The Persian Gulf and its surroundings. The photo is a satellite photo taken by NASA and augmented by an unknown artist. It is not a real representation of the Earth’s surface.
What is home for you?
5 minutes read
My story of home in short
Moving places during childhood up until now
The question of what home actually is and what it means to me and each of us has been on my mind for many years already. I have been moving places, even countries, a lot during my childhood up until now. Till the age of 7, we moved a few times within Berlin and eventually left Germany to join my father and sister who lived in Normandy, France at that time. The years in France were formative years where we lived in a small village of 300 inhabitants close to the sea and nature all around. It is certainly there that the need to live closer to nature developed. Normandy was also the place where I went to primary school, where I had my first good friendships, and where I knew my surroundings very well.
Nevertheless, life brought us back to Germany, this time to Bavaria in the South where I would spend my adolescence. It was back then that I started to ponder on the question of what home means to me, especially when we would move to another place again up until I moved out for my studies to Erlangen (Germany). And even though Erlangen became the place where I lived the longest (altogether nearly 10 years), something in me knew that it wouldn’t be the place which I would like to make my home. Instead, love carried me to Sheffield. And while the love between Jozef and me grew, we started talking about the question of what is home, together. Until we eventually decided to make the very north of Norway, the Arctic Circle our new home.
Méline and Jozef on their way to Bønntuva mountain overseeing the city of Tromsø where they live
So what is home then?
Home – a place, a feeling, or both?
We asked many people on our travels through Europe (see our travel blog) and realised that home is as different as it is the same for all of us. For some, it is more linked to a specific place, such as the country of origin, the parents’ house, or the place where someone’s books are. For others, it’s less the physical place and more the place where loved ones are, e.g. where one’s family, friends, and community or other beings and life forms are. Still, others have an even more abstract definition of home which is more associated with a feeling than a tangible place. They describe home as a place where they feel comfortable, where they feel appreciated and valued, or a place where they can do the things they enjoy doing.
Nevertheless, I think that it’s not really possible to separate both aspects from each other. The people who linked home to a more physical place will do so because of the feelings they experience in this place. Certainly, the people who associate home more with a feeling than a place will surely not experience those feelings in every place.
Even so, this latter definition may well widen up the place where we can feel at home as it is less bound to a specific place.
Méline mending socks at Eva’s, feeling home with an eldery lady, Tiger : )
On the search for home to the present moment
After all those years of pondering, I think that I came closer to my own understanding of home. As a child and adolescent, I often thought that home was the parents’ house which soon expanded to the town or city where that house stood. I saw a place where people knew each other since they were born, where deep connections had been established between family members, friends, and neighbours, a place of memories and shared experiences. For many years, I was longing for such a place, well-knowing that my life had developed quite differently.
In my mid-20s, I created a similar picture which this time was not linked to the past though. By then, I had accepted that we had moved too often to have a fixed place where people knew me from when I was a child and where my parents’ house was. Instead, my family was scattered in two countries and I was still on the search for this so-called home. Therefore, I moved on to create this ideal picture of my home in my mind. Eventually, I would find this place somewhere in nature with strong bonds to the local community. Here I was, stuck in the future looking for this ideal place.
Today, I believe that home is indeed much more a feeling which however is somehow linked to a place. A place where there is nature, people and care, as the fundamental, from which relationships, inspiration, and eventually belonging sprouts. You might think that I’m still stuck in the future and on the search for that place. Maybe, but what the difference for me is that I can feel more and more at home when I’m just in the present moment.
Méline being present
What do I mean by that?
Belonging, connectedness, and purpose in the now
Well, let’s have a closer look at those feelings we experience when we feel at home. How could they be described? What is it that we feel when we are talking about home?
Of course, it may be something else for every one of us. In any case, I think somehow that the feelings of belonging (which I would describe as acceptance as a member of a community), connectedness, and purpose are at their core. With that comes a feeling of security and a feeling that we are needed and appreciated. Accordingly, such a place can be almost anywhere where there are people and peace!
For this, however, we might have to become more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. In a nutshell: more aware of the present moment.
This is because it is in the present moment only that we can realise this feeling of belonging when we care for others, may it be a child, a family member, a friend, or a foreigner, or even an animal or a plant. We can feel connected to each other when we spend more of our time with others, time in which we are present and truly listen to each other. The present moment will also make us recognise our connection to nature and all its life forms and hence make us feel at home as part of a huge network of intertwined relationships, bringing purpose into our lives.
Very much in a present moment feeling connected while singing with Purple Cats community choir at the Sheffield (UK) train station surprising the by-passers with our unexpected flashmob : )
Home outside our comfort zone?
All this thinking about home led to a thought of whether feeling at home can only be experienced within our comfort zone where we feel comfortable and familiar. Is that really the case?
Yes and no. Yes, because we need a space of familiarity to feel secured and relaxed. And no, as moving out of our comfort zone makes us feel aware, alive, and present, doesn’t it?
What has worked for me so far is exactly that: getting out of my comfort zone. I believe that it is only when we make efforts to engage with the people and our surroundings that we can belong and become a part of a community. So I do this by getting involved in the local community as a volunteer for example. By participating in various events, by learning and trying out new things, by sharing skills or asking for help or advice, by getting inspired.
Last but not least, by taking care of the relationships to the people and the environment around me. This way, even our new place Tromsø feels like home after a few months already.
Méline learning about the local environment and seaweeds from Christine while walking along a coast in Arctic Circle close to Tromsø
Home may be the base where everything starts. At the same time, it is a beautiful journey that never ends.
What is home for you?