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" … One of the thousands of HomesAwayFromHome we've stumbled into and back out of …"

In Europe, I've heard it said that vacationers seek places really different from home. In The United States, we hope to recreate home when we travel. Tourist traps tout Home Cookin', Homemade Salt Water Taffy (though nobody ever makes taffy at home), and Home Style Hotel Rooms. Often these places deliver better or worse than home style, actual home style having evolved into something more familiar than tout-able. Still, I settle into a definite familiarity when traveling, a sort of dance choreographed by dozens of repetitions, each somewhat unique and each also absolutely the same. The easy monotony of a Marriott hotel room, the furniture absolutely unfunctional yet entirely familiar, I long ago figured out how to jury-rig the couch so I could sit up straight there. The mildly disappointing menu choices at the diner promising home-style cooking reminds me most of how my grandmother was supposed to have cooked and never did.

I take little of any of this very seriously.
I find myself able to replicate most of the prominent patterns of my daily back-home life, and pretty much just ignore the minor variations. Places once happened upon become old standbys on following trips, as if we're trying to recreate prior synchronicity by studied repetition. We know where the buffalo burger's buried among the otherwise anonymous freeway exits and naturally gravitate back there each time. Over time, the whole trip can almost feel like never leaving home at all, with fresh discoveries hardly ever entering into the flow. We somehow get away while staying right at home.

A fresh discovery usually first feels like a diversion, a distraction from the anticipated route, and not only because it is. Traveling away from home seems inherently threatening, out from behind the moat and firm stone walls we naturally built and grew accustomed to. I find it reassuring to know where to find the next bathroom stop well before it's needed. I'm no trailblazer. When shoved outside my usual perimeter, I tend to follow my nose, which has never proven infallible, but close enough to it to trust it over the handy information signs which insist that the upcoming exit features only those places willing to advertise on signs. Home-like places there never appear on those signs and typically stand a mile or more distant from the cloverleaf, often along the alternate truck route through town, and require diverging from the easy-on/easy-off insistence freeway travel encourages.

These places never feel precisely like our home to me, but they sure seem like home to the locals, something no Appleby's ever extends. The Muse and I can peek into a home life we've never personally experienced, as if we were visiting distant relatives. Each cafe features invisible routines which must be asked after. Do they put green peppers in their home fries there? We're learning to ask, since our assumptions spring from our experiences with orthogonal homes. The culture observed there will, by the time we depart, seem like a perfectly plausible version of home. We might even imagine ourselves living there without really considering the externalities involved. We leave feeling as if we'd been home for the duration of lunch. Not home home, but one of the thousands of HomesAwayFromHome we've stumbled into and back out of as we've wandered through this world.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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