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Living in Amerika


I’m sitting in an underground heavy metal bar in the capital of a former Soviet Republic and the elevated Yamaha speakers are blasting Rammstein. I’d love to know what my 16 year old self thinks of that sentence. I’m typing this on a next gen Chinese smartphone. The bartender here is wearing studded platform boots, one of which she stomps along to the beat as she scrolls through her Instagram feed on a Taiwanese phablet. Teenage patrons in cutoff shirts shout over each other in a tumbled mix of Russian, English, and Other. Richard Z Kruspe’s curdled Denglisch chorus comes into focus: We’re all living in Amerika, Amerika, ist wunderbar. I sip my Jack Daniel’s and think, yeah, pretty much.



Moving to another country means less than it ever has. Or maybe it’s the word ‘country’ itself that feels antiquated to me. Like it or not, globalization is a real thing. It’s speeding up. It’s here and it’s happening. But I’m going to sidestep that gnarly tangent and refocus on the topic at hand.


Years ago, I had a dream. More like a vision. Of the future-future. Of me. I had a full head of silver hair. I looked a little frail. I think I might have been a vegetarian. I was wearing flannel and standing in a somewhat forested area while hammering in a fence post. A greyhound named Stanley was by my side. Behind us, on the deck of a modest cabin, a woman who I intuited to be my future wife was cursing at me in a mixture of English and Other. Screaming at me to make some damn money for a change. To write another book or something. She may have be holding our crying baby or grandbaby. I don’t know. I remained focused on my fence post. I kept my back to her. I started whistling. This was and is my dream. Say what you will about it but it’s mine and I’ve analyzed it and I like it.


There are many ways that dream could become a reality. But I’m an extremely stubborn man. For the last ten years – and maybe always, in retrospect – I’ve refused to put anything but passion first. How long can one go on like that though, practically speaking? I’ve done the math. Plotted the trajectory. Calculated the end game to a certain point. You’re kind of forced to, again and again, as time goes on.



In 2014, I started test piloting new countries. Hungary. Serbia. Kosovo. Ukraine. Turkey. Other. Looking for a place I could pursue my dream, my way. Do my job. Make my art. Pay my taxes. Save money. Fall in love. Visit strange and beautiful and sometimes dangerous places. Meet weird and interesting people with a whole spectrum of perspectives. Be in the middle of things. Maybe one day buy a house. Or a modest cabin. Build a fence around it. Start a family. It’s my American Dream. And in a very Matt way, it’s fitting that I’ve left America, left home, to pursue it.


I’ve moved over a dozen times in the last ten years. My parents have their nomadic version of this trip going on, too. So the word home has taken on strange and malleable meanings. And maybe it’s something that’s easier for me to describe from a distance. I see more similarities to home every day. And the differences – both subtle and overt – function as either new ways to see old things or as a mainline injection of third-eye opening empathy.


You can’t really leave home, I’m learning. It’s a place you carry inside you. A place you build and rebuild each time you move, using the tools and parts you’ve collected, weightlessly, along the way.


I’m sitting in an underground heavy metal bar in the capital of a former Soviet Republic and the elevated Yamaha speakers are blasting Rammstein. I like the fact of that sentence so much that I am repeating it. This place, this moment, it feels kind of like America. And then it suddenly feels totally foreign. It’s both. It’s somewhere in between. It’s the future. It’s Other. It’s home, for now, for me.


Published inMattTraveling