Around the World in 33 Days
Yena Sharma Purmasir traveled around the world – from New York City to London, Oslo, New Delhi, Auckland, and San Francisco.
I grew up knowing one thing for sure: I was going to live in New York City for my entire life. It was my little prophecy, my quiet promise. There was absolutely no harm in this. If you had to pigeonhole yourself to one place and one place only, New York City is not exactly a bad deal. It comes with all the trappings for a fabulous young adult life, all the fixings of steady economic opportunities. These were not the things I thought of, certainly not when I was in elementary school. What I understood was something more sentimental. I wanted to give my one-day children something I didn’t have. I wanted them to have the option to peer into my childhood: Here is where mommy used to ride her bike, here is where mommy used to live, here is where mommy got her first kiss. My two parents could only give me fistfuls of their own histories: my mother’s old photographs, my father’s wild stories. Even my little-kid mind knew it was doing a terrible job at piecing together the truth, whatever that was.
I wasn’t going to make that mistake. My children would live in the same country, the same city I grew up in. They would know me. We would, finally, have a deeply-rooted sense of permanence. To get any wanderlust out of my system, I traveled in my early adulthood. I went to a small liberal arts college state lines’ away. I worked at summer programs in the Catskills Mountains. I studied abroad in New Zealand, which is pretty much as far as I could go without leaving the planet. Everywhere was nice, but nothing felt like home. Although, if I’m being more honest, I always left before I had to seriously question what I needed to feel at home. Not just a place to live, but people to live with: a mother to love and scold me, a best friend only 10 minutes away. These are the things I miss when I’m gone from home. The things I miss when I come back are harder to define.
My first year out of college, I worked a record twelve months with no vacation time. In-between jobs and with a wild energy, I dreamed up a travel itinerary that made all my friends gulp. In 33 days, I wanted to see London, Norway (Oslo), India (New Delhi, Agra, Raipur, and Pune), New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch), and San Francisco. On average, I would be on a plane every three days. It was not going to be an easy vacation, but I relished in it. I booked my tickets. I messaged friends in each country, telling them I would be in town. “You’re staying with me!” they all promised. It was that easy.
It was mid-September when I finally got to London, the very beginning of the trip. I was staying with an old friend, Jamie. It seems relevant that Jamie and I met at an international summer youth leadership program. It seems even more relevant that I was a student at the program when Jamie was the director. That was seven years ago. Now, Jamie and I are friends. We just completed another summer together, this time as colleagues. I met her at London Bridge, in a coffee shop, as I furiously tried to access wi-fi. By the time we got to Jamie’s house, it was the end of the day and we were exhausted. The rain had been unforgiving, pelting down on us as we walked through the city. We trekked up the steep hill and she pointed to a modest house on our left. “This is it!” she said and then we were standing in the hallway, talking to her family.
Jamie is a 30-year-old white woman and she owns her own house together with her brother, Harry. They live together with his partner, Charlotte, and their infant child, Thomas. The house has been newly renovated, all the work completed by the three adult occupants. In fact, they have plans to further expand the property. Harry wants to make the kitchen bigger. He wants an upstairs bathroom. During my two-day stay in their home, I witnessed lots of conversation around this ongoing project. On his way into town, he brought a series of paint samples, sister shades of blue. Jamie and Charlotte glanced at them during their morning tea.
My 50 hours in London were largely spent outside, sightseeing and visiting museums. In the evenings, when we came back, Jamie and I would stay up late. We’d sit in the dining room, one of the rooms that everyone wants to expand. Once we moved into the den, which plainly belongs to everyone: bookcases and framed photographs and Thomas’s toys piled in a corner. Before my visit, Jamie had talked to me in length about her home, how heavy that word felt.