The other day, after a morning spent working and a night spent laughing on the floor of my friends’ condo, I got back to my apartment in a sleepy haze and texted my mom, “I’m home.” After sending the message I paused for a minute and stared at the blue text bubble of words I’d just sent. “I’m home,” I’d written, which was odd because I was not home, right? I was in New Mexico – almost 2,000 miles from my house in New Jersey.
When I got into bed just a few minutes later though, I started to think more about all the places that have held me in their cradles this year, and what makes a place a “home.” Some people have put it simply: “home is where your house is,” or “home is where ‘your people’ are.” Other people reach for something a little more sentimental: “home is not a place, it’s a feeling,” or “home is where the heart is.”
Thinking about the word, “home,” I of course think first of New Jersey where I was raised. It’s a deeply important place to me; it’s very central to who I am. However, when I think of “home,” I also think about my friends’ condo in New Mexico. The first time I came over one of the condo’s inhabitants (that I’d never met before that day) said, “Gigi, this is your home now,” and that was that. I proceeded to spend many joyous afternoons there, and a knot was tied between my heart and that condo. One other “home” memory is from my first couple hours in Bolivia. I was in someone else’s house, with three people that would become dear friends in the coming weeks, but at that moment were still strangers. All I knew were their names and that one was from India, one from the Philippines, and one from Vietnam. Together we fashioned a meal from a mere few ingredients in an unfamiliar kitchen. Even then, in such an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, I felt at home.
It’s April 23rd now and I’m in Japan, where I’ve been city-hopping with two friends I met in Bolivia for the past week. Whenever we get home at the end of the day, I always shoot my mom a text saying, “we’re back home.”
At the time I’m writing this, it’s also the day after Earth day, and I’ve spent some time thinking about how much being outside has added to my life this year. Vast mountains have been my playgrounds, canyons have been my kitchens, and beaches have been my classrooms. Trees have been my rooftops and snow has been my most loving friend. All this goodness cannot be confined to one building, or a few hundred square feet, but when I look at mountains and canyons and beaches and trees and snow – nature – I see home nonetheless.
“We are literally living in Bolivia right now!” my friend Amanda once exclaimed during my backpacking trip earlier this year. At the time I laughed, and considered it such a funny statement, but it was actually one hundred percent true. We were living, and we were in Bolivia. Now, I think that’s my personal truest qualification for what makes a place a home – whether you’ve lived it and lived in it. All of the places I’ve refilled my water bottle this year, taken a shower, played, and slept – those places were and are home. I don’t feign to say these places are “mine,” no, I think we humans more belong to our homes than they to us. I am not claiming to have “collected” many different homes this year. The only home that is certain is the one inside of your own skin, and the rest is somehow both temporary and eternal. The earth’s cradles in which we play and plan are forever, but the tables we eat around and the pillows on which we rest our heads are temporary beacons of this feeling we call “home.”