Where Is Home?

Last week I said out loud that I’m feeling homesick because on December 5th was the holiday “Mikulas” in the CzechRepublic.  My five and a half year old daughter remembers celebrating it last year and I wish I could have taken her this year.

Wait…”homesick?” — what the hell am I’m thinking calling Czech Republic “home!” Should I?  Shouldn’t I?

I’m confused….so I’m writing this post.

Where Is My Home?

I could do research.  I could read other people’s blogs.  I could analyze my feelings.  But deep down, I know what I’m feeling.  I’m feeling homesick for my last home – Prague, Czech Republic.

BUT – I’m not Czech.  And I only lived there 4 years.  Hell, toward the end, I wasn’t even enjoying life (at least the job part).

So, why am I homesick today?  Truth is, I have no freakin’ idea.  Any comments or help from you is greatly appreciated.  But I know I miss it there, especially when I look out the window of my current life.  Guess I’m still heavily in some transition phase.

What Makes a Place Home?

I’m racking my brain trying to think why I have homesickness for a place I met just less than 5 years ago.  I’m racking my brain trying to understand what makes a place “home.” Questions to ask – answers tell us what’s “home.”

  1. Where am I living today?
  2. Where did I spent the majority of the last 5 years?
  3. Where did I grow up?

Now, here is where I am truly f*cked.  I get three different answers for those three different questions:  1=Canada  2= Czech Republic  3=US

Let’s try again.

  1. Where am I living today?
  2. Where did I spent the majority of the last 5 years?
  3. Where did I grow up?
  4. Where does my native land’s tax authority (IRS?) consider as my home address?
  5. Where are the majority of my friends?
  6. Where is the majority of my family?
  7. Where do I have any assets (income property, businesses, savings) ?
  8. Where is my “banking” done?
  9. If I’m feeling homesickness, where would I go to fix it?
  10. If I’m feeling culture shock where’s the “normal” place?

Okay — that’s a more complete list.  Still, for me, “home” is split between 3 places (US, Canada, Czech Republic), and not so evenly.  In fact, it’s Canada x3, Czech Republic x6, and US x3.  (some questions got multiple answers)

Your Turn

Where is home to you?  Where are you answers for 1-10?  What am I missing?  I really want to know.

Published by

Jeff

An American who likes to move around. I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding. My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do. Enjoy.

20 thoughts on “Where Is Home?”

  1. I think I partly know the answer:
    Because you “exchanged 6 for half a dozen”, as we say in Brazil. You moved to a cold place, not that many friends around you, no job and nothing challenging you at the moment. When you look at it from that perspective, Prague sounds attractive.
    From my point of view, there is nothing I miss from Prague except friends. The sun is shining every day, I got myself a job paying much better than before and I understand (I think) pretty much the language.

    Since you don’t have that many options, try to challenge yourself with whatever you can for now. Life will get back to normal once you start working and the homesickess won’t bother you that much.

    Hope it helps,

    Adriano

    1. Hi,

      I felt homesick for the first time last week. I wrote a post about it on my blog. I was missing familiar things especially Christmas food and everything felt suddenly VERY Alien.

      Prior to that I would have said Home is where the heart is…

      Best
      PigletinPortugal

      1. Thanks PinP.

        “Home is where the heart is” — that’s good, but when talking about homesickness, it becomes a recursive argument, right? 😉

        Think about it ….dizzy yet?

    2. Thanks Adriano!

      For most the readers who don’t know – Adriano and I worked closely together while we both lived in Prague. Our families moved within weeks of each other, Adriano to Sydney and I to Halifax.

      True, Adri, I’m in a totally different life now. While being a stay-at-home parent is awesome, I do miss the friends and beauty from Prague.

      Thank you buddy – your honesty and wisdom are missed.

      -jeff

  2. I did it and the answer was even more confused than I am. I’ve moved around so much – home is where my family (husband children and I) are living. But I miss things about other places I’ve lived, especially Asia – it gets in your blood.
    Recently had a conversation with a TCK friend who has moved away from her parents to go to uni – she said home is where her parents are living!

  3. I think we all end up missing something from our various ‘homes’… but the last place we lived is freshest in our minds. We may also miss aspects of our former homes because it became normal or familiar whereas where you are now is unfamiliar and thus a bit scary. I think it is easy to remember the good things, but forget about the initial challenges when setting up a home in a new location. 🙂

    Also, I believe that the first place you live that is outside of your comfort zone has a big effect on you. If you had a great experience, I think you will always have fond memories of that place and will yearn to recapture aspects of it. For Alison and I, that was Amsterdam. We’d still love to move back there. Conversely, if you had a terrible experience, then it would have an opposite affect and may turn you off doing anything like that again.

    On the upside and downside, as time moves on, the memories and yearning will likely fade until you move again and you start the cycle again.

    My tip would be to embrace the homesickness for a while, enjoy the memories, but then get out there and find some new memories in your new home!

    Some ideas:

    * a sleigh ride with the kids (http://www.hatfieldfarm.com/),
    * check out some maple syrup production and eat some great food (http://www.sugarmoon.ca/),
    * go skating on Lake Banook (keep an eye on http://www.halifax.ca/real_property/ice/index.asp),
    * go skiing at Martock or Wentworth (can also do cross country),
    * take the family (or just your wife) out to White Point Beach Resort (http://www.whitepoint.com/) and feed the rabbits,
    * go to a MooseHeads hockey game.

    Maybe the above will inspire you a bit 🙂

    Cheers,
    Andrew C

    1. I agree with all you’re saying, Andrew. But Prague was 20 years after my first long-term stay out of my comfort zone. And we were more rooted there than we are here.

      I’m rethinking the “homesickness” diagnosis. It may be culture shock, if that’s possible. Is culture shock possible where language is the same, where (a spouse’s) family lives?

      1. Reverse culture shock is totally possible. On top of that you are in the ‘trailing spouse’ role which means that you struggle to find your own identity. For your wife, it is easy to get back into things as she is familiar with the area and she is able to socialize with people at work. For you, you are left to find your own social group and identity. In this respect, you and Alison have a lot in common.

        Our identity is so tied up with what we do and our social group that a change to a location where you need to rebuild both can be very draining emotionally. It’s easy to say, “Just get out there and do something.” Until you’ve been there though, I don’t think anyone realizes just how hard it is to rebuild your identity from scratch.

        Give it time and don’t get discouraged. You will gradually build a new social network (through your wife, the kid’s schools, online) and you will find yourself.

        Cheers,
        Andrew C

  4. Jeff,

    Thanks for this great post. It really made me think.

    After spending 4 years at Elon University in North Carolina and then three in Singapore, I returned home to Columbus, Ohio. Part of the experience I’ve found interested was reconnecting to the people who grew up in Columbus, stayed in Columbus, and always will be in Columbus. To them, this place is the very definition of home. After seven years away, I too am now home, but my definition of home is very different from the definition of the people who never left.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Hilary. I do appreciate it.

      Elon, huh? Top notch school – known for, among other greats, having the highest % of students study abroad.

      If only more universities would follow their lead.

      Have a great holiday, Hilary,
      -jeff

  5. Living internationally and raising two young global nomads has made me ponder this question, for myself and my kids. Where is home? My answer, Our home is not four walls, it is a place that we create around us wherever we are in the world.
    We take a little bit of every place we have lived in and mix it together in our home to create our unique global home. Hope this helps.

    1. Gaijinchic

      Your response is so true…

      and as I get older I am certainly learning life is not about belongings it’s about “belonging”

      PiP

  6. Just to throw my two cents in I think the feeling could come from being a stay at home parent. If you are use to being busy within the working world and now find yourself spending your days following the kids lives it’s kinda like losing part of yourself. Maybe you left that part behind in Prague. As for me I’ve only bounced around the east coast so far (GA, NY, ME) and I’ve yet to experience homesickness. Instead I get restless and ready to move onto the next place. I do miss my family in GA, a friend in NY, and when I leave Maine I’ll have more people to miss here but none of that feels like homesickness. Perhaps I haven’t found home yet.

    1. Pretty thought provoking for me, Tracy. – Thanks.

      You’re right that I left a major part of who “me” is back in Prague. I think Andrew hit it also as I realize I’m the trailing spouse on this trip. An important first.

      Thanks again,
      -Jeff

  7. Oh man, I’m late to the party again and I see that Andrew already brought up a lot of the points I wanted to mention. I wrote about the whole expat ‘home’ issue a few years back (http://cheeseweb.eu/2007/04/home/ if you are interested). One thing I will say is I think it’s ok, maybe even great, that expats get to have more than one home. Just think, you get to have that warm feeling of familiarity in more than one place. You get to have meaningful friendships with people in different corners of the globe (more travel opportunities anyone?) and you get to share in the different cultures and traditions of more than one place. (There’s no reason you still can’t have your own Czech holiday celebrations!) The holidays always seem to bubble up feelings of homesickness for me (and most expats I think) but then I remember how lucky I am to have more than one place to call home!

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