Wanderlust & Domesticity: Mutually exclusive?

Beryl Markham deplaning in Kenya.

Is an interesting, itinerant life incompatible with domesticity?

A year ago I would have said yes without thinking twice about it. And I needed only look to the trailblazers of yore to reinforce my point. Foreign correspondent (and one-time Mrs. Hemingway) Martha Gellhorn died alone and childless. British adventurer Freya Stark never married. Pioneering pilot Beryl Markham divorced three times.  Hardly paragons of domesticity, and I can’t blame them. Their lives were too dynamic, their spirits too free to be confined by the rhythm and routine that accompany long-term relationships or child rearing.

While I am not in the same league as these ladies (who also came of age in a vastly different time) my own views on wanderlust versus settling down boiled down to two choices: Either a stale, stable suburban existence complete with marriage, babies and annual family vacations, or a life untethered. Considering that the idea of a life comprising diapers, station wagons and PTA meetings is about as appealing as eating an entire plate of cilantro and then gauging my eye out with a fork, the choice was an obvious one.

Which is why, after deciding to relocate to Sweden for love, I so enjoyed Elisabeth Eaves’ “Modern Love” column that ran in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. A diehard traveler, whose adventures and overall badassery put mine to shame, Eaves discusses her own struggles with commitment and the ever-seductive pull of the undiscovered.

“Part of my impulse to travel came from never wanting to commit to just one thing,” she writes.

“I had created a life that afforded me the illusion of endless choice. I could work for this freelance employer or that one; choose spontaneously to live in Hong Kong or the Outback. The ‘or’ was what mattered.”

Now happily engaged to a fellow travel junkie, Eaves has found that a settled life isn’t necessarily a static, boring one. That wanderlust and domesticity need not be mutually exclusive. That with a like-minded partner in crime, you can enjoy security, comfort and stability, as well as the thrill of hitting the road. Perhaps not a life completely untethered, but tethered just enough to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Or not.

What do you think? Is a an adventurous, passionate life incompatible with domesticity of any sort? Or can a compromise be reached?

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  • Reply Nic February 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I am so glad to see you posting again, lady. As for your question, I am not sure. Some people have been able to pull it off, but only those with partners with an equal level of adventurous insanity. Is your nordic lad up to snuff?

  • Reply Erin February 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks! Yes, back after a bit of a hiatus. RE Nordic Lad’s adventurousness: He has proposed throwing caution to the wind and sailing around the word for a year (or two), so yes 🙂

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