Where is home?

It recently clocked to me that I have been away from home for a solid 80 days. Note: when I reference home in this post, I’m referring to Sheffield.

Technically, I’ve not been home for most of 2022.

Since my first trip in March, I’ve never spent longer than 2 months at home. Even when I was back in the UK, I wandered around the country. For instance, I spent over a month down south in London and Cornwall in the summer and as a proud Northerner, this was extremely surprising for me. 😮

Perhaps my active avoidance of home was my attempt to run away from being hurt by past memories that I expected would swallow me whole. Spoiler alert: I learned that running away didn’t do much apart from delaying the inevitable pain. It hurt either way. 🤷 Once I got home, I took time to mourn the old life I had and then focused on putting myself back together, with the mission to design my new life.

Left: Leeds (2018), Right: Sheffield (2022)

I had spent two years in my small box apartment in a city which in hindsight, I didn’t even like. When I share this with others, they ask me, why did I stay for so long? My answer always boils down to three reasons: I stayed for work, I stayed for pockets of meaningful community I discovered, and I stayed for love. These all changed quicker than I expected so my purpose of living there no longer made any sense.

Breaking out of that box took more courage than I thought I had, but it was what I needed. Solo-travelling to seven countries, and fourteen cities, staying in a bunch of hotels, Airbnbs and friends’ spare rooms and living from my 40L backpack, gave me a level of freedom that was missing in my life these past few years.

Not only have I seen beautiful places[1][2][3], but I’ve also connected with different types of people from all walks of life. When the question, “are you happy?” pops up, I always reply with the biggest smile on my face, “more than ever.” 😁

I could write a book with details of my adventures and the learnings that come with it… Maybe I will one day once I’ve processed it all. (Or maybe, I’ve already started it! Who knows? 🤪)

Pauline in Croatia
📍 Zadar, Croatia

All this time I’ve been having too much fun living life all over again that I haven’t had the chance to miss home.

Until now.

I’m not sure what has triggered this random wave of homesickness, but I’ve spent way too much brain power to try and find out 1️⃣ why I feel it now and 2️⃣ solutions to combat it. Writing this blog post is definitely one outlet.

Is it just this time of year with the upcoming holidays? Is it simply because I haven’t been home for a while? Whatever it is, the feeling has lingered far too long in the last week or so.

In my attempt to decode my intense emotions, I found myself digging even deeper to figure out the answers to some important life questions.

But what is home? Where is home? Is home a location? Where you have spent the most time in your life? What other things make you feel like you’re at home?

When I searched for the answer, the theme of having a physical place came up a lot:

the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Oxford Dictionary

Home is a place blessed, where you and your family can be secure, have all you need, and share your sadness and happiness.

Habit for Humanity – What does home mean to you?

“Home” comes from the Proto-Germanic khaim, which differed from the meaning of “house” in those times as it does today. The khaim, or ham, as it traveled into Old English, meant a residence as opposed to simply a shelter.

Word Origins – Naming House and Home

Home is a safe haven and a comfort zone. A place to live with our families and pets and enjoy with friends. A place to build memories as well as a way to build future wealth. A place where we can truly just be ourselves. And whether our houses are big, small, fancy or modest, they are our shelters and our sanctuaries.

Habit for Humanity – What does home mean to you?

By these definitions, the UK is my home. 🇬🇧

Sheffield and Leeds were places I lived for long periods of my life, where I grew up and established several communities and where my longest relationships are. 🇵🇭 The Philippines is also home for me; albeit a looser connection but is still a connection.

And now, Greece…

The Acropolis at night in Athens, Greece
Ah, Greece! 🇬🇷

Greece was “just another nomad destination” that I had on my list this year to revisit, but it is the place that gave me the most unexpected, intense feeling of home. Of course, I tried to unpack it. How did Greece start feeling like home?

According to the definitions above, home is where you feel safety, stability, and comfort which doesn’t necessarily translate to a physical place.

In my clearly very scientific research 😇, the next place I look for answers is from music because of how expressive they often are. These are some lyrics from songs that talk about what home is:

Oh, home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

I’m coming home (I’m coming home)
There’s nowhere else I’d rather go

HONNE – Coming Home

My location unknown
Tryna find a way back home
To you again

HONNE – Location Unknown

Country roads
Take me home
To the place I belong

John Denver – Take Me Home

Baby, baby, baby
I’m coming home
To your tender sweet loving

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Further in this rabbit hole, who is this person that every single one of these songs talks about? Because… my first point is let me meet them. 😆 And for my more serious second point: Whoever this special person (or group of people or community) is in our lives throws the physical definition of what home is out of the window.

It’s funny to think about how I almost bought my first house with my ex-partner earlier in the year. I had thought of how every room would look to feel as homely as possible, but in that situation, I no longer felt at home with them. Today, I’ve felt at home elsewhere without the safety that four walls bring.

Thessaloniki, Greece
📍Thessaloniki, Greece

So where is home? Home isn’t just a physical place where you live. You can carry that feeling of home with you, anywhere in the world. This feeling of “being at home” has been created by people that I’ve met because of the level of safety, stability, and comfort they bring me.

Yesterday, I finally booked my return flight to the UK and naturally, a wave of various emotions washed over me. 🌊

I know that I’ll enjoy being back where my home is i.e. the place I spent the biggest portion of my life in.

I know that I’ll also miss the home I’ve created here.

I also know that this feeling of home can be created anywhere, maybe all slightly different variations and depths with entirely normal levels of homesickness that may develop.

…So, where is home? I know there’s some proverb for it…and perhaps yet another song.

Home is where the heart is

The saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ – meaning and origin.

…And my heart, as far as I know, is integrated deeply into my body. 😝

Sunset in Greece
raison d’etre

Home is where I have developed deeply meaningful relationships and where my heart is. And at the end of the day, aren’t these relationships a big reason to be alive? ✨

13 responses to “Where is home?”

  1. Home is Australia next. HAHAHA JOKING BUT—home is, above all, a feeling. Sometimes we don’t have ways of describing it. We just know it feels right.

    1. WHO KNOWS?! Maybe it is! 😝

  2. It was amazing to read this blog! As a person who aspire to travel and live a part of my life as a nomad, I learnt a new definition to ‘what is called home?’ One of things that I related to the most when you think that running away from things that hurt you, or put you in an uncomfortable place in your life is not right the things to do, temporarily? Yes, but not in a long-term. It was so inspiring to read your blog and learn more about how you’re growing in your life. ❤️

    1. Thanks for reading, Preet! I appreciate the support 💜

  3. I read this and felt every bit you’ve mentioned here. Leeds is home to me now, as I feel more at home here than where I lived for most part of my life but there are times when I know this too is not the right place for me. I’ve always wanted to move to a bigger city and over the last few days I’ve been spending time in Manchester and I haven’t felt more at home. I also remember this sinking feeling I had when I woke up in Leeds one morning after spending a few days in Manchester, the sinking feeling deep under like I felt away from home. It just lasted for a few minutes but it still happened

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’m glad that it resonated 💜

  4. Such a wonderful reflection with so many thoughts to read!! All the best 😊

  5. I think that is true, where home is. I don’t think it needs to be one place. Often it’s various places you can feel it.

    You sound like your really happy now.

    1. 💜 I’m confused but definitely feeling very happy!

  6. Perhaps home has more to do with familiarity, regularity and a feeling of safety in the form of less anxiety. I read this thought provoking article recently: https://nautil.us/the-real-magic-of-rituals-238960/

    “ Studies show that, when people experience uncertainty and lack of control, they are more likely to see patterns or regularities where there are none. These patterns can range from visual illusions (such as seeing faces in the clouds) to seeing causality in random events and forming conspiracy theories. Under these circumstances people are also more likely to turn to ritualized behaviors. This is known as the compensatory control model: We compensate for lack of control in one domain by seeking it in another.8 Whether this sense of control is illusory is of little importance. What matters is that ritual can be an efficient coping mechanism, and this is why those domains of life that involve high stakes and uncertain outcomes are rife with rituals”

    You’ve lived more in one year than some live their whole long lives.

    1. 💜 This is such a fantastic read! Thanks for sharing, Mike 🫶

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