When you hear the word ‘home’, what comes to mind? Is it the house you grew up in? The city you live in? Your lover? Your family? Your friends?
Or is it a feeling? Your dog flying at you in a ball of fur and love when you walk in the door… The comfort and familiarity of a place you know like the back of your hand… That first whiff of coffee in the morning as you inhale and settle in to your day… The warm embrace of a loved one.
home [as defined]
- the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.“I was nineteen when I left home and went to college”
As travelers, wanderers, and free spirits, the word home takes on a whole new meaning. We often use it loosely, referring to our hotel room for the week, our AirBNB, the comfy sofa at our friend’s house. We say “I’m headed home” without really thinking about what home means.
I’ve been homeless (in the fun, voluntary way) for a few years now, and I throw around the word ‘home’ like it has no value. Right now, my home is the comfy hotel bed at Key West’s Casa Marina. Tomorrow, a friend’s sofa in Miami. In a few days, it will be a warm AirBNB with a trusted host surrounded by loving friends in this year’s summer home of Squamish, British Columbia.
But the ‘home’ that I recognize is not something that can really be put into words.
It’s an indescribable feeling.
But I’ll have a go at it…
It’s when you finally feel at peace. When you’re so connected to your environment and your surroundings and the people in it, that you can take a deep breath of fresh, clean air, close your eyes, and smile. It’s when you are the truest version of yourself in a place of safety and love and calm.
I’ve only had three physical locations that have brought that have delivered that home feeling in the past three years.
On an early morning empty beach in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. A place I’d spent half the year getting to know. After a few weeks of travel, I had arrived at dawn on a warm December day, and stepped out onto the beach. Overwhelming sense of belonging. Soft, warm breeze. Sand between my toes. Familiarity and comfort that came from knowing where I was and what was waiting for me. Home.
On a sunset ferry ride from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. The sun was teasing the horizon, and I was on deck watching the ripple of cool, dark water. Tears in my eyes. Tightness in my chest. Freedom to be, and feel, and breathe. I had realized that I’d been searching the world for something more, something better, something more beautiful, something that would make me happier… and it was here in Canada the whole time. I only needed a change in perspective to see it.
On the drive from Calgary to Banff. Amongst the mountains surrounded by sharp, gray faces diving into the earth. Mountains, trees, and brilliant blue skies as far as the eye can see. It is breathtaking. It’s home. No matter where I go and where I land in this life, I will always be able to go back to those Canadian Rocky Mountains and feel absolutely connected and at home.
Can you recognize the feeling in your body and in your heart when you feel at home?
Take note. The next time you feel it, commit it to memory. And pay attention… sometimes that feeling will sneak up on you. I often find those waves of comfort and safety and peace in the presence of people, even in places that are entirely foreign to me.
When it comes down to it, home is the people in my life. Home is sharing an uninhibited laugh with my closest friends. Letting my eyelids drift shut in the arms of a lover. Picking up the phone to call a family member and knowing that no matter what, no matter when, they have my back. Home is safety. Belonging. Comfort. Love.
Be conscious of those moments of warmth. Take a mental note of them, or even start a written record. Recognize who and what and where makes you feel at home, and take care of these people and places in your life. Because whether your home is a physical space or a person full of energy and love, a home that is not tended to will eventually deteriorate.
Love your home, in whatever form it takes.
What does home mean to you?
[Leader photo by Genevieve Georget.]