“Where are you, Christina?” This question became a source of light-hearted entertainment for my traveling family as we made our way through eastern Europe in a big white van – a perk and curse of dads demanding profession as soldier and diplomat. Asking a 4-year-old to identify her constantly shifting location was enough to leave any toddler with a mini identity crisis. I was always a country off, a country behind. “No stupid! We’re not in Bulgaria anymore, we’re in Albania” my older brother would explain, exasperated and clearly embarrassed by my lack of awareness. It all blended together, it all just felt like one long journey to me. Finally after failing to get it right time and time again, as if contemplating the question in the more existential sense, when asked “Where are you, Christina?” I answered quite proudly, “I’m with you!” It didn’t matter where we ended up, I was simply content with the journey and those who joined me on it. This became a valuable tool as I grew older – if there were no arrivals, that meant there never had to be any departures (or worse: goodbyes) and going new places never had to feel scary if it was just one long continuum. I was present, everything was fluid, everything was an adventure.
By the time I stumbled upon Greek poet C.P Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” I had already traveled to dozens more countries and began to wade (sometimes struggle) through deeper concepts of identity and “home”. When I read Cavafy’s words, simple yet profound, I felt like I had struck gold. I had found a piece of writing that encompassed the gut emotions I felt as a child. In all my efforts to establish or identify a tangible “home”, I always arrived to find the rooms of this home empty, like standing in a big empty stadium after the game is already over, or an empty station after the last bus has already departed. I began to find that I was best able to find a home in the journey, and in the hearts of those I had been lucky enough to meet along the way. It is in the constant process of seeking to identify a home, when I really feel at home at all. And I suppose that is why I left a perfectly comfortable job, in a perfectly comfortable apartment, in a city that people dream of living in. There was always something nagging at me, pulling me to seek the all elusive Ithaka, and I could not ignore it.
So join me on my journey to Ithaka with all its Aistrygonians, Cyclops, and Poseidons along the way. I will attempt to share those adventures in this blog and explore travel as a fluid journey rather than a series of destinations. Stories will not always be chronological, they will not always have a beginning and an end, they will all be personal rather than “the top five gelato spots in Italy” type posts (although you may find a bit of that here and there).
These are my notes from the road, my attempt to reflect on identity and home without sounding like a horrible sequel to “Eat, Pray, Love.” This is my search for Ithaka.
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”