Books

Review of When Wanderer’s Cease to Roam by Virginia Swift

As travelers, there’s nothing more exciting than the moment of departure. Nothing compares to that moment when the wheels

of our plane leave the earth, when we feel the gust of wind that fills the sails of our ship, or when our train rounds the first bend toward our destination. And yet, as much as travel enriches our perspectives, deepens our appreciations of other lands, and broadens our understanding of people from other cultures, there comes a time when the journey ends. We return home, unpack our suitcases, and return – for a time, anyway – to our non-traveling lives.

But what if you’ve been a traveler for not just a month, or for a season, but two decades? How does a traveler – a true nomad – learn, simply, to stay put?

That’s the challenge that Vivian Swift faced. After racking up 23 temporary addresses in 20 years, Swift packed her traveling rucksack away and moved to a small town on the edge of Long Island Sound. When Wanderers Cease to Roam is the result of her attempt to not just slow down, but (perhaps, just for a moment) to stand still.

Part year-long journal and part memoir of her globe-trotting history, Wanderers is saturated with moments that will speak to many nomads, such as Swift’s curiosity at amassing everyday items such as ice cube trays and dish towels, or her gradual understanding of the fortitude necessary to get through the chill and isolation of a Northeastern February. Illustrated with Swift’s own watercolors on every page, the author slowly begins to explore her new habitat as she would any exotic location – by getting to know the locals, exploring secret gardens, and slowly opening herself up to the everyday charms of her town. Beautifully written and illustrated, When Wanderers Cease to Roam shows us that putting down roots does not equal complacency, and being still does not equal being immobile.

As Swift writes, “Some days, ‘staying put’ might feel the same as going nowhere. Make a cup of tea, and wait for that feeling to pass.”