Seeking Novelty

I’ve been home from my 6 month backpacking trip now for almost two whole months, and as calming as it is being home, I miss being on the road.

When you’re traveling, you’re seeing something new every single day. Even seemingly normal activities – taking a walk, grabbing a coffee, going out to eat – are charged with newness and excitement.

Taking a walk in Rome turns into a museum tour, stumbling upon ancient monuments everywhere you turn.

Grabbing a coffee in Ireland is less for the caffeine intake and more for the warmth to escape June’s freezing temperatures, stripping your soaked-through rain jacket as you order.

Going out to eat in Thailand means holding your nose and popping a cooked centipede into your mouth from the night market, on a dare.

At home, I’m still and content. I’m spending time with the people I love, I’m safe, I’m in my own bed. I have drawers and a place to spread out instead of simply a backpack. When I first got home, I kept waking up in the middle of the night and throwing the lights on, panicked about if I locked my backpack in the hostel safe or not. Some habits are hard to shake.

I had been feeling that all-too familiar need to get out creeping back into my mind though. I leave for New Zealand in just over a month, which I’m so excited for, but I was wishing it was sooner. I’ve been freelancing and babysitting in my spare time, trying to build a routine while home. I love my family and friends and am so grateful to be spending this time with them. But I kept remembering the thrills and constant stimulation that my backpacking trip brought. And it made it difficult some days to be sitting in Pennsylvania, on a gray winter day, wondering what exactly my place is right now.

My uncle Scott from California has been in town, and I talked about these feelings with him. He is an excellent listener and a creative person, always thinking, always honest. He said he understood. And then he said this:

“You just have to keep seeking novelty.”

Finding new and exciting things to do is a life skill, not just something we do when we’re traveling. The world itself can’t physically entertain us; it’s us who have to utilize the world and what it provides in order to pursue unique experiences.

My mom, Scott and I went to the Barnes in Philly yesterday and I felt like it was the first step for me in seeking novelty in my hometown. It is an incredible museum, one I always used to run by when I lived in the city, but had never visited.

The three of us walked through all 23 rooms, amazed at the paintings and sculptures. My uncle is an artist and took a class at the Barnes when he was younger; my mom and I loved hearing him describe the art. He pointed out pieces that looked as though they were drawn rapidly, citing them as “raw and immediate”; he described Renoir’s works “like waking up from a dream.” He says Renoir paints in moments and he’s right. In almost every painting of his, there are elements of movement: a woman’s hand about to smooth a wrinkle in her dress, a couple in mid conversation at their dinner table, leaves floating off of trees in a meadow.

Scott taught us about “the little red coaster,” meaning an element of brightness in a painting that the painter puts in the foreground. If you cover it up, it changes how you look at the entire thing.

I will change how I look at the entire thing now.

I will keep looking for adventure no matter where I am, on the move or not. I will enjoy this time home before my next leg begins. I will keep seeking novelty, as we all should.

Let’s all keep trying to paint our own moments.




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