What’s Your Home Philosophy?

It’s quite common to ask travelers about their travel philosophy – Or get travel writers to simply expound it.

Do you need luxury or go frugal; travel lightly and live out of one bag, or have kitchen and sink with you in your steamer trunk, but need a porter to get around? … All well and good (and I think there’s quite a bit to learn from that), but we spend most of our time off the road, in one place. And yet, how often do people ask, What is your home philosophy?

Of course, you can simply be born to a place, never leave it, know your usual ways around, and feel at home there. Creating deep roots with a place is hardly the worst thing.

In this age of consumerism and car-based cultures, it is only too easy to not really be at home where you live, though. Never thinking about it may be easier than having to think and decide yourself, but it may not only be less truly at home, it also is less prepared for the disruptions that increasingly happen, as people need to get uprooted for education or work, are displaced by natural catastrophes, or want to go somewhere else… and yet, search for a place to call home.

Just Visiting, or Really Living?

The fundamental question I see, then, is to know – or explore – what home you can and want to have. – Do you want to be rooted in a place, have it grow to be your home as memories organically create connections with the place and the people? Or do you want to be more of an island unto yourself, making a home wherever in the world you may go?

A simple acceptance of the place you are is quite commendable and admirable; it certainly is very common – but it can all too easily get parochial or reactionary. If you feel comfortable enough, but still don’t know so much about the place, then you may be living there, but you are just like a visitor.

A deeper intimacy with the place you were born and/or live, on the other hand, is one factor that might actually make it a home. At least a part of the feeling of being at home is, after all, simple familiarity.

And if you want to move around? Then, part of the learning to be at home will still be familiarity, the knowledge of where you are. It will get even more important, in fact.

So, either way, you can’t expect to be totally at home if you just want to wait and see. You may feel it, but you aren’t quite. Truly being at home in this world is an activity – the act of living there, not an instant feeling. Of course, feelings matter, not just familiarity.

Home Is Where…

For many of us, I dare say, home is where you put all your stuff. And whether you are hoarding or deciding to live with just 100 Things, it will be a part of where – or more definitely, what and how – your home is.

Clearly, this is one easy way a place, nowadays, grows infused with memories and (seems to grow) to be comfortable. It’s also an issue where we tend to fall out of balance, however. Not so few people pathologically hoard anything and everything, and even the majority (the present writer included) have lots of stuff that just piles up. It seemed the right thing to get at the time, and then ends up unused or even a second version of something that you already had, and therefore, a waste of money.

Thinking about belongings and the feeling of home, meanwhile, can be another good way of deciding about the importance of things, as well as of turning a place into a home:

When belongings get so overburdening, it seems like the place belongs to them, and so much money goes there, you don’t have as many reserves as you could have, it becomes a problem. You get stuck.
Finding out what (few but good things) you actually need in support of yourself and what you want to do and be, makes it easier to really be, rather than possess (or be possessed by all the stuff ;-) ), however.

Furthermore, having some things which make you feel at home – even, maybe especially, if they should be small “unnecessary” knick-knacks – helps really make yourself at home, no matter where these things may have to be transplanted. In fact, the very process of thinking about it helps already… both to realize what is important, in both practical and/or emotional respects, and to consider your attitude towards (a) home.

Home is also, as the saying goes, where the heart is. It can in part be a love for a place, and it can also be a relationship. Now, there are enough single mothers in my circle of friends to know that relationships don’t always work out as planned, but I think that the value of mutually committing to each other and providing each other the comfort to create a home even in the midst of adverse circumstances is highly underestimated nowadays.

To Accept, and Be Accepted

The matter of relationships also points to the influence of other feelings for a place. Or more importantly, of other people in that place. Many a person, I dare say, has been afraid of moving somewhere else, because the people might be unfriendly, and you don’t just naturally fit in. Many a person I’ve encountered, living abroad, went looking for a place that just felt right, found excitement and pleasure abroad – but kept feeling that the people there just rubbed them the wrong way.

It seems to me that the problem is twofold, at least.

For one, we tend to simply not notice the contradictions which exist in places where we have lived for a while, let alone grown up. Accepting them, even taking them for granted, just comes naturally – but so can a feeling that it’s not quite a home, but just the place you happened to be.

The problem with this is that maybe you also just need to accept another place as it is in order to be able to call it a home – but that is more than a bit passive, and also underestimates how much we typically complain about our home towns, home countries (let alone families ;), anyways…

The other side is the acceptance by others. Having grown up in a place or otherwise fitting in makes it easier to feel at home, of course. Constantly being pointed out as being different – as the noticeably foreign person in China is – hardly helps to feel comfortable. Not being called out as different, but discriminated in more subtle ways doesn’t exactly help, either, though. And always just staying on your native soil is not the modern way…

It’s not a matter of what is the right thing for the others to do – and I’m particularly doubtful when people go to exotic places to find a home, and then complain about the locals treating them as an exotic transplant (I don’t like it, either – but I *am* the exotic one in China) – but rather of doing right by yourself.

Maybe you can find just the perfect place of your dreams, the one to call home. I doubt it, though. Imperfections are what makes life interesting. And, admittedly, complicated.

So, you need to find your own “home philosophy,” by which you decide and do what’s right for you. Handling the imperfections of ourselves and this world is easily the most important aspect of it. Life is a balancing act, after all, whether you never move anywhere, or try and feel at home in the whole world.


  1. Anastasia

    Thanks for this meditation on what goes into making/growing a ‘home philosophy’. It’s an issue more and more of us are facing today, especially those of us who lead mobile, progressive lives. The question is definitely at the heart of my own philosophy about global citizens needing to find their place in the world, their “global niche”. And as you say, we’re unlikely to find one spot that is *ideal* for us, the place of our dreams. That’s where achieving what I call “psychic location independence” comes in. To be okay where we are — by being unlimited by where we are.

  2. Dawn M. Elliott

    My favorite thing to do when I travel is to awake early in the morning and go for a walk. During that time I enjoy talking with locals and exploring little out of the way niches. I have the heart of a traveler, so my natural inclination is to explore new things.
    My philosophy is: everyone you meet has something important to share, don’t pass it by. I love being at home, but my heart longs to be out discovering new experiences, people and places. Sometimes our place in this world has yet to be determined, so we have to be content where we are at and embrace the uniqueness of the culture.

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