Why do we travel?

Caddis fly larvae built fragile cases around themselves of sand, tiny rocks and debris. We humans build much bigger cases with furniture, cars, houses, and few of us can drag these cases far. So we travel, leaving the shell behind, and we rinse our few pairs of underwear in the sink or buy a new foreign t-shirt. But then we go back, maybe insisting on new drinking or eating habits, and our cases take us back.

It has always been relatively easy for me to leave behind furniture and houses and cars and maybe even a few bicycles. However, for this year abroad as I enter the middle years of my life, I was interested in leaving behind the abstract cases that we cling to with so much more fervor. Career, acclaim, language, routine, known-ness, friendships, familiarity and coupledom make up the case we all desire and never quite manage to make strong enough to last forever.

Hubert Duprat gives the larvae jeweled bits to collect.

So I took an unpaid sabbatical from my work (really, they should have tried harder), I got unceremoniously dumped (not part of my plan), and I asked my son about spending a year in Mexico. He responded that he would prefer France and a big city so I picked one that seemed liveable and completely new to me and now we are here.

There is a French verb, limer, which means to wear down, to file, and I deliberately choose travel to remove parts of myself. When I was 19 I moved to France for several years with my bicycle and no real plan. This time I didn’t bring a bike (because I love the public bikes here!) but I brought my son, 13. At this point I have left behind all identity except maman about which no one is particularly curious. I lost and left much but I am curious about what I can find. I am hopeful that this blog will be a set of small essays about what I found when I went Toulouse.