In Place

by Jenna Schnuer on May 25, 2012

When you move from place to place every night or two, three at the most, there’s a chance you’ll start to feel untethered, like no place is home. Untethered is fine for a short time but it can become exhausting. I’ve lived untethered—though it wasn’t travel-related—and it’s not a state I enjoy. When planning this trip, which will likely stretch to five or six months, I knew I would need anchors to keep the untethered from coming on too strong. I figured it would be phone calls and emails to friends and family, and my favorite nearly-shredded sweatshirt and the quilt from home that would ground me, that would keep me from floating away. They’re just part of the story.

Just over five weeks into the trip, a $17 folding chair from Target has claimed the role as the strongest anchor. It’s army green, has cup holders, and folds up to fit into a long fabric sleeve. They sell it in the camping aisle but it’s just as suitable, perhaps more so, for a tailgate party or a backyard BBQ. The chair doesn’t connect me back home, which is what I thought I would help keep the untethered away. Instead, it turns tent sites and cabins into homes that belong to me, if even just for a night. It doesn’t work for hotel rooms, they can never be home. Hotel nights are nice but they feel more trip than lifestyle. Hotels make all the décor decisions for guests so aside from a quick spritz of my favorite perfume, the rooms remain firmly planted in somebody else’s vision.

The feeling of permanence the chair provides, that this isn’t a trip but how I’m living, comes on strongest at tent sites, at places where I set up my own home but then wash it of every trace of my stay before driving away. After paying for the night’s site and hanging the evening’s camping permit on my site’s marker (usually a metal binder clip attached to a numbered post), I pull the green fabric chair out of the car. I slide it out of its bag, unfold it, and set it near the fire ring. That’s where I will end my night, before slipping into my tent, and where I will start my morning, book in hand, coffee mug in one of the chair’s cup holders.

And, before I drive off from each home, the chair is the last thing that gets packed. I fold it back up, slide it back into its case, and wedge it back into the car. Then I grab the slip from the site marker or turn in my key, and drive off. A new home ahead.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane Abraham May 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Love reading these posts; travel safe to the next adventure.

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joan schnuer May 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I hear your voice and it keeps me tethered.

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John May 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I very much agree with the first respondent. These posts and your Twitter timeline are inspiring, and make me want for this sort of excursion. What you said about hotels is true: if you just put me in one I’m not sure there’d really be much of a difference. I do like the feeling, I admit, but they’re generally pretty sterile in terms of real personality. I’ve only been camping twice in my life, and aside from nearly slicing my fingers off while cutting carrots, (bandaged that bad boy up and kept going!) I had a decent time.

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Jenna Schnuer May 26, 2012 at 7:29 am

Thanks, Jane and Mom. Seeing you both out here does anchor me, too. Voices from home are, of course, always very very good.

And, John, thanks for visiting the site. I really appreciate it — and your chiming in with a comment. I hope you’ll be back for more. Any plans for a big (or small) excursion in your near future? And, I promise, camping isn’t usually that dangerous. (But maybe bring some pre-sliced carrots with you next time.) I look forward to more conversation with you… Jenna

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Jenna Schnuer May 26, 2012 at 7:31 am

John — Just realized you’re the John I’ve been bantering with on Twitter. So a double helping of excellent that you’ve popped out here to say hello.

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