Four-lettered words are some of the most complicated: love, hate, pain, hope, home. If you ask a person to define them, there will never be one correct, all-encompassing answer. I love both my family and my dog, my best friends and sunrises, ice cream and freediving. Do I love them all the same way? Of course not (one would hope).
With the same confusing definition that love brings, I find myself struggling to define my version of ‘home.’ Maybe because I feel like I’m searching for home now more than ever, after having been continent hopping for the last year. Or maybe because I’m worried that I might never successfully find it.
After college, I packed my whole life into a 40 liter backpack and set off with a one way ticket, and didn’t return for over a year. After returning home this past June, I was excited to spend time in the town where I grew up but, due to some unexpected complications, quickly had to repack and head off to another country again. In that moment, I felt like home was a place: my childhood house, the sound of the ocean I know so well, friends from high school. That physical location has a gravitational pull on my heart that keeps me returning every year like waves to the sand.
But then I started to think about the homes I had discovered around the globe during this past year: The Daintree Rainforest, where life is simple and I smile at the thought of friendships formed under the canopy of century-old trees. Koh Tao, where my freediving journey began and many relationships will continue on for the rest of my life. India, who cradles my heart gently and serenades me to return again.
In these places, part of my soul stays behind and fills me with pure joy upon recalling every moment and memory. Part of me still lives there, and it still lives within me. Is that not also what ‘home’ means?
My first impressionable memory with this shapeshifting word was when I moved to college freshman year, living in a dorm with a roommate. The first few weeks we always called them dorms. Afterall, it was just a place where I slept and kept my belongings. Then, as the fall days grew shorter, routine settled in, and I started carving out my niche, it happened. “I’m just going to head home after class.” Could it really have changed that fast? Am I allowed to have more than one “home”? I wondered if my mom would be angry with me…
Now, sitting in my apartment in England, this does not feel like home. Or at least not yet. The walls are bare, the weather is as grey as I feel, and I float through time aimlessly like a jellyfish. My purpose here isn’t clear to me yet.
Although, if it doesn’t ‘feel’ like home, then I suppose I’ve just answered my own question. Home, while also a place, is a feeling. It’s been there all along, just waiting for me to be still long enough to listen and recognize.
Where that feeling of ‘home’ comes from is different for everyone. Cape May will always be home for the many years and memories of my life that rest happily on the sandy shores. Home in the Daintree and Koh Tao and India is for the parts of myself that I found in the land and in other people. Take away those who I met on my journey and the place entirely transforms.
Most importantly, I found home within myself. No matter what country, time, or location, I am always at home in my body and mind. It protects me in the physical world and allows me to thrive in the mental.
While the journey home is a difficult one, and looks different for every person, it is the most important explorative journey we can take. We find home in unexpected places, people and feelings. If someone asks me now, “Have you found home?”, I might just answer with three letters: “Yes.”