel related. 

I was talking to her last week about how much I wish I had unlimited funds to book a trip somewhere and add to my “Looking forward to” list. I told her how I’m so travel-sick that I’ve been randomly searching flights to places I’d love to go just in case. And I told her how unsettled I’ve felt in this season—how I’m struggling to feel at home.

Her response?

“I mean, do you ever think you’ll feel at home here?” 

She didn’t mean Georgia. She and I both know that, despite the fact that life doesn’t look the way I thought it would, I do feel rooted and settled here. No, she meant here on Earth.

Don’t worry, this isn’t the part where I start talking aliens, and space, and other lives, and other worlds, and stuff like that. I’m just saying that, if you think about it, in some ways we’re all just wandering travelers here, looking for a place to call home. And just like Goldilocks and her three bears, there’s just something about life on Earth that will never quite fit. It just won’t feel like home.

And I don’t think it’s supposed to. We weren’t made for this world, and because of that, we’re always going to feel a little unsettled and out of place. 

So what do we do? Well, as my counselor says, we make the best of where we are. We stay when we’re called to stay. We go when we’re supposed to go. We experience and soak in what’s around us right where we are. We bloom where we’re planted, even if the garden looks a little different than we thought it would. We look forward to what’s ahead, but we also look forward to what’s around us in the here and now. 

We find home in who we are. 

On a whim, I bought new luggage this week. When it was delivered to my doorstep, I opened it with so much expectation. I hope it takes me to a lot of new places and faces and experiences this year. I hope it goes with me on adventures not even on the calendar yet. 

But I also know that it will fit just right in the corner of my closet when I unpack it where I am now.


Sara Shelton