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You can’t go home again. Again.

Post image for You can’t go home again. Again.

I’m back home now, and I’m feeling something I haven’t felt since the last time I returned from a big trip.

Friday night I came in the door, dropped my bag, sat on the couch out of habit. Instead of the relief I had looked forward to from the plane, I felt an intense uneasiness. My apartment is clean, spacious, utilitarian and unlike New York City in every way, and to this moment it makes me queasy.

It’s no wonder, either, that feeling so comfortable in the crowds of Manhattan (“like a warm bath,” I kept saying) I feel quite out of place in a city that is so starkly different, even if I do call it home.

What is a surprise, though, is that I’d been enduring some measure of this restlessness all the time without recognizing it. My living situation is nearly perpendicular to my actual values, and I didn’t realize it until I fit so well in a place so dramatically different than here.

It was a revelation to me that I crave a buzzing social life, walkable shops, dinners with friends, art and art people, cafés that aren’t franchises, buildings that are older than my parents. Yet I live in a dull park of two-level apartments at the edge of the city, with nothing in its walking radius but box stores. This is not a neighborhood.

One afternoon in Manhattan I was in a museum and I had to find a way to write something. I’m sure a lot of writers feel it. It comes on with the same kind of urgency as having to pee.

I quickly ended up sitting on one of the viewing benches in a room dedicated to Kandinsky, typing on my phone.

Things I have learned in ny.

Read more. Get healthy. Get calm but stay playful.

Create something everyday. Poem, stream of consciousness, article, drawing or narrative.

Find your people. Get close to the action.

Absorb art. 

Read much more. Master the language.

Walk more. Make plans. Eat out with friends.

Let yourself be overheard. Let people react.

Read a good periodical.

Do stuff but don’t worry about what you’re not doing.

Finish more, start less.

You’re okay.

No, nothing about being home is relieving, except that I remember feeling exactly like this when I got home from New Zealand – unsettled in a way I had never been while I was living out of a backpack. Like important parts are missing.

It does go away though, and that is worrisome. I knew early in my trip that I was going to be transforming certain aspects of my life when I got home, but it needs to continue to feel uncomfortable until I start the wheels turning, or it won’t happen.

The main offender really is the location. I’m planning to stay in Winnipeg, at least for now, but I need to get out of the suburbs. My apartment is cheap and unlovable. I generally don’t invite people here. I want a home.

None of this is to say I am not grateful overall for where I am. The people I met in New York, as much as I envy them, stirred up in me a very specific gratitude about the space and potential I have back home. For all the dazzling cultural opportunities their city offers, people generally have less personal space and less budget space in which to shift things around.

I have the makings of what I want. I’m young, well-traveled, kind of talented, unencumbered by debt, single and pretty damn handsome. I’m well-paid, I like my job and have freedom to travel in winter.

So the space for transformation is certainly there, but I have to harness this precious distaste for my “home” while it lasts. Complacency is never far off. Things get normal in a hurry, and when “not good” gets normal, time eats up the years fast.

Upon my return from New Zealand I didn’t quite know what to make of that queasy feeling. Travel does this, I see now. It shows you what you value, and when it’s over you feel certain deficits in the life you’ve built. You feel physically off balance. The inputs that nourished you while you were away — whether it’s the sight of the ocean every day, or the way strangers talk to each other so easily — leave a sharp hangover when they get cut off.

It’s a good thing though. It’s a healthy, natural impulse — a slower, calmer version of the feeling that makes you want to kick to the surface after you’ve been under too long. It moves you the right way.

Anyway, the trip was incredible, better than I could have imagined. And I have the people to thank most. Landmarks are cool, but it’s people that make it magical. Thank you everyone, especially Christopher, Allison, Susan, Leeat, Kent, Lisis, Danny, and the lovely Nicole. You don’t know the half of what you did for me.

Apologies to those I didn’t meet. I had completely overbooked myself. Originally I’d planned to visit about ten different cities in the same timeframe. Completely unreasonable, and I ended up redrawing the whole thing. I love the northeast though and I will be back. Of course, you should drop me a line if you’re going to be in Winnipeg.

And thank you all for bearing with me while I was gone. Writing gets difficult and disjointed (and maybe a little too self-reflective) while traveling. Raptitude will be back to its regular articles next week.

I love you all,



Click here for Home.

 Photo by David Cain

Tori February 21, 2012 at 8:17 am

Finish more, start less. YES.

Joseph LeMay February 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm

My exact thought when I read that little nugget of wisdom.

Dar February 21, 2012 at 9:09 am

Although I haven’t travelled much. I know that feeling well. Coming home, looking around and thinking “really?, this is it. I want to go out, be busy, see people. Eat out.” It’s a good thing you can make it happen.

I live in Winnipeg too, and I recently moved from Osborne Village to East Transcona, Ah! The suburbs are awful, Haha!

David February 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

Transcona, oh no!

KellieBom February 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

You <3 NYC.

David February 21, 2012 at 9:42 am

You said it KellieBom :)

Mareya February 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

Thanks David! Glad you are back… I agree that it’s a good thing sometimes to feel really frustrated, in order to get your motivation going. And you’re right to be in a hurry while the feeling lasts…

Last year, after having had an injury for eight months, I finally found the right doctor and was cured almost overnight. I could walk again! The next day, I felt elated and full of good intentions. The day after, I felt – really, really grumpy…

It taught me not to rely on my feelings too much to get me going. Instead, to stay motivated I use the prediction of how bad I will feel if I don’t do what I set out to do. Sometimes motivation is simply taking care of your future self, making your present self suffer a little…

I hope you’ll be able to make the changes you wish for. The ideal life you describe sounds fulfilling and very much worth living.
Wishing you continued positive frustration,
best wishes,

Alex Smith February 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

“Complacency is never far off. Things get normal in a hurry, and when “not good” gets normal, time eats up the years fast.”

Man, that hit hard. I’ve been forced to live back home in Indiana for the time being due to injuries keeping me from going to school in Boston. What you said is something I’ve been witnessing first-hand. My good buddy Andy–whom I believe you were going to meet up with in Boston had you gone there–and I had a conversation yesterday about how Indiana does this to people. I’m sure other places do, too, but the Midwest seems to be among the worst. So many of our friends in high school had dreams and aspirations, and without fail, the friends that stayed in Indiana are feeling defeated, as if their lives are already over at 22. It’s amazing what moving away from your home, even for a short time, can do for you and to you.

That’s not the only thing that hit me hard though. Thanks for another amazing article–you’re making me itch for NY again.

Dean February 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I love that you posted that song – I’ve been stuck on it for quite some time. I recently moved from the suburbs to Chicago and am doing my best to not regret doing it sooner. For me, once I got a taste of city life I knew it was only a matter of time until I moved. Similarly to what you described, it brings me alive in a fantastic way. I hope that longing stays with you until you make your move – don’t let it slip.

Sabinnah February 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Well all I can say is that it is nice to be back home always…

Wendy L. Conger February 22, 2012 at 12:41 am

There is really no place like home. You’ll always feel comfortable when your at home. Thanks for sharing it!

DiscoveredJoys February 22, 2012 at 3:57 am

The fast pace of city centre life is very seductive and distracting – when you are relatively young.

Yet if you had a Significant Other, and possibly young kids, your views on what a home should be would be totally different. Are the roads safe? Is it near a good school? Are there friends nearby with young children too?

If you are looking at retirement you might be considering moving to a home nearer the shops, near a doctors, the availability of public transport for when you cannot drive, and near to your now grown up children.

Life: One script after another.

Zeynep February 22, 2012 at 5:51 am

Great post, David. I recently had exactly the same thoughts, though I could not articulate them with such lucidity. I took a long trip, far far away to a place that made me feel more comfortable in my skin than I have done for years, and coming back home, I was struck by the feeling that my life belonged to a stranger. I looked around at all the things I had invested in and created, and I could not remember making the decisions that led to them. And although, just like you describe, my life has all the potential for fulfillment (- I have a good job that gives me a lot of freedom, great friends, financial flexibility), in its current form it feels more constraining than enabling. Like an old uniform you are so used to wearing that you don’t even realize it no longer fits properly – until you stop wearing it for a while. And putting it back on again, I have a sense of discomfort and distaste, which I know I must act upon before it wanes.

Julia February 22, 2012 at 8:45 am

“My living situation is nearly perpendicular to my actual values…”

That is exactly where I am, and every time I come “home” from a trip I feel very strange. You hit the soft spot, the bruised knee. I just try not to think
about it too much, because I know I can’t change anything for now.
What makes certain place home? Is it a place where we were born? Not for me. I’ve been born oversea and when I go back there to visit I don’t feel like home at all. I lived 15 years in Colorado and there I feel like home the most,
there is something magical there in the mountains. Now I live in Georgia and
there is an empty void inside of me but I am trying very hard not to loose myself in my misery and still keeping Abu Kasem’s slippers :)
Thank you David, you made my day with the song!

Chris Walter February 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

Do stuff but don’t worry about what you’re not doing.

So very very true. I’m going to be repeating this to myself all throught my trip…because it’s about joy, and finding happiness in the moment, that’s what really matters.

Danielle February 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

My goodness. You have successfully articulated the cloud of despair that hangs over me each time we return from a trip. After our holidays in France last Christmas, I’ve taken to christening it “Europe Withdrawal Syndrome”, although it’s really not destination-specific. We live in Silicon Valley, in one of the world’s best climates surrounded by gorgeous landscapes, and yet, like you said, I’m looking for a neighborhood. Suburbia is fun for a while but then it becomes a real drag. Or maybe I’m just not at the right stage in life for it (kids, dog, etc etc).

Steph in Berkeley February 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

thought-provoking as usual. Thanks for another great article.

nrhatch February 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm

When we moved to Florida 3 years ago, I felt like I was “home” for the first time in my adult life. It’s wonderful to be where (and who) you want to be . . . while doing what you want to do.

Good luck with the transitions you see looming on the horizon. Glad you had a wonderful trip.

Nitya February 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm

You are obviously a city person, and as such, really respond to the energising influences of people, ideas, events and the general buzz of inner city life. Why are you squandering your days in a milieu that is not to your liking? Life’s too short, etc. etc!
I really enjoy the energy of the inner city too, although I’m happy enough to commute. Other influences come in to play when you have kids, though they can be accommodated in the city, I’m not quite sure how successful that is.
Flexibility is the key. You can always return to the suburbs when your situation calls for it.
Take the plunge! Good luck!

K February 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

I just got back from Italy and feel the same way! If you ever get the chance, you must see Rome…it is an AMAZING city! From the way you describe New York, it has a similar feel.

Grant February 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I returned from serving a 2-year LDS religious mission in Ohio a few months ago, and I can tell you, I felt the same way. I miss having few possessions, talking to complete strangers every single day, and devoting my life to full-time service to others. Coming home is quite a change.

For those who don’t know exactly what an LDS (aka Mormon) missionary is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missionary_(LDS_Church)

Ingrid February 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

You are making some beautifully inspiring causes in your life, and it is so good to se how your readers benefit from them too! Loving spirit, that is. Keep it up.

Brenda February 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

This blog reminds me when I got home last year with my “lovely” nurtured place… It such a amazing feelings…

Alex February 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Your making me more and more inspirational with every post! Thank you. Just now you inspired me to clean my room.


ally February 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I’m 67 years young – and your “To Do/To Be”is on my fridge!

Amanda February 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

The comfort of “the place you call home” is the sharpest variety of double-edged sword. Whenever I return from a personal trip, even if it’s only a weekend in the city, there is nothing I want more, and nothing I want less, than the quiet comfort of my apartment.

During some months abroad a few years ago I had one of those realizations that rocks your world even while a small part of you seems to have known it all along. Home is not a place, it is a feeling. While the person who helped me create that feeling and realize its significance is no longer with us, I will soon be returning to beautiful country where it all happened. I am not sure if I want everything to feel exactly the same or completely different and am very anxious knowing that it will likely be neither. Who knows where home is now.

I grew up in Winnipeg and am confident you can find the sort of neighbourhood you desire as well as plenty of people and action once summer festival season starts. Best of luck!

Jaunita Sanchez February 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Many of us live lives just like you very compartmentalized and some what of a contradiction. The thing the solution to this contradiction resides in our minds. In otherwords we have to come to grips with it and act from there.

warren February 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm

cool. I was glad to hear your stoke re: NYC from this article & the pictures.
The what I crave vs where I live thing hit home as I felt much the same after a few amazing trips to NYC & coming back home to YVR.
I never think of cities as a place to travel, but wow so many people there and so many friendly strangers. I think attitude plays a big part in that. All the art, history and must-see places were great but the humanity is what wowed me, well that and all the brick buildings.
You might enjoy “here is new york” by eb white.

wynonaelliott  February 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

For me contradiction is just a thing that bothered in our minds, just always remember that no one can dictate rather control in every decision we make… As long as that you are able to know what is happening, just do it with “Confidence”.

Cley March 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I’m so excited this near vacation day, I can see again my lovable son and husband who lives at mexico…. I will make my day worth happy with them…

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