This year marks a decade of me being an expat and I see now that I’ve felt between homes for all this time. Only recently did I realise that this feeling of belonging everywhere and nowhere has created a subtle but constant pressure in my life.
I guess the “where is home?” question is a burning one for most expats. For me, the answer kept changing. Sometimes it was Greece, other times Holland, or even ‘the international bubble’ (because being around other expats/internationals often gives me a sense of home).
But recently I changed my way of seeing things. I realized:
– I love my travels and adventures abroad as much as I love going ‘home’, however it is defined at the moment.
– I’ve been carrying around nostalgia, melancholy and resentment. This often had me longing for home… and then I’d want to get back as soon as I got home! Perhaps this is because expat life can have an unreal quality to it as if every experience is temporary, which means times of complete satisfaction can be fleeting.
– My sense of home has shifted, as happens to many expats. More recently, while going through a difficult time in my life, and losing almost everything I had taken for granted, my foundations – and any sense of home – have been shaken. And at that very point came one of the deepest insights I’ve ever had…
… I have become my home!
How? I became my home by:
- Acknowledging that the ‘home question’ was there, yet trusting the answer would come one day. And until it did, I needed to accept the ambiguity, know that I was where I was meant to be, and get the most out of the situation.
- Similarly, not trying so hard to find the answer to where home is. Sometimes clarity comes not from thoughts but from engagement. In doing things that meet my current needs (and desires), the answer often comes.
- Feeling immense gratitude for all I have ever had and for all I have now.
- Projecting less into the future (five-year plans, be gone!). Today, if I have fears about my future, I try to replace them with more functional thoughts. I visualise the future I wish for and then ask myself, “What is the next right move in the right here, right now?” In this way, I try to keep moving ahead, rather than stay stuck.
- Raising my standards for ‘right here, right now’, the only thing I have for sure.
- Having the courage to express myself (my thoughts, feelings, nostalgia, confusion) to people I trust.
- Last but not least: making myself a priority.
Yes, I became my home and this makes me feel more real; it gives me a sense of belonging, a solid foundation. It has also given me the opportunity to truly connect almost everywhere I go, and however, I spend my time.
At the end of the day, each of us is on our own path and challenged with our own unanswered questions. Why I am sharing this with you? Perhaps my journey will give you insight and inspiration to continue with your journey, just as I got inspiration from others.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
First published on Expat Nest.