During our trip we went hiking in Tanndalen, Sweden, making a beeline for waffles at an isolated cafe called Andersborg, a couple of miles across a seasonal marshland. 

After we have had our heart-shaped waffles and tea, we walk down to the slackline in front of the porch. Our 4-year old son is very excited to try this out.

The first few passes holding my hand in one of his, and then trying on his own, holding on to the rope that travels along with him, clipped to a guide wire above our heads. 

Then he wants to make his way on his own. Sid wobbles and stutter steps to get to the other side, sometimes clutching the guide wire with both hands. Watching him make his way, I feel my heart swell inside me. How brave he seems, just four inches off the ground.

I follow his lead on the slackline, step up to try it myself, legs wobbling, my body entirely unsure. It occurs to me at some point on the third pass without the help of the guide rope, that this can be what it is to travel. To wobble our way through a strange situation to find our center. We navigate through a lack of accustomed ground (home-ness). Ideally, we find, at some point along the way, the balanced place inside. In Sid’s case, the part that knows he is safe and strong, that he can master new skills. In both of our cases, that we are growing up.

And along the way, it does help when traveling through the unknown, where one’s footing is unsure, to have a guide wire, a steadying connection. My wife and son have been that connection for me, and I often found myself preferring to be with them when it was my turn to venture off on my own. At several points in the trip we recognized the need for each of us to have time to ourselves, time to make our way on the slack line of a day, to feel the sense of ourselves on our own, making the micro-adjustments while making new discoveries along the line.  

After four months of micro-adjustments prompted by delayed flights, waylaid plans, new situations, social mores, and so many different temporary homes, we are back in the US, staying in my brother’s home in the run up to the holidays. I reflect on the last four months, what all of this has meant. How home is more of a state of mind than a place, where small adjustments are often needed even in – or especially in – familiar conditions.

What is the slackline in your day? And what is your guide wire?

Nick Sholley