Where are you from?

A storm approaches in the distance, the sky a massive wall of fog and haze that can be seen from the highest vantage point we know; that of our hotel room on the third floor, overlooking the concrete encased river that upon our arrival two days ago was so low we considered walking across it to get to the small decaying temple on the edge of the island opposite. 

Passenger boats filled with orange vested tourists belch their way up river while a flock of white birds scissor through the sky in the opposite direction.

Smoggy and foggy afternoon in hanoi, vietnam near where john mccain was shot down and captured

Smoggy and foggy afternoon in hanoi, vietnam near where john mccain was shot down and captured

I wish I could be more specific. I wish I could tell you where the boats were going, what kind of bird that was, if it’s really a rain storm approaching or merely the persistent fog of pollution so common to SE Asia, a headachy mix of the exhaust from thousands of motorcycles and the national pastime of burning everything.

But I can’t. We aren’t in any given place long enough to really settle in and learn the history and geography and language and customs. We are the ultimate tourists since we sold everything. We stumble when people ask us where we are from.

And since there is so much touring in SE Asia, often that question often means where were you last?

For us that would be Hanoi, Hoi An or Saigon, but trace it back from there and we are from Luang Prabang/Chiang Mai/Sri Lanka/Paris/Zagreb/Reykjavik. How we answer changes on the context of who has asked. Hotels staff often make conversation upon check in, tuk tuk drivers want to know nationality.

Sometimes we say the US. If pressed further we say Chicago because let’s be honest, nobody outside the US knows where Minneapolis is, often being confused even within our own borders for the state in which the city resides.

I’ve always had this conflict with this question. Born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Cleveland, Chicago, and Madison with summer and winter breaks split between home bases as far flung as Toledo, Birmingham, Detroit and Jakarta.

As we travel more and more we get better at answering this question. We now take turns and say that we’ve sold everything to travel the world and that some days we don’t ever want to come back. Which of course raises more questions.

More often than not, it’s easier to think and talk about where we are going next, what is going to happen in June when we fly from London back to Minneapolis.

Back to our friends. Back to our old lives? Back to the small amount of possessions that while I’m sweating and drinking $1 beer by the pool in Cambodia are now freezing in a dark storage unit in the suburb.

For now we are travelling. Travelling towards some distant and semi fixed point in the future. Towards a date, a city. Away from other cities. Nomads. Vagabonds.