As I was walking my kids home from school I was reminded of the comfort that we can find in what doesn’t change, what feels eternal, and that this is what makes us feel we’re Home, right where we are meant to be, whether we were born there or are just passing through.
What does it mean to be Home?
Lately, I’ve been feeling nostalgic, and it’s nothing new. It’s about home, what it is and where to call it. Having traveled the world and being a part of a family that mixes different nationalities, languages and cultures, it’s an issue I struggle with off and on. I’ve called diverse places home over the years, small American towns and some of the biggest cities in the world. There is a part of me that wants to finally make that big decision – where to live – where to call home once and for all.
And then there is the rest of me, that can’t seem to settle down, that arrives and is ready for the next trip and the next experience. In the same way that I know in my soul that happiness isn’t brought about by a place you reside, I also know that I’m connected to different places, in an important way.
I couldn’t wait to leave rural Colorado as a teenager. But in leaving and moving away all I did was initiate a long search for where to live. First it was about living in a city, with opportunities, culture and exciting happenings. Then it was about moving a few states away, to a city much nearer to the sea. San Francisco felt like where I wanted to be for a time, until it didn’t. Then I had the urge to travel, specifically to explore other countries. It came out of nowhere and suddenly I was on a plane to Costa Rica with my brother.
I went to Costa Rica. And then to Peru. And then to Mexico. And then I quit my job at the time and spent four whole months exploring South America. I kept coming back to California in the in-betweens, until the time came when it didn’t feel right anymore. I loved a lot about it, but it got expensive, and I had met someone and our kids were born, and it became unfeasible. And I do not thrive on foggy summer days!
Then there was Barcelona and the adventure of a new language and a new culture. I felt at home in the climate, out of place in the job market, and truly loved by some dear friends and family, but I still wanted to come back to the States. I had two Spanish children but I couldn’t decide whether it felt like home.
Apparently other expats have also struggled to find a sense of belonging.
It took every ounce of energy to uproot my children from their school, to say goodbye and return to the U.S. In the end I even forgot my reasons why, or if I could remember them they didn’t have any power left; they were like empty attachments I once held in high esteem but lost their meaning in the struggle and sadness of saying goodbye.
We settled in a rural California town that is a nice place to live but that doesn’t feel like home. Mentally, my brain will try to reason things out. Were we better off there? Are we better off here? It’s like a part of me thinks there is an answer I can find if I just think about it long enough. I know from experience that we can go round and round like this for ages. There comes a time just to let go of the question. Otherwise the search goes on and on. Where are we going and how come we never arrive?
As I am grappling with issues of home, it makes perfect sense that it keeps popping up constantly in different areas of life. If I expand my definition of home, I start to feel a lot more open. Home doesn’t have to be a place; it can be a state of being.
What Jessica Semaan says in her post on feeling at home resonates:
“Home is moments. And they are at your fingertips.”
I’ve written that I often feel most at home (and most myself) while on vacation. In this sense it is the moments, often in a new place, that are linked with a feeling of freedom, and we can relive these moments and be at Home any time we choose.
For me Home is a connection with the natural world, with my family, and the beauty and poignancy of daily life, with its quotidian routines.
And yet home can be a place for me as well (if we can be at home in place without living there). There is a new book out I can’t wait to get my hands on, At Home in the World, a celebration of ways to be home even while travelling. When I heard about Tsh (the author) travelling around the world for a year with her husband and kids it helped me find hope that my own children would be able to thrive in two countries.
The place where I have had many of these “home while travelling” moments is in a tiny rural village (Begur) on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast. There is a little apartment there where I have spent at least a bit of time every year since 2003. The moments are timeless and eternal. I don’t have to live there year round to know its daily routines, the hours of its fish market, where to get a traditional cake on Easter Sunday, the five beaches within driving distance, the bars on the town plaza that stay open during the winter months, the way the rolling hillsides look in the afternoon on an autumn day, with their restored castles and a few old buildings clustered around, the faces (and some of the names) of the locals who’ve been there for years and never leave.
As we walked home from school I tossed around some ideas. I don’t feel at home where I currently reside, and I don’t seem to live where I do feel at home.
How is it possible to manage this? To be good in the world, at home or not? To see the beauty in each place while accepting the challenges and knowing that there will always be some?
I noticed the green growth all around, the lush flower beds and the lawns that haven’t needed watering in months, the clouds above in the clear sky, rinsed of its usual beige tone. The overgrown and wild-looking grasses from the rains very much resemble those of my homey little vacation village. The same sky and its clouds is what I look at every day, whether I am here or there. The sun shines down on all of us, even if it gets darker earlier in some places and there are variances in seasons, temperatures and climates.
No matter where I am, I can lay on the grass and notice it’s smell and prickly blades. I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of air, no matter which of my selected spots currently houses me. My experience of these things is what feels like Home. Home is what feels solid, eternal, if only I pause and take the time to be present in it.