An expat’s version of home.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be flying to Oregon to visit my dad and my best friend from high school. My dad lives in Portland, the city where I was born and Katie lives in Central Oregon, where I lived during my high school years. This visit has me thinking a lot about what ‘home’ means because I don’t consider either of these places home.

The six or so years I lived with Cody in our San Diego condo was the longest stretch I have ever lived under the same roof. The nine or so years I lived in San Diego was my longest stretch in one city. However, on our first visit back to San Diego after moving to Bogotá, we couldn’t help but talk about how strange it felt. We weren’t exactly feeling at home in Bogotá, but neither did San Diego hold that feeling.

This wasn’t a new experience for me.

With my mom and stepdad, I moved around in Portland, to a rural suburb of Portland, to central Oregon and for a brief time in the Columbia River Gorge. When I joined the Navy at 19, these moves took on further distances and shorter time spans. It was only when I got married that I came to understand my real definition of home. Before Cody, my definition of home was wherever I was and having a partner has only solidified my “home is where we are” feelings.

I appreciate my quasi-nomadic upbringing, but I can’t deny there was a point in my childhood where I wished that I had grown up in one place and that I’d known all of my friends since kindergarten. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to be quite black and white about things. Well, I’m realizing that life just isn’t like that. Growing up the way I did gave me a completely different set of tools than that of living in the same town my whole life and I’m thankful for that.

For one thing, my idea of home is more than a physical place or things. Part of it is that I don’t think I’ve ever been a sentimental person—I’m not sure if this is a product of my background, part of my personality or both but I’m just not that attached to objects. Of course, this has boded well for me when moving because I can ruthlessly throw things out! Yes I wanted my books and my kitchen things (there is nothing to make you feel settled in like a home cooked meal), but these were ancillary parts of my definition of ‘home.’

Another thing moving has taught me is that physical proximity has no correlation on how much you love and are loved by others. I haven’t lived in the same town as my parents since I was 18 and I’ve spent many holidays apart from them. However, I feel closer to these amazing people now than ever before and the same can be said for my friendships.

Maintaining relationships from a distance requires a lot of effort, so in the end the people you keep in touch with are those who are truly important. Not only that, but you appreciate the effort they make to keep in touch as well! My other best friend and I are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of gals, so when she texts me to see how I’m doing or wants to set up a Skype date, it carries a new kind of weight. Do I think the transition was difficult? Yes. However, I can’t deny that there is now a depth that wasn’t there before.

Looking at my definition of home, I can’t help but link it to what I’ve read about identity and the benefit of basing it on the internal rather than changing, external factors. By carrying my home inside me, I’m always open to exploring something new. I may feel a bit like an outsider in Bogotá, but I’m also comfortable. And though I may not have traditional roots, I’m grateful for the many ‘homes’ to which I can return.

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