Where is home? When asked that question, most people will blithely trip out the cliche, “home is where the heart is”. What do we mean by that? In Pico Iyer’s Ted Talk he said “It’s less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul”, which I thought was quite wonderful. That’s probably what we mean when we talk about our home being where our heart, our deepest feelings, are. So I’d agree with Pico and say that home is the place that speaks to you, it’s where you feel a connection and at peace. It feels familiar and part of you.
On meeting some one, they will usually ask “where are you from?” We assume they’re asking where we were born, brought up, educated. When asked this myself I could reply “from the North East of England”. But to me that says nothing about the person I am or what might identify me in any way. Sure, I have family there, but I have no connection with the place. My cousins could land on my doorstep now and I wouldn’t recognise them. I don’t speak with their Geordie accent.
Is home where you work and pay your taxes? Well that could be anywhere. These days most of us can choose where and how we wish to live and there are currently about 220 million people living away from “home”. That’s equivalent to the 5th biggest nation on earth.
Many would say that home is where your loved ones are, and to be away from them means you no longer feel “at home”. On Friday I landed at Heathrow and came home after 3 weeks away. It felt good to be back in my own place with my husband, to sleep in my own bed and potter around my familiar kitchen. However by coming “home” I left part of my family behind and a place that is feeling increasingly comfortable. My heart is torn when I have to say goodbye to those I love, and I know that I could easily make Los Angeles my home – for a while.
While I was in LA, I met those for whom it did not feel like “home”. They were there with their families and therefore wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else. They had their own place and were settled, but where was “home”? Does home mean a place where you aren’t a foreigner? That’s going back to the question of feeling comfortable. Is it where your original roots are and a place to which you know you will ultimately return one day, if only to grow old and die? When I lived in France, many of the British there were retired and truly settled in the French way of life. But if you dared to push them, you discovered that most would eventually return to Britain to end their days because deep in their hearts, that was their home.
So what does home mean to you? Is it wherever you lay your hat? It is where your family is? Or is it anywhere where you feel at ease in, where you feel a part of the place and that place allows you to be who you feel you really are? Answers (on a postcard) please, I’d love to know.