Variations on a home

I have long given up the belief that one should have only one home. Having multiple homes almost goes together with being a perpetual foreigner. We often end up having different places that we call home. But not only places. Our homes usually have many dimensions beyond the geographical. They can be feelings, people or landscapes. They can be moments in time – a look, a facial expression, an embrace. Our homes engage all our senses. A smell, a piece of music, a song, a story we heard, a memory – all can evoke home. Our many homes – whether they are physical, emotional, relational or other – can coexist harmoniously. They are part of us. We don’t have to choose; we just enjoy.
You know that you belong to that tribe – the one with the multiple homes – when you return from visiting home and still feel ok. The first time that happened to me – not being completely torn apart even though I had just come back – I was surprised and relieved. I was never particularly fond of that recurring process and the associated emotions that had been torturing me for years. Realising that it felt good to be back, that I even looked forward to being back somewhere other than the place that I considered home, was a revelation and a delight. Of course, I didn’t feel that way in every place I lived. But when I did, it was splendid.
I embraced the multiple homes theory with conviction. I believed, however, that no matter where home is and no matter how many of those we have, the feeling of home is constant and universal. There are certain reasons why we feel at home. Most often, it’s
about comfort – the comfort we find in familiarity and routines, in the memories we’ve built and the roots we’ve put down, in the presence of people we love.
But not always.
Having just spent two weeks traveling among three homes, I get the sense that the feeling of home is a little more complicated than that. How else can I explain feeling equally at home when I look at the endless expanse of snow-capped mountains surrounding the lake in the city where I live – a landscape to which I have no personal “historical” connection – as when I catch the first glimpse of the deep blue sea of my childhood, stretching beneath me when we are about to land in my Mediterranean home?
When I’m in my current home, I feel the excitement of discovering a new land and gradually becoming part of a community; but I also seek the safe haven of my family and our routines, the bliss of watching our children thrive and belong. I admire the rootedness of the people around me, their strong love for their country, even if I’m not one of them or ever will be, at least not fully. All are equally valid reasons why I feel at
home. When I go back to one of my “other” homes, the feelings are no less intense – but so different. I savour the way the colours of the landscape light up under the sun. I delight in the way people interact with each other; their kindness mixed with respect and an ever-present consciousness of roots and history. I marvel at their conviction that they live in the most beautiful, most blessed country in the world. When I’m there, it is
inconceivable that I could live without all that. Yet I do. Happily, with only the tiniest bit of nostalgia.
How do we manage to reconcile all the different associations we make with home and still end up with the same essential feeling? I don’t have an answer for that. What matters more to me is enjoying those incandescent moments of perfect clarity, when I
know there’s nowhere else I would rather be, when I know I’m home. Wherever
that is.


  1. Whenever I stop by, your posts give me so much to think about. So while there is so much to say (and for me to continue pondering about) these are my first thoughts: I also feel like I and we as a family have several homes, where we easily transition to whatever home we stay in. The routines, the food, the way of interaction all that can be so different, but it comes so natural to switch and be in the multiple homes we belong to, depending on where we are. And whenever I travel between homes and get this sense of belonging to many places, I always feel so thankful for being "spread out" like that.
    A big part of feeling and being at home to me is the people that makes it all feel familiar. Obviously those who know me well, but also those familiar faces, I don't even know the names of, but who are part of everyday life in that particular place. Somehow it's also how life goes on with the people you know and don't know that makes you feel disconnected to the far-away homes, isn't it? I'll continue to think… 🙂

    1. Thank you, Dorte, for your thoughts on this (and for the kind words 🙂
      Moving from multiple-homesickness to gratitude is an important step!
      Also, I really like your comment on the people that make home for us. It's not just our loved ones, but also the everyday "familiar faces" that make us feel comfortable and connected. I've experienced that several times in my different homes.
      Looking forward to hearing more!

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