They say that “home” is a feeling and that home is wherever your heart is. And they couldn’t be more right. Personally, I think that this is one of the best feelings in the world, as it results from a mix of positive emotions such as happiness, comfort, love, acceptance, welcoming, simplicity and many more.
Home is where you can be yourself, without any restrictions. Home is where you let all of your masks fall and feel loved and appreciated anyway. Home is where you find peace from all the stress and expectations that govern daily life.
Home is where there is no rush to become, but there’s just pleasure to be.
Where’s your home? If a few years ago the answer to this question would have been obvious and easy to find (Florence), in the last few years it’s become more and more complicated to answer without hesitations.
Why is that? I think that travelling changes and reshapes your identity and your perception of the world. It’s because it challenges your point of view, it shatters your convictions and destroys the concept of “familiar”.
At a certain point of your experience abroad, of whatever kind that might be, you start feeling lonely and miserable (find out more on the different stages of cultural shock here). The reason is simple to discover with hindsight (of course, while you’re living those moments of sadness and insecurity it’s impossible to rationally analyse the situation you’re plunged in): you begin to question everything you are used to: your habits, your roots, your connections. That’s how powerful the meeting (and the clash) with differences is: it turns your life upside down, literally.
Leaving the description of this journey from resistance to adjustment and adaptation aside, I would like to focus on the concept of home. The English language is so wonderful in this respect, as it distinguishes between the physical concept of “house”(a bunch of bricks assembled in a nice way) and the abstract idea of “home”, which is hard to define.
Florence and Budapest with my dearest friends
As I said, with time, I came to realize that Florence, the city where I have lived for almost half of my life and that I loved above and beyond measure, didn’t feel like home anymore. At least, not completely. And I realized it after I came back from 5 months spent in Brussels, for my Erasmus. And this feeling got even clearer and stronger after I got back from my other trips and most of all from 6 months spent in Lincoln, England for an internship, last year.
Not to mention going back for Christmas last year, after 4 months in Groningen, the Netherlands. And now, I am a bit uncertain when I’ll go home next.
There’s a negative side to this and a positive one.
The negative one is the feeling of unsettlement and bitterness it brings about. Sometimes, I’ve asked myself if I am ever going to settle in one place I’ll call my only home. I also wondered if my dear ones who stay will ever really understand me and what I have been through, the places I have visited, the new people I have met and got to love: in one word, everything that has changed in my mind and in my heart. And not knowing the answer to these questions troubles me.
The silver lining to this cloud of uncertainty is the realization that in most places I have been to, I left part of myself. Either because I felt a deep connection with a place (such as Portugal) or because I have created such strong bonds with the people I met that I am sure that, no matter where I’ll be, no matter for how long I won’t see them , they’ll always be in my heart, accompanying me in every moment of my life and when we’ll see each other again, it will feel as if not even one day has passed.
Portugal and Lincoln
So, when I say “home”, I see clearly in front of me the faces of all of these people I am so lucky to have met in my journey and retained in my heart; I see all of the places I have lived and grown up in and all of the good and bad experiences which shaped me into what I am.
And every time I go to one of these places or catch up with one of these special people, my heart feels at home.