If we count the summer I spent in Washington D.C. and my last year of college in Lawrence (not to mention my entire childhood in Kansas), it’s accurate to say that I have lived in 10 cities in 9 years. That is, I have had employment, paid rent on an apartment and explored the environment of 10 different cities in less than a decade.
I don’t imagine this to be an unprecedented feat. In the process of my 10 Cities Project, I’ve met plenty of travelers (or been contacted by them) and I’ve heard of people living in 20 cities in as many years or having moved into a dozen different apartments in five years, or some such variety of transitory existence. I can’t say for sure that there are more people living the gypsy life than there were in generations past, but because of the proliferation of travel blogs (travelblogs?), the vagabond lifestyle is no longer so exotic. Whether someone is reading up on how it’s done or just interested in living vicariously through another person’s travels, the internet provides a window into new worlds.
As a traditional travelogue, I have to admit that 10 Cities / 10 Years is a colossal failure. I provide a few travel tips and I try to pepper my philosophical musings with funny anecdotes, but anyone who was hoping to get snappy summaries of The Best Bars for Hanging Out or Off The Beaten Path Diners in any given city will be sourly disappointed.
Traveling is part of what I do, but it’s more the medium and less the message. If all I was concerned with was living in 10 different cities, well, my journey would be over this year. I could settle down, buy a rocking chair, get down to whittling full-time.
’10 Cities’ is a goal, but it’s only half the goal. ’10 Years’ is just as important in the equation.
A decade is an essential timespan by which we measure our lives. It’s more substantial than a year – a flash in which not much may happen – yet it’s still contained enough to be considered a distinct interval of our lives. Your teens, your twenties, your thirties, these are all periods that, when they end, feel cohesive, as if it all fits into one consistent narrative. That cohesion may partially be a fiction created out of skewed perception and distorted memories, but that could be said of all of life, so why nitpick?
I am less than half a year away from exiting my twenties, and while I’m sure that occasion will be weighted with its share of nostalgia for the past and apprehension for the unknowable future, I can’t help but think that this 10-year marker will pail in comparison to the one I hit when I’m in New York City and I’ve finally achieved 10 cities in 10 years.
If 10 Cities / 10 Years is a travelogue, it’s only in the sense that we all travel, figuring out life’s best hang outs and traversing paths less taken. Some nights we have wild, ill-conceived adventures, while others we quietly take stock of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.
I’ve made it through 10 cities, but my story isn’t done yet.