“What is home to you?” That’s the question I’ve asked friends of mine, some of them living abroad, others enjoying life close to where they grew up as a child. To me, home is a funny concept. Every time I visit my “home” country (the one I hold the passport of), I am confronted with this question. People ask me – their eyes beaming with expectation: “Does it feel good to be back home?” My answer usually consists of a friendly nod and smile. But in all honesty, I don’t know.
Ever since I spent 6 months abroad to study in the US, something has changed. I came back a different person. I was suddenly more aware of cultural particularities in the country grew up in (Austria), and the way people behave and interact with one another. As I continued travelling, I came to see different ways society can organize itself. I started to question, even disagree with, things I had found perfectly normal before. I also started to be grateful for things I had taken for granted (like clean drinking water straight from the tab).
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ― Miriam Beard
Travelling and living abroad broadens your horizon – and there is no way back. It forever changes the way you see yourself and the world around you. This is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I gave up the reassuring stability of “home” for a cosmopolitan life where everything is relative. But only sometimes. Most of the time I feel energized and excited by the richness of cultural diversity I am lucky to experience through work and life.
So, back to the notion of home. Hearing my friends express what home means to them brought me a bit closer to grasping the essence of the concept. The answers I got almost all pointed to one fact: It has little to do with geography or passport. It is not so much about BEING at home. It is all about FEELING at home. It has to do with feeling accepted and loved. With a sense of inner peace and comfort. And this in turn is often linked to the people around us. To the quality of personal relationships we build and maintain. And finally, it is about the relationship we have with ourselves. Home is not a place. It is a state of mind.