Like many of us these days, I’ve travelled a lot, and have lived in many places. I now have two children, and the question of home is coming up a lot. We moved from Canada to the UK when our children were 3 and nearly 5, and ever since we’ve been here (4 years and counting), our kids have pestered us about going back to Canada, about returning home.
The idea of home is a nebulous one. Although my husband and I were both born and raised in Canada, my childhood is infused with memories of Europe. They weren’t my memories, mind, they were my family memories, which felt like mine. And still do. My husband is also of European ancestry. We’re both 1st generation Canadians.
And so we point out to our kids that if they are seeking the place ‘where we’re from’, they are closer now than when they were in Canada. Most of their ancestors are here, in Europe, some even from the British soil where we make our current home. But that doesn’t seem to convince them.
So, what is home? Is it to do with land? With place of birth? With friends and family living, or friends and family now gone?
Among the places I’ve travelled are Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. When I first stood on red and dusty African soil and gazed at the horizon interrupted only by the root-like branches of the baobab trees, I breathed and closed my eyes and felt like I’d come home. It was utterly foreign yet deeply familiar. But I have also had this feeling while walking the undulating plains of the Arctic tundra, or looking southeast across the Atlantic ocean from a piece of sandy beach in south Devon. Or floating, buoyed up by primordial waves, in the ocean itself.
It all serves, to me, as a reminder that we have created the idea of edges and boundaries, from large to small. Lines have been drawn around pieces of land but you could even say the same for our sense of self. A line has been drawn around it, delineating Me and the Rest of The World. But just as a country boundary is invented, aren’t all the other boundaries an invention? All I can say is I feel most at home when, somehow, these lines, edges and definitions drop away and I melt into the whole of it.
Home then, for me, is a place where I can easily reach that stillness, that place of familiarity, inside me. Where I feel deeply connected to myself, my body, and my place here in this world. Where all these things – me, my body, this place – lose their boundaries. And that brings a sense of freedom from definitions altogether. And that is a beautiful thing.
It has occurred to me that perhaps traveling is a trigger for this deeper connection. A reminder that being ‘away’ is an outward phenomenon, a thing of the mind, and that home doesn’t move. It is always in the same place, which is everywhere and nowhere all at once.
This mind-bending, philosophical navel-gazing hasn’t convinced my kids, though. For now, Canada still holds that special designation for them. Fair enough. I’ll ask them again in about 30 years.