‘Home’ is a concept I think about a lot. It can mean such different things to different people, and it can mean different things to the same person throughout their lifetime. Some people are blessed with the unique ability to feel at home anywhere. These people should count themselves very fortunate, for this doesn’t come quite so easily to the rest of us.
When I meet someone with this ability, I can’t help but feel envious – envious, but also incredulous. How can one feel at home anywhere, and at all times? It’s a question I hope to answer one day.
But for me, right now, ‘home’ simply refers to the place where I was born and raised. And I don’t even mean my hometown necessarily, but rather the entire region of Central Washington, where I spend my time whenever I return to the United States.
I don’t have a house or an apartment to refer to as ‘home.’ There is no single city in the world that screams to me “You belong!” when I set foot on her soil. Perhaps travel has played a role in this – I constantly wonder what else there is to see, and make no small effort to see it.
I haven’t found ‘home’ in another person, nor in a single group of friends or a community. I’m sure I will ultimately find those things and my idea of ‘home’ will shift once again, but in the meantime, it’s just a word synonymous with Washington. Truth be told, there isn’t one singular definition for the word in my mind – anything I attempt to come up with invariably feels insipid, so I’ve given up trying.
On the other hand, I’ve been able to identify certain phenomena that take place in the places I feel most at home, and others that occur when I am lacking one. I will outline these below, and for simplicity’s sake, I’ve labeled them the “Pros” and “Cons” of having a home. These are not meant to be incendiary, but are just one traveler’s attempt to make sense of the ever-enigmatic concept of ‘home.’
Pros of Having a ‘Home’
Comfort and familiarity
In a place that feels like home, I am at ease. I navigate each day confidently and without worry or stress. I know where I am going, getting lost is never a concern, and I recognize the places, the faces, and the emotions that I encounter. I know people, and they know me. I have favorite haunts, and if tasked with playing tour guide, I’d fulfil the role brilliantly. I am comfortable, and my surroundings are familiar.
Easy day-to-day activities
In a place where I feel at home, my day-to-day activities are a breeze. I speak the language and can communicate effectively. I know simple facts that make my life feel effortless such as the local bus schedule, the price of a banana, or where to get the best coffee, and if I find myself in a tough situation, I can calmly and easily resolve it. There is nothing I can’t handle when I’m in a place that feels like ‘home.’
A sense of belonging
This may be the most challenging feeling to express in a few words, but if you’ve felt a sense of belonging in your lifetime (and I imagine you have at least once) you’ll know exactly what I mean. You feel welcome, appreciated, and a part of something bigger than yourself. Perhaps you have a community of people around you – people who love you, who look forward to seeing you, and who play important roles in your life. You don’t feel out of place. When you’re ‘home,’ your heart just seems to know it.
Cons of Having a ‘Home’
Slow or minimal personal growth
The moments in my life when I have experienced the most rapid, meaningful personal growth were the moments when I was far, far away from anywhere that felt like ‘home.’ I was faced with challenges each day that caused me to develop new skills and new methods of problem solving. My worldview was expanded in ways I never imagined. As such, I feel that having a ‘home’ leads to less significant personal growth.
Fewer new experiences
In a place that is not familiar to you, every day brings new and exciting experiences. These experiences may be small, or their gravity may be enormous. Either way, these new experiences are what keep us feeling alive, curious, and open-minded. When I’m at ‘home,’ I have far fewer of these new experiences and sometimes find myself feeling bored or anxious as a result.
A lack of independence
Whenever I am at home, I find it all too easy to rely on others. Not that this is entirely a bad thing – having a community is vitally important to our well-being and I wouldn’t trade the people who care about me for all the money in the world. But traveling solo in places where I know no-one and feel anything but at home, I develop an independence that I never would have otherwise. Being at home allows me to take the easy way out rather than relying on my own resources to get by.
Why Both Experiences Matter
I would not be the person I am today, had I not experienced both sides of this coin. Having a place that feels comfortable makes me feel important, and loved, and safe. These feelings, when combined, create contentment. On the other hand, having so many places to go where I am outside of my comfort zone is how I’ve grown into the person I’m finally proud to be – strong-willed, independent, resourceful, and self-aware.
No matter what ‘home’ means to you, I hope you are lucky enough to experience it – in many places, under many circumstances. And I hope all the same that you will find the courage to leave it behind, if only for a short while.
This article is part of our AT HOME series featuring stories from and about the meaning of ‘home’.
This is a guest post by Leah Davis.
Leah Davis is the founding editor of the travel and lifestyle blog The Sweetest Way where she shares her travel experiences and advice for creating a location independent lifestyle. She is also the author of an ebook on the same topic – a guide for becoming location independent. She has lived in 4 countries and traveled in dozens more; she is currently searching for the perfect place to call ‘home.’ Find her on Facebook and Instagram and say hello!Tweet