Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. – Matsuo Basho

I’ve done a lot of moving in my life in attempt to discover where I belong. I’ve moved from Portland, Oregon, down to Chico, California, then further still to Oceanside, California. And when we were fed up with the West Coast, we decided to give Alabama, my then-boyfriend’s home state, a try. After that, it was Thailand.

Since the past year was filled with upheaval and stress, I’ve been mostly focused on only the negative aspects of moving. But that’s about to change.

In its simplest definition, home is a place, but in this modern age, home can be a fickle thing. We are digital nomads, refugees, and homeless people. We are folks who are one or two paychecks away from homelessness. We’re working more than our forefathers and foremothers.

Home is a fragile thing.

But what I’ve come to appreciate are the positive aspects of moving. I think I’ve done enough “searching for the silver lining” in the mist of stormy weather. I’ve eked out the importance of resistance and hardship in shaping character and identity. So, I think it’s about time that I stopped fighting the lifestyle that I’ve chosen (and not chosen), and appreciate why it works (at least for me).

Celebrate those memories

I used to be gobsmacked by expats who have lived in the same place for many years. I was envious of their locked-in low rent and stability. It has taken me years to stop looking at their lives with longing and understand that what I’ve done has its merits, too.

For one, instead of having one home, I now have many. I could land in Durango, Colorado, or Siem Reap, Cambodia and feel a sense of belonging that comes from having spent years in a place. I suppose frequent travel can give you that feeling as well. But there’s something about walking through your old neighborhood, time traveling back, and capturing a longer period of your life.

If you’ve moved a lot, then you can easily mark the time by where you’ve been. When you live in the same place, those years can slide by in a blur. Routine can create monotony, not unlike when you can’t remember the last 20 minutes of your drive home. My years in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, can be divided by the five different places I’ve lived.

A horse trailer is a lot like a moving van and that’s why we used it way back in Huntsville, Alabama in 2008!

Celebrate those beginnings and endings

I’ve gotten good at goodbyes. I suppose that sounds sad to some, but it’s really not. I’ve been blessed enough to meet amazing people from all over the world. I’ve come to appreciate that people who you think you might not see again, end up exactly where you are, or vice versa. I don’t know. Sometimes at the end, I look at my friend and say, “We’ll see each other again.”

Life is crazy beautiful that way. I promise. I can give you many examples. You probably have them, too.

There’s also something about knowing a new chapter in your life is starting or ending. In the past, we were a society that celebrated rites of passages. We marked time with particular life events that no longer hold true for everybody. Moving has given me those spiritual markers.

Here’s a definition of rites of passage:

Ceremonies that mark important transitional periods in a person’s life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, having children, and death. Rites of passage usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles.

Don’t cause yourself unnecessary suffering through your mind – or something like that. [Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014]

Celebrate what’s good for your brain

Sometimes, moving involves learning a new language. Moving almost always involves having to create a new routine, learning a new job, becoming familiar with a new environment, making new friends, and making mistakes.

It can also be incredibly stressful depending on your luck and support system. Yet, you are given a new set of lenses in which to look out on the world. And there’s plenty of evidence that shows how good this is for your mental and physical health. They say complacency is the enemy of happiness.

Some definitions of the verb move are: to make progress, to develop in a particular direction or manner, to change or to cause change, to take action, to influence or prompt (someone) to do something, and to empty one’s bowels.

When you’re a beginner, you’re forced to ask questions, to ask for help, and you also become a little more sensitive. Of course, this might seem like a bad thing, but different roles during different times in your life can make you a more compassionate person.

For instance, I remember all too well what it’s like to be the new kid on the job. Heck, that’s exactly where I’m at now! So, when I’ve been the veteran, I make an extra effort to be nice to new colleagues. Those ‘hellos’ and ‘how are you doing’ and ‘do you need any help’ are so important.

I remember when I started teaching in Siem Reap and received the cold shoulder from a particular clique. But instead of feeling hurt, I saw them as a psychological experiment. When we’ve “found our tribe” we can quickly sink into limiting behavior and thinking. Experience has reminded me to keep doors open.

I don’t have deep roots, but I have wings. [Mae Gnat houseboat, Thailand, 2011]

Celebrate flexibility

We live in a rapidly changing world and my lifestyle has allowed me not only greater freedom, but a deeper understanding of how important it is to adapt.

When I read things like, many American cities make the top lists of homeless places around the world. – or – “The growing number of young adults living at home has steadily grown for decades echoing the increasing problem of earning a livable wage that allows people to meet their basic needs.” I think we have to be flexible in mind and body to cope with the world’s problems. We can’t get entrenched in “this is the way we do things” thinking. We have to constantly challenge ourselves, in order to learn, and to grow.

I never set out to live as a nomad. In fact, one of the reasons why I’ve never looked at the positive side of such a lifestyle is because of how I’m perceived by family. “You’re moving AGAIN?” was not said with excitement or enthusiasm. More like, “when is this girl going to get her life together?”

It’s also not normal. This is not what most people want for their lives. Traveling around the world sounds glamorous, but that’s not what I’m doing. I feel more like I’m being kicked around, but then again, I always have a choice and I know that I’ve made these choices even when it hasn’t felt that way.

As the climate change, economies, and conflict create displacement, “going with the flow” can very well turn out to be an overlooked strength. Time will tell, or not. It doesn’t matter. I’m making my peace with the life I live.

In any case, we can all move in our small and grand ways. Celebrate through play, wonder, and the power of just dancing in your own home when no one else is looking.

25 replies on “What is home? (a nomad reflects)

  1. This topic is always a can of worms. “when is this girl going to get her life together?” Lol this sentence resonated with me. That was my younger self, always moving around, moving from place to place and switching jobs. Really applaud you for getting good at goodbyes because I still cannot get used to them – even if it’s knowing someone for a few months and having small banter with them, yeah, it is hard on me (true blue Taurus here 😛 ).

    Finding your tribe is always easier said than done, and so many of us like to keep up our walls. I think for most of us, we’ve been through quite a bit to where we are today, and if someone gives you the cold shoulder, they are just protecting themselves. Sometimes you wonder how you can break down their walls, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we’ve become a society that doesn’t allow for folks to go through a “figuring out phase”. We don’t like the messy, growing up bits, so when it looks like someone is constantly in that place, it’s frustrating to watch.

      That’s one of the challenges of family, right? We might not be compatible, but we’re still in this together.

      I think some people find their tribe from way back during school years and don’t break out from them. But yes, I understand what you are saying, folks don’t want to be vulnerable or get hurt. I don’t really understand that though – that’s life. It’s impossible!

      As far as breaking down walls, I’m not the person to do it. And what I mean is, it takes two to create a conversation. If other people aren’t willing to engage, I just move on to those who want to. 😛

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      1. I actually think more than ever society allows ourselves to go through ‘figuring out phase’, and retreating and reflecting individually seems to be more acceptable. I say this coming from so many more of us traveling in general, and also having the unconventional not-so-put-together life with various personal issues. A lot of people whom I have met certainly haven’t got it together and we trade these kinds of stories quite often.
        Sometimes breaking down someone’s walls is such an honour, such an honour to be let into their lives 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Okay, we can agree to disagree. 🙂 Although to support what you are saying, maybe that’s why so many young people feel more lost than ever – because we’ve become a more tolerant society. We have more choices than ever before so there seems to be a FOMO aspect and also a ‘grass is greener’ one, too, that helps us feel less satisfied with life.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I didn’t want to play down how important it is to have deep roots (and really what a beautiful thing that is). But I also needed to see what was special about the life I’ve lived, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am a tad envious of people who have deep roots, and I often marvel how for some it is possible to live their whole lives in one place. I sometimes wish I could be like that, but when I think about it, my chest starts to tighten.
        It is definitely important to celebrate one’s own life, and all the things that are making it unique and special. And you have certainly not led a boring life, Lani. I hope you are finding your feet in your new place.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There are times when I reflect on the roads I could have taken. I can see myself being a great homemaker and mom – there’s something about that lifestyle that has great appeal to me. I love to cook, garden, make a beautiful home, and I’ve worked with children for years now.

        But for whatever reason, life and circumstances did not lead me down that path. So I think, at least for this life, I’m here to experience freedom.

        It’s an odd feeling in a mostly sedentary society, but there’s also the very real possibility that I’ll finally ‘settle down’ and establish roots. It would be the irony that could follow such a post.

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  2. What an excellent post/meditation! Reading it, I’m enjoying thinking about all the places I’ve lived and all the adjustments I had to make in each new place. It can be difficult, but also I enjoyed getting used to the geography of a new place and discovering the sights and sounds and activities that were entirely new to me there.
    I’ve heard that the average American lives in eleven different houses. I’ve lived in sixteen. We didn’t have a goodbye party when we simply moved to a new house, but we did have some great farewell parties/dinners/sendoffs when moved to a new country or city. In one of my favorite houses (in Vanuatu), we not only had a big housewarming, we also had a nice party for a house blessing organized by our Vietnamese landlord.
    I firmly believe in the value of flexibility. The world does not stand still–far from it–and we have no choice but to adapt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said! – “I firmly believe in the value of flexibility. The world does not stand still–far from it–and we have no choice but to adapt.”

      Housewarmings seem so Asian. I say that because housewarmings seem so distant in the States. I’m curious about the average amount of homes Americans live in! I’d challenge that as surely the number of kids these days that stay at home longer has brought that average down. But a quick google search supports you as right!

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  3. I’ve lived in 6 different cities in 2 countries. And homes… let me count… if I include everything, since I was a child, I’ve lived in 10 homes and 4 student dorms.
    That sentence about “getting your life together” is funny. I’m almost 35 and I’m married, own a home (well, my husband does and I live here for free, does that count?), have a baby and have a job. However I don’t feel like I have anything together, like, at all. It’s weird…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe getting your life together is just something we say and aspire to, but never feel. And if we do then it’s a fleeting moment. I don’t know. I’d like to think at some point in our lives that feeling will settle down upon us 🙂 But maybe it’s overrated! Hahahha. Well, we can still count our blessings.

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  4. Even though I live thousands of miles from “home”, I’ve moved relatively few times in my life (only twice in the past eight years and one of those times was from one end of the street to the other) and I really hate and fear it. I have mad respect for people like you who do it over and over. Definitely a character-building trait. Plus I think humans are bred to migrate — it’s how we evolve as a species!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I suppose some folks would argue that we are meant to be sedentary even though farming, etc, is only 2000 years old (or so).

      I don’t know, but you’ve given me something to think about. Although between you and me (and whoever else reads this), I’m about done with ‘character building’ – hahahahha – about ready to just establish roots. I think. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Lani!!

    You and I are in different situations, because my husband and I are retired, Even so, I know exactly what you mean when it comes to our friends and family, “not getting it”. Anytime that we have moved, we understand that it is going to be a pain in the ass. That fact aside, much research and excitement is the hallmark of the move; as is the anticipation. At our age, getting that giddy happy feeling is worth the effort and inconvenience.

    We have lived in 4 countries in the last 4.5 years. We think of ourselves a very slow travelers. This August will mark our third year here in Mexico City. We have stayed here out of pure wonder of this enormous and welcoming city. About six months ago we realized that we were becoming a little too comfy here. We have entered into a stage that has become most regular and predictable. Simply walking out the door and going from point A to point B feels natural and routine, not exciting and fresh. Even before moving here we had Eastern Europe on our radar.

    Our loved ones back in the States have become used to us making our proclamations of moving over the last few years. But with each move we were making a slow progression north from Peru, and to what seemed to them to be a final landing back in the US. Every move so far has been met with fanfare and interest. I never gave it a though.

    So when we announced a possible move this Europe this August, we were both gobsmacked at the blow back we got at the time and still are getting even now.

    When are you going to finally settle down? You guys are getting too old for this kind of lifestyle. What happens if you get sick? Yes, Lani, the visceral reaction that folks have to your moves is real phenomenon. I know that this reaction comes from care, love and genuine concern.

    But you know, every now and then I think of that short story by Voltaire called Candide. Thinking of this little book always makes me stop and ponder a bit. We have it so good here, we feel safe, love the food, love the climate and immensely enjoy the kind people.

    Who knows, maybe sometimes going with the flow means enjoying that part of the stream that is calm and peaceful. If only for a little longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, now you got me interested in Voltaire’s Candide.

      Yeah, maybe the mark of an interesting or good life is shocking friends and family from time to time. I’d like to think my mom will ‘give up’ and stop wanting me to come ‘home’ and whatever else she wants me to do, but then there would probably always be something else.

      Surprising to hear that folks told you all that after your announcement! But you are right, it comes from a good place. I know it does. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

      There have definitely been times during my expat adventures where I have missed that new feeling when everything was novel and fresh. It’s bittersweet when what was once exciting becomes routine. Ah, such is life. We must adapt and have routine, too!

      Thanks for being here Goldi. I’m always happy to hear from you. xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love what you have shared in this post. There’s no right or wrong way to live. For some of us it involves a nomadic existence by choice, while others are forced into it. I’m glad that being the outsider had made me see things locals sometimes miss, it’s made me more open to life’s possibilities. I like to also remember that the sedentary nationalistic lifestyle is a new thing. Before, most indigenous tribes around the world led a nomadic existence, partners of the lands they traversed. When did this become a bad thing?

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  7. Just stay healthy and remember /keep in touch with great friends and family, Lani.
    I envy your adjustments.
    I’ve lived in 3 different Canadian provinces, not foreign countries. But for myself, that’s enough. I’ve learned immensely about living and working in different regions of Canada….it has expanded my love for Canada. One can read tons about places but until one actually lives for several years in a place, one doesn’t know about certain things.
    The hardest part is living far from family and friends. This becomes important over time, as people die. I have a large extended family in Toronto.
    For sure, it has affected my career….in a positive way. No, of course one doesn’t build much of a pension since I’ve worked for over 9+ employers across those 3 provinces.
    3 friends my age, all each took early retirement @59 yrs. & 62 yrs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Canada is such a huge country that I can only imagine what the regional differences are. I suppose they are akin to the US as there is great variation within even a State!

      It’s true, the hardest part is being away from family and friends. Sometimes I feel like a horrible family member living so far away, but this is the way things are right now. We really need to think of a quicker way to travel. 😛

      Thanks for the reminders, Jean! xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interestingly, the same topic crossed my mind yesterday.

    How even though the current city I am based in doesn’t feel like home yet, the previous city, which I lived in for almost a decade, no longer feels like home either.

    I am having a moment of feeling ungrounded and it’s not a good feeling. I should find ways to help me to drop the anchor. Here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit, I’m surprised. It seems like you enjoy where you live. Now, of course, I’m sure you do, but maybe it’s time for a new definition of home?

      Hmmm. Ungrounded. Time to start a garden? Yoga? Meditate? A new hobby? I don’t know. Sometimes restless feelings are trying to tell us something. In any case, go with the flow and don’t think too much!

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  9. Understanding who you are, why you are & Loving yourself entirely will teach you how to be the best version of yourself. When we love ourselves then we will be able to spread the love that we have for ourselves to others & live blissfully in our purist form.

    Liked by 1 person

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