Living Abroad,  Thriving

What is “Home?”

Dear Mary,

As the days until my big trip to the US this summer grow fewer and fewer I find myself anxiously trying to answer the question “What is home?” You would think this would be a simple question to answer, but thanks to my years spent living in Spain, I have to admit that I no longer quite know what the correct answer is. On a regular basis, this might not even be a pressing question to have to answer but when it comes to conversations in which someone else asks me about my ‘home’ I find I get a bit tongue-tied. Is ‘home’ the place I live on a daily basis? The place I grew up? The place I have fondest memories of? The place I have people I consider family? And what if the answer to all of those questions are different or if each one has multiple answers? How does one know where their ‘home’ is??

Thankfully, I find that when it comes to things like the complex concept of ‘home,’ I can often turn to my friends “from back home” and count on them to capture my feelings more eloquently and perfectly than I ever could. So what did a couple of my best friends have to say in response to my question “What is home?”


Well, according to Chelsea…

What makes a place a ‘home’?Man, home is so complicated whenever and wherever! … My relationship with ‘home’ has changed too much over the past 10 years—wanting to be home, hating being home, leaving home—and now having essentially 3 homes (Darien/Chicago always, wherever my parents are, and then the place I actually live). And of course, my ongoing decision about whether or not to MOVE HOME…

Home is places, home is people, home is feelings—and it’s never quite what you remember or want it to be or wish it was because it’s all so tied up in memories and the past (even in the place you currently live!). But it’s still awesome and comforting and relaxing, even when it’s changed (i.e. my parents moving to a new town)! COMPLICATED.


According to Amanda…

It’s a hard word. I think for all of us who had a good childhood and truly appreciated our homes and, at least at some point, envisioned living in the Chicago area, we won’t ever not consider that area home. Even if our families leave, it will always be a home of some sort. It took me a decent amount of time to call St. Louis home. It started as very temporary and then I went to school there so it became temporary for school, but then when I got great job offers and so did [my husband], it started to transform and I called it home.

Perhaps home is more about people than places…All the same, I still told people that I was from Chicago when I traveled… Now here we are in the DC metro and we just came from living in St. Louis for 5.5 years—that’s not a short period of time. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss some aspects until we got here. It’s certainly not going to take as long to make DC metro home, but there are pieces of St. Louis that will be missed and that I now look back at and see were the things that made it homey.

[…Home is] a very interesting concept for all of us. We are all people that can genuinely make connections to new people and places (and love to do so!) but also maintain old connections in a meaningful way. So, I think home is actually a constantly growing entity for all of us. And this, I think, is actually quite amazing. We know how to move on but also how to hold on.


Knowing “how to move on but also hold on”

What does home look like for you?Although both Chelsea and Amanda had more to say about ‘home,’ I feel like I had to end on that thought, because it truly encompasses why it’s so hard to define ‘home’ but also why ‘home’ is so important to me. I’ve lived for no more than two years at a time in any given apartment over the last ten years, I’ve moved across the ocean as well as just down the street and each time it creates a deep and lasting feeling of home. Instead of being able to let go and move on to the new place, I seem to hold on as well and thus each move seems to simply add one more dear place to my long list of ‘homes.’

It is such a gift to be able to find home wherever I wander and settle, but this complicates my understanding of ‘home’ and, perhaps, creates distance as I start to define ‘home’ in different ways. I’ve mentioned before how much I miss ‘home’ but the reality is (as Chelsea said) that that ‘home’ feeling I miss is wrapped up in memories and doesn’t necessarily exist in the way I long for it. However, loving two (or three or four or countless, to be honest) homes at once can not only be complicated but exhausting.


PinterestIs there any way to separate the feeling of ‘home’ from homes past without disregarding all the goodness, growth, and love that home gave to you? Then again, is there any benefit to having only one ‘home’? I must admit that this topic leaves me with more questions than answers but I’d love to open it up to your thoughts as well and I’ll be sure to dive more into why it’s become a bit of an overwhelming topic with my impending visit ‘home’ soon.



P.S. I found it especially complicated to label Spain and the USA when answering questions about ‘home’ in a recent interview with Abby of the Wanderlusters Mind, as I don’t know if I have the same definition of ‘home’ as the person I was talking to. Feel free to listen and let me know if you what you think!

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