The Meaning of Home

Home. For long-term travelers, this word can take on a strange meaning.

This is especially true now as I write this from my childhood home in Fremont, California.

Having grown up in Fremont and with the majority of my family still living here, this should be the one place where I feel most at home. But it’s not. To be honest, there isn’t a place where I feel more out of place and alien. Having moved out of the house when I was 19 years old, I find I have next to nothing in common with most of the friends and family members who have remained. It’s pretty sad, and I find it depressing.
 
To long-term travelers, “home” is no longer a place of residence or somewhere completely familiar. The idea of having a “home” gets replaced with temporary spaces to leave your things; a series of fleeting moments of rest in hotels, hostels, airport lounges, overnight bus and/or trains, a kind stranger’s couch, or sometimes, even just out underneath the stars.

Not quite feeling at homey on an overnight bus in Vietnam

For all intents and purposes, long-term travelers are essentially “home”-less.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Is it?

In my Facebook profile, I describe myself as a “happy homeless girl wandering across the world, lost somewhere between the earth and the sky…” Being without a home has never been much of a problem for me, but sometimes, particularly in those extremely rare moments when I feel out of place and isolated from my environment, the sense of homelessness can be jarring. Fortunately, I soon get swept up in the thrill of exploring the new sights around me and I am back to being myself.

Happy and homeless in India

In general, I still see myself as a happy homeless girl and the more I travel the world, the more I’ve come to realize that “home” isn’t necessarily a specific place, but rather a sense of belonging.

I feel most at ease striking up conversations with complete strangers on the street. I feel most like my true self when the excitement and momentum of daily challenges and discoveries drive me forward. I feel most comfortable when I’m lost and wandering in unfamiliar locations, with no particular destination in mind.

Yes, it’s true; I feel most at home when I don’t know what the heck is going on around me.

My home is the road and that’s where I belong.

And if that requires more nights in strange beds in small towns, so be it. I’m not ready to give up this home. Not just yet.

© Connie Hum 2012

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