A touring fiddler shares thoughts and answers to your questions about life on the road.

By Laura Cortese

I’m asked a lot of questions about my life on the move. For example: “How are the joys of traveling—discovery and adventure—offset by the loss of a sense of home?”

To this I reply, what is “home”? I mean really home. Not four walls and collection of objects that you have acquired over time. I mean the more abstract and yet essential definition of home.

HOME: A sense of belonging, or purpose. A place to feel at peace and relax.

If we can agree on this more ephemeral definition, I think I can answer this question. We find a sense of belonging or purpose in many ways everyday. Watching a friend look around the room for the coffee cup she’s lost track of, and handing it back to her. Going to fiddle camp for the first time and realizing that you’ve had the same struggles and triumphs as a room full of fiddling strangers. Talking with someone new and realizing you have the same favorite author or composer. Even when engaging in personal things like running or biking alone outdoors, you pass people going the other direction and acknowledge that you are sharing in the same joyful activity.

Some careers are filled with purpose: doctors, scientists, teachers. As a society we understand that experts in these areas are essential to the success of our culture. When it comes to music there can be an intense internal struggle or external discussion about its societal value. Doctors care for our bodies, teachers care for our minds, and musicians care for our hearts, souls, and internal life.

When I am traveling, I feel this purpose more strongly than when I am at home. When I see tears on the face of someone in the audience, I know that he needed this experience. When I am on the road, I am more often in contact with people who are able to reflect back to me that my music has empowered them or recharged them to continue on their own path.

It takes work to belong. You must seek connections and shared experiences with those around you. When we stop seeking that connection, we look up one day and wonder what we share in common with our partner or best friend. It is disorienting to feel lonely in a familiar place. It makes sense to feel alone when you are in a new place and yet freely experience joy when finding something familiar in a stranger. Most recently I met someone on a ferry in the middle of the North Sea on the way home from the Shetland Folk Festival. We realized we both write immense numbers of postcards to friends and family back home. Finding this peculiar shared interest felt like a gift. And in that moment, I was home.

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