I’m a Wanderlusting Seeker, Not a Nester

2010 March 23
by Grace Boyle

The average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime.

I’m clearly a proponent of travel, relocating, moving and trying new places so I find it fascinating when I talk to my friends who have stayed in the same city/state for their whole life and don’t plan on leaving. I say fascinating because:

1) My life has been the opposite; 2) When I find someone’s actions to be opposite from my own, I know we can each learn a lot from the other.

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Let me start by saying, there is something ineffable and fulfilling about growing up in a town, staying near your family and friends, then raising your own family in that same town where you learned to ride a bike, attended elementary and high school and then fell in love. I think it is beautiful.

But, it’s not me.

I earnestly, almost pleadingly ask my friends who love nesting, “Do you ever want to pick up and leave? What about moving to a place you know no one? How do you know you can stay in your town and not have the urge to leave?” I wonder the how’s and why’s.

I am made up of exotic lands, new people, new colors, faces, different currency and cuisine, mountains, oceans, accents, regions, building a community from the ground up, struggling alone, and then learning independence by being outside of your comfort zone. The kind of independence that starts at the bottom of your toes and crawls up to your heart, entrenched in your brain that represents the support of others, but began with you. Alone.

Want to know a secret? Sometimes I wish I took the route right in front of me and still lived close to my family (I’m extremely close to them). I have no regrets, at all, and listening to my intuition and jumping in feet first is my philosophy – for life, but sometimes I wish I could hop over to my parents for dinner or take a couple hour drive and be in the comfort of my hometown.

Alas, I feel blessed because my mother and father encouraged me to spread my wings. Maybe because at young ages, they did the same.

As I think about a mate or partner for life, the quality of a “seeker” seems to be more analogous and important to me. For example, an ex of mine chose to stay in his hometown, then move only a half hour away. I was seeking challenge, he was seeking regularity in the familiar – different lifestyle choices.

These two paths represent a different life, a different perspective and a different set of lenses to view the world. There isn’t a right or wrong, we all have different needs, different reasons for staying put or traveling, but for me, traveling and geographical growth is simply a lifestyle I find an affinity with, right now.

I also haven’t overlooked that this largely has to do with where I am in my life. Currently, my life is day-to-day, transient and I’m in my 20’s. I don’t imagine that I will be gallivanting around the world and uprooting when I have a family (although, I sure as hell want to galavant with my family) but want to also ensure they have roots and a place we can build and grow together.

My family did that for me – but prior to settling into a community and school system, they traveled, moved around, lived in places they knew no one, met each other, then traveled some more and even as I speak, my parents are in India together even though they have lived in my hometown for over 20 years together. They work hard to keep seeking, traveling and learning.

You might think I’m being haughty, but I’m not. I’ve already talked about how incredible it is to be close with your nourishing family, build and grow overtime in your community/hometown or general regional area. It just isn’t for me. So I’m speaking my truth and as always, I would hope, that we each continue to live and speak our truth because there really isn’t any other way to live, right?

So are you a nester or a seeker? Have you been both – how has it changed for you?


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  • http://twentyorsomething.com/ Susan Pogorzelski

    Grace — I love this post. And one of the things that I most admire about you is your love of travel and experience. That paragraph — “I am made up of exotic lands…” — is one of the most beautiful I've read in a blog post in a very, very long time.

    I tend to like to think of myself as a perpetual student, constantly exploring, always learning, and seeking out life's treasure of experience — those moments that take your breath away, that challenge you to become something greater than you believed, that overwhelms the senses. In that sense — in the sense that I find these things through travel and that travel has become such a huge part of my life and always will — I think of myself as a seeker, as you call it.

    But I am also very much a settler. For so long I wanted nothing more than to move away from my hometown because I thought there was so much more out there and I had that “anywhere but here” mentality. In the past few years, I realized that this is where I'm happiest: close to my family, close to friends, and being a part of a community that I was always on the outside of as a child because I was, in fact, a child. I see it with new eyes now as an adult. The place hasn't transformed so much as I have.

    Maybe it's the Libra in me that's always looking for balance, but I've since been able to reconcile both needs by satisfying my desire to see the world with traveling (and working in an international department certainly helps!) and by being close to what matters the most to me.

    I want that for my children as well — to instill in them that sense of independence, that desire to see the world and live among it, but to plant roots as well. I'm very fond of my roots ๐Ÿ˜‰

    One of my favorite posts, Grace. Absolutely beautiful. May you wander far and return home often :)

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  • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

    Grace – brilliant as always. I love how beautifully you captured the desire for change and independence. I read this line twice because of how deep a chord it struck with me: “The kind of independence that starts at the bottom of your toes and crawls up to your heart, entrenched in your brain that represents the support of others, but began with you. Alone.”

    On a random note, have you read the book The Seeker's Guide? I haven't, but a friend recommended it as a great one for people like us :) I also just finished The Alchemist – AWESOME allegorical story on pursuing change, big dreams and the “seeker's life.”

  • http://www.ashalah.com/ Ashalah

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this. As you know, I'm a seeker, through and through. I may get urges to grow roots and settle down in one place, but in the end I will pack up my bags and hit the road. It's what I was born doing. I have moved every two to three years since I was four and this nomadic existence has made me the person I am today. I adapt REALLY well to change, to out-of-my-comfort-zone situations and I love that aspect of me. I WISH I had friends I've known since kindergarten, elementary school, middle school–even high school, really. My constant moving never made time for that. But I never would have gotten to experience all that I have and while eventually I may pick a city and stay there for a little while, I hope to continue traveling the way I have in the future. Even when I have a family.

    I was just talking with someone about how when I get a “real” job here I can probably afford to buy my own place. BUY. That means, more permanence. My initial thoughts about when I get a real job is that I can travel again–save up all my money and go on another big adventure. Buying my own place? I'm still not sure how I feel about it but it would be nice to own something, to have that kind of stability. The older I get the more I kind of want that, but it's in severe competition with the side of me that wants no ties, no responsibilities–just the ability to pick up and go where I want to.

    It's a hard struggle. Thank you for this great post!! xo!

  • http://BeHappyLifeCoach.com/ Lenora Boyle

    Grace, you were about 12 months old when she traveled to Tahiti! Enjoy your travels and come home often.

  • http://www.vickiboykis.com Vicki

    This is such a timely post for me as my husband and I struggle to reconcile living in Washington, D.C., where we came to, knowing no one and loving everything this new city has to offer for us, and being close to and missing our family in Philadelphia, most of whom have lived there since we moved to America almost 20 years ago, as we start to think about settling down.

    Most of what you write are things that I think about very frequently: how do people stay in the same place and remain satisfied? Would I feel trapped if I lived in the same place for a long time? Like you, I am constantly restless and wanting to know more about the world by traveling through most of it. And, like your parents, we are going to India next month :)

    Fantastic post-it resonates with me a lot.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Susan I always love your comments. I know you really read the post and everything you say is so well thought-out and eloquent. Thank you for that, really!

    I like that you bring up you're a perpetual student and seeker in that way but right now are living in your hometown. I wanted that articulation because I didn't want people to think those that stay near/at home don't seek. Of course they do, it's just different. We all seek in different ways, so it's why I wrote the 'wanderlust' part.

    Furthermore, I love how you really found a balance and travel to enjoy (work too in International dept.) but live where you're happiest now which as I said, is your truth. So keep following it! Thanks Susan : )

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Jenny Aw, thanks dear. I haven't read The Seeker's Guide and I definitely want to check it out. Thank you! The Alchemist is on my top 5 reads, ever but thank you for bringing it up because the big dreams and the “seeker's life,” is so relevant.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ashalah Ahh, yes, I knew you would enjoy and understand the fellow wanderlust.

    I know buying isn't a far off reality, but it also scares the shit out of me. It's permanent (moreso than renting) and I just don't think I'm ready to put my roots down, even though I love Boulder.

    It is always a struggle, but I also realized that we may change in different times in our lives but bottom line, we will always be travelers, seekers and those that seek the horizon versus what is right in front of them!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Momma! I know and always thank you for encouraging me to travel and trusting me as a giggling baby to begin traveling at a young age. It's in my blood ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love and miss you.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Vicki I'm happy to hear it resonates with you! It's always great to connect with like-minded thinkers, because not only do we learn from those who disagree but also find affinity with the same.

    I know with time these pieces change, but I told @Ashalah that we will always be travelers, seekers and those that seek the horizon versus what is right in front of them!

  • http://fiwk.blogspot.com Royce

    I feel like this is very similar to a blog you write not too long ago, don't have time to find it right now. Enjoyed your take this time as last.

    I feel like 11.5 moves is a little low? Like for instance, in college I switched apartments probably four times. Does that count as four moves? Or is going to college one move, and leaving college one move? And what happens in college is all considered a single “move”? Logistical details.

    Anyway I'm less of a wanderlust type in terms of like, living, although it's fun to think about. I tend to channel those impulses into random traveling, which I do at least once yearly.

    One of my absolute favorite things is to look at a giant map of the world, and pick random little pockets of geography and wonder about them. Often I'll look them up, learn about them, and consider what it would be like to visit them. Pro tip: the South Pacific islands seem like an awesome choice.

    You ever do that with a map?

  • http://senseofstyleiseternal.blogspot.com/ Kayla

    First off we have the same last name… it's a rare and awesome thing.

    Second; I am so glad I stumbled upon you. I loved this post and can't wait to read more!

    http://senseofstyleiseternal.blogspot.com/</a>

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  • http://momwithahook.comm/ sara

    I've been both a seeker and a nester. Pre-children I was definately a seeker – never staying in the same town for more than a year. With school-age children it gets a bit more difficult to pick-up and move and change so staying put has worked for us. Now that we have a teenager I wouldn't dream of moving as he has roots, friendships, family that he needs to grow into his own being and it is his time right now.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Royce It might have been the one about picking the place before your job? That's pretty career related, versus here, I just love to travel, move, try new things and in general, I think this is a mindset that sets people apart.

    The stat that I provided about relocating isn't clear if it's within your same city to a new apartment, but they do mention relocation, so to me, that isn't within the same city. However, you're right I have moved A LOT especially in college so that's a good point.

    I have done that with a map. Mentally, in my head though, I think I do that everyday. Most of the time, I try to make those locations happen but I definitely have those “dream” spots that I aspire to make my way to. It'll happen, that's why I tell myself ; )

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Kayle Hey, that IS cool. One Boyle to another. I once met a girl named “Grace Boyle” as well, that's was weird.

    I'm so happy you stumbled to my blog, as well. Glad you're here and please feel free to reach out at anytime.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sara Definitely true and thanks for weighing in because I love to hear the before/after. In my mind, once a seeker, always a seeker. You can nest and stay rooted for your family because it's important, but it doesn't mean your seeking will go away. There are opportunities for travel (with your family, after your kids go to college, move out, etc.) throughout life, it just depends on where you might be. Thanks for sharing, Sara!

  • EllenNordahl

    Grace, you somehow have the uncanny ability to write a posts that speak directly to something I'm struggling with at the precise time I have a tremendous cloud of doubts lingering over me. I traveled alone for the very first time just two weeks ago, and getting a taste of how liberating it is to explore a new place with no regard for anyone else's agenda was so liberating that I can't wait to book my next trip. But more than book a trip, I want to move somewhere else and create the life I've always dreamed of.

    Like you, I'm really close to my family…and my mom did an amazing job of taking my sister and I on various vacations and giving us a deep appreciation for experiencing the unfamiliar. I'm currently only 2 hours away from where I grew up – which is nice, but I'm ready for a change. After my trip to Austin, I came back more motivated than ever to get the wheels turning for a move/new job. I was hell-bent on getting out. In the past day, this has all been complicated by getting a job offer (here) that I really wasn't expecting. It's a great position, but it's not something that speaks to my long-term career goals…and I'm scared that if I stay here now, I'll become complacent.

    For the past day, all I've been able think about is do I stay (settle) or do I honor what I REALLY want and throw caution to the wind, pick my city, pack up and make it happen. Frankly, I'm terrified.

    I just always appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness in discussing how you pursue your dreams/aspirations without feeling guilty for living your life for yourself, and I love that you're able to embrace solitude and independence when it comes to traveling and living in a place speaks to you.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ellen Psychic? We're connected? Either/or? :)

    I read your SXSW post and I resonated with it too. Isn't it amazing to travel somewhere alone, it's not easy and it's also liberating.

    Remember, to throw caution to the wind IS terrifying. That's part of the plight. I don't doubt that you CAN do it and also, through the terrifying pieces I can promise there will be surprises (highs you didn't expect!) I think it's mot important to do what you really want. Don't relocate just do relocate – make sure it's something you realize you can't stand to NOT do. I hope that makes sense :) Or at least, that's what has worked for me.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://www.solitarypanda.com floreta

    ah, i definitely am looking for a seeker as well, as far as lifepartners go, so i think your parent's relationship seems beautiful! i have such a need–a thirst–for travel, new places, cultural learning, that i can't see myself with anyone seeking regularity and comfort in the familiar anymore. i also think traveling, or the more i travel, makes me a bit more and more off the 'deep end' in this mindset to where i simply can't go back! i too had that ex with the different lifestyle choice of comfort/familiarity and for me, it was absolutely suffocating!!

    that being said, i do think it's important to have friends with different mindsets and perspectives as you, as you have with people who have never left their home towns. i don't view myself as culturally superior from them or think i'm “better” in any way. but their lifestyle absolutely fascinates me as well. i accept that people are perfectly happy and comfortable living such static lives.. i almost wish *i* could be one of them, because i do feel this wanderlust life is a bit 'harder' or more challenging.. and it just fascinates me that for some people, that lifestyle is good enough, and 100% fulfilling.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Floreta It's becoming even more clear how similar we think in that seeker/traveling regard. My parents definitely inspire me personally, professionally and with their relationship.

    I also agree with you to have friends with multiple mindsets. It is fascinating to me (as I mentioned) to talk with others, learn from each other and respect each others' needs. I definitely have a mix of friends and we all balance each other out. Wanderlusting is hard – my friend said “people like us have to face being lonely more,” but we also get to experience the amazing richness of life too. Thanks for sharing : )

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    Interesting post.

    As a “nester” who has not settled down, did not stay in her hometown but IS close to her close family my question to ponder would be: You keep saying that moving away and being on your own is a challenge and “spreading your wings.”

    Why do you think those things can't be achieved in your own backyard as well as halfway across the country?

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Elisa There is something to be said / something you draw upon deep inside of you when you are out of your comfort zone in a place where you know no one.

    I do think you can “spread your wings” wherever you live (that can be a very internal process) but I think when you spread your wings in one place it is different than learning to spread your wings across the country, across the ocean, etc. I look at it as two different ways to go about life, neither wrong or right, but definitely achieved differently.

    When you drive the same roads, go to the same restaurants and have familiar faces, friends and family around you, there is a certain level of comfort that will always remain. When you're experiencing different cultures, new people, new roads, new restaurants and learning to trust and rely on ONLY yourself because there is no one else there to help you, there is a certain level of branching out and independence that is achieved. Those pieces are what I was referring to…and of course, are directly related to my experience. I cannot speak for other people – the varying comments here do a little of that though.

    I also hope it was understood as I stated throughout the post that there isn't a right or wrong way here – it's simply a lifestyle choice. As I ended the post with: “Iโ€™m speaking my truth and as always, I would hope, that we each continue to live and speak our truth because there really isnโ€™t any other way to live, right?”

    Thanks for the provoking thought Elisa!

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  • http://twitter.com/LynnKoves Lynn Koves

    Love this post Grace!

    Funny that you say you sometimes wish you could have taken the route in front of you…because I told my family that exact same thing a couple of years ago, and just before moving to Colorado. But, that is just not what my gut is telling me, and I can not ignore my gut. It won't let me, and my previous cultural experiences are constantly whisper in my ear.

    It feels good to be in Colorado, with so many other transplants =)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Lynn Glad you like it :)

    It's important to follow what's important to you and furthermore, to understand what you want and need. That is half the battle right? Happy to have you here, too!

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  • http://www.suethecollectors.com suethecollectors

    Nice story and very well described