I just returned from a wonderful family trip to Napa Valley to celebrate my daughter’s 30th birthday. It was one of those rare trips where everything goes right: the flights were hassle-free, our hotel rooms were clean and comfortable, and each winery we visited was nicer than the last. More importantly, we had a terrific time hanging out with our son and daughter, as well as our son-in-law and our future daughter-in-law. It was so nice to take a break from the hectic routine of our daily lives and to spend some quality time together. It was even better to realize that, even though our “kids” are now adults, we are still close, and that the people they have chosen to spend their lives with not only fit in beautifully with our family unit, but they actually enrich it.
On a scale of one to ten, I would have to give this family vacation a solid 9.5, and that’s only because the location of this particular trip meant that we had to spend a certain amount of time driving on elevated highways and bridges, which my husband doesn’t handle well. I’m proud to report that he rose to the occasion and soldiered on, just getting buggy-eyed, gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles turned white, and doing the kind of breathing I remembered all too well from when I was enduring the contractions of childbirth. Usually, he swears fluently, closes his eyes, and threatens to kill any of us who don’t maintain absolute silence until we are safely off the bridge.
Still, even after such a lovely trip in the company of the people I love most in the world, I have to admit that I was very happy to come back home. When I was younger, I only felt that happiness at returning to my own house when I had been on a particularly difficult or challenging trip, such as one of our ill-fated attempts at camping (don’t let anyone tell you that tents are waterproof, because they’re not) or a business trip that was especially boring. But lately, I have noticed that I feel a quiet joy at walking in my own front door no matter what trip I have gone on, or how much fun I have had on my travels.
And I think that’s probably a good thing. Being glad to be home means that I have, somehow, managed to create a living space that gives me a sense of security and belonging, which is what a home should be. I like sleeping in my own bed, with a mattress that has just the right degree of softness and the knowledge that some stranger has slept in it the night before. I like being surrounded by a decor that I have chosen, with the help of my husband, to reflect our personal taste and that comfortably holds our most prized possessions. I like knowing my neighbors, having my dog roaming freely about, and puttering around my yard, tending to the few hardy flowers that manage to survive my gardening skills.
Being glad to come home doesn’t mean that I have lost my taste for travel or for experiencing new things. I hope I never lose the desire to go somewhere I have never been before and to experience different cultures, different climates and different environments. It just means that after a certain amount of time, I begin to long for my own house, in my own neighborhood, in my own town. Because no matter where I go and no matter how much I enjoy my trips, one of the best parts of traveling is always coming home when it’s over.