Americas

Home Without Walls

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

Making friends has never been difficult for me. I tend to gravitate towards people. I love immediate connections of new relationships; those weeks when you’re investigating a person’s personality, trying to make sense of their quirks. I love old relationships even more, and those moments that you can predict their reaction in almost any situation. An unvoiced motive of my Greyhound journey was based upon relationships. Forming new relationships on the journey, while stopping in at as many friends’ places in U.S. cities as I could.

Atlanta was one of those stops. I had been to Atlanta three times before, once when I was 15 for a Mennonite church youth convention, again when I was 19 visiting my first college boyfriend over holiday break, and most recently when I was 21 for the National Women Studies Association conference. Atlanta had never really struck my fancy and I never intended to go back. That is until I reconnected with a close college friend I hadn’t seen since college graduation who heard of my plan to travel and invited me to stop in Atlanta. I thought, “Why not?”

A delicious margarita at the Matador Cantina

My willingness to adventure wherever rarely fails me, and I certainly won’t regret stopping in Atlanta. If 60 days could be extended to 90 I would have stayed there a week, if not longer (although thinking this way is a slippery slope and how I ended up in Nashville for six weeks instead of one!). Unable to sleep on my overnight bus to New Orleans Tuesday, I was thinking about what made Atlanta so much better this time. Spending time in hip areas of East Atlanta such as Kirkwood, the Bohemian Little Five Points (ironically the same name of the area I lived in Nashville) and East Atlanta Village were definitely part of the positive experience. We ate delicious food at reasonable prices–such as fantastic wings at The Righteous Room, Tuesday night dollar sushi at the EAV Thai and Sushi, and fantastic plantain and cinnamon pork tacos at Matador Mexican Cantina–all of which I highly recommend if you’re traveling through the area. Ultimately though, the most humbling and equally wonderful aspect of Atlanta focused on interacting within community.

A friend, who was more of an acquaintance in college, picked me up from the Greyhound station Sunday afternoon. She contributed a moving piece to my website Our Stories Untold, and I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to spend time with a strong feminist woman and writer. Doing work together at a great coffee shop called Octane Coffee, we were able to discuss feminist issues within the writing and poetry communities. I had forgotten how refreshing it is to be with like-minded females. The rest of my time in Atlanta was spent with a college friend who I hadn’t seen for over two years. Again I was struck with the power of community in having her and her boyfriend’s home feel like my own. Their lovely dogs gave me slobbery kisses and their heartwarming spirits reminded me how great it is to not have to explain yourself to people. How sometimes, even if you haven’t seen someone in years, you can pick up right where you left off with no explanations or questioning needed.

With my friend Gaby at the Matador Cantina before getting on the bus to leave for New Orleans.

I wanted my current journey to aid in finding myself. Not that I’m lost, but I don’t necessarily feel there. What I’ve discovered since packing up my belongings is that I thrive in community–a place where I’m not questioned. A place where I’m accepted for my faults and my strengths. Where I can talk and explore and be challenged. Where I can love and offer love in return. I realize that within community, I truly have felt at home no matter where I have found myself.

As Maya Angelou, one of North America’s great poets said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” I’m fortunate to constantly find that home no matter what borders I cross or roads I travel; shared community will always provide me a home.

 

Rachel Halder
Rachel Halder has been a traveling on and off again since late June 2012. A worldly woman with an English father and an adventurous mother, she’s been traveling internationally from a young age, most recently spending a year in Papua, Indonesia. She works remotely as a freelance writer and social media associate for Women Under Siege, a Women’s Media Center initiative documenting how sexualized violence is used in conflict. She also directs Our Stories Untold, a blog promoting conversation about sexualized violence in the Mennonite church. Join her on her travel adventures in her own country, and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter at @raerrh with the hashtag #raeontheroad2012 and #girlstravel!

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