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.