this week’s contributor is bowen from Bowen Appétit. bowen and i went to high school together and i was thrilled when she reached out to me after she stumbled upon my blog (friend of a friend’s twitter or some such loveliness like that!). bowen caught me up on her going-ons since we last saw each other over ten years ago(!), explaining that she’s taught cooking classes in LA, worked professional sustainability jobs, and over the last year, has started publishing essays, articles, and recipes in various places. her writing is all about food, focusing on homestyle, sustainable cooking, and how important all of that is. currently, her and her hubby are at the end of a 13-month trip around the world on some pretty amazing adventures (you can read their travel blog: a world of gemütlichkeit). in a month or two, they’ll be making their new home in madison, WI. today she writes about how cooking their own food was given them a way to make a home no matter where they are. enjoy!
Ten months ago, my husband and I took a giant leap of faith – we quit our jobs, sold or gave away most of our belongings and packed up the rest, and embarked on 13 months of travel in the United States and around the world. We worked incredibly hard to be able to do this, saving up and discussing it for years before we finally made the decision, and last July we embarked on this incredible, terrifying, and life-altering journey.
So for most of the last year, we’ve lived out of suitcases, backpacks, boxes, and the trunk of our car. We’ve slept in a tent on an icefield in Canada, in a grass hut on the edge of the Amazon Jungle, and an open-air house in the middle of a rice paddy in Indonesia (we’ve also slept on a tile airport floor in Chile, in a bed with wet sheets in Bangkok, and more windowless hostel rooms and uncomfortable overnight buses than I care to remember). We’ve gone kayaking in Halong Bay in Vietnam, hiked up mountains in Peru to see the sun rise, and watched one of our best friends perform a solo at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Before we got to where we are right now (Vienna, Austria, where we’re staying for five weeks), we hadn’t slept in the same city for more than six nights consecutively, and even that’s happened only a handful of times. We’ve seen and done and experienced an incredible array of things, and it’s hard to believe there’s only a few months left.
But I do miss having a home. I miss having space to myself, and having a normal daily routine, and choosing from more than four shirts when I get dressed in the morning. Living out of suitcases and backpacks and boxes for over a year isn’t always easy. Arriving in a new city every few days can be isolating and exhausting, and staying in hostels and hotels and homestays and campsites and all the other sorts of places we’ve stayed can leave us feeling untethered and restless. Each day is different than the one before it, and while most have been absolutely amazing, there are definitely days I wish I were home (wherever that might be).
The one thing we’ve found that helps us feel more at home is to cook for ourselves. We cook whenever we can; whenever we have access to a kitchen and can use it without feeling like we’re missing out on important local culinary experiences. Sometimes the process of getting what we need to cook – figuring out what ingredients and tools are available to us – can be stressful, but it’s given us some of our best travel experiences since it usually means we’re interacting with people and going places tourists don’t normally go. We’ve cooked in hostel and hotel kitchens, at campsites, at friends’ houses, and wherever else we can (on our road trip across Canada last fall we definitely cooked on our camping stove out of the trunk of the car in motel parking lots, at least a few times). Most of the time the meals are far more simple than things we’d cook at home, but sitting down to a meal we’ve prepared for ourselves – even in the most disappointing of hostels, the most barren of campsites, and the most understocked little rental apartment kitchens – takes us away from the constant sensory overload of restaurants, cafes, and street stands and helps time slow down a bit. We’re finally able to focus on ourselves and on each other and to have the sort of normal, everyday mealtime conversations like we used to in our actual home. It makes us feel like we are home, even if we’re in a place for just one night. I love cooking for my husband and he loves cooking for me, and in a life where we’re not always able to do things for each other the way we used to, preparing food together has become an important way for us to connect.
A big reason we decided to take this year of travel was to figure out more about what sort of home we wanted. We hadn’t been particularly happy living where we were before, and we often talked about why that was so that we could pick somewhere better for the next time. We talked about having friends nearby, green places to go hiking, good grocery stores and farmers’ markets. We talked about not having to drive everywhere and about building a good community of folks around us for when we decide to have kids. We talked about bike paths and weather and cost of living and open-mindedness and all kinds of other things that would make living in a place enjoyable, meaningful, and easy. Then we went around the world to experience all kinds of different neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes and to see how we might spend our time when we didn’t have work and other daily life to deal with, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and what we want our life and our home to look like.
We’ve learned, for instance, that while that other stuff is definitely nice and we’ll certainly enjoy having it at our new home, what we love most is sitting at a table with each other and our loved ones, eating something we’ve prepared. It’s the center of our home, wherever we are.
thank you so much, bowen! what an adventure you’ve been on and i wish you the best of luck as you venture into settling down and doing some homesteading. safe travels!
if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.