Over the past few days, I went to visit a friend from back home, who is currently living here in Australia. I have known this person for many years and we share a lot of the same friends and memories. Apart from the now unusual experience of staying in a house and sleeping in an individual bedroom, with my own double bed, I was also struck by the familiar feeling of spending time with an old acquaintance.
As my friend drove us along, as she had so many times in the UK, I thought how strange it was to feel almost as though nothing had changed. The feeling of familiarity could almost trick me into believing I was at home again, but one look out of the window, even one look inside at the car, clearly showed that everything was different. The only thing that was familiar was the two of us.
At another time, during my stay in Sydney, I felt most at home after meeting a new friend. The hostel we were staying at actually had an oven and a freezer, along with a large cosy TV room and set of DVD’s. Baking banana bread, watching films and drinking a large amount of tea definitely helped to add to this feeling, but mostly it was the cosy and comfortable familiarity of having a friend I naturally clicked with that made me feel so settled and at home again. Yet there were still times that I missed the UK and this feeling of familiarity also reminded me of my own family that I was missing. Similarly, talking to my friend from the UK about people from back home made me wish that I could see them again.
This has made me wonder, how much feeling ‘at home’ relies on our surroundings and how much is transferable through the people we know and the feelings that they evoke? If we travelled half way across the world with all of our friends and family in tow, how homesick would we be?
Yet many people relocate, sometimes with friends and partners or starting a new family of their own, but sometimes people make this move completely alone. What makes us so drawn to a place that we feel this urge to completely relocate our lives? Undoubtedly people change and develop over time, often feeling that they have ‘outgrown’ a place and feeling the need for new challenges and change, but how do we deal with missing the people that we leave behind?
When I left the UK last November, I was well overdue a change and I had long been craving the excitement and challenges of living in a new place. In no way do I regret my decision and I have no doubt that I did the right thing by making this move, but I frequently miss home and the familiarity of the UK and more than anything, I miss the people I am so used to seeing on a regular basis.
I do not doubt that the places we live in can play a strong part in making us feel at home; the feelings and memories evoked by returning to a specific place can be immense! However, it is the people we associate with that bring these places to life. Is it possible that by sharing our experiences in these places, we attach emotions to them, making us feel bonded not only to the person but also to the place? Or can our love for a place stand alone despite our relationships? How do you decide when to call a new place home?