We headed back to Johannesburg for a quick visit at almost exactly the same time that we celebrated a year of having lived in San Francisco and both experiences have made me think a lot about ‘home’ — what it means and where it is. What is it that makes a place feel like home — is it the place where you were born, the place where you grew up, the place where you work or the place where friends and family live? How long do you have to spend somewhere for it to feel like home — is it your current location or the place you’ve spent so much time, you know it like the back of your hand?
If you ask my husband, home is not necessarily the place where you were born or raised. My husband was born and raised in the Netherlands but after having lived in South Africa for 11 years, he considers Joburg more home than Veghel. I think the same would go for my sister, who despite being born and raised in Joburg, considers London to be home now after having lived there for over eight years.
My husband’s family still live in the Netherlands but as that doesn’t feel like home to him any longer, home is also not necessarily where family lives. This is true for me as well — my sister lives in London and my parents in Italy but neither place feels like home to me (although both places are my absolute favorite holiday homes).
If home is where friends are or where you’ve spent the most time, then for me, Joburg would have to be it. I was born there and grew up there and went to school and university there and most of my best friends still live there and I know the best restaurants and bars and can find my way around without Google Maps. But strangely, after not having lived there for a year, it didn’t feel like home when I went back to visit (this is not to say that we didn’t have the most amazing time back in Joburg seeing our friends). Perhaps it no longer felt like home because we were on vacation or because we no longer work there or have our own house there…
So, is San Francisco then home for us? We have only lived here for a year and I still (sometimes have to) rely on Google Maps to find my way around but it’s where we now work and where we have made new friends and is the only city in which we currently have a place (read: tiny apartment) that we can call home. But of course, work opportunities, visa requirements, cost of living etc mean that us being able to stay here is kind of out of our control which makes it a little difficult to feel completely settled.
If I think about where I have felt at home in the past, home is a place that you’re familiar with and where you know a few people that you’re comfortable with. It is a place where you feel settled and at ease and you can imagine spending your foreseeable future. So then, right now, it seems that no place feels like home really. It initially saddened me that this might be the case but is having a place you feel at home really all that important? I’m learning more and more that for me it is not (at least not right now). I can’t quite grasp the idea of planning too far in advance and I definitely have no desire to start putting down roots so I’m actually pretty excited about the fact that we currently don’t have a place that feels like home. This means that we haven’t ruled anything out yet and that there are plenty more adventures to be had and maybe one day we will find a place that feels like home, or return to a place that once was home and that we know well and where friends and family live and make that home again! Where is home for you and what is it that makes it feel like home?