I travel a lot.
When I travel, one of the first questions I’m asked by fellow travelers is: “Where are you from?”
It is all about establishing your home. This idea of home has been on my mind lately. I do have a home; it is in Vancouver.
I love my home; leaving on an adventure is just slightly more satisfying than coming home after that adventure.
My apartment is my base, it is familiar and it gives me comfort to know it is there for me wherever I go. There is nothing more exquisitely comforting and homey than an afternoon nap on my man-cave sofa.
Vancouver is truly beautiful; I have never, in all my travels, found a place more comfortable. I am blessed with fascinating friends who care for me; I miss them when I’m gone and much of my delight in coming home springs from reconnecting with them.
I am finding new ways to define home that go beyond the physical definition of my Vancouver apartment – it is a place, a special place but still, a place.
As I travel further afield, as I extend my travels to months rather than weeks and as I experience alone travel more often, I am expanding my definition of home.
Much of my travel, as in my life, is in pursuit of something; usually ill-defined but the quest is necessary, the need to explore is palpable and irresistible for me.
Travel is adventure, new challenges, new experiences, new vistas, new ways of looking at the world.
I search for ‘sweet spots’; those brief magical moment when pixie dust is sprinkled – the right people, the right combination of sights, smells, sounds, all create an indelible moment that will live with me forever. It is deeper than a good, even a great, memory. The sweet spot is written on my memory in indelible ink.
‘Sweet spots’ don’t come easy. They do not land in my lap as I sit in my man cave drinking my morning coffee. They have to be pursued; usually at some physical discomfort and with some need for patience and mindfulness. When they arrive they are brilliant; doubly worth every mundane effort in the search for them.
I am also finding that I have a way of looking at travel, not through the examination of my Visa bill after the trip, or a run through my photo file, or a reread of my blogs to myself but in a simpler, purer test.
At some point, usually daily when I travel, I ask myself; “Is there any place I would rather be than where I am right here, right now?” The answer is almost always NO. The experience matters and is meaningful to the point where I can think of nothing I would rather do. By this simple test, what I am doing makes sense. The question – and the answer – never fails to lift me up out of some minor inconvenience, some fleeting mood, some brief shadow to allow me to find perspective.
I am also finding a new definition of Home. It is not just a physical location to me; it has become more complex, more robust, more nuanced. Home is now more about who I am with, what I am sharing, what I am experiencing, how I am interacting with a whole host of physical, emotional and intellectual stimuli; I am home when it “feels like like home.”
There are times when travel doesn’t make sense; some combination of running away from loneliness and boredom, some ill defined need for excitement, some restlessness. The notion that these vague uncertainties can be resolved by going home is too confining.
Travel does not necessarily mean leaving home. I can carry home with me. Technology helps; my smartphone keeps me connected with friends wherever I am, I can plug into news and stay in touch with my city/province/country/interests, I carry my financial and health services with me neatly compacted into a few plastic cards. My passport and credit cards offer flexibility and a safety hatch.
It is not what I am leaving that is exciting; it is what I am looking forward to. I have found home whenever I am with my children, their supreme gift is sharing time and experiences with me. What better definition do I need of home?
A road trip in Iceland, Christmas dinner in Basel on December 1 and again in Bergun on December 28, all with my children – that’s home. I get the same sense of home when I travel with or visit close friends.
I have felt at home in Normandy with friends, in Paris because I am secretly a snobby Parisian, and in rural eastern Ontario because I have friends who adopted me into their family.
Searching for unicorns and ‘sweet spots’ is rewarding in itself, finding those moments and sharing them with those we love is priceless, knowing I have a home in Vancouver is comforting; all are facilitated by relaxing my idea of home.
Home is whenever and wherever I am with friends,
Home is wherever, whenever I can be with my children.
Home is experiencing one of those rare sweet spots.
Home is when I think ‘this is where I want to be, there is no place I would rather be’.
All these now define home. But when a stranger asks me; ‘where’s home?’ I still say; ‘Vancouver.’
Bob ~ A note to tell you how much I enjoy your Blog.
This one in particular touched a chord and put into words so much of what ‘Home’ is for Maryann and me. We just got back from 18 days in India travelling with our adult children (the Bank Of Dad was involved) and in many ways that meant that we had taken ‘Home’ with us – not that we ever put that into words but there was no question that after a challenging day or while making it through a bout of Delhi Belly it was comforting to be ‘at home’ with those around. Thank you for the thought 🙂
It was also interesting to see the evolution of the answer to the “Where are you from?” question. Our son and his wife [an American] live in New York and our daughter in San Francisco and they are still very proud Canadians. Their responses began with where they live now with the addition of “…but we’re Canadian.” and evolved to “Near Vancouver in Canada.” Where you live is definitely not necessarily where you are from.
Your thoughts on India helped prepare – a little – for the challenges but when we got there it was obtaining a deeper understanding of the Caste system [which is still deeply ingrained], Dharma and the widely held belief in Karma that made us more accepting of what we experienced. And frankly to feel less guilty.
I also thought you might find the following interesting:
“Nothing should more deeply shame the modern [Western] student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India. Here is a vast peninsula nearly two million square miles; two thirds as large as the United States, and twenty times the size of Great Britain, and over a billion souls …. that is now opening up to the western mind which only yesterday thought civilization an exclusively European thing ”.
[Will Durrant “The Story of Civilization, Volume 1, Our Oriental Heritage]
And an observation I made to a friend who asked if India met or exceeded our expectations:
It far exceeded: A sense of chaos rules in the streets of cities from Delhi to Udaipur and Jodhpur but it is a democratic, flowing chaos that seems to find consensus and, like the diverse country, improbably manages to work. We learned about Caste and Karma and other cultural and religious tensions thousands of years old that are stretched taut barely below the surface. We sat on ancient castle walls to watch blood red sunsets and saw the sun rise softly on the desert. We learned about a pantheon of gods and religions, scientists developing astronomy three thousand years ago and winning Nobel prizes in our time, artists raising gigantic temples for Hindu Gods and carving perfect palaces for Mogul kings and queens. And so much more. How could India not be be beyond our expectations?
Best ~ Alan
thanks for the kind comments. I agree completely with your observations about India, very eloquent. You should be writing your own blog