Home: Before and After the Summer

What is home?
A place where you can feel comfortable and at ease.
Feel safe
Feel supported, feel close to people.
Be part of a community
Feel challenged, entertained, engaged

Where is home?

No home?

It’s where you make it?

 

When I came back to my hometown after being away for a year, it was pretty much how I knew it was going to be. I had anticipated it would be a struggle: I was returning in the winter, I had nowhere to live so was staying in my mum’s living room, I no longer had a car and I needed to find a new job. All of this, I found, was bearable though. What I had not anticipated was the immeasurable distance that I would feel.

I had not been happy about leaving Australia and while I did want to see my family, I did not really want to be coming back to the same place. It was the easiest and most sensible option, I told myself. I can save some money, spend time with my family and plan my next moves for the future.

When people describe returning home after travelling, they often say things like “everything else is still exactly the same but you feel completely different”. This suggested to me that relationships would not change – at least not in the sense of the way others behaved towards me. Alternatively, I have heard people say that – with varying degrees of ease – they managed to just slip back into old routines when they returned home. Some people seem to find this takes a number of months, whereas other people say that for the first few weeks it’s fine but after that, they begin to get restless.

Personally, I found that I experienced neither of these. I returned home and things did feel different. Maybe this was because I had changed and therefore felt different but I honestly did feel like things had changed. I could now see the lives that people had lead without me – I still can – and this lead me to feel as if they were far away, or maybe I was the one who felt far away but which ever way I looked at it, I felt distance. Yet I was the one who had chosen to go away and was reluctant to return to the place I had called ‘home’. I am the person who still feels the need to leave, to find new places, meet new people – I suppose to build a new home?

To some extent I still feel this distance now. I guess long term travel is a test of any relationship but I have learned that I can still reach out and those people who still want to, will reciprocate. This has helped me to get through my time being back here and has also shown me that although you may return to a place for the people, their lives will inevitably continue without you.

 

Yet I still feel that I am wrenching myself away…

I am now in a position where I have been back for almost a year. I have transitioned through many emotional phases since returning but ultimately I have stuck to my original plan and in a few weeks I will be travelling again. I should probably feel excited but I have so many mixed emotions and thoughts going through my mind. I am going to miss my family so much and honestly, I don’t really want to leave them again. Flying off by myself to other countries can feel intimidating, even if I have done this once before. I have now had time to feel stability again, security and familiarity. I have climbed back into my old-new cocoon and I can’t deny that in a way it feels good and safe.

I question myself – I know too well that once an end is in sight, it is so easy to begin to ignore the negatives that drove you to make this change in the first place. In a way, it feels that it has taken me this long to begin to feel at home again but maybe I feel truly at home because I am following the path I have set out for myself.

Yet I can’t help but feel emotional, thinking about what I am leaving and apprehensive about the uncertainty of the future. I remind myself that change is good, that stretching myself is necessary and I hope that time proves that this journey is worth the “risk”.

Deciphering Home

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?