Putting Down Roots: The Search For “Home”

Lately I’ve been obsessed with travel. Though since I can’t afford much and I’ve been impossibly lazy about renewing my passport, I’ve been keeping my sights small — with weekend trips to Texas, Boston and Pennsylvania, most recently.

But what I thought was the wanderlust that inevitably comes with being in your 20s and facing the prospect of an endless future of days spent at a desk from 9 to 5 may be something else entirely: the need to relocate.

A year ago, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere but New York City. Now, it’s all I can do not to pack up my stuff and run off blissfully into the horizon.

I keep feeling like there’s a whole other life out there waiting to be lived.

So why haven’t I done it yet, you ask? Well, the simple answer is that I’m afraid. Afraid of anything that is not structured. Afraid of failure. I like rules. I like to know how to get from point A to B. I like to know that making a certain decision will lead me to a certain destination. Honestly, if there was some way I could live my life according to a roadmap, I’d at least consider it.

destination signs

Photo: Unknown via junglesinparis

All that does not make for spontaneously packing up and moving to a brand new city.

I’m always in awe of those people who can just venture off into new territory. Unlike those of us who talk about traveling one day, they get up and do it. And somehow, the excuses we keep making to ourselves (money, work, relationships) seem to be completely absent from their lives as limitations.

One of my best friends from high school recently came back to New York City for the summer. She just spent a year in Pittsburgh studying for a post-bacc program and now she’s moving to Wisconsin for the next four years. Just like that.

Now, I don’t have any particular interest in Wisconsin itself, but I was both inspired and envious of how easily she decided on a course of action and acted on it.

It’s just all made me realize how much I’ve allowed my life to be governed by the fear that comes with uncertainty.

Moving away could be horrible. I could find myself in a big city, friendless and lonely with no support system and no sense of direction.

Or, it could be amazing.

How will I ever know when my idea of taking risks is transferring to the S instead of the 2 train on my way to work in the morning?

Luckily, perhaps the only thing I fear more than the unknown is waking up 30 years from now having accomplished little more than a too-small Manhattan apartment and a steady job that pays just enough to cover rent and a few nights out for dinner with the family. All for the sake of stability.


But in all fairness, it’s not like I’ve been in the same place forever, something I too often forget. In fact, I’ve spent more than half of my life outside of the US — I moved here from Jamaica seven years ago. But that was decided for me by my parents, and if I’d had the option at the time, I’d never have left.

In retrospect, it was one of the best moves I could have made. I can’t describe how much the world has expanded for me since then. While I’ll always miss “home,” I feel there’s little to be gained from staying rooted, like an ancient tree, in the same place all your life. Being a citizen of the world sounds so much more appealing.

Plus, what’s more fabulous than living abroad? As another friend said to me recently, “I just want, eventually, to be that person people visit when they go to a certain city or country.”

For me right now, that’s Paris. And I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t make it a reality.

Dreaming of Paris, for now.. Photo by Moyan Brenn

Dreaming of Paris, for now..
Photo by Moyan Brenn (CC Attrib.No.Deriv)



  1. August 7, 2013 / 10:50 am

    My pleasure, your blog is magnificent. Thanks very much, I look forward to more from you also!

  2. August 6, 2013 / 9:28 pm

    I love this! Perfectly written and i completely relate. All the best in your journey. i hope you get to Paris one day soon, im confident you wont regret it!

    • August 7, 2013 / 9:44 am

      Thank you so much, That EJ! For the comment and the follow. I look forward to more from your blog 🙂

  3. August 3, 2013 / 11:48 am

    One day we will all have that place and then we’ll just spend our time jetting from friend to friend, new place after new place 🙂

    • August 7, 2013 / 9:46 am

      Can’t wait, Rebecca!

  4. August 2, 2013 / 12:25 am

    Hi Jhaneel, thanks for introducing yourself by following our site. Yours (especially this particular post) resonates with us. (You might enjoy this one of ours: http://raxacollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/pico-iyer-global-soul/

    We’ve lived on 4 continents and can certainly relate to Paris as your dream spot. It’s my favorite of all the places we’ve ever lived! Good luck with your writing–we’ll keep an eye on The New Yorker for you! Cheers.

  5. July 24, 2013 / 11:38 am

    Yes! It was Rebecca who said that, actually.. Do you have a place in mind?

  6. July 24, 2013 / 9:41 am

    As another friend said to me recently, “I just want, eventually, to be that person people visit when they go to a certain city or country.”

    ^My heart skipped a beat when I read that, because I am sure that is one of my deepest desires as well.

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