We talked this morning about the concept of “home.” If we’re to become serial expats, living here and there for three or six months at a time, will we feel homesickness? And if we feel it, for what home will we feel sick?
We decided that it’s more than an address. We’ll have to have an address for the banks and health care people. We’ll probably use my daughter’s address for that. But that’s not home.
Is it the place where we grew up? I grew up in Eugene (OR); Louise grew up in West Warwick (RI). They’re familiar places. Our schools are there. But neither one of us has lived in those places for decades and we don’t miss them. They’re not home.
Is it family? “Home is where the family is.” That works for millions of people worldwide, but probably least for people in the First World. We tend to go to where the jobs are. Some of us go to places that appeal to us and then find a job. Regardless, we move. Frequently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor says that the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.0 years in January 2006, unchanged from 2004. So, for North Americans, one might suppose that home is where the job is – not where the heart is, nor where the family is. At the moment, Louise and I feel fortunate that all of our children are at least on the U.S. West Coast, within nice train rides of each other.
Objectively speaking, a home is shelter. It keeps you dry. It keeps you warm. It offers places for sleeping, social interaction, food preparation (and consumption), and – this may be the most critical of all – water. (Could you live in a home without water?) To that list, we add Internet. But that’s just us. Is that enough? Is that home?
I’ve decided – and I haven’t consulted with Louise on this – that a home is simply a place where I want to be. Not just the abode, but the community and the environment with which it’s associated. That allows for change: I want to be in Girona next spring, but not so much next summer. I want to be on the Mexican coast in the winter, but not so much during the hurricane/rainy/humid season in July and August.
In the end, home is a subjective issue. It differs from one person and one time to another. For me, home is where I’m stimulated, where I’m sustained, where I’m comfortable, happy, fed, and bathed – all transient values. They change with the season, with my stage of life, with my sense of adventure, and with my companion’s caprice. Home is where I am. Today. Now.
Whew! I feel so much better for having written that. Now I know why becoming a serial expat is so attractive. And why, perhaps someday, I’ll find something else to be equally attractive. Home is not in Girona, or Portland, or Mexico. Home isn’t where the job is or even where the heart is: home is where the head is.