“Where do you live?” It’s a simple question that is likely to be asked at the start of a conversation with any stranger. It’s a question that is easy for most people and that the asker expects a quick answer to.
For any traveling healthcare worker who has been at this for a while, it’s a loaded question. My mind races over a series of responses, “I have an apartment in Maine, but I’m rarely ever there.” “Well, the IRS says I live in…” “I live part of the year in Colorado and keep going back there.” I usually settle on the most simple response, secretly hoping the conversation will change topics, “I live here right now, but I move a lot for work.”
But, NO! They can’t drop the inquisition, it always continues on, “You move a lot? Well where’s your home base? Where are you from? When are you going to settle down? What does your wife do?”
I, again, try to keep the answer simple. Again, hoping the conversation can move along from this complicated topic, “Well my wife is a therapist too, so we move from contract-to-contract together. We’re both from New England, but we’ve been doing this a while now, so we have some fairly scattered roots at this point.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “This poor guy was expecting an easy answer. There isn’t one.” Traveling PTs don’t fit most people’s pre-determined mold of what a life, home,and job should look like.
There’s a whole host of issues, social and logistical, that complicate the home question both extrinsically and intrinsically. First is the IRS, travelers live by their rules and we do the best we can to try to maintain a life that fits their rules. Unfortunately, certain states have laws that complicate the picture by having loose standards for what a fulltime resident is and taxing people based on that status. I’m looking at you, Maine! I am certain that there is a traveler out there somewhere who has the perfectly wrong combination of living situations and who is taxed as a permanent resident by multiple states.
Don’t get me going on the system for forwarding mail by the post office. OK, do get me going. Every 3 to 6 months I head to the USPS website and submit my change of address forms. To their credit, the post office usually gets me my mail, but sometimes that mail makes a few stops along the way to reach me. I have attended weddings and received the invitation afterwards. Gad zooks!
The years since starting travel have started to really add up for me. I used to be able to intuitively know how many years ago I was in Hawaii, or how many winters I had spent in Colorado. When I showed up back here 3 weeks ago, I went around telling people it was either my 4th or 5th year coming back, I wasn’t really sure… WRONG! After some counting by figuring out what years I was in which apartment, I have come to the realization that this is winter number 6 (out of the last 7) that I am living out here in Colorado. How can we tell people where we live if we don’t even know!?
On the return, Saturday, 3 weeks ago, Kate and I quickly moved into the same employee apartment building that we have lived 3 years prior. On Sunday, we drove 1.5 hours to the local Costco and stopped by our storage area on the way back. It turns out that in our storage area, with all of our skis, 7 pairs between the two of us, was a ton of stuff that we have accumulated. Kitchen supplies, wedding pictures, snow tires for the car I sold this year, a painting I picked out of the trash at work 4 years ago, a bag of clothes to take to the local consignment store, beer brewing kit, computer printer, and our beloved 18 inch Christmas tree. I hesitate to say we keep a lot of junk here, because most of it has a purpose, but we do have a lot of “stuff” here. By Monday morning at 10, we had our ski passes and we were on the mountain where, by chance, we ran into a group of friends and skied with them all day. On Tuesday, Kate and I returned to work where we were greeted with hugs, a one-hour orientation, and quickly slipped into a seamless afternoon full of patients. Yeah, this is familiar, good friends, the old apartment, great job, and all my… “stuff.” Since the first year here, unlike many other places I’ve lived, people are willing to quickly include me in the small group they call “locals.” It’s tempting to call this “home” or to at least be less committal and admit that I live here, because I do have an established life here.
Back on the ski lift, a familiar conversation ensues, “Where do you live?”
“Here.” “… in the winter. This is my 6th season.”
The quick response, “Where do you go the rest of the time?”
Here we go again. Why doesn’t this conversation get any easier? 🙂
I used the word “inquisition” above, so this video seems pertinent. Until next time, travel safe!