August 12, 2013

Thoughts on home

I once had a conversation with two beautiful friends of mine in a restaurant in Rome. We were trying to figure out how best to answer that question every foreigner is asked of them in foreign lands, "Where are you from?" Of course, when in Rome, we say, "Canada." When at home, we say something else. But whatever we say doesn't even begin to capture the multifaceted layers that shape where we're from and what it means to us. There's so many things to consider, like the homes of our ancestry and our immediate family. Then there's where we're born, where we've been, and where we want to be.

At the restaurant, I looked at my friends and I see this complexity already. Each of our families come from Palestine, Serbia, Vietnam. We were born in Halifax, Vukovar, Winnipeg. We dream of being here, there, everywhere. Home is different for each one of us. And the answer we give depends on who asks, but also when they ask. So whatever home is, all it really is is a work in progress. We're only 24. The story ain't over.

Par exemple...

I was born in Winnipeg, then lived in Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Chiang Mai, Toronto again. I have values that come from parents of Vietnam. Whenever I'm asked where I'm from, particularly when I was travelling, I picked Toronto out of the bunch. I'd tell people I was from this big city because, for me, that was where my passions were ignited, where most of my becoming took place.

Now that's changing. I don't know if I'd pick Toronto anymore.

More and more every day, my definition of home gets murky. I'm in a transient period of my life where I'm not committed to any one place. Being freelance allows me to do work that's independent of my location. Having a landlord who's completely cool with a month-to-month lease means I can move in a minute. Living like a minimalist means there's nothing I can't pack into a suitcase when that minute comes around. I'd love to one day live in Berlin, or Seoul, or Amsterdam, or Singapore. I read a Nina Borg thriller and so badly wanted to live in Vilnius. So I don't know. I haven't found my eternal resting place yet, but nothing's ever eternal anyway.

One of my favourite travel writers was so dead on when he said, “For more and more of us, home has less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul…. More and more of us are rooted in the future or the present tense, as much as in the past. Home is not the place where you happen to be born, it's the place where you become yourself."

Pico Iyer, seriously, the man is a genius. I watched his TED Talk twice in one night and again right now. He mic drops all over the place, reflecting on how home, like our identities and ideologies, is ever changing. Seriously, genius. You can watch it here.