home base

Yesterday I got Lasik. A decision both classically spontaneous yet thoroughly researched, this move kicks off the new year with a new kind of brightness. The feeling of waking up this morning and fully basking in the colours and contours of the world in full 4K HD. It's not very often that I'm overwhelmed with a conscious feeling of gratitude and appreciation for life's play-by-play moments.

Something about being back in Istanbul has triggered a similar mood shift. Maybe it's because of the streak of gorgeous sunny days, splashing a touch of warmth in an otherwise muted month. Maybe it's the cooling decompression after an action-packed multi-continental trip. Whatever the reason, it seems like I'm finally stepping into a new phase of my nomadic lifestyle: viewing Turkey as a true home away from home. Digging into my carousel of previous posts, this sentiment clearly wasn't the case during my first honeymoon with this city.

Lately I've been thinking more about this idea of a home base. In a physical sense, this concept refers to where you spend most of your time and consider "home" to be. Bicoastal US folks will float back and forth from LA to NY to FL, but there's always a strong natural resonance towards an origin that speaks to feelings of safety & familiarity. In the extreme case, digital nomads like me are in the constant quest of searching and yearning for more. We grapple with a cast of nebulous questions: Does any home base actually exist in this lifestyle? What experiences and encounters most significantly shape our worldviews? When, if ever, will we outgrow our desire to be nomadic, and settle into ourselves for real?

What I appreciate the most about solo travel is that it becomes a gateway into artificial worldbuilding: you get to migrate from home base into open space. In December I made a rather inconspicuous choice to use Airbnb experiences, as a way to open myself up to Cairo. This might sound so trivial — well of course you want to find local activities hosted by local people, this is just another channel for you to do so right? But for the longest time, I was wearing a costume of Stubborn Sam: I had to prove to myself that I could do everything alone.

A recent realization: when you take the time to intimately share and listen to the local peoples, your own sense of being is sharpened. As a passenger, they become your sherpa in this temporary impasse; an extension of you, steering you into unfamiliar corners of the world. They bring colour to the surrogate senses around you, they breathe meaning into deep-seated history that has shaped the landscape and their life, they sprinkle nuance into cultural reference points that you would have completely neglected. These are lessons that were bestowed to me during this excursion: Mila's graceful depiction of the Imbabah district, Amr's classy take on Middle Eastern life, Alladin's egyptological expertise, Hossam's sheer street sense — I'm forever grateful.

I don't want this post to just become another travel diary entry though. Away from the obvious, I think the most useful application of the home base idea is more spiritual than physical. In meditation, a home base is a place which we can return our focus and find safety — the breath, the sensations in the body, the sounds around us. My meditation practice has been grossly inconsistent for many months now, but there might be more of a reason to rediscover the world within than ever. The insight: That even while nomadic, I have the agency to find my way back home whenever. There's a spiritual surprise coming for tomorrow's piece to keep me immediately accountable.

As the wise Dorothy professes as she clicks her heels in Oz with conviction: "There's no place like home".

It's good to be home.

Published by Sam (samwong) 4 months ago on Friday the 7th of January 2022.

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