Sometimes, home isn’t a place beneath your feet or a number on a street, but just who, what and where feels right.
The idea of ‘home’ has always felt like an odd concept to me. Mainly because I feel as though I have a multitude of homes, all over the world from the places I have been and left a piece of my heart.
You can’t truly appreciate a place until you’ve taken the time to get to know it – discovered its quirks and peculiarities, its overrated hypes and hidden gems, and its people and culture. It’s difficult to truly know somewhere until you’ve stepped out of the tourist bubble and experienced to what everyone else there, is normality.
So how do you go about doing that? You pack up and you move there.
What to most people would be a pretty life-changing, permanent decision, to the traveller, it might just be the ultimate one.
Now, this isn’t to say existing as what we see a stereotypical tourist to be – cruising holiday spots and gathering small chunks of memories – isn’t valuable. Despite packing up and moving somewhere new several times, I now love seeing new places and making new memories on a smaller scale. But, actually living in a new place forces you to go deeper. You consider the realities of a destination: finding a place to live, how to find a job there, how to make friends with the locals, and how to fit into a culture that might be hugely different from the one you’re used to.
As dramatic as it may seem, it forces you to fight for survival. People pack up and move all the time, but it makes you realise that you can put up with a lot more than you ever thought possible. It makes you realise you can put on hold your family, friends, everything you’ve ever known and start afresh. It changes your life forever, even when you go home.
I chose the USA for my first experience of living overseas. I left home in Manchester, armed with a very heavy suitcase, to work various food stations in a hotel kitchen at Universal Studios Orlando. Much to my surprise, it turned into the most unrivaled experience of my life, sending me down a path I didn’t even know existed, and I don’t believe I would be the person I am today had it not been for that move.
I learned that turning 21 in the States, the week before the 4th July meant I’d hit the celebration jackpot and that Four Locos are NO JOKE. I learned that there’s a heat also known as the Depths of Hell that is felt when stepping outside from an air-conditioned building into the height of a Floridian Summer..
I lived in Australia too, working in Melbourne at a company owned by two Scousers (perhaps not the Aussie escape I had dreamt of). My down-under discoveries involved learning that not closing the bug door in your house is essentially a civil offence, a buttered white sandwich slice topped with sprinkles is apparently a dessert and that a Tasmanian Devil makes a noise similar to that of me when my alarm goes off at 06:30am.
The reality, though, is that it doesn’t matter where you go, because rarely does the place matter, but how you choose to live through it.
It will be hard at first. You’ve left behind everyone you know, and in many cases, everything you know. But sooner rather than later, you’ll meet people who will change your life.
There’s a certain anonymity that comes with the experience – moving to a new place where no-one knows your name or your story. You don’t have to hide or hold back, you become the best version of yourself and gradually, you’ll feel like you belong, at last. That’s a feeling of achievement that will stay with you for your whole life.
Moving to a new country, however temporary, is a travel experience and a life experience, and it is also something I believe that nobody, no matter who you are, should shy away from. It might just change your life.