Travel changes the meaning of home. For so much of my youth, home meant a house. One house, on one specific street filled with mementos of life lived. Everything led to and from that one abode, its special meanings and the lives growing inside. Rooms accumulated things, celebrations took place and memories were created, all in that ranch on Long Island. Growing up, no matter when you left, you could always go home. What happens when you age, leave that one place you used to call home and have to create one of your own? What happens when home starts to take on greater meaning than an apartment or house and you feel that you could live in more than one place for unspecified amounts of time? What happens when you feel at home in more than one spot, or if to you, a person or pieces of nature become home? Who says you can’t go home? Bon Jovi returns to New Jersey, Billy Joel revisits his Long Island roots-but now I’m finding that the meaning of home is constantly changing.
It never goes away. That urge to bring adventure into life seems to be something with which I am stuck-not that I’d want to have it any other way (of course). I mean, don’t get me wrong, we know we’re lucky. Every day we look at life and want to pinch ourselves. The things we’ve gotten to do, choices we’ve been able to make, places we’ve seen and people we’ve met who have enriched our lives are countless and nothing we could ever possibly ‘purchase’ is at all comparable. Adventures (both small and large) seem to tickle a part of my mind and spirit that few other things in life do. It’s a vice, a need, a desire to seek and delve further into ourselves, our own perspectives and a need to make a difference in the world at large. Take me to a body of water and my entire spirit smiles. Find me a new culture from which to learn and my mind embraces the learning. Spend the day with me searching for a new route on that same walk or breathing fresh air on a warm, sunny day and you’ll feel my entire being relax as if I were still on my yoga mat or in my trusty, favourite anti-gravity hammock. There’s comfort in the new and different and ease in the familiar. The definition of ‘home’ constantly changes.
Recently, I’ve both read and written about reverse culture shock and coming ‘home’ and how the world looks so very different to the one I remember before I first ‘left’. Before university, I’d been on holidays with family to some new places and others to which we continued to return. Once I ventured out to travel on my own something changed and its been doing so non-stop ever since. Many of the articles I’ve read recently display so much of things Mat and I regularly discuss. How ‘home’ no longer seems like one specific place but a confluence of many, how it’s hard to find a place we feel we ‘fit’ when so much of what matters to us seems to differ from so many others and how we often feel more comfortable in a community of travelers in flip-flops on a Tuesday than at a large formal gathering in fancy dress.
We are enjoying every minute of being in San Diego, California. That cross country journey of moments and miles taught us more than an affinity for hiking and national parks, more than the already known love of meeting new people and seeing new sights and even more, about ourselves and the type of life we’d like to create together. Long-term travelers know about the highs and lows of life on the road. There’s still laundry to do and the minutiae of life to handle amidst the joys of a morning walk and a picnic lunch. Each day I am more and more sure that I’ve learned more about life and myself in the last five years than I ever before did. For some reason, the blinders are now off and all life seems to be emblazoned in colour. There’s comfort in knowing that although the choices we’d like to make may be different than some, it’s becoming our ‘normal’. There’s comfort in knowing there’s a growing travel community (both virtual and real) moving in their own direction and to the beat of their own drum. Who’s to say what ‘normal’ is anyway, right?
Venturing in a different direction than that of society norm was never something I thought I’d do, perhaps I never even thought I could. Travel overseas was one thing, but the minute we made Australia our home for a while, life was different. Heading to a new place, of your own choice, was for me a new one-and San Diego is filled with thousands who seemed to make that exact choice. Except for university and travel, it seemed that life would continue not more than an hour from the house in which I grew up. Now, all bets are off. The world has opened its outstretched arms and somewhere there’s that mate waving her arm shouting, ‘come on in…the water’s fine’. San Diego is a fabulous step and this city of surf, sand and sunshine has already enhanced my perspective and made everything and anything seem not only possible; but also, tangible.
Our lives can easily fit into a backpack, suitcase or car. Things that we ‘need’ versus those that we ‘want’ mean different things now. We find bits of home wherever we go and often take experiences in other cultures and try to insert them into our every day lives. Perhaps it’s a Mint Slice or Tim Tam treat. Perhaps it’s a bagel when you miss it most, or a smell or song that takes you back to another place and time. Sometimes all it takes is a quick text from an old friend to remember that distance doesn’t diminish a relationship yet often strengthens it that much more. For me, home is where the waves are. Home is where the sunshine flows and the beaches are endless. Home is where we feel enveloped in ease and comfort and empowered to be our best self. Home is about experiences, memories and loved ones. Home is about people and kindness, love and laughter. Home is a happy place, and if we’re lucky enough, we can find many of those all around the world.