How 'Home' Turns Into More Of A Feeling Than A Place As You Travel

by Alexandra E. Petri

I landed in Sydney two years ago with nothing but a battered backpack from life on the road, an expectant soul, excited heart and an unknown future.

Now, here I am, traversing through Indonesia without any idea of where I am headed or what I am doing.

It’s funny; if there was anything I realized when I said goodbye to Australia and started this round of my travels through New Zealand, it is that for the first time in my life, I feel like I am wandering.

People I meet throughout my travels ask me where I am from, and naturally, I always say the US. 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?

The subtle evolution of how your concept and definition of home changes is an interesting one. It is constantly morphing, taking on one form and one meaning and gradually, overtime, molding into something else entirely.

Think about how your childhood home can suddenly transform into your parents' house. In college, we would say, “I am going home for the weekend” or “I am spending the holidays at home.”

As we grow older and create our own lives, that sentence changes. It becomes, “I am going back to my parents’ place” or “We celebrate the holidays at my parents’ house.” It’s 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 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 led me to learn and experience all of the places and meanings that “home” can encompass. It’s the idea that something can be home for “right now” because ultimately, it’s an abstract concept.

I have not lived in the States for four years. I spent two years spent in Asia followed by two years spent in Sydney. That is a long time. I am living and creating a life for myself outside of my home country. I am a traveler, creating a life for myself out on the open road.

However, the States is still home, right? I was born there and grew up there; it is where the pieces of my life started to come together. Although, where, then, does that leave a place like Sydney?

Sydney is the one place -- the one city and the one “home” -- where I spent the longest consecutive time since coming of age as an adult. Sydney is not a place where I grew up; it became more than just the place that shaped me.

I shaped Sydney to fit me. I took small steps to create a larger picture for myself: a relationship, friends, a job, freelance work, a routine and a favorite beach. It was the first place where I started to imagine my real, adult, realistic life. Over time, that life became mine.

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?

Is it 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? Is it the sigh of relief you feel 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 often 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 I try to identify the perfect answer, the “right” answer.

Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Florence, London, Bangkok, Indonesia -- these are all places in which I have lost myself, mesmerized by the lights, the fashion, the winding corners that lead me to beautiful squares, the energy that pulsates through its veins, the rich traditions and the people who surround me.

These cities and places have all made my heart skip a beat and made me sick with wanderlust. Upon having the chance to stay and live out my days in any of these places, I would not hesitate to do so.

However, where I could see myself living and where I would call home are two entirely different concepts.

Throughout my travels around the world, I learned that home is so much more than a physical place — so much more than a structure that opens its doors with the turn of a key. Home is where the heart is, they say.

But, what happens when your heart takes up residence in someone else’s, nestled in the blankets of 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 home can be a place where the lease is suddenly up, the terms of the agreement have changed and cannot (and should not) be rewritten. When this happens, it’s time to pack up your things, say goodbye and move onward.

Throughout the past seven years, there have been cities and people that have stolen my heart, made it grow bigger, given it a new rhythm to dance to. They have provided a new depth of love to reach and a new understanding of “home.” They have taught me all of the ways you can be at home in the world; I have discovered that home is a feeling.

Home is a feeling of relief and a breath of fresh air. It is the weightlessness that comes with being in a place that makes your soul feel like it is sitting by a fire, smiling and 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 certain times when things will click, when they feel natural, warm and as 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. Deep inside of your heart, you will know when you have found it.

Photo via We Heart It