I stood on the front porch of the Unwound yarn shop in Blowing Rock, NC, chatting with three women I’d met just a few minutes earlier inside the shop. They were on a day trip to the area. I was two weeks into my sabbatical year, taking my sweet old time driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway. As travelers are bound to do, we all got to chatting.
“Where are you from?” they asked.
“New York,” I said, already trying to figure out how to answer the inevitable next question.
“And what are you doing here?”
Where to start? “I’m on my way to Brasstown, North Carolina, and decided to drive for a spell along the Parkway.”
And that’s when we jumped down the rabbit hole. Each question they asked plunged them deeper and deeper into my story. They learned I’d just gotten rid of most of what I’d owned, that I was about to start a four-month stint at the John Campbell Folk School, that my sabbatical year would culminate in my walk along the Camino to Santiago.
“You’re a free spirit!” one of the women said.
“I am indeed.” I thought of my littlest sister Meg who introduces me to her friends saying, “This is my free-spirited sister,” usually followed by, “you know, the one who’s getting rid of all her stuff and going around the world.”
The woman on the porch of the yarn shop continued. “When you’re done with the free-spirit part, marry a good-looking man — and make sure he’s a democrat.”
I laughed. “I’m hoping I don’t have to end my free-spirit days in order to get married.”
She considered that and quickly agreed.
This idea–that travel is something to “get out of my system” before I “settle down”–is one I don’t know that I agree with. A few months before I started my sabbatical friends starting saying things like, “You’re going to meet someone the day before you leave. What would you do if that happened?”
“I’d still go,” I said, matter-of-factly. There were no other options in my book. I do some drastic things, but canceling a whole year of adventures because I meet someone who just may want to date me? Marry me even? “If he’s really that interested, it will work out regardless.”
“Good for you,” they would say.
Then there were those who thought, myself included, that I’d meet someone over the course of my travels. That sounded more plausible then meeting someone in my hometown the day before I left. “I’m sure he’s out there traveling the world, so I’m going to find him,” I told a couple people when pressed on the topic. Indeed, I met more than a few fascinating traveling souls, but our time together was that of two free-spirits who cross paths briefly and then go on our respective journeys elsewhere.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m not meant to simply live the life of a single woman. Not long after one of my sisters announced she was pregnant, I had visions of being the spinster aunt–the “crazy” one with the wild hair, a cottage in the woods. My niece would love coming to visit; my sister would dread sending her worried what fanciful ideas I’d put in her head.
I laugh at that thought as I sit here on the porch of my cozy cabin next to my babbling brook, the sun peeking through the clouds, my hair unbrushed.