What is home truly? A place? A person? A feeling?
Every emotion under the sun surged through my body as I hopped off the plane for my first visit back to the States in over 18 months. Excitement, anticipation, fear, overwhelm. But all my worries suddenly disappeared as I was wrapped in a warm embrace from my mama and pops. “You’re finally home, I thought this day would never come!”It is an interesting life, that of an expat. Despite feelings of comfort and familiarity, I felt out of place, as if I didn’t belong, a stranger in my own home. Home wasn’t what I knew; yet very much the same as I had left it.
This difficulty was compounded by the realization that my visit was fleeting. Between Christmas festivities, my sister’s graduation, and welcome home parties, I would be back in Australia in the blink of an eye. I had a week to soak up all that I had missed in my year and a half away. At times in Australia I long for home, imagining how wonderful it would be to return to the familiar comforts. But the concept of “home” changes as an expat. Your “childhood home” becomes just your “parents house” as you move away for college, and even further so when you set out across the globe.
And now I am left wondering: what is home? Is it found in a place? Is it having your family and friends around? Is it stability and routine? Knowing your way around a city?Home for me is not a place, but a feeling. A warm, cozy bed you never want to leave in the morning. The smell of freshly brewed coffee to greet you, ground in a sense of belonging and purpose.Home is a feeling of relief, a breath of fresh air. The people that will always welcome you with open arms, no matter how long you have been away. Home is puppy kisses, love and affection. Fresh dinner awaiting you on the table, replacing years of takeout.Home is a space you are free to be naked, both physically and emotionally, surrounded by those who make you feel whole. Living across the world, I instantly became a more interesting person. A storyteller of my many adventures (and mishaps), retelling of experiences many would only dream of. Messages flooded my inbox from people I hadn’t seen in years. Asking to take me to dinner or out for coffee. Woah, Australia, I’ve always wanted to go there but it’s so far! Do they really have all those deadly animals? Are koalas hanging from the trees and kangaroos hopping down the street? Have you fell in love with a man with a sexy accent?
A startling revelation hit me: I’d outgrown my hometown and could never return to Ohio to live. I’d feel stagnant, unable to learn, grow and feel fulfilled. Friends from high school would be perfectly content raising a family in our native suburb, with no desire to get out and see more. Me, I have a thirst for discovering the unknown. A thirst that will never fully be quenched.Expat life is thrilling. The experiences and challenges of life abroad help you learn and grow exponentially as a person. The memories you accumulate will be valuable sentiments for years to come.Day by day I didn’t realize just how much I changed, but reflecting back over two years, I have grown so much. Home, on the other hand was not much different than the place I had grown up the first 22 years of my life. Everything seemed to be just the way I had left it, almost as if it was waiting for me to come back. Sure, I feel the guilt, missing out on major life events, both the sad and the celebratory. But in the end, as you watch yourself grow, you need to remember who it is you’re growing for.I am a wanderer, a drifter, a peculiar mix of expat, living and creating a life for myself outside of my home country, and a traveler, never to be confined to one place forever.“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey” Through this journey, I have discovered that your heart can find comfort in so many people, places and moments over the years. Home is a place that just feels right, and deep down you will know when you have found where you belong.
What does home mean in your eyes?