Home, let me come home,
Home is wherever I’m with you.
— Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeroes
I read a quote once, written on a door of a hostel bathroom stall (one of those places where you can often find unexpected wisdom), that went something like this: “I travel for the sake of leaving.”
As it often happens with bathroom stall poetry, someone else completed the idea, with a response written underneath: “And I travel for the sake of coming home.”
I recalled this philosophical conversation of two people who have probably never met, much later—when I came back home, a year after I left to see a bit of the big world.
Leaving home to go traveling or to go live in a different country undoubtedly causes some pretty strong emotions. It is, at the same time, an amazing and absolutely terrifying feeling. It is a mixture of excitement with a bit of fear, covered in an intense sense of adventure – a highly addictive mixture created by the complete uncertainty about what’s going to happen.
While you’re getting on a plane, you have literally no idea what future holds for you – who you will meet, what places you will fall in love with, and what awesome and awful experiences you will have. You might feel a bit sad about what you are leaving behind, but the adrenaline flowing through your veins will soon take over. The feeling I get, every time I’m standing in the airport departure hall, is a pure essence of everything you feel while traveling – even though at that moment nothing has actually happened yet.
However, you can’t really compare the intensity of leaving with the intensity of feelings connected with coming home. Particularly after a longer period of time, after months or perhaps even years. I mean, the excitement is there as well. Even though I’ve left and came back many times already, my heart still starts beating a bit faster every time I see the distant shapes of my hometown, as my plane slowly prepares to land. But more importantly it is one of the strangest feelings you can experience.
Because it is never like you expect it to be.
The home you are returning to won’t be the same as the one you left. People will change, relationships will change, there will be so many things you won’t recognize anymore and you’ll find out about so many things you missed while you were gone.
You won’t be the same as when you left as well. While you’ve been gone, you’ve probably been through so much, and had so many experiences that changed you in so many ways. But none of the people you’re coming back to have been there with you, and no one can really understand, just as you can’t really understand what they’ve been through.
Even when you tell all your travel stories, people will listen and they will nod. But they’ll still be totally clueless about what it actually all meant for you. And all that will cause a strange, strange feeling of not belonging.
Regardless, I’m pretty thankful for experiencing it, for getting to know this peculiar and kind of scary feeling. Why? Because it will pass sooner or later, as you settle down again and reconnect to what you knew and find the stuff you liked again.
But it still reminded me that home is not set; it’s not something that you get as a birthright, something that will always be there, waiting for you.
Traveling has made me realize that home is not something we are born into – it is something we build.
And it is not something defined by a place, by a city or a country. As much as I love Prague and its cobblestone streets, it is my home because of the people I know here, not because of the city itself.
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leave, that you shouldn’t travel and explore the world.
You should, because there are simply too many amazing places in the world for you to spend your whole in one place.
And I even believe that if you build your home right and if you find the right people, you can leave for whatever reason and when you’ll come back it will still be there. But keep a memory of that feeling, the feeling that you don’t belong somewhere you always did. To remind yourself of how fragile and beautiful something like that can be.