They say home is where the heart is, that nothing feels as good as being at home. It’s natural, essential, a fundamental need that each one of us has and strives to fulfil. But what happens when your heart doesn’t actually reside in a place, when your mind is constantly wandering to far away lands and your body doesn’t want to stop moving?
Every since I turned 14 – aka old enough to be able to go abroad on my own – I have been trying to travel as much as possible, through the means I had. You might remember something about this from my first post, where I talked about my passion for traveling. In under 10 years of my life, I luckily managed to visit 4 continents mostly on my own, which to me is a big achievement considering my tight budget in most situations (I’m the worst spender). But I guess this is normal for a lot of people who like to see new places, so nothing new here, really. I still felt at home every time I went back to my little coastal city in Italy, happy about the trip but also glad to be back home.
This changed a few years ago, though. As soon as I finished high school, I decided to give a spin to my life and start University in another country. Accompanied by a huge backpack and three even bigger suitcases, I made my way to the UK – more specifically Scotland – and started a new life there, in a new flat, with new people, in another language and even with another currency. This is the story of a lot of people my age, especially Italians fleeing the country for better prospects abroad. At first I was scared, then I was happy, then I was miserable as I missed home more than ever. My friends, my family, all the places I used to hang out in and all the things I used to consider normal were gone, together with my “old life”. The first time I went back, for Christmas, it felt like little to nothing had changed. I spent days and days meeting up with each single one of my friends and I was actually very sad when I boarded the plane which would take me back to the UK once again (but happy to see my flatmates again! Mixed feelings indeed).
However, I soon learnt I couldn’t keep living in the past, nor did I want to. As time went by, the days and weeks and months passed and I got to know people better, as well as improving my language, I started to actually build a new life in Aberdeen. It wasn’t about “being abroad” anymore, it was about my life and where it was based. “Home” was becoming a far away concept. With a job, friends, your own flat and your career growing in front of your eyes, how can you not start to think this might actually be your new reality? My home wasn’t my home anymore, it was becoming a childhood memory which I keep close to my heart but not at the basis of it anymore. But was Aberdeen my home then, you ask? No. Not yet at least. Even though my everything had been moved there, it still didn’t feel enough to make me call it home. And yet my “home” in Italy didn’t feel like it either anymore. So where was my home? Where was I headed and where did I come from? I remember this feeling confused me more than ever and it still does.
When I met my current boyfriend – a Scottish guy actually from Aberdeen – I thought I’d found an answer. Home is where the heart is and my heart was there, so I guess I finally had my solution to the problem. It wasn’t about the place anymore, it was about the person. Easy right? And yet, you can’t base your idea of home solely on a person, especially when you know you’re going to be traveling for a long time and the list of stable things in your life is constantly wavering. I knew and I know now that in my life I don’t want to stop moving until I feel like stopping, because I’d rather do that than live a life of what if’s where I sacrificed my spirit of adventure for the sake of stability. So in my life, so far I had two homes: Italy and the UK.
That changed once again as I decided to spend a semester abroad in the Netherlands, which brings us to the creation of this blog. When you choose to go abroad for a meagre six months, you don’t tend to get too affectionate about the place. You’re looking for some fun and a new experience, without necessarily transferring your whole life there. That’s what Erasmus is all about, isn’t it? Pretending you’re doing something productive for a semester as you party for months and make lifetime friendships with perfect strangers. In my case though, I feel that having moved country once, from Italy to Scotland, kind of changed this perspective: I’d gone through a change like that already and so my mind was naturally inclined to perceive the new place as my new ‘home’ for the moment. It wasn’t a holiday, it was a new life I was starting, as short as that might have been.
I’m sure when people travel a lot, way more than me, this feeling dissipates and gets actually substituted by one which doesn’t allow you to feel at home at all, whenever you go. I guess it’s natural – you move so much it gets too hard to get attached to a place. Personally though, I didn’t have that level of experience yet, which is why I ended up getting way too emotionally involved with my new place. Did I call it home? No, I didn’t – it didn’t even come remotely close to being home and Scotland still felt more like home than Rotterdam, that’s for sure. And yet, my idea of home got even more fragmented, to a point where I actually didn’t know where my place was. Was it in Italy? The UK? The Netherlands? Should I choose the place I was born in, the place where I am building a life or simply live in the moment and select the one where I am right now? Being the over thinker that I am, these doubts kept nagging at me and still do as I am writing this post.
My University back in Aberdeen expects student to look for internships during their second semester of third year: it’s not mandatory, you can either do that or just go to class like nothing happened and live your uni life happily, with no complications. When I looked for internships myself, my initial search was actually hard as fuck. Linkedin has a section on their website where you can look for jobs, filtered through department and location. Picture me going on the website with the best intents and then getting stuck at that stupid question. Where do I look? UK? Italy? The Netherlands, even? Another country altogether like France, Germany, Spain? When I applied for a position in Singapore I was so scared and excited at the same time (still no reply, but oh well). It was a weird feeling for me – why was I so scared? After all, I’d moved before already, as well as doing trips to Asia with friends and with strangers. So what was so weird about it? Was it the fact that this time I was completely on my own? But I’d done that in Aberdeen already. Was it the distance? Perhaps. There’s a huge difference between going on a trip and actually moving for half a year to the other side of the world, so that’s understandable. But is it maybe the idea of changing once again?
Sometimes I spend hours just thinking and thinking and I still don’t manage to understand how my brain works, so I never actually know where some feelings are coming from. I don’t know why sometimes I get scared and sometimes I get excited over things and most of all I don’t understand why sometimes I feel totally at home and sometimes I wish I could just leave as fast as possible. As of now, I still don’t understand where my home is. Who knows what I will do after finishing University in Scotland? Chances are I will leave Aberdeen, and this knowledge makes the feeling of home waver even more when I think of that. But I guess there is no answer to this question – not yet, not until I choose to stop for a second and actually decide where and if I want to stay. Either way, right now all I care about is to make new experiences and to travel. As important as having a home is, I guess this concept will have to wait for me, so in the meantime I’ll make the most of what I’ve got.
I’m really sorry about this never ending rant, but this is a feeling which I have kept to myself for a really long time and had to be let out. Maybe I’m the only one who gives so much importance to their home, but it’s something which confuses me more than ever. Especially when I need to do something stupid like send my boxes from the Netherlands and I don’t even know which country I should send them to. Is there anyone else out there who feels the same? Please tell me there is.
Regardless, have an amazing day everyone and an even happier Christmas. 🎅🏼
Love to all of you