Where are you from?
“Where are you from?” said a man in a brown cap from across the table. With his eyebrows up, his look was curious. I turned my head to Deborah, my wife, then I turned back to him. Until recently, the answer to that question was pretty straightforward, but I had to respond, “I’m not sure.”
This might just be the most common question you’ll get as a globetrotter. As an American traveler, many guess it correctly, while others say “Canadian” for fear of offending the minority who just happen to come from a little further north, and still others (non-English speakers) may say “I think German!”
I used to say “I’m from Oregon.” About a million puzzled looks later, I started saying, “I’m from Oregon if you know where that is, California if you don’t,” and eventually (defeated), “I’m from California.”
There has always been some uncertainty as to whether or not Oregon was my home. I was born in California, raised in Oregon, but I’ve also lived semi-permanently in 2 other states, 3 other countries, and have spent several years away from Oregon in long-term travel. Before meeting my wife, I had traveled to some 20 countries and some 30 American states, and most of those places were suitable homes – at least temporarily.
Even when living in other places, I’ve always told people Oregon. It explains my accent, and as my mom would say, “home is where your mom is.” ie my mom lives in Oregon.
Where is home?
Deborah is a Swedish citizen of both Swedish and Iranian decent, but having moved from Sweden to Berlin, Germany at the age of five, she doesn’t speak Swedish fluently, and doesn’t find her birth country a suitable place to live. Deborah has lived the majority of her life in three European cities, having moved from Berlin to London at age 15. She speaks 4 languages (3 fluently) and has spent the last 2 years traveling the world.
When we first met, Deborah’s sense of a place called home was significantly more faint than mine. I-became-we, and that question “where am I from?” came to be “where are we from?”. Initially, any certainty we had as individuals was dashed as two somewhat confused people joined forces.
Deborah’s assumed home was London, but she’s routinely reminded that she is not British, not German, and not Swedish. As an added bonus, the Brexit vote has put her ability to return after traveling into question (she’s Swedish, remember?), and to add to her own confusion, she married a small-town American. What was she thinking?
There’s no single country -let alone a city or place- that really makes sense for the two of us to settle.
So here we are…in Thailand. That makes sense, right?
Location doesn’t matter
Through the beginning of our relationship, we’ve been trying to figure out where we could settle. We had sort of assumed we would travel at least for a few years, then we might settle down when we could afford to live in Central London, which is Deborah’s favorite city, and the place where she has the most social and other ties (that’s where her mom lives). But with the UK pulling out of the EU, among other factors, we’re not so sure.
So where does that leave us? Together. And absolutely liberated.
“Home is where we find our balance, the pivoting point that connects us to the earth.” – quote from this Huffington Post Article.
I once read that, both physically and metaphorically, home is where we get shelter from the storm. I believe however, that home is not and was never meant to be constrained to a physical location. Home is where we find our heart.
Deborah posted a picture of me on Facebook last November. I had gotten caught in flash rainstorm on my way back from the grocery store. I had a bike, shorts and a t-shirt, and everything I was carrying was in a paper bag. By the time I got back, I was soaking wet, the paper bag was broken and I was struggling to carry all that was in it while pushing the bike. I was in a bad mood before returning to Deborah, but when she opened the door, I couldn’t help but smile. She snapped the picture and posted it with the caption:
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to run in the rain.
I found my shelter, my home.