No Place Like Home

I recently came home to Cambodia from a trip home to the US where I announced to my family and friends that I quit my job and I’m moving home!

When I say I’m moving home, I actually have no idea where I’m going next. I just mean I’m relocating my person from this home to a new location yet to be determined – a new home of sorts.

All this home coming, going, and relocating has me in a bit of a tailspin. It got me to pondering, what does home actually mean to me?

If you’re like me (which I assume you may be since you’re reading this) the whole concept of “home” tends to be a bit murky.I am admittedly one of those annoying people who looks at you puzzled if you ask me where I’m from. And with good reason- this year I realized that I’ve officially been traveling for about half of my life.

I decided to spend some time at home doing some research on the topic. (That means I googled what other smart people have to say about the meaning of home).

The traditional definition of home looks something like this:

home /hōm/ : n. The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household

I’ve never been very traditional, so it isn’t a surprise that this definition doesn’t really fit me at all. I looked a bit further, and while I didn’t find a better definition, I found these two famous poets who seem to think more like I do.

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” – Robert Frost

“Where thou art, that is home.”- Emily Dickinson

The Robert Frost school of thought makes me think of that moment in immigration after landing in the US when the officer hands my passport back and says “Welcome Home”. (I realize not everyone is greeted like this when flying into the USA, but I hope you at least feel at home when you land in your own country).

To me “home” is the open doors of friends and family around the world. It is the places where I belong by default

Home is also the places and spaces that I find most familiar. Home is in the kitchen of my dad’s house in Florida and Peregrine Espresso on Washington DC’s capitol hill. I feel strangely at home while whizzing across Bangkok by sky train, running across the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, or running up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial.

But even more important than space and place, home is about the people I belong to.

It isn’t only the familiar view from dad’s kitchen window that make his house in Florida a home to me- it the hugs from my nephews that won’t give me a minute to myself when I come to visit. At Peregrine, it isn’t the espresso that makes me feel at home as much as it is the morning coffee crew that shares laughter over morning lattes and adds life to each day’s beginning.

When I returned to Cambodia, after my recent trip home, I was so glad spend a night in my own bed after 34 days on the road sleeping in 16 different places (12 beds, 3 planes and 1 airport floor). I was happy to turn the key my door and walk into my physical house after a long journey, but a key and a door do not a home make.

What truly made my homecoming feel like home were the familiar faces. The smiles and greeting from the guard of my building who has opened the gate for me every day for the past three years. The waving tuk tuk drivers on my corner who flagged me down to tell me welcome back.

Coming home, or being home is a little bit like the old Cheers theme song, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”

When Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz clicked her sparkly red heels together and said “There’s No Place Like Home”, I don’t think she did so because she was missing her 2 bedroom house in Kansas. I think she was just ready to get back to the place she belonged and the people she belonged too.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a person who has the dictionary sort of home, but I’m grateful to have lived a full home-life in the Emily Dickson sense wherever I’ve been. Today I’m home here. Tomorrow home elsewhere. But always home with the people I love.

Where are you at home?



9 responses to “No Place Like Home”

  1. Tianna May says:

    8 years ago, I wrote this about this very conundrum…


    So, where is “home” exactly? The place you come from? The place where your stuff is? Where your family lives? The dictionary gives the following definitions, among others: 1. A place where one lives; a residence; a dwelling place; 2. Of or pertaining to one’s dwelling or country; domestic; not foreign.

    There’s another definition I like better: “The center or heart of something” — the place one belongs. Maybe the saying, “home is where the heart is,” is more than a cliche — maybe it’s true. Maybe the more your heart encompasses, the more places you belong. And maybe at some point, it’s the company of souls, not places, that truly becomes your home.


    Nov 30, 2004

  2. Jenn says:

    Great post. From a fellow nomad, I agree that “home” is truly where the heart is. It is people who make your world 🙂 Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Heather says:

    Maybe you should buy some fish and name them after different cities! Remember when you did that when we lived in Bangkok?!

    What’s the timing of your move? And it sounds like you are U.S. bound, is that right?

    Would love to see you again sometime.

    Well, sending good thoughts as the new home becomes a reality.

    Glad to know you Zito. Happy Wandering!

  4. Meredith Howard says:

    I’ve always admired how you can travel around like that so freely. I definitely need a some “American” style amenities to feel comfortable, but I don’t consider any one house a home. I feel at home wherever I can think really well – and especially wherever inspiration strikes me. It’s like all of a sudden I’ve connected with the universe, and I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be.

  5. maia says:

    Great post Steph…. I often find myself singing the theme song from Cheers when I am about to board a plane to go to the UK, or to come to Cyprus.. officially being from both places, they are both meant to be home – and they are. Walking on the hill at sunset when I am completely alone apart from my dog Lola and looking at my favourite mountain in Cyprus makes me feel at home – especially after long trips and equally, sitting in my sisters kitchen, drinking tea and looking out the window at the quintessentially English village where she lives and squeezing my nephews in huge bear hugs has the same effect. Home is where the heart is. Sometimes I wish my heart was in one place and I could experience all the loveliness of family and familiar places at the same time like so many people.. but maybe we are the xtra lucky ones that can carry home with us as we go…….

  6. Geertje Ramsoebhag says:

    Happy the Erasmusbridge is part of this story as I am calling Rotterdam home the last 8 years! And feel free to ever come running my way… I am only 15 minutes from the bridge! 🙂

    Would love to have you during a lay-over of some sort 🙂

  7. apryl wimes says:

    I think that you made the right decision at this season in your life, but also feel that you may be traveling again soon. I think you are among one of the bravest women I know, including Heather and Robin.

    I hope that I can be at Peregrine Espresso one of those times that you are around to welcome you. Also know that I’m not that hard to find. I am quite accessible.

    Take it easy, Stephanie. One day at a time. You’ll know the answers if you keep asking and when you are ready to handle it. But for now, just enjoy the rest.

  8. Bonnie Casey says:

    I loved reading your post. I’ve always wanted to live that kind of life but girls didn’t do that in the sixties. I got married 2 months after HS graduation at 17 and was a mother by 18. Loved all my kids, and most of my life. Hoping now that I am a widow, all my kids are on their own.(FYI Mike died last year from multiple cancers.) O I will find my own pair of ruby slippers and get to see the world a bit. Am praying that you have a wonderful life and never ending journey. Be blessed.

  9. Mac Prichard says:

    It’s the people that make a place home for me. While I wasn’t born in Portland, Oregon, it’s been home for me for more than 20 years now because of the many friends, colleagues and acquaintenances I have here. Being part of a community like this makes all the difference.

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