Where is “home”?

Articles,Philosophy,Travel & Adventure — Sean Bonner @ 9:41 am
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The idea of “home” is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. As a kid home was where I slept and spent most of my time when not at school, but because my family moved around a lot I didn’t have any real emotional connection to it. As an adult I often tell people that it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I actually felt like I was home. I’ve talked to a lot of friends about this over the years and I get the feeling for a lot of people the idea of home is much more romanticized than anything they’ve ever actually experienced. What with “home is where the heart is” and other such slogans beaten into our heads. But even that doesn’t point so much to a place as a feeling, right? If you can feel like you are home when you are around certain people just as much as when you are in certain places then maybe home itself needs to be better defined before you can try and figure out where it is.

According to Dictionary.com, home is:

“any place of residence or refuge”

Wikipedia adds to that saying:

“It is usually a place in which an individual or a family can rest and be able to store personal property.”

Neither of those really sound like anything too special to me. I can rest on a park bench, is that home? I can take refuge in a coffee shop, is that home? I can store personal property in a rented out storage space, is that home? You see where I’m going with this, there must be a better of not just what home is, but what we want home to be. Let’s take this one step further – with the exception of about one suitcase worth of clothing and a backpack with some assorted electronics, I just put everything I own into storage. We also gave up the lease on our apartment in Venice and plan to spent the rest of the year bouncing around the world staying with friends and at guest apartments. Does this make me homeless?

I think at one point when people were born and died in the same building home was much easier to define, but now, especially for a certain group heavily traveled people, home isn’t one place, it’s many places. By the end of the year I expect to have a few basic necessities like a change of clothes and some toothpaste stashed in a few major cities around the world. Not because I’m paranoid and trying to have a plan B, C and D in place (though I kind of will thanks to this) but rather because I travel to them on a regular basis and it’s pointless for me to always take the same things there and back in my luggage. (If money was no issue I’d duplicate a few other things like bikes and electronics but for now I’m sticking with clothes) While I’ll have a home somewhere in Los Angeles, I’ll also be “at home” in many other places.

I see this as a natural progression of things, and think more and more people will be doing something similar, or some parts of it anyway. This is the core of what I’ve been calling “Multibasing” for years, that is having multiple bases, but it’s something that would make sense to a much larger group of people I know who are always on the go, but often in one of a handful of places. Well, I guess they would never be at two of a handful of places, but you know what I’m getting at. People tell me they can’t keep track of all the places I go, but honestly I go to a few of the same places over and over again. If I’m not in Los Angeles and you had to just guess where I was, picking Singapore, Tokyo or New York wouldn’t be a bad choice. And with any luck I’ll make that list longer as time goes on.

There is a whole group of people, Global Nomads, Technomads and Permanent Travelers who don’t live anywhere, but at the same time live everywhere. In the same way that people are drawn to the idea of “home,” I think that the ability to call the whole world home is just as romantic, and equally if not more attractive.

So if you travel all the time and have many places you call home, then which one do you decide is the most important and where you should keep all your stuff? Maybe the real question is why do you think you need all that stuff? But that’s a topic for another post.

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19 Comments »

  1. Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
    They have to take you in.

    — Robert Frost

    Comment by Edward O'Connor — May 29, 2010 @ 3:21 pm
  2. Entering my sophomore year of high school, I was attending my third school. Always being the new kid gives you tough skin. As I get older, all I want to do is stay put. The idea of home is a very intangible feeling even though it is defined in such tangible terms. Great post.

    Comment by Joe — May 29, 2010 @ 4:19 pm
  3. at the current stage of my life home is wherever I feel most in sync with the ppl & culture, oh and have bed and wifi :)

    my favorite romanticized verse:
    home is whenever I’m with you
    by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

    has your perception of home changed now that ripley is in your life?

    Comment by Michael Galpert — May 29, 2010 @ 4:21 pm
  4. @Joe – Thanks, and I know that feeling exactly. I joke around that I remember where I lived at what age by thinking of what school I was in at the time, as I moved almost every year for a while. By the time I reached high school, which was a new school for me, I’d gone to 6 different school – several for only a year a time. A professor once deduced that perhaps my lifelong obsession with all things “community” is due in part to not really having anything constant as a child so always sort of hunting for one to be a part of.

    @Michael – I don’t think you are alone in that feeling. I have a lot of friends that require not much more than broadband and coffee to survive. In some respects I think that is a direction a lot of people are moving, or at least a direction a lot of people want to move.

    The recent birth of my son will of course effect this somehow, but I can’t yet predict what that will be. He’s here with me in Singapore and will be with me a large chunk of this year, though surely once he enters school he won’t be able to travel as much – but that is still a ways out and a lot of speculation. I can say that it’s a very different world now then when we were kids, and from when our parents were kids. Remember when one parent would go on a trip and they would be “gone” for however long, and it was a big deal when they called and you got to talk to them on the phone? Put that same situation into the always connected world we have now and already it’s a little different, and while I don’t think Ripley is going to be on Twitter or Facebook in the next year, even things like video chats via Skype make it feel like someone far away is right there with you.

    I guess I’m saying I don’t know how that will effect this, but I don’t know how any of it really does – this is all kind of an exploration and trying to figure it out as I go, and looking for similar trends and experiences in other peoples lives.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — May 29, 2010 @ 4:52 pm
  5. Hey Sean,

    I guess I do quite some Multibasing lately. My mom, sister and uncle live in german, my dad in spain. I consider all there ‘houses home’.

    Personally I live in Mexico for about three years now, pretty much with the same 2 pieces of luggage. It’s suprising how few stuff one actually needs. I lived in three appartments in thos three years, but in this case it’s more the country or the city I think of as home than one of those appartments.

    I think for me Home actually is, where my heart is and where I feel confident and good. The mexicans like to say (when you visit them) ‘aca tienes tu casa’ (you have your / a home here). And actually it feels exactly that way.

    So, I stick with ‘home is more a feeling than it is a place’.

    Regards
    Elmar

    Comment by Elmar Schneider — May 29, 2010 @ 5:30 pm
  6. Enjoyed your post. I think my email address says it all. In the past 16 years, I have moved frequently from the Caribbean (Dominican Republic) to the Persian Gulf (Abu Dhabi), the eastern Med (Cyprus) to the foothills of the Himalayas (Kathmandu, Nepal), from North Africa (Tunisia) to my current location south of the equator (Indonesia). Some, but not all, of these places have also become my home. However, ironically perhaps, I have “homes” in two countries in which I have only lived for short periods of time – Greece and Budapest – but that is where my “stuff” is and where, when I am homesick, I dream of going back to. For me home is where I find peace, where I love the coffee shop around the corner or the neighbor up the hill. It is a state of mind as much as a place. Now if only governments and institutions would catch up with this new way of thinking – life would be so much easier.

    Comment by Tracie Landry — May 30, 2010 @ 2:54 pm
  7. “home is where heart is” – my aunt who migrated to Australia ~50 years ago has this slogan on the wall.

    Maybe that will be the same for you, when your beloved ones are bound to one place. Your son will start school at some point, so you will probably be also be around, or at least be connceted to the place where your family is.

    Comment by Jochen — June 2, 2010 @ 6:41 am
  8. Home for me has always been who I’m with, not where I am.

    We’ve moved around a good bit, and we’re looking at moving again in the not too distant future. Every time I move, I take less with me. The sheer volume of crap you accumulate when you stay in one place for awhile is amazing.

    Comment by caroline — June 9, 2010 @ 1:23 pm
  9. Multibasing: What Is Home For People Who Travel Around A Lot? - PSFK mentioned this Article on

  10. Travel Diary: In Between mentioned this Article on

    Pingback by Travel Diary: In Between — July 3, 2010 @ 10:41 am
  11. hi sean!
    My name is jamie danielle hardy and I too experienced a life similar to yours- (I am 25 years old and have moved 14 times, spanned four countries, went to five different highschools, etc…) I now reside in Omaha NE =) kinda weird where you end up– but i have to say it’s got an interesting energy about it- you should check it out sometime. I have lived here over four years (the longest I’ve lived anywhere)– I am mainly still here because I am pursuing my Bachelor of Fine Art Degree– I’ve had the itch to leave so many times but that has kept me focused. . . now with my thesis show looming next semester I have begun to research what I am basing my thesis work around “HOME”–
    have you ever stayed anywhere long enough to see someone you used to hang out with years ago– It was the weirdest phenomenon when it happened to me for the first time .. . I could actually say “I hung out with that person a few years ago”– like point the person out to my group of friends and say that and it actually have some relevance. that was the first time I felt home.
    It’s awesome that it seems like you’ve carried on your nomadic journey and it seems like you have kept in touch with people you’ve met over your life– for me i have photographs and no connection– I can’t reminisce with anyone over my memories because we have all lost contact and even if contact is gained- facebook is just not the same– =)

    I just wanted to share a downside of not having someone there to tie you to your past– maybe that is what home is= past

    I mean things we own are relics of the past right? and people who care for us care about a shared past-

    maybe you could say “home is where you hang your past.”

    any thoughts on my ramblings?

    Comment by -=jdh=- — July 9, 2010 @ 5:37 pm
  12. This question has been present my whole adult life.
    Introduction: My first 20 years were in NZ before I ever left. Since then I have spent 6 years in three American cities, six years in three Australian cities, seven years in three English cities and now nine years in Berlin, the German one.
    After my first six years I realised I could define what home means. My most extreme experience of this was coming to Germany, and expecting to stay three days and now staying nine years. In those initial three days I experienced a crystal-clear understanding that I simply had to stay here for duration unspecified for reasons unclear. In those initial three days Germany became my home, despite no language, income or fixed abode.
    This has proven a great insight. And, no, marriage and a wee kid came years later.
    So for me home now basically represents at least the whole planet.

    Comment by Mo Riddiford — September 12, 2010 @ 7:43 pm
  13. Do any of you have kids? I think it makes a difference. While I am not sure where “home” is I do feel compelled to creat one for my child and love the routines that come w ith the idea of home and community but I also find it hard to accept any one place as home, I’ve lived in Paris and Spain, grew up in various areas of So Cal, then the SF bay area for a number of years and am now am in Sydney, Australia but don’t call any of those places home, really, even though there’s lots to like about all of them. It’ll be interesting to see how I feel about all of this as I age, and maybe start feeling more vulnerable…

    Comment by JR — March 2, 2011 @ 9:47 am
  14. I CAN NOT IMAGINE MYSELF IN JUST ONE PLACE OF THE EARTH.

    Comment by MESHE — March 2, 2011 @ 3:03 pm
  15. Home is where your baby photos are, isn’t it? | In-sight-out mentioned this Article on

  16. Hi Sean,

    I loved this blog entry! I think it is head on and very inspiring.

    Therefore I have just quotes you on my blog.

    Let me know what you think: http://stefaniesoehnchen.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/home-is-where-your-baby-photos-are-isnt-it/

    Cheers, Steffi

    Comment by Steffi — March 20, 2011 @ 3:29 pm
  17. Hi everybody, this topic interests me a lot. I’ve changed my house in Florence 12 times in the last 18 months, but none of them ever become home. I keep moving into “temporary places”, do not feel to get trap by a regular contract. I started to think that perhaps I should find the way to travell the world to find “the place” where to live, make a documentary about it, in order to find out what Home is. I am half british, half italian, use to speak a combination of the two languages when I was a kid and never felt completly italian or english. Now … now I am questioning my self: WHERE IS HOME? I feel at home with some special people, I feel a town home when i feel protected by a relation or a good job situation, but feeling home as an emotion, makes the home a temporary interior status. The only place I really felt home is a small wooden green house where I use to play when I was a little girl, in the green house I use to play the game of “making the space my house”.. perhaps Home is this: feeling the joy of creating your own personal space, a space that you create for yourself with the aim of opening it to others….kids, friends, tomatoes, future …

    Comment by Anna — May 24, 2011 @ 3:58 pm
  18. I feel ya man.
    I returned “home” after a year and a half of vagabonding around the world. And I don’t know why I’m here. (Los Angeles) I grew up in alaska, spent ages 10-12 in Maryland, 13-16 in Indiana, 16-19 in LA and 19-22 bouncing around the globe. I have felt at home in all those places and about 10 world cities. But none of them feel quite right… I guess for now home is where my family is, but that’s it. Everything I own fits in my backpack! The biggest thing. For me is “home is where I don’t need to worry about a visa or work permit.”
    Good luck on the road, I hope to do the same with my family when I have one.

    Comment by Taylor — May 30, 2012 @ 5:45 pm
  19. Great post.I am currently going trough

    Comment by blake melendez — October 8, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

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