I’ve lived my entire life in one city in the centre of Canada. So have my parents. My grandparents immigrated here from Italy back in the 60’s and my entire family lives here. All of my uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents are no more than thirty minutes away at any given time. Then why do I still want to move away?
I’m not the only one. We see it everywhere: kids move away for college; adults for a job opportunity or “a fresh start.” Our geographic location is intrinsically tied to our identity, an aspect of tribalism we haven’t evolved past. Our hometown often dictates the way we speak, how we identify outsiders and (most importantly) how we pick our favourite sports team. Where we come from dictates who we are, whether by confining us to stereotypes or pushing us to spite them.
For example, I’m from Winnipeg, a smallish city with frigid winters. I like to brag about my cold weather tolerance (like any good Winterpegger) and I yell “True North” during the national anthem. I also apologize when I bump into someone because we don’t really have crowded streets, and I think thirty minutes is too long of a commute for work.
So, I’m a Winnipegger through and through, but I don’t want to live my whole life just in Winnipeg. I want to experience a different city and even a different country. Why? I think it has something to do with the good ol’ mythic quest structure. Fair warning, I love the mythic quest structure, and I find many things to tie into it, but this is what the structure is made for.
Also known as the hero’s journey, the mythic quest structure is the fabric of almost every story. To put it simply, the hero lives in a wasteland of sorts when they receive a call to action. Then they must undergo a journey (physically or mentally) to restore the land. Along the way, they conquer thresholds and a successful quester will achieve transcendence and become a more balanced version of themselves. Some of the most popular stories in pop culture follow this structure: Star Wars, Harry Potter, basically any fantasy or adventure story. But, it’s not just fiction that employs these structures; it can be found in autobiographies, new journalism, and I even find aspects of it in my real life.
Stories are meant to provide guidance. They teach us morals, societal expectations and how to behave. It stands to reason then that our craving to explore past our homeland would reflect in our stories. We need more information, more experience to figure out who we want to be. Moving away and living somewhere else shifts our perspectives, introducing us to new people with experiences different from our own. We learn how to adapt to the new situation and grow with it.
I can’t help but think of my grandparents, hopping on planes or boats and venturing to a different continent. Nowadays, we can google our destination and arrange living arrangements with a few clicks. There’s some control we can apply to it. But back then, my grandparents had to hope for the best and take a leap of faith. It sounds terrifying, but also amazing.
Maybe my quest story has an adventure into a new land. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s not the new postal code I’m craving, but rather the new experience. A break from the norm, an escape from the tedium of growing up in a city only 464.1 kilometres wide.
Until I can satiate this hunger for new experience, I’ll nibble on appetizers and travel wherever and whenever I can, returning to my little city in the centre of Canada.