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What Is Home: Redefining My Sense Of Place

Travel is full of new starts and near-constant questioning of where we belong; in the end, it reminds us to be grateful for all the places we can call home.

By Orla McHale, Third Year, English Literature

The Croft Magazine // Travel is full of new starts and near-constant questioning of where we belong; in the end, it reminds us to be grateful for all the places we can call home.

In western society it is practically a given that both your experience and definition of home will expand and diversify with age. That, as a student, one of the most seminal shifts in perception will be an extension of places that occupy a space in your heart. Roots, blood, and nostalgia for the family home become placed alongside the fresh ventures of a new local that too, signify home for reasons aligned with greater individual choice. However, the expectation of such an experience doesn’t make its effects less dizzying.

As a proud northerner with a deep attachment to my life in Manchester, and a student who loves the life I’ve carved with friends in Bristol, I’ve still found the two worlds existing simultaneously in the mind as home perplexing. Not only for the awkward state of in-betweenness it harbours but for what it means for the question of ‘what is home?’.

While I understand the cliched quotes ‘there’s no place like home’ and ‘home is where the heart is’, are true in their definitions of home as a space that grounds you in comfort, love, and stability. The quotes don’t deal with the question of ‘what is home?’ when you have yet to synthesise all your, sometimes conflicting, experiences of what it is. And, moreover are bound to have more versions of it yet to experience, which became evident during a month-long backpacking trip with a friend through Central America this summer.

Ⓒ Vera Silsbury / The Croft

Oh, the irony that existing amongst nomads, freedom and wanderlust, partnered with a backdrop of awe-inspiring terrains can leave you anxious to the question of ‘what is home?’ or rather, what is your definition of home?

Despite being away from home, the question of home never left. At the tip of every traveller’s tongue, myself included, naturally lay ‘where are you from?’ and quickly escalated, as conversations do (where privacy feels like a distant memory in hostels, intimacy quick) to ‘where do you see yourself living’, in other words, ‘what will home be for you?’.

For some travellers we met, their path had been set out clearly through exploring new countries, taken by a mystical sense of place when visiting a country they had decided their true home resided there. I haven’t forgotten the young French man who told us of his two years in Australia, ‘I felt at home… it is my home’. I could’ve shaken it off as a romantic expression of admiration for the country, but the depth in his voice revealed it was weightier than that, he had truly found his place.

Others seemed as lost as ourselves, grappling with their love of people and places but not sure ultimately where they would make the choice to curate a home for themselves. There appeared a common fear, that if we didn’t have that same overwhelming sense of wholeness from a place or at least didn’t mould all of our past homes into the present, we could miss out on something. That we could miss out on some reality of what a home is.

The penny didn’t drop until asked a very simple question. ‘Do you love where you are headed back to?’. ‘Of course,’ I replied. It is phenomenal what some rephrasing can do.

Too preoccupied with what would be, how I may change, I’d forgotten the abundance of my life back in the UK. A life in which I did know what home was despite thinking myself into the fallacy that having two places I can call home had to cause some sort of division within myself, make one of them lack meaning.

Through my travels it then became apparent we have the capacity to make endless places our home if we give them an ounce of time, love and appreciation.

It is why at a festival, a friend referred to our tent as home. Not because the littered campsite encapsulated her ideal life, but temporarily it was our sanctuary. It is why my dull first year accommodation room was a home, and why so many hostels we visited were subconsciously named home when they left our mouths.

I now know growing financial and spatial independence shouldn’t paralyse me with the thought of more choices to make but make me grateful for all the places I will get to call home.

Featured image: Ⓒ Bernardo Santos

What places have you found that felt like home?