Staying Home

For many years I would often wake up unsure of where I was.  As the grogginess cleared my head I’d try to recall–Am I at home?  Is this a hotel?  If so, where?

I traveled a lot in my former life.  I was one of those miserable bleary-eyed travelers who are easy to spot in the airports and hotels. The guy having a horrible hotel breakfast, alone.  That was me. They guy wolfing down some nasty airport food while racing to make a connection.  That was me. They guy sitting by himself in the corner charging his cell phone while waiting to catch a flight already two hours late.  That was me.  I grew to really hate traveling.

In the days before smart phones my secretary made a laminated card for me to carry in my wallet that had all my frequent flyer numbers, and all my hotel and rental car rewards numbers.  It had my Amex number and my passport number.  I still have it, but now it’s just a memento of a life I left behind.

I have lots of insane traveling stories in my past.  One memorable one started when I was in a meeting in a small town in the interior of Sao Paulo state in Brazil.  My client asked me to interview a witness, in person, as soon as possible.  In Melbourne, Australia.  So I drove to Sao Paulo and caught a flight to Miami, arriving about 4 a.m.  I worked in the airport until the first flight left for Tampa.  Once in Tampa I went to my office to deal with whatever couldn’t wait. Then I went home, switched out some clothes and headed to the airport to catch a flight to L.A. There I caught a flight to Melbourne (which is a long way away).  In Melbourne I met the witness, talked to him for less than an hour, then went back to the airport to come home. Somewhere in all that craziness of crossing the international date line I lost a day.  The day was my anniversary.  It never happened that year.

I was rarely at home, and when I was I left for the office early in the morning and came home late in the evening.  I usually worked every day, weekends included.

I racked up a zillion or so frequent flyer miles during that life.  For the first few years of my career I took no vacations.  But once the kids started growing up Cherie said (nicely) that they were going to go on vacation whether I came or not.  So I reluctantly went along.  I discovered that the world didn’t stop turning if I took a vacation, so I started taking one every year. Those vacations were the best part of that life, because in those days it was possible to really escape the office.  We’d fly into a place with no reservations and no plans other than to rent a car and start driving.  I was incommunicado that way.  With all the frequent flyer miles I had piled up we were able to take some good vacations.  Five years in a row the whole family flew to Europe for two weeks, courtesy of the airlines who profited from my misery.

Paul (The V.P of Farming) wrote a great post recently that brought all this to mind. (Go read it HERE).  I thought of myself when I read his reference to a “bleary-eyed businessman, half-dressed, swigging from a bottle of lukewarm Aquafina, clacking away at a hot laptop in a cold hotel room well past midnight, strains of ESPN looping in the background.”  What a crummy way to live.

But now all those air miles have expired or they’re sitting in my accounts unused, unneeded and unwanted. Last fall Cherie and I flew to Orlando for a business dinner for her job.  It was the first time I’d been on an airplane in 3 years. It might be the last time I’ll ever fly and that would be just fine with me.

Now I’m home.  These days I feel put out if I have to drive 15 miles to town.  I like it here.  I don’t plan to leave.

Wendell Berry says it best:

Stay Home

I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.

In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.

In the stillness of the trees
I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.



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35 comments on “Staying Home

  1. DM says:

    you did a good job writing, capturing the craziness of those younger days. Mine looked different than yours but similar. (I didn’t travel, but I too was not present mentally for sure. my other life commitments sucked the life and time out of me, and I too am very thankful to now be home, working close to home, take naps @ the most random time, and am thankful I have a good woman who firmly but gently stuck with me and helped me come to my senses. Glad you’re home Bill!

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. I had my priorities messed up for a long time. My wife also helped me come to my senses. I’d say we’re both fortunate in that respect.

      The travel sucked but it was the being away from home that really made it bad. I had back to back out of town trials while my wife was nearing the due date for our first child. I worked over 10 hours a day (often way over) for something like 70 straight days. Luckily the second trial ended a few weeks before our son was born. But I was on the phone arranging someone to cover for me in court while we were having the sonogram that led to her being induced and going through a long hard delivery. Then years later, even after we’d moved here and I was trying to wind down, I ended up stuck in a trial that caused me to be away from home for over a month. I wrote about that one here:

      Eventually I just couldn’t do it any more. I feel much better now.

      I’m sure we’d both like to go back and re-live some of those years. I know I would.

  2. Eumaeus says:

    Thanks, Bill. I want the corporate transplants to make it as farmers the most. Because, if a high-powered attorney or finance guy, heck, even a low-powered finance guy (like I was) can’t switch gears and make it as a farmer, with the presumed financial wherewithal and social capital built up in such previous lives, then what hope is there for that worker in a meat processing plant or Walmart checkout line. There are barriers to farming, right? Well I hope you break them. And Paul. And everybody else, myself included. That’s my dream in a nutshell.

  3. Heart is where the home is. Or something. :-)

  4. […] just finished reading Bill’s reflection of that crazy time in his life where he was on the road a lot for his job, while his wife was home […]

  5. vpfarming says:

    So great to hear someone else saying what we’ve been thinking. Because everywhere else you go the people are bragging about their trips or their frequent flyer status or their faraway business trips. The travel industry has a lot of mouths to feed and they are getting better every day at the art of seduction. Your Brazil to Australia story is incredible.

    Inspiring to hear your story of transition. I’m still on the front end. So far on the front end, that I’m actually… a hotel room in Nashville, alone, as I type…

  6. Great testimony of a life reborn . Happy staying at home, Bill.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Will. Some people think I’m crazy for ditching that and moving here. Some folks think it was crazy not to do it sooner. I know which camp you and I are in.

  7. Fortunately, I got that type of travel over with very early in my career. There is nothing romantic about waking up in a motel bed and having to remember where you are. Great blog. –Curt

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Curt. I had that happen plenty of times. I’ve woken up in my own bed at home and wondered where I was too. Crazy days.

  8. a way to live — brought to my mind an Elvis-era story / joke – a rural well-to-do who insisted on being buried in his Cadillac — and some teen-age boys passing along the rural road / street just as the fancy car with body in the seat (apparently) being lowered into the open grave, commenting, “Now THAT’s really Living!” ‘nough said

  9. Bill, what a crazy past life you lived. I would say that I could count the number of times I flew on an airplane in single digits until 12 years ago. When my wife passed away, I was able to travel to see my grand kids more so every year since then I’ve flown to Vegas to see them at least once some times more. My role as care giver for my wife changed into visiting family more and going on short term mission trips. Since starting to do that, I’ve visited Las Vegas so many times I can actually drive around without getting lost and have been in every country in Central America except Belize. Now that I am taking care of an aging mother in law and helping to raise a nine year old grandson those traveling days are kind of over. I get to Las Vegas now on special occasions like weddings and graduations. This year is a graduation year. Yea!!

    Have a great calm and peaceful day.

    • Bill says:

      Keeping in touch with family is important. Thankfully our children are fairly close by, so no airplane rides are necessary.

      You must be going to Vegas soon, as this is graduation season. Hope you have a good trip.

  10. This is a wonderful post. One of the best I’ve read anywhere, from anyone. Truly.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Teresa. I wish I’d written more back then. This winter and went back and read some of my old journals from those hectic unhappy days. So glad to be on the other side of that now.

  11. shoreacres says:

    A lifetime ago, I knew a 93 year old woman who’d come to this country on a ship from Germany, with her parents. They landed on the Texas coast, walked to Victoria behind an ox cart, and settled in. By the time I met her, she still hadn’t been to San Antonio. When I asked why, she said, “Why should I go there? I have everything I need here.”

    I never traveled as you did, but I had my own treadmill to escape. Stepping off was the best thing I ever did.

    • Bill says:

      We both know how difficult it is to make that move, even when you know it’s the right thing to do. For me it was scary and something just felt wrong about it. But now I can say, like you, that it was the best thing I ever did.

  12. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    Great post, thank you.

  13. EllaDee says:

    I’m so happy you were able to opt out. I encounter people like that every day. They lose perspective. I’ve flown from Sydney to Perth and back overnight to collect a colleague’s business case he left behind. He wouldn’t trust a courier.
    I’m still in a similar environment but fortunately not practising law and I’ve eased back from crazy hours and being a “deal junkie”… In the thick of it it’s like being one of many hamsters on wheels egging each other onto the reward time after time after time…
    Last weekend we caught up with a family member who past retirement aged was made redundant after having his work hours scaled back and back again. He had aged 10 years from the shock and being unable to come to terms, he was so so wedded to it. Another retired family member quizzed the G.O. and I about our future lifestyle choice of a village in the country – 30 kms from a town that’s 500 kms from a major city. Did we not want to be near medical facilities? Err, no. We didn’t plan on getting sick. And if we did we’d visit the required facilities if absolutely necessary, then return home. They live in a city suburb which they described as being like a big country town. Both grew up in the country… but they don’t want to know it anymore.

    • bobraxton says:

      don’t know if it is allowed for me to mention that I am participating in on-lin MyRetirement dot Org and what you have written here is very helpful for me – even in that context.

      • EllaDee says:

        Ok by me. The G.O. and I have no shortage of family, friends, neighbors who have retired in the past few years or so to look to for inspiration, or otherwise. It’s interesting to see the different ways people go about and deal with it.

    • Bill says:

      You make a great point about medical facilities. One of the “disadvantages” of living in the country is the distance from medical facilities. But, as you say, “we don’t plan on getting sick.” And for people who live the right way there is a good chance they won’t. I’d go so far as to say that the closer one is to medical facilities, the more likely they’ll be sick.

  14. df says:

    Bill, I read this when you first posted but didn’t feel I had the time to respond properly. The contrast of how you live today with how you used to live not so very long again is truly stunning. It made me appreciate anew what I have, because I do need regular reminders. Ten years ago my husband and I started a home-based business and it fundamentally changed how we live. Our income is much less predictable and, as such, feels less secure, but deciding to define how we wanted to live and knowingly give up bigger, safer salaries in favour of being fully present in our children’s lives has been worth it in so many ways. My life still feels chaotic on many days, but at least I am at home, with my family. I don’t have balance, but I think the fundamentals are right. I love reading your blog, but this particular post really resonated. I hope you have many great moments, days, weeks, months and years ahead of staying home.

    • Bill says:

      I’m really pleased with how this post has been received. I was reluctant to put it out there.
      Good for you that you had the courage to make the change. I know very well how difficult it can be. I’m ashamed to say that I was an absentee father for most of my children’s lives. There is no amount of money or security (which is usually just an illusion) that can compensate for that, in my opinion.
      I have nagging doubts sometime, but I’m nearly content now. Like you, I need regular reminders of why we did this. I’m very glad this post resonated with you and I wish peace and wisdom on y’all on your journey.

  15. avwalters says:

    You’ve quoted one of my most favorite writers, on one of my favorite issues. I am a homebody, too. Only…first I have to build it.

    • Bill says:

      There is no place like home.
      I heard Wendell Berry joke once that he now spends his time flying all over the place telling people they ought to stay home.

  16. […] above ground and making your peace with life. And there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of ‘staying home‘ that we talk about and love. And there is nothing wrong with going “out in your […]

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