What in the world is home?

Where on Earth is home? Can you have more than one home? What is home, anyway?

Where on Earth is home? Can you have more than one home? What is home, anyway?

Campanile in Berkeley .

Campanile in Berkeley .

One of my favorite spots in the Bay Area. You can see San Francisco and all of Berkeley.

One of my favorite spots in the Bay Area. You can see San Francisco and all of Berkeley.

Cali

Cali

Balmy Street Murals, Mission  in San Francisco

Balmy Street Murals, Mission in San Francisco

Our home in Berkeley

Our home in Berkeley

Berkeley sunsets from our balcony

Berkeley sunsets from our balcony

Warm sand in Los Angeles

Warm sand in Los Angeles

Drinking tea on a ferris wheel in Bordeaux.

Drinking tea on a ferris wheel in Bordeaux.

I have been challenged to redefine the idea of “home.”

Before moving to college, Los Angeles was always home for me. It was the sunny place where I grew up for most of my life, it was where my friends were, where my family was, it was the place of familiar streets and restaurants and parks. Then I “moved away” to college. I used “moved away” rather than “went away” because the hoard of things that accompanied me up the state was meant for more than just a short stay. After our first year in the dorms, my friends and I moved into an apartment, then into another, a more homey one. We got it repainted, installed shelves with cubbies in the kitchen, and hung up posters and paintings. There was a place for everything, and I just generally liked being at home.

And for me, it did become home. Berkeley became the place where my “things” were—clothes, books, makeup and other goop that I never really used. It was the place where my jobs were, where my college friends were, it was another center with another community around which I had built my life.

Once I was talking to an old friend from Los Angeles, and I said that I’m going back home– meaning back to Berkeley. She didn’t say it at first, but she felt somewhat betrayed. She felt as if I were throwing away everything I had built up here for somewhere else. And I understood where she was coming from. But I needed her to understand that for me, “home” was not this set thing. And you can’t just chuck it away in exchange for something new. So, could you have more than one home? We had this conversation right before I left to France for the semester.

When I arrived in Bordeaux, it was anything but home. It was a new place with a new atmosphere. But with time, it grew on me, and I became part of it, just as it became as part of me. I had my room, my favorite hang-outs, my circle of friends and acquaintances, and I was speaking a new language. Just as in Berkeley, as soon as I started building a community, the place began to feel more like a home.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it is possible to have more than one home. Los Angeles is home because that’s where my friends and family are. Berkeley is home because that’s where my college memories are. Bordeaux is home because that’s where I learned to be honest with myself.

Home and house are different words. “Home” is more abstract. It can be a feeling, it can be a place, it can be an ambiance. You can even find home in a person. My advice would be don’t tie yourself down too early, but never forget where you come from.

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7 comments

  1. Love this post. Home really does shift as you travel and move and grow. Love the last sentence- it really is important to remember where we came from.

    • Nika · July 29, 2013

      Thank you Anna! “Home” is something transforming and transformative.

  2. Lucia · June 13, 2014

    I have this exact dilemma! I grew up in Colombia, so Bogota will always be home, but then I lived in Miami for 9 years and that’s still were my immediate family is so that’s also home, then I moved to Sarasota to go to college and, not Sarasota, but New College became my new home and will always be it because I changed and grew so much and it’s such a part of me! Then when I studied abroad in Paris I started thinking of it as home when I came back from trips to other countries, then I went back home to Miami for the summer, then back home to New College for my last year, then I left to work in Bordeaux and that became my home after a while as well. Then I left my Bordeaux home to spend three weeks back “home” in Miami, and now I’m back in Colombia and I feel like I left all my homes but came back to my original one.
    It’s so very very confusing!

    But I think ultimately home is any place that you will always carry with you.

    • Nika · June 18, 2014

      Lucia, thanks for sharing! You’ve been all over, and I can understand the confusion. But it’s definitely impressive, all the places you’ve lived AND visited. I’ve poked around your blog 🙂

    • Nika · June 18, 2014

      Also, if I may ask, where did you work in Bordeaux? I’m going back to the region in the fall and am looking for any opportunities to make extra money in addition to teaching through TAPIF.

      • Lucia · September 21, 2014

        I’m a failure and just saw this (a couple of months late!). It’s so exciting you’re in Bordeaux again!! I actually worked with TAPIF lol but I put up an add in le bon coin to give private English lessons and that gave me some good extra money. Most of my extra income came from airbnb but I don’t know how comfortable you’d feel with renting your apt to strangers…I also did some translations but those are less stable, I’d say the private lessons would be your best bet since TAPIF doesn’t pay much and Bordeaux can be expensive.

        I can’t wait to read your posts about Bordeaux and get all nostalgic about it, good luck!!!

      • Nika Likes Maps · October 17, 2014

        Lucia, I’m so sorry it took this long to respond, but my FREEBOX just wouldn’t arrive! I think AIR BNB is actually a good idea and I have considered it for a while now, and actually hosted someone already–hoping to continue. And thanks for the advice on teaching, I’ll put up an ad very soon. We have 2 weeks of vacation coming up and I need something productive to do.
        -Nika

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