In this generation, many travel frequently for work, or exist in the realm of “freelancing”—not being tied to a location. Subsequently, due to the nature of the economy and our desires for freedom, the definition of home has adapted. Is it possible to feel at home and settled when living a nomadic existence? One international flight attendant existing in constant movement discusses what home is and what home isn’t.
Have you ever traveled to a foreign country, not knowing anyone, not knowing the language or how to get around and yet, you felt that ‘click?’ Like your soul was happy and for lack of a better description, you felt at “home?” Conversely, have you been somewhere before—a place ranging from a church, to a gym, restaurant, club or country—and felt completely out of place, like you didn’t belong? Or even if you did “belong,” you didn’t feel a sense of acceptance, welcomeness, or that you could ever stay? It’s all a strange feeling and an interesting topic to explore.
The concept of home is difficult to understand and even harder to put into words, especially for a generation of 20 and 30-somethings that travel more than ever before, are staying away for longer periods of time, and choosing to spend on experiences as opposed to possessions. The dictionary defines home in a few ways, one being “a place where one’s domestic affections are centered.” I am not the most domesticated women in the world, claiming ‘International Flight Attendant’ as my main past-time and ‘travel blogger’ as my heart-and-soul business venture. This creates a lifestyle that is anything but grounded or permanent, an existence which garners me much flak from friends and acquaintances. I’m advised, “You need to be ‘somewhere’—create a place that is home and stay.” I understand what they mean. I understand the importance of stillness, finding center, and being committed to something, things that a home can offer. I will not argue the benefits of feeling settled in a location, but currently even with my all over the globe existence, I don’t feel “homeless.” In complete juxtaposition, I feel very much at home. As Pico Iyer stated in a TED Talk, “home has really less to do with a piece of soil [and more to do] with a piece of soul.”
This could explain how it is that you feel home when in foreign cities or a person can offer someone all the feelings that are associated with home. Just like people are not one dimensional, the definition of home cannot be one dimensional. ‘Home’ combines the emotions of love, safety, beauty, security, comfort, and belonging. This is why a community of faith, a job, or even travel in itself can make one “feel at home.”
One of my friends works on a yacht. He can be gone for six months at a time and he loves that. He loves the travel and says that his crew is his family. His yacht life is home, and this makes him happy. Like me, he doesn’t consider his life to be “settled” in the traditional sense of the word, but this lifestyle isn’t necessarily unsettled. Settled is more often discovered by taking time to reflect and time to be still, even when living a life in motion. Home can be found in a myriad of places and felt in a variety of ways.
Last week, I was in the Dominican Republic. I don’t speak Spanish and my blonde locks and gringa paleness make it hard for me to blend in or look like I belong. Oddly though, I felt at home. In reflecting as to why I felt comfortable in a space where I obviously didn’t fit in or had any connection, I trace back to the fact that I was exactly where I needed to be. Right then, I needed a location that would facilitate stillness, distraction free existing, and quiet reflection. I needed a country that would allow me to be anonymous. I needed time to stop moving. Everything that I needed right then, I found in the DR. I found it because I listened to what my heart needed. Iyer wisely says that, “Where you come from is much less important than where you’re going. Home is a place where you become yourself.”
I believe that this “art of becoming” is why my answer to, “Where do you live?” is so unconventional. I have become myself through traveling. I have become myself in flight attendant life. I have become myself by blogging and telling stories. I am constantly becoming. I kind of feel like I meant to live “up in the air” for now. For my own sanity, I cannot allow my sense of self to be defined by a place, and instead, I am personally striving to let my feelings of home be marked by beliefs, growth, and being present in each and every experience and within every relationship. I believe if I can do this, I will be able to find peace regardless of what is going on around me and what is happening that falls beyond my control. I would love to have the sense that no matter what chaos exists in my world and in the world around me, I will be that girl that one says of, “God is within her and she will not be moved (Footnote 1).”
One of my pilots asked me yesterday, when flying JFK-OSL, “What are you going to do on your four day layover in Copenhagen?” My eyes glittered in excited anticipation. “I’m going to go to the gym and I’m going to write stories.” It sounded boring to the typical tourist, but Copenhagen feels like I’m home, so I simply want to do the things that I enjoy doing when I am at my “real” home. I am home in Copenhagen. I am home in so many places. I am home when hanging out with Jimmy and David in New York City. I am home when crying alone and learning to kite board in the Dominican Republic. I am home when riding my bike in Los Angeles or spending afternoons catching up with Emily wherever we find each other.
The classical definition of ‘home’ has long passed. A building, a place, or one person is not what strictly identifies someone. Currently, we are facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and many do not even have the privilege of choosing what home is. This is tragic and heartbreaking. With the lack of place that many are experiencing, they will instead rebuild their lives. Many will sadly never really feel “at home” again. This generation will spend their whole lives “taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole. Home…is really a work in progress. It’s like a project on which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections (Footnote 2).”
To those who tell me that I don’t have a home, to this I will respond, “You are correct in saying that I do not stay in one place for long or often. You are right to mention that I do not have a boyfriend or a husband or a lover. You know just as honestly as I do that my friendships span the globe and communication includes iPhones and FaceTime. What you have failed to recognize is that this world has changed and I also am constantly changing. What you cannot understand is that home is where I am, who I am, who I am becoming. Home is where I am going and where I stand.” As far as I know, all of this is not dependent on specific walls, certain borders, or one location.