The Unsettling Reality of Settling

In case you didn’t know this about me already, I have a bit of a wanderlust problem.

That might be obvious, considering our family’s year of living nomadically around the U.S. I can’t help it. I like to BE different places and SEE different places and LIVE different places. I loved our travels around the country. Each place had it’s own joys and beauties and quirks and downsides. And I adored that.

But there were times in our travels when we were lonely and craved community. We found lovely Baha’i communities almost every place we stayed, but we missed being part of a community in a broader, more involved, long-term sense.

There were also times when I daydreamed about owning a house. That mostly happened when we were on Cape Cod in the winter months and watching too much HGTV, but still. As much as I love to wander, a part of me also loves the idea of settling in a home, a place we can make our own.

So I’m torn between these parts of myself. Luckily, I have my family’s needs and desires to consider also, and right now their needs and desires lean more toward settling down. So we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out when and where we want to do that.

Even though we’ve lived in Chicago for the past twelve years, it was always a temporary stop in our minds. Havarti and I are from Washington State originally, and since we left fourteen years ago, it’s been on our agenda to move back here. (Well, it wasn’t on MY agenda, since I don’t tend to make agendas very far into the future, but it was definitely on Havarti’s. And as time passed, I did find myself yearning more and more for mountains.)

But twelve years. That hardly fits the definition of temporary. Other than a couple of years in Phoenix when The Muse was a baby, Chicagoland is where our kids have always lived. We developed wonderful friendships there and had family living nearby during most of that time. So it certainly wasn’t horrible. Chicago has its upsides. Friends, family, museums, fireflies.

But it also has its downsides. Mosquitoes and humidity and traffic, for example. The amenities of the city are nice, but we’ve never wanted to live in a metropolis. The housing prices actually aren’t bad considering the size of the city, but property taxes are outrageous. We have a lot of friends, but there was a LOT of driving involved to get together with those friends. There was a lot of driving there, period.

So we consulted and thought and prayed. Then we lived as nomads. We planned to move to WA after our travels in the spring, but that got postponed with Havarti’s mom’s cancer diagnosis and unexpectedly swift passing. But now here we are in eastern Washington. We have wonderful friends and family here as well, including a handful of Baha’is who also happen to homeschool their kids. We’ve jumped right into a strong, fun, vibrant community in a college town that takes ten minutes to traverse by car. It’s good, but it’s a big change.

We’ve been here a little over a week now, and I’m still getting my footing. I’ve already got a favorite funky coffee shop, and the farmer’s market in the next town over is one of the best I’ve ever been to anywhere in the country. But still, it’s an adjustment. Not just going from big city to small town, or humid heat to dry heat (love that), or a flat landscape to a hilly one—for me, it’s also an adjustment from a nomadic to a “settling” mindset. Even though I’m tired of moving, and I really don’t want to move anymore anytime soon AT ALL, there’s still that wanderlusty part of me that panics about the idea of staying in one spot.

I know we can still travel (though we’ve picked a spot that’s not exactly an easy travel hub). I know it’s good for our kids to have some geographic and community stability at this point. I actually look forward to buying a house and making it our own. And I know we can always move again if we need to or want to.

But I don’t want to. I don’t want to move again, but I’m uncomfortable with settling. My insides don’t make sense sometimes.

All in all, it’s getting better, though. The first few days, I went through a sort of culture shock. I kept vacillating between “This is totally awesome!” and “This is really weird!” Our town’s 30,000-person demographic is a mix of pickup-driving country folk, college students, and highly educated professors. There’s this strange mix of culture, which is also represented by the housing in most of the town. You’ll have one house that’s super nice and well kept, and right next door you’ll have basically a dumpheap, and next door to that something in between, and so on. It’s like someone puked a bunch of different eras of architecture and levels of maintenance all over the town with no rhyme or reason to it.

We can walk to the quaint little downtown from our rental house, which is a bit old and clunky but has great windows and a gorgeous yard. And the whole town is surrounded by a soothing landscape of rolling hills and farmland. It’s lovely and unique and a little hard to figure out. Not in a bad way—it just doesn’t have a defined feel to it like some small towns do. Perhaps that’s good for my novelty-loving self. 🙂

As of right now, our house is only about 70% unpacked and organized, which is about the same percent that my brain is unpacked and organized. The discombobulation of moving across the country is formidable, even when you’re coming into a community of friends and family already. It’s a lot to do, a lot to think about, a lot to adjust to. It’s a positive lot, but a lot nonetheless. I’m looking forward to feeling more settled, as bizarre as that is for me to say. 🙂

Ahhhh. That was good to purge those thoughts. I’ll be back to regular blogging (and a new site design WOOHOO!) very soon. In the meantime, I’ll leave you some of the prettier moments of our last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

I got up before dawn on our last day in IL to watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan and have a little reflection time.
It was weirdly humid, even for Chicago, but lovely nonetheless.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota. No description needed for these photos, which of course don’t do the place justice. It was breathtaking.
Seeing animals like this in the wild just does me in, every time.
The colors were just amazing. An entirely striped landscape.
George, John, Ringo, and Paul. Wait, that’s not right. (I love that joke.)
In all seriousness, carving recognizable faces out of the side of a mountain is a pretty darn impressive feat.
Not quite as impressive as the Crazy Horse Monument will be when it’s finished, though.
It’ll be the largest sculpture in the world. I won’t share the whole story of how it got started and how it’s going, since you can Google it. But it’s pretty fascinating.
BoyWonder is hiding from the camera, in case you’re wondering.
We went to the Little Bighorn Battlefield on our way through Montana, and it was crappy and freezing and raining the whole time. Havarti was bummed. He’d studied a lot of Native history in his younger years, and he’d been wanting to go to Little Bighorn forever. We couldn’t walk around outside because it was like 53 degrees and we only brought summer clothes on the drive.
So we drove around and I took a few photos. That tree above just called out for me to take its picture.
The patio area of my new fave writing spot.
We have a clothesline! The kids are all about it. They like doing laundry “the old-fashioned way.”
Taken from the car with my phone, so a little grainy, but this is what the landscape looks like outside of town. Actually, it’s generally hillier, but these stripes caught my eye. 🙂 The clouds really do look fake like that, though.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 1

  1. Meredith Schwartz

    I really enjoy reading about all the wonderful places you go to! I wish to have a little bit of the nomadic lifestyle that you have! I understand that everybody needs to settle sooner or later and there is nothing bad about it! I have never traveled as much as you and your family but I love going on trips and visit interesting places. I think that even if you buy a house you will still find a way to move around the country so you shouldn’t worry about it! Good luck! Thanks for sharing!

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