Life As An Expat: The Return Trip

The idea of home is a funny thing.

We all think we know what 'home' is – a place in our hearts, minds, and memories where we feel comfortable, warm, and closest to the truest, most original version of ourselves.

But as the people and places that formed our individual manifestation of home grow and change, that idea of home and what it means is bound to change along with it. It can become something, or somewhere, else, or turn into an abstract idea that presents itself in multiple people and places rather than one singular address. It can become something too big for a single house, city, town, or even country.

Being back in the U.K. for the holidays brought this all forward.

It was the first time we'd returned after moving to the States last summer and I was taken at how natural I felt in London, a city I lived in for a solid three years, and spent half my time in for the last six years. Despite spending so much of my time there, our long, expensive, and generally awful green card process had left me feeling frustrated, ready to move back home, and almost (almost) wishing I'd never moved abroad in the first place. It's funny how we can take our inner angers, frustrations, and insecurities and pin them on the people and places that surround us. During our never-ending, "should be moving soon!" phase, I felt trapped outside of my home country, and stuck in the grey chill of London. 

But one quick and very mundane stop in the grocery store on the way back from the airport and my feelings changed. Upon landing, I felt the damp air that always left me feeling chilly, and saw the countless neat and tidy homes and gardens. The familiar grey, my favorite instant coffee, brands, labels, and ordinary, everyday items that were comfortable and close. They all felt familiar, and kind of like home.

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All this is to say that over the last year, the idea of home has become malleable to me. I've learned that for some of us, where we come from is a part of who we are, of course, but it may not be all that we are. 

Just like friends can become family, new lands, countries, places, languages, and local haunts can become versions of home. An extended home, if you will, just like an extended family. And just like people surprise us, places can have the same effect – they can show up at your doorstep and feel so familiar, close, and gentle that you wonder why you were even angry with them to start with.

And for me, now, that's what home is now – it's represented by people in one regard, and by a collection of cities in another. It's not clean, perfect, or easy to sum up over cocktail chatter but then again, what that's true and honest and important really is?

That home, that heart, that untouchable and indescribable feeling of familiarity and comfort. It's where the heart is, as it goes, and in this case, my heart is split over a few places.

That's just the way I like it.