“Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.”
Hermann Hesse, Wandering.
Neither here nor there, but where then? In Wandering, Hermann Hesse voiced the feeling many expats can relate to upon moving away from home.
And here I sit, waiting for yet another plane, to yet another home, feeling at a loss as to why exactly home really is nowhere precise at all, geographically speaking. It is definitely within, most of the time, but airports are the place where you really ask yourself: but where, where, where is home now? Where am I heading again – and should I be asking myself why as well?
It’s always about being OK feeling uprooted. Losing sight of familiar places and building new cocoons of homeliness nested in unknown territories. It’s always that shift between the dear friends you only ever see once in a blue moon and the often ephemeral encounters that life and job abroad bring.
Being an expat means jumping into the unknown (provided you don’t rely on your embassy and a circle of compatriots for solace) and feeling culturally unattached to your environment for so long that by the time you finally feel at home again, your original home no longer feels like a haven. It’s a loss of an emotional safety net which takes time to be rebuilt, and the knowing that even if the net is thread again it’s a different one and one that will forever form an invisible wall between you and your former social circle.
Being an expat sometimes makes you “special” for those at home, both homes, while most of the time you left precisely because you felt you couldn’t blend in at home and therefore tried to do so somewhere else. Until you realize that if you didn’t fit in a mould back then, you won’t in any, no matter the place, shape and size of the mould. So it’s often a rebirth and like all births, the process can be painful and scary as well as a whole new experience.
A constant uprooting. That’s how it feels. Most of the time in an exhilarating way because everything, everyday and everyone is constantly new. Eyes and soul and all the senses bath in a perpetual pool of new experiences. There aren’t a lot of bearings to hold and as soon as you feel a little grounded again, you’re up in the air towards yet another place, literally.
Being an expat means, every now and then, and mostly when departing, musing about the meaning of that uprooting; never finding an answer to that, and relying on your lucky star for sorting you out as really, some days, home feels neither here nor there.
Home. What defines it? Where is it? Is that a place or a feeling?
Home is within