This woman is nothing short of brilliant. Seriously. I just absolutely love Tsh Oxenreider. What would you say if your spouse suggested selling your house, putting your furniture in storage, and taking your three kids under age ten on a nine-month trip around the world? And My friend Tsh Oxenreider said? “Thank you for bringing it up first.” She loves exploring the world’s untold amount of tiny places, and was delighted to share this with her kids. But no one was more surprised than her that traveling to 30 countries in one year taught her, above all else, about home. What it means to call a pin on the map home, to stay put and bury deep roots, to know and be known. YOU HAVE TO READ HER BOOK AND WHAT SHE DISCOVERED! She discovered, in fact, that this is how we humans were made to live. To live into the ordinary, the liturgy of weekly rhythms, the boring. It’s how we were created. It’s a grace to welcome Tsh to the farm’s front porch today…
I find it fascinating that in all our exploring of the world’s nooks and crannies, my three kids most loved the times we settled down and stayed somewhere awhile.
A year after we returned to the States, I can ask one of them their favorite part of our year, and their answer is usually “the month we lived in Sydney and fed chickens in the backyard,” or “the month we lived in France and built Terabithia.”
We bring up memories from the Great Wall of China, the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, and the Eiffel Tower, and after a few minutes of reminiscence, they turn the conversation, preferring to talk about the houses that accompanied them:
Remember that loft in France with the Star Wars chess set?
I loved Chiang Mai—we each got our own bed.
Remember the triple bunks beds in Uganda?
I totally wish we could have chickens like in Sydney.
I didn’t travel around the world with my family to “find myself” — but I was curious what I’d learn about home.
Can home be anywhere? Is home where I’m originally from? Where I’ve lived longest? Do we even need a place to call home, so long as we have each other?
Some people live “location independent,” making the entire world their home—they’ll park for a while in one neck of the woods, then when the wanderlust itch needs scratching, they’ll pack up again and move to a new spot. Could this be a feasible way of life for us?
The single most significant thing we gained when we paused for a month or more in Thailand, Australia, and France was community.
By staying in one place for a month or longer on our travels, we burrowed into our surroundings and invested in neighbors, even if only for a little while. We stayed put—in a nomadic sense, anyway—long enough to cultivate relationships unshielded by the next great thing to see, the next place on our itinerary.
The nuns at Our Lady of Mississippi Abbey say that by taking a vow of stability, they are “resisting all temptation to escape the truth about ourselves by restless movement from one place to the next.”
Resisting all temptation to escape the truth about ourselves. That’s an easy thing to do in our rapid-fire world.
We’re not Benedictine monks, and twenty-first century life is what it is. But as our kids get older, we’re surprising ourselves with our unassuming, quiet draw to stability.
On our trip around the world, Kyle and I kept the question of home in the backs of our minds and the forefront of our conversations.
When a locale proved itself pleasing enough, we’d ask each other—Could we move here? Could this be home? If nowhere pulled strong enough, our default was a return to central Oregon. That was our assumption, in fact, until the last month of our journey.
In tiny Uhldingen-Mühlhofen, Germany, Kyle and I went on a date to a neighborhood pub, and along with talking about the kids and their year of nonstop travel, we talked about home.
I don’t remember who brought it up first, but we shocked ourselves with a mutual admittance that of all the places in the world, we thought my hometown of Austin might be calling us back.
Late that night, we listened to drunk Germans sing in the background and we stared at lights reflecting over an inky-black Bodensee while we brainstormed what a return to Texas would look like.
Kyle said, “I don’t know why, but no matter where we are in the world, Austin has this magnetic pull. It’s like we’re supposed to be there.”
A month later, we got rid of another half of our belongings waiting for us in a central Oregon storage unit, packed the rest in a truck, and signed a rental agreement in the north Austin suburbs.
…turns out, we didn’t move here for convenience, culture, or our taste buds.
We moved here because of people.
There were just enough old friends and just enough family to pull us back here, and together with a church we now love, we’ve unearthed what we found in a sliver of a fraction in Thailand, Australia, and France: community.
Terry Pratchett says, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” This comforts me, here in Texas.
We will always travel. In fact, we’ve got more trips on the horizon, both scribbled on calendar squares and in daydreams for the kids’ teenage years. Our move to Texas was on the condition that we’d spend a sizable chunk of our summer months in Oregon, as much as we could help it.
Wanderlust is never truly quenched—as C.S. Lewis famously penned, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The more I travel, the more I’m at peace with the unslakable satisfaction of wanderlust. Its very nature exists on the promise of something better around the bend, and the stamps in my passport have proved to me my heart will always yearn for something better. And better.
And better, yet. It’s as though I were made for another world.
Am I at home in the world? Yes. Its waters and forests, megacities and villages, bus lines and bicycles make it feasible to find a reasonable escapade anywhere.
When I travel, I’m at home in the world — so long as I’m with the people I love most.
But I still need a home in the world.
I’ll backpack with gusto until my back gives out, but at the end of the day, I need to hang up that backpack in a closet, check my mail, and sip a drink with my next-door neighbor, watching the sun set from the backyard.
I need to water my neighbor’s plant when it’s her turn to travel. I need to pick up my husband’s prescription refill from the pharmacy who already knows his needs. I need to harp on my kids to clean their rooms for the third day in a row. I need to lose my phone in the same couch, and stir soup simmering on the same stove in the same pot.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton says this about Benedictine monks: “Stability becomes difficult for a man whose monastic ideal contains some note, some element of the extraordinary. All monasteries are more or less ordinary. Its ordinariness is one of its greatest blessings.”
Travel has taught me the blessing of ordinariness, of rootedness and stability. It can be found anywhere on the globe.
It’s courageous to walk out the front door and embrace earth’s great adventures.
But the real act of courage is to return to that door, turn the knob, walk through, unpack the bags, and start the kettle for a cup of tea.
In our rituals of bread-making and wine-tasting, tucking our kids into bed and watching stars flicker from a chair on the back patio,
we are all daring to find ourselves at home, somewhere in the world.
Tsh Oxenreider is the author of several books, the founder of the community blog The Art of Simple, and the top-ranked podcaster of The Simple Show. Her passion is to help big-hearted people live simple, unconventional lives.
At Home in the World is a travel memoir about home, where Tsh tells the story of wandering the world for nine months across four continents with three kids, one husband, and five backpacks. She chronicles their global journey from China to Singapore to Australia, Uganda, France, Croatia, and beyond, as they fill their days with mouth-watering food, breathtaking sights, train schedules, world-schooling the kids, and the awareness of all the world teaches about itself, its inhabitants, and the places we call home.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]