Written in June 2015 for an assignment called ‘If I could live anywhere else…’
For my 25th birthday, one of my best friends gave me three leather bracelets, each one about half an inch wide and each with a thin metal plate sewn onto the leather. A single word was carved into each piece of metal. COURAGE said one. LOVE was on another. The last bore the word WANDERLUST.
“These are the words that come to mind when I think of you,” she explained. “You live your life by them.”
At the time, I didn’t give the present much thought. What just-turned-twenty-five-year-old with a drink in her hand and a party to host give something like that much thought? But as I enter the last year of my twenties and reassess the decade that has just passed, my mind constantly wanders back to those bracelets.
COURAGE. LOVE. WANDERLUST.
Each one both a blessing and a curse. And she couldn’t have been more right.
My twenties were spent travelling, discovering, and giving my heart away. From the year I turned twenty, I have lived in three very different cities, one not so much a city as it was an island on the Pacific; visited countless–okay, I counted and it’s 22–others, and took admittedly long vacations in three of the world’s most famous destinations. I’ve seen the vast night sky of Uluru, rode camels through the Aussie dessert, climbed a glacier in New Zealand, strolled by the Seine, napped in the Musee d’Orsay, ate my way through Spain, smoked pot in Amsterdam, and so much more.
Nine years into all this I find myself in New York, a city that feels like many different cities rolled into one. Maybe that’s why for once, I don’t feel like it is a short term thing. I told myself I’d just be here a year, but I already know it isn’t enough time. I don’t have that ache in my chest, that “anywhere but here” feeling. I now have a new emotion; the “I don’t want to go.”
Amor Towles once said: “That’s the problem with living in New York. You’ve got no New york to run away to.” I understand him completely. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to leave. A part of me feels like I’ve fulfilled a goal. I’ve run away and arrived at the ultimate destination.
Now that we’re all on the same page about my sentiments, you can easily understand why it was difficult for me to think of where else I might want to live. In fact, I was relatively sure I wouldn’t be able to come up with any place, but after a chat with some friends, I remembered a city, a city I’d once, consciously and purposely chose not to visit.
Close to the end of the summer of 2012, what I call my Parisian summer, I was sitting at Charles de Gaulle, waiting to board my plane back to Madrid. The monitor above the gate to my right was flashing the schedule of flights, gates, and their boarding times. That particular gate would later be boarding a flight to a place called Split.
Split. Where is Split? I thought, along with a few very unclever puns. My next thought was, What if I go to Split?
There was a serious debate in my head on whether or not I could run and get a ticket before the plane left, what my parents would say when I called them and said I’d be another week or two or so, what havoc it would wreak on my bank account, what obligations I had waiting for me–both in Madrid and back home–that would have to be put off by my taking off to some place unknown. Staying put, watching people board their planes, and then eventually boarding mind was the decision that one. But that day, in my journal, I’d written: “There is a place called Split. Find it.”
Since leaving Charles de Gaulle that day, I’ve found out a few things about Split. It’s a Croatian city that sits on the Adriatic coast. It has a long and rich history that dates back to the Greeks. Its streets are lined with 14th and 17th century architecture, and there are a lot of water sports to do, which I always love. Split seems like a fantastic place to visit, but is it a place to move to and live? Well, considering the Croatian economy and that 70% of the city’s income relies on tourism, I’m not quite sure what I would do in Split. Logically and practically, packing up to move to Split is not an option, which of course makes it that much more intriguing to do.
In my personal experience, moving is easy, fresh beginnings are easy, seeing new things always inspires, and doing new things in spires. And New York is a place where you get those things over and over again. It’s almost like the city was designed for the wandering heart, one that is constantly seeking to hurdle the next challenge. It’s almost like the city was designed for me.
Evidently I’m not quite ready to leave New York’s embrace just yet. Though I don’t doubt that the time will come when another place will give me that burning need to pack up and leave. It’s inevitable when you suffer from wanderlust. Many of my friends predict that I’ll head to Paris. Some say I’ll return to Madrid. Personally, I’ve always fantasised about Granada or Picton, a little town in the south island of New Zealand. None of them have yet filled me with the courage to both say goodbye to my current life and put my heart at its city centre. Time will tell if any one of them will acquire that power. Right now, I’m staying in New York, while heavily Googling everything there is to know about Split.