For the last month or so we’ve been thinking about the concept of “home”. Having now lived outside our home country, the US, for most of the last eight years, the concept of home has become much more indefinite. Ways in which we may have defined home in the past now seem inadequate, or at least incomplete:
- Home is where the heart is: In that sense, we have several homes–Korea, Portland, Wiesbaden, the Oregon coast, Monterey…the list goes on. Each of those places has touched us emotionally and we are comfortable in all of them. So, those places are all our home.
- Home is where your stuff is: Well, that one works alright, up to a point. Even though we’ve pared down our material goods, we still have stuff in different places and every time we take a trip, some of our stuff comes with us. Someone once said, “home is where your toothbrush is” and that definition seems to fit as well as any.
- Home is where your bills are mailed to: That one doesn’t work so well when all we have is a post office box in a non-descript building not even close to where we live. We might as well consider our computer our home since that’s where most bills come anyway.
- Home is where your passport was issued: That definition works OK, except that our passports also read, US Department of State. Not necessarily a very homey concept.
- Home is where people know you, “where everybody knows your name…”: That’s also a good one, but we can also feel at home in places where no one knows us at all. Anonymity can be very liberating and comforting.
- Home is where you grew up, where you are “from”: That’s certainly true. But what happens when the place where you grew up doesn’t feel like home or very comfortable? Places change and what was once familiar is no more. On a recent trip back to where Jay grew up, he didn’t feel at home at all. The long-closed meat-packing plant his father built up over 25 years had been reduced to rubble. The house Jay grew up in was still there but no longer resembled what it once was. The surrounding area that was once pasture land was now covered with mobile homes and suburban housing. So that home was only a memory.
- Home is where you feel comfortable: This is the definition we feel best about. When Jay was in graduate school, he was encouraged to ultimately become a “cultural chameleon” where he could adapt quickly to whatever different cultural situation he found himself. We feel pretty comfortable almost anywhere we go, although we can certainly imagine some places and situations where it would be really hard to convince ourselves that we were home.
The bottom line is home can be wherever you want it to be, wherever you feel comfortable and where you make at least some kind of social connection. If it’s the place where you were born, grew up and maybe never really traveled far away from for very long, that’s home. If it’s another city or country where you feel a level of comfort, that’s home. It’s as simple as that. In either case, you’ll never be homesick.