I used to think that home was my cozy suburbia townhouse in Rockville, Maryland. We moved to Maryland from our NYC apartment when I was 5-years-old. I can still remember the very first night that I slept in our newly built house; I remember the silly details especially, like the red plastic cup filled with water I brought upstairs to put beside me as I slept. For 13-consecutive years, home was laying on the floor in our living room playing with the dogs; home was Dad picking me up from dance class and going out to dinner on the way back; home was sitting on the barstools in the kitchen and gossiping with Mom; home was even my older brother teasing me. Home was Rockville.
Then I turned 18 and I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for college, roughly 500 miles away from Rockville. That’s when I started to refer to the University of Michigan as home. Freshman year I lived in the dorms, sophomore year in my sorority’s house, and my final two years in a house just a couple blocks from campus with my eight closest girlfriends. My friends and I studied together, shopped together, cooked together, ate together, went out together, and sat around doing absolutely nothing together. Essentially, we did everything together. Home was my friends in Michigan; home was football Saturdays; home was Ann Arbor.
A similar theme emerged when I moved to Bristol, United Kingdom for graduate school when I was 22, a city 3,560 miles away from Rockville. Home was the shortness-of-breath inducing walk up the notorious Christmas Steps on the way to campus; home was taking an evening walk around the Bristol Harbor when my mind would race; home was the walk back from class with all of my friends still laughing and smiling even after being in lecture from 9AM-4:30PM; home was my early morning workouts at PureGym; home was my apartment room that I used to complain about was just too little. Home was Bristol.
In every place I’ve lived and called home there have always been constants. There’s my bed I sleep in each night; my routine I follow each day, like the route I take to the library or the store I buy my shampoo; and most importantly, there’s the people I spend my days alongside. Since September however, there have been no constants. I have not slept in the same city for more than 4 or 5 nights (and that’s a rarity, it’s usually 2-3 nights per city). I have not been around the same people for more than a couple of days. I don’t even know what routine is any more. I’ve traded those every day comforts and securities for the ability to indulge my passion for travel. And before I continue please do not get me wrong, I am having the absolute time of my life and feel so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to travel; but please also know that it is not as glamorous as the pictures make it appear. I’ve gotten on wrong trains and I’ve missed buses; I’ve gotten lost in cities where I couldn’t speak the language and had no map or GPS; I’ve missed my privacy while sleeping in 12-bed dorm rooms where noisy roommates talk throughout the night or bring guests for their entertainment; and I’ve had days when I’ve walked for many hours and miles in the hail, rain and snow, and all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in ball at home. But my home changes each night, so what really is home?
Well maybe home isn’t a place at all. I’m starting to think that maybe all home really is, is the constants in our lives that make us feel secure. Right now and for the next 6ish months, my backpack is the only constant I see and interact with each day. So I guess maybe my backpack is home. I think maybe home is those multi-hour phone calls with Mom and Dad while ignoring the time-difference; maybe home is Facetiming with my closest friends to catch-up and talk about anything and everything; maybe home is the group texts with my college roomies and those with my grad school crew; maybe home is a morning run in a new city to set myself up for the day; and maybe home is cooking a cozy meal in my hostel’s kitchen and writing this blog post as I lay on a couch in the common room.
Maybe home is just a perspective.