I LANDED IN SYDNEY two years ago with nothing but a backpack, an expectant and excited heart and an unknown future.
And here I am now traversing through Indonesia without any idea of where I am headed or what I am doing.
It’s funny, because if there was anything I realized when I left Australia and started my travels through New Zealand, it is that for the first time in my life, I feel like I am wandering.
People I meet ask me where I was from, and naturally I always say the States. Yet I never fail to follow it up with, “But I have been living in Australia for two years.”
“Oh, so you are going back there then?”
What? Well…no. No, I left. I mean…I lived there for a couple of years. But yeah, no. I do not live there anymore.
“Ah right. Where are you going from here? Do you reckon you will go home at some point?”
Home. What is home anymore?
Think about how your childhood home can suddenly transform into your parents house. In university, we would say “I am going home for the weekend” or “I am spending the holidays at home”.
But as we grow older and we create our own lives, that sentence changes. Words are taken out and new ones are added. It becomes “I am going back to my parents’ place” or “We celebrate the holidays at my parents’”. It no longer just a place that holds so many memories; it becomes a memory itself as you move forward in life.
I can remember when my older brother Michael called me one day during his first semester away at college. He had just had dinner and was walking across campus, back to the dorms.
“Yeah, I’m going to go home and get some work done…”
“Don’t call it home,” I said to him as I sat on the phone in the basement of our childhood house in Brooklyn.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “But, well, it kind of is home right now.”
It was an idea and feeling I did not understand until later in life.
Traveling has seen me unconsciously learn and experience all the places and meanings that home can take on. The idea of something being home for “right now”, because at the end of the day home is an abstract concept.
I have not lived in the States for four years. That is a long time. I am a delicate combination of an expat, someone living and creating a life for herself outside of her home country, and a traveler, someone living and creating a life for herself out on the open road.
But the States is still home, right?
Then there is Sydney.
Sydney is the one place, the one city, the one home where I’ve spent the longest and most time consecutively since I was 18 years old. I was in Sydney for 22 months — a little bit of moving house here and there (try five times) but ultimately just staying put. Sydney is not a place where I grew up, and it became more than just a place that shaped me.
Instead Sydney became a place that I shaped to fit me. It was the first place post-university where I took small steps to create a larger picture for myself: a relationship, friends, a job, freelance work, a routine, a favorite beach. It was the first place I started to imagine myself one day living in the most realistic of ways. Overtime, it became mine.
And now I am left wondering what home is. Is home a place? Is it trusting and following the stability of having a routine? Is it the people — your family, friends? Knowing your way around?
Is it having a local coffee shop where the barista has your order ready for you before you’ve even walked in the door? The open and undiscovered road stretched out before you? The sigh of relief when you rest your head against the pillow at night to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul for another day?
These are all things I think about on a daily basis.
One question I get asked all the time is (other than what is my favorite country): “Where could you see yourself living?”
The rush of answers floods my brain like a waterfall, and I find my heart racing as it tries to find the perfect answer. The right answer.
Tokyo. Paris. Rome. Sydney. Florence. London. Bangkok. Indonesia.
These are all places that that I have found myself getting lost in, mezmerized by their lights, the fashion that walks their streets, the winding corners that lead me to the most beautiful squares, the energy that pulsates through their veins, the rich traditions that could fill bank vaults buried deep underground, the people that surround me.
These cities and places have all made my heart skip a beat at one point or another, made me sick with wanderlust. Give me the chance to stay and live out my days there in any of these places, and I would not hesitate to do so.
But where I could see myself living and where I would call home are two entirely different concepts.
There is one thing I have learned throughout my travels around the world: Home is so much more than a physical place, so much more than a structure that you can just open with the turn of a key.
Home is where the heart is, they say, but what happens when your heart has taken up residence in someone else’s, nestled in the blankets of being in love? Can home become a person?
For a while, my home was in the arms of a person I truly loved, a place where I felt more secure, safer, and happier than I ever knew possible. But it turns out that can be a home where the lease is suddenly up, the terms of the agreement have changed and they can not, and should not, be re-written. Time to pack up your things, say goodbye, move on.
Throughout the past seven years there have been cities and people that have stolen my heart, that have made it grow bigger, that have given it a new rhythm to dance to, a new depth of love to reach, a new layer of understanding home.
They have taught me all the ways you can be at home in the world, because I have discovered that home is a feeling.
Home is a feeling of relief, a breath of fresh air, the weightlessness that comes with being in a place that makes your soul feel like it is sitting there by a fire smiling, cozying up with a warm cup of tea.
I have learned that your heart can find solace and comfort in so many places and moments, and that can make the gigantic universe feel refreshingly small. There are just certain times things click, and they feel as natural, warm and welcoming as the sun against your skin.
Home is a place that feels familiar and feels good, it is a place that comes without question, a place that is waiting for you day in and day out, a place that is yours.
Home is a place that just feels right, and deep inside you heart you will know when you have found it.
This article was originally published on The Write Way Around, and has been re-posted here with permission.