Thursday, August 06, 2015

Home is Where Your Heart Lives

There is a question that is often asked to expats: "Can you really feel at home in another country?" It  sounds like a simple question which, for many people, has a pretty simple answer: no. In my case, it is not that simple. The answer lies in the definition of "home". There is the simple meaning whereby home is "a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household." Then there is another definition, a more subtle one: "home is the place in which one's domestic affections are centered”. In other words, home is a place of belonging, of identity. It is that  space with which we identify and we draw boundaries around. And here is where most homes differ from one another. For the majority of people, home is a safe place, a habitat they know and feel comfortable in. It’s endurable and defined by the same people, the same habits – traditions, even. But there is a difference between “feeling at home” and “being home”. 

The concept of home has always been an abstract one for me: it is shaped by emotions, love and experiences. Home is my past, my family, my adolescence but also everything that has come after: my travels, all the people I met on the way, the places I've seen, the places that I will never see again, the places I have yet to see. My home smells of steamy mussels fished in Portonovo but also of fish 'n chips eaten in one of London’s back alleys, of a Lamington pie made in Brisbane, of a fillet of barramundi bought at the Melbourne market or a braised steak with roast potatoes eaten in a steak house in Calgary. My home speaks about seagulls, bats, mosquitoes, geckos and wild boars as well as flying foxes, spiders, kangaroos, koalas, coyotes and bears. It speaks of many different cultures, many different languages, many points of view. My home speaks about me, about you, about them. It has neither doors nor windows. My home has no rooms, no locks. It’s as big as the world and as small as my suitcase. My home is my identity: who I was but, most of all, who I've become.  It speaks about my haircuts, the colour of my shoes, the wrinkles on my skin. My home is the Italian language, where I find solace when I feel down, but also the English language that allows me to be free and move about. It 'a shell that I always carry with me, wherever I go. My home is me, my husband, my children. It’s the life I wanted, the life I want. I am home.

And to those who often ask me "Can you really feel at home in another country?" I reply with a quote by Gaius Plinius Secundus, aka Pliny the Elder: "Of course, because home is where my heart lives."

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