“You can check out any time you like | But you can never leave. – Hotel California, The Eagles
I didn’t understand the significance of that cheerfully ominous, annoyingly catchy line until my plane was lifting off the tarmac on Saturday evening, my boarding tickets reading SAN-SFO-YVR.
Despite my best efforts at befriending the rain this winter, by the time March roared in lioness-like, I had folded my cards booked a rather long trip to San Diego.
Two things got in the way of that: a minor injury that derailed my running for over a month, and a travel schedule, which, following the Santa Barbara training camp, included a 10-day trip to Germany and a last-minute Tampa visit.
The injury…meh. (I’ve been instructed by mentors in the sport not to talk about it, aka “give it energy”—perhaps some new form of physical therapy?)
As for the travel, well, let’s just say I’m not one of those triathletes who trains well through the fog of travel. I always forget my compression socks. And, a business class upgrade is a license to ignore the worn out advice on staying hydrated, right? (Because, free beer.) I am one of those triathletes who, when presented with partying in a Frankfurt bar on Fasching or drinking prosecco with one of my dearest friends as her 3-year-old naps, says simply, F it. Life is too short.
But boy, did I pay for it upon my return. (Wait let me check—yep, life is still short.)
And then, just like that, it was time to go back to California: my sun-kissed mistress, my nostalgic indulgence.
“You aren’t hiding your SoCal homesickness very well this week…” a friend texted in the middle of my trip. “California looks good on you!” another replied to one of my Instagram stories. Whether it was the sun, friends who knew me during a significant phase of my life, or the obsessive visits to my beloved Encinitas Y Masters swim group (I logged 30k over the first 10 days), I felt like I’d been plugged in.
Driving down the I5 listening to KPBS; reconnecting with a friend at breakfast overlooking La Jolla Cove; cranking out work at Lofty with the ocean breeze tickling my sandaled feet; yoga at Yoga Six; watching the surfers from a train window en route to LA; riding bikes with friends through groves of trees heavy with lemons; my bare feet on the hard-packed sand at low tide—it felt like coming home.
But with the bright emotions like joy came its quieter companion, nostalgia, riding in on the scent of flowers I’ve forgotten the names of and on memories I don’t know whether to shelve or give away.
I woke up Sunday elated to be back in Vancouver. I have no upcoming trips set in stone, save for a race I’m not going to jinx by naming it in “print.” The sun is starting to peek out from its grey blanket, and routines, friends, and family are open-armed. I can feel spring tickle my still-tanned skin, and begin, as it always does, to open my heart.
A heart that is, when it comes to place, divided. Is one who defines “home” in a scattered, piecemeal way deserving of pity or of envy? Am I blessed, or destined to feel pulled in a thousand directions for the rest of my life?
Well, maybe not a thousand. It’s a Pacific Coast tug-of-war, fought at one end by a beach town where the sun shines 340 days of the year, and on the other, by a city that is—in its own wet, dark, rugged, and still-new way—home.
Massive hugs to Charisa, Rob & Barbara, Brittany & Adrian, and Kayla for the generous hosting, and to John for the Cannondale loaner. To everyone else who filled my heart with sweet visits, fun workouts, and much-needed revelry, thank you!