“Pick a country,” her mom said. “Research a country we can move to, Faith. We can’t stay here anymore.”
Faith looked up from her secondhand book on Guatemala and surveyed her room. The walls were painted in Rhino, a shade of peaceful grey that showed hues of green or blue, depending on light.
Not long ago, the room walls wore a bright, noisy pink, and the alcove that housed her bookshelf had drowned in a noxious shade of yellow. Pink and yellow, it was a combination only suitable for the palate and personality of her sister Lydia, who lived in the room before her.
When Lydia left home at age 18, Faith quickly took the room over. But four years passed before she built up courage to ask to for a color change. Once she asked, her mom’s breezy “sure” made her feel silly for not having asked sooner.
Faith and her mom painted together, the process of covering the pink of great delight to the former. Faith accented her new grey walls with red curtains and a rainbow of books. Her indulgent two and three dollar purchases from the secondhand bookstore had no space to slack from their crammed, straight-spined salutes on her five shelves.
Above her desk and bed hung an Ansel Adam picture of light streaming through forest trees. Coupled with her intellectual wallpaper, as she once heard books described, and a serene background of blue, grey, and green, the room provided a perfect get away for reading, thinking, and being alone. Saved from the boisterous pink, Faith finally loved her space. But she longed so much more to leave it.
The book in her hand told stories of a complex design. It described a Guatemala of megachurches that bred social icons rather than pastors. These celebrity pastors ran for government positions while the back door to their churches received tithes from unpracticing, but believing members of powerful gangs and drug cartels.
It’s a country I hope to visit, but I dont know about living there, Faith thought.
She flopped the book on the bed and followed her appetite downstairs.
In the kitchen she crunched her cereal and stared blankly at the newly modeled counters and cabinets, a renovation, she was told, that had been necessary for selling the home.
The kitchen had seen Faith and her siblings run after each other to throw ice down each other’s backs, had heard their screaming mixed with laughter. They slid on socks, fighting each other to get to the icebox for more ammo. Suddenly someone would catch the sound of the garage door slowly squeak open. The “mom is home!” alarm declared, the siblings scrambled, in a second turned from ice cube enemies to the most fluid clean-up team you’ve ever seen.
Jacob, the only brother, would run through all the rooms to find and dispose of all ice cubes. Lydia, the oldest, and Faith, the youngest, mopped up all evidence that had already melted. The teamwork lasted, at most, a frantic three minutes. They would lock the doors for more time to stash the rags and act natural before their mom got in.
Nowadays the kitchen was mostly quiet and clean. Lydia and Jacob had gone. Without laughter, the whole house grew tired and old. The floors even creaked, the chairs squeaked at any movement, every sound amplified itself in silence.
She checked the stove clock. It was time to run to the airport and pick up her mom, Rebecca.
From Faith’s favorite bookstore, Rebecca had found a copy of a book titled How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes. Thanks to that book, her ideas on travel shifted. Never before had she heard of traveling the world as budgeting backpacker.
When an irresistibly priced roundtrip ticket to Panama came up, Rebecca grabbed the chance to try the budget travel lifestyle. For three weeks, she’d wear a backpack, stay in hostels, and ride local buses.
Now back from her journey and in Faith’s car, Rebecca began recounting exhausting tales of her trip. Faith tried to listen, but, despite being on the highway, rolled down the windows.
“I know, my feet stink,” Rebecca said. “I’ve worn these shoes in hot, humid weather everywhere for the whole trip! They’ve actually started to fall apart and they smell so bad! I was hoping no one on the plane could smell them.”
Faith sent her a look that said her flight mates most certainly smelt them.
Home again, Rebecca fell back into the routine of readying the house to sell. She and Faith worked through boxes in the attic, throwing things, one by one, into piles: storage, trash, donate, or sell.
The idea had been to sell the house and move. They had planned to move not just homes, but countries. Costa Rica made the closest contestant for their new place of residence, but the more they researched, the more the reputation of the large expat community there put them off.
“You know, when I was in Panama,” her mom began, “in hostels sharing dorm rooms with people half my age, I felt more comfortable then anywhere in the world. Regardless of age or background, we were all travelers and we laughed together, cooked together and were all friends. I’ve never really fit into any niche in life. The only place I feel like I truly belong is with travelers. There’s a mindset with them that you don’t find anywhere else. Abroad and with backpacks, it becomes not about what you have or what you do, it becomes about curiosity and learning about life around you. I appreciate that. I could really see myself enjoying the traveler crowd. I’ve never fit in with people who just want to talk about their kids and play tennis every weekend.
So, pray about it, would you? Do you think you would be willing to give up settling down somewhere and just backpack the world instead? We would be able to visit Israel and just go country to country staying in hostels and meeting people. What do you think?”
Faith thought about. Perpetual moving around? But she was a homebody, looking forward to planting new roots, meeting new neighbors, joining a new community. Though the chance to visit Israel, a longtime wish, was very tempting. To move around each month and explore, continuously only seeing more of the world sounded strange, but interesting. Such a lifestyle would never have occurred to her on her own. The only thing she had ever known people of her age to do was go to university and work. But to meet young backpackers in hostels and explore the world with foreigners did seem exciting.
Life was getting static, too safe, too boring. The option of wasting away in college classes that didn’t teach her much but cost an arm and a leg terrified her. She’d rather keep reading books and taking classes online. She didn’t need a home to do those things, and what better classroom than the world?
“Yeah, okay. I’m willing,” was the reply. She was characteristically firm but timid when she spoke. She’d give a simple answer, but once decided, stood behind her words.
Her father, brother, and sister were all gone from home but still in the US somewhere, within arms reach but out of grasp.
She had no reason to stay. And no reason to stay was a warrant to go.