What is home? — The Life of a Wanderer

‘Not all who wander are lost’ This is a line from a poem in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novel. Normally, someone who wanders walks around slowly in a relaxed way or without any clear purpose or direction. And those who are lost are unable to find one’s way. In other words, they have no clear purpose or direction. These two words; wander and lost, seem to match but not always. Why is that, and what has a wanderer to do with that?

Emojis by Vectto via iconfnder.com

We all started our lives curious and adventurous; from the little crawling we did to get around, to our first tiny steps into the outside world. Every day seemed like a new adventure. The world; our world, was our very own playground. Realistically speaking it was just a small world, but back then it seemed like it had no limit whatsoever. Everything was nice, and familiar to us. We had everything we needed around us. At least, that is what we thought we had.

Growing up we started to realise that the world was bigger than we could ever imagine. Every filter people put in front of us, because we weren’t ready for certain subjects yet, started to disappear. The true face of the world started to reveal itself to us. Slowly but increasingly more, we started developing ourselves and started thinking bigger than we used to. I started thinking bigger, I started to wonder what life had in store for me. I started to wonder… what was out there?

I grew up fascinated by the mythos and stories of old; tales about heroic acts, long lost legends, and folklore. What fascinated me the most were the stories about the Vikings, big tough men trying to conquer the world, trying to find themselves something better. These historical figures I would describe in my native language; Dutch, as ‘stoer’. Which means ‘big, strong, sturdy’ but in my own context I would translate it to ‘cool’ instead. It wasn’t until I started learning Norwegian when I noticed that the Norwegian word for ‘big’ was ‘stor’; pronounced exactly the same as the Dutch equivalent. I asked myself whether there was a more specific reason why I liked the stories of the Vikings, why I was fascinated by Nordic culture.

Throughout my teen years I had lost and gained things constantly. I had my world, I built it up and it crumbled down every single time. I made friends, a fellowship, and they pulled an ‘et tu, Brute?’ on me. The people that set out to take on the adventure that we call life abandoned me. I felt betrayed, left alone. I felt lost for the first time. I felt uncertain about my future. This however, lit a fire of determination in my eyes, I was going to show them that I could be better than them. It motivated me to become a stronger and better version of myself. Though the path I tread on felt lonely.

Eventually someone came along and reached to me, the person invited me to join their group, a new fellowship. We bonded easily, some members of the group even had foreign backgrounds. We only noticed our differences if we really looked at the small day-to-day details. We were all studying roughly the same and our international footprint started growing through the languages we learned; Dutch, English, French, German, Latin, and Ancient-Greek. It sometimes reminds me of the fellowship in Tolkien’s work, different but closer than anything else. Eventually we were nearing the end of High School, we had to start thinking about what we wanted to do with our future, what would be our new quest? This occasion however, signalled a new moment of a crumbling down world. Everything I liked faded away again, lost in another moment of time, and I had to find something to fill that hole that was about to be left behind. That’s when I made a decision.

I decided that I wanted to see the world. I wanted to go on an adventure, see the different cultures and people. See what drives them, see their dragons and learn about their stories. However, I had to study too. I had to get my certificates for my future life. How could I combine those things? I found a study program called ‘International Business and Management’. It had everything I wanted, it offered possibilities to travel abroad, study in an international environment and learn languages. I knew this was one of those opportunities I had to take. During the program I travelled to several places and every time I felt like the place I visited could be a home. I was experiencing what the world had to offer. I was succeeding in the quest I set out for me. It wasn’t until I was allowed to go on an exchange program to Norway that my life really got impacted. Going to one of the countries I was fascinated with as a kid, it was a child’s dream come true.

I went to Norway with a ‘clean slate’ mindset. Every single misstep I made in the past, I wouldn’t make it here. I finally would create myself the way I wanted to. It worked extremely well, I made a lot of friends, and I had one of the best experiences of my lifetime until now. I had plans to stay in Norway until my next school year started. Though, something messed up my plans. The most wicked dragon I had ever encountered crossing my path; the summer holidays. During my time there I had primarily made international friends and just a few Norwegian friends. At the end of the semester, everyone went back to their own country or on a holiday, but I was still there. I started realising that I might end up alone there, I started worrying, and thinking about every possible scenario. This lead me to having a physical panic attack. My entire body started to tingle painfully, I had trouble breathing, I felt dizzy, I lost my balance, I felt like I was having my final moments on this plane of existence. For a moment I strayed out of thought and time, memories going through my head, and every second felt like a lifetime on this earth.

But it was not the end, it was as if something called me back, blowing new life into me, telling me that my task in this life was not yet done. I got my act together, I remembered my dad was a certified ambulance medic. I called him asking for advice to get me through this situation. Step-by-step my father helped me to calm down. This experience taught me I had to make a plan. I went out every single day and my goal was to meet at least one person a day or keep up with the people I had already met. I would be in charge of myself again. I would return to my path of seeing the world. During the remainder of my stay, I had built up my world again. But slowly without paying attention to it, the time for me to travel back to the Netherlands had come. I was devastated, I built up my life twice in Norway in the timespan of six months. This move broke my heart.

Once I got back to the Netherlands, I wasn’t feeling well. I was heartbroken and I missed every single bit about living in Norway. I was home but I was homesick to a place that wasn’t actually my home, or was it? To be at home can be defined as being somewhere you are relaxed and comfortable, somewhere where you are at ease, or at least on familiar ground. After I returned in the Netherlands, I felt like a foreigner in my own country. I felt lost again. The place where I used to be at ease, didn’t make me feel at ease. I didn’t feel at home. A lot had changed since I last visited it, and I didn’t like a single bit about it. My home, my Shire had been changed, it was demolished by the ever-changing wheel of progress. I tried picking up my life again where I had left off. However, that old life wasn’t me anymore, so not only the environment had changed, but most importantly, I had changed.

I was trying to figure out my life again, and looking forward to my next adventure. I started applying for internships in Nordic countries. I applied to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Hoping, to see something of the world again. There was so much rejection from a lot of applications, I started losing hope. I wished that there was someone who was willing to give me the chance to prove myself and allow me to travel again. This chance was given to me when I applied to The Shortcut in Helsinki Finland. During my interview with the company, it was clear that my personal wish aligned with the wishes of people who The Shortcut was trying to help. It felt as a good click, something that is very rare nowadays. They made me feel at ease again for the first time in a long while.

Finally, here we are, on another adventure, trying to build up another home in Finland this time. I had a rough time trying to figure out who I was in the past. Frankly, I am still not completely sure who I truly am. Though, this is only because I am looking for that one place where I feel where I belong. Even though some people may be looking at me like I don’t know what I am doing, like I am making a lot of mistakes. This is my life, this is my time, and I might wander but I am not lost, because my direction, my purpose, is to find a place where I am at ease, where I am finally home.