What is the definition of home? (2014 edition)

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ January 10th, 2012. Updated on January 2nd, 2014. Published in: Travel blog » How to live overseas.
Old house in Romania

Home is relative not just to ones needs but it’s also subject to the ever changing world around us

Defining “home”

This is not an easy thing to write. By its very subjective and relative nature such a definition cannot be captured in one short article. A book might do it. But I would imagine it would equally be condemned by the majority of its readership for being one-sided or at the very least for unbalanced impartial views.

By virtue of the most common words of advice, and in some cases virile arguments, presented to me over the years the global definition of home is:

“Home is where the heart is”

If you like that notion, or don’t like the raw reality of the world we really live in, please read no further. Be happy with what you have and love it till you die. Consider the rest of this article a one-sided, uncompromising, opinionated and inconsequential mish mash of a lost man’s words.

If however you are mildly curious to my findings. Then I suggest you pluck your own thoughts from my words and culminate such findings into your own definition of home. For the reality is, home is where you make it.

Defining the definition of home

Of all the conversations I’ve had regarding my own journey, most come from two “classes” of modern-day society. One class are the people who have jobs or live in a part of a “moderate/high income society”.

Houses in Granada Spain

Mi casa, es su casa … so long as you meet all the requirements and actually want to live here

Those that might be reading this on their work computer, on a phone, iPad or laptop on a daily commute, or at home after a long day looking for a bit of off time escapism. There are also those who are looking for inspiration for reboots in life or that final push that sets them off a similar track.

The other sector comes from those reading this at home during the day or middle of the night, from a “lower income part of society”. Generally people from this side of things may not be working full-time jobs and are searching for visa information,  jobs overseas, immigration laws and education overseas.

Either way, in terms of the “home” subject matter these are the “type” of people who tend to email me.

There is an interesting pattern to the two “classes” mentioned above. Both come from all nationalities the world over. From the U.S.A to The Philippines I’ve had middle to upper income people from both spectrums ask for the answer to “Home”. Mainly because they’ve had enough of living in their current life’s ways in one shape or another.

I’ve had out of work people from the U.K. to Pakistan asking me how to get out of their rut. Where is there a better place to live? And, I’ve had rich people from France to Honduras ask me where the best place to start over is.

Wealth it would seem does not define home.

Moreover I’ve had all classes from all over the world offer the “Home is where the heart is” solution.

Romanticism is closer than wealth in defining the answer to home.

If there is one global thing we all share, no matter our race, income, religion or beliefs; it is that we all want a place to call home.

The problem starts when we get it. Because we as humans, in general, always want more in some form or another.

What do we need to call a place home?

Let’s start at the very basics here. Clean water. You don’t live anywhere for very long without clean water. Never mind the comforts of electricity, living without water is not possible. Food, shelter, security the list goes on in the basics of home dwelling.

The majority of the world’s population do not have access to these basic things we need to call a place a simple home.

Much like the middle paleolithic period some 200,000 years ago our ancestors were probably faced with similar problems. Droughts, famine, disease, climate or even war would have meant entire human colonies moving to new regions just to survive. Though in some cases, quite possibly, someone may have had the notion that there were better pickings or shelter further along a river or coast.

So even from our origins we have always sought out the very basic necessities in setting up a home. Or possibly places that have had more than enough resources for us to live on and grow with the minimum of hardships.

Staying put

That is not to say the entire colony would have left. No, the old, young, sick and indeed even some smart people would have stayed put. For where there are fewer people there are more resources to be had. Some people are happy to make do. Others have no choice. Others more elect to share the burden of helping those less fortunate and so they stay behind.

Then, the next generation comes along, and the cycle starts again.

The basics of home never change

Today is no different when it comes to the basic needs of home. Think of hurricane Katrina in the U.S.A. and the homes that were destroyed. The people who rebuilt them, and the people who moved on. Think of typhoons that hit The Philippines every year. Homes wiped out, and rebuilt every year. And the people who move away to more stable territories both in-country, and overseas.

When India was split in two there was a huge migration of people who looked to move to a place they felt would be better to live culturally. Or, more sadly were forced to leave. In Afghanistan yet more people were forced to migrate to better places due to invasion and war. While in parts of Africa famine and drought removed the basics of home so people frequently move to newer grounds.

In Europe famine, pestilence and war have seen great sways of migrants over the centuries. Today it’s an economic migratory process as people seek employment and civil status elsewhere.

Mingle national migratory paths with that of individuals who have sought an equal need to relocate. Death, abuse, finances, greed, mistakes, love, victimization, prejudice, civil liberties the list goes on for solo migratory needs for new homes.

However the basic needs that everyone still seeks remain no different than 200,000 years ago. We seek water, shelter, food and a means to gather all in one place for security and in most cases comfort/prosperity. This is what we call home, even if we do not truly own it.

Advanced “home-a-nomics”

So what happens when we find a place that meets our basic needs, and even exceeds them? We prosper, procreate and acquire. We reach levels of possession that provide us with further security, comfort and finally status.

Therein lies one of the characteristic traits that define us as human beings today.

The more we have, the more we want.

This holds true not just in our possessions, but also our mentality, and status. Wars have been started for less.

Indeed wars have been declared just on the paranoia of losing all that we have built and acquired around our homes.

The truth is that since the dawn of our civilizations we have invaded other people’s homes not just to acquire, but also to secure and protect our own.

Fragmentation of society

Nepalese lady saying namaste

If we leave our own society to find a better one we often become isolated. Trying to find another society that accepts our values may be asking too much …

Without home there is fragmentation. Our society scatters once it has been shattered by war, famine or other means of homelessness. But, we still take our own values and definitions of culture with us.

Immigration has seen this as cross cultural integration. We heralded this a further step on our evolutionary paths during the last century. Only the path has become cracked under the strain of unknowing cultural weight. The merging of cultures in Europe broke in 2011 as leaders there declared that it simply was not working the way they envisioned (source.1 boston globe / source.2 bbc). Indeed even the UNHCR is having similar problems within Nepal with cross cultural marriages leading to high divorce rates (*source: my republica

In the Americas a continent is seeing a social pendulum swing hard as the north struggles under the freedom of a weighty bureaucratic system struggling with economic inequality (source: the economist). While in the south economies distance themselves even further and gently prosper under the similar traits that their Eastern “developing” counterparts embellish.

In Asia the cultural path is being paved more with financial might than moral rights. And the profits are being reaped proving the latter has indeed less regard at this point in history (source: the independent).

Social integration lost in the wind

Given the fragmentation of a home once it is broken up what hope does one have when taking your beliefs into a new land? Social integration for me on a long-term basis was an utter failure. You cannot be someone else other than yourself no matter where you live. Either for yourself or for someone else.

To me the answer to this is simply that at this moment we as human beings are not yet evolved, on a global scale, to truly accept everyone into our own worlds for who they are, let alone give them equal rights.

Without home there is fragmentation

So we move back to knowing that we need a home not just for shelter, but for a cultural foundation. In today’s world if we do not know our culture we do not know ourselves. Or we become lost in trying to be someone we are not just to fit in. So instead we argue and bicker over whose culture is correct on many levels.

Mosque in Kano, Nigeria

In reality can you ever really fit into a different culture? Moreover, can they accept you? For the short term yes. For the long term …

Is it my right to live in another culture and tell them that drinking unfiltered water is bad? Or is it their right to tell me they’ve been doing it for all their lives and I should adopt their ways? I will argue health and medical reasons, they will argue the harsh economics and physical presence of reality.

My home is fragmented. I will lose the argument even if the evolutionary path of wisdom and experience is on my side. This is human nature. I will hold my silence and create my own well to survive. And so a divide will occur and I will always be the outsider. A fragment of another society living in a culture that is on a larger scale most likely also being invaded by a more dominant cultural force with a different set of rules.

Individual extinction is on the cards as a battle for home is fought on all sides. We have indeed, come full circle.

For me my home for now is right here. The fragments of information I’ve gathered are strung together for all to see. And yes, I am well aware that such a web of personalized twine hangs perilously close to a global razor’s edge.

One small snippet for the those seeking not a home but themselves

How often do we feel lost within ourselves? Or have met others who claim to not know themselves anymore. The simple statement of not belonging in a place is a common finding that you might experience when travelling the world or even before you leave. If not, then you will surely meet such a person sooner rather than later.

The person going in search of themselves

Personally, I already know who I am. As such I am not seeking out who I am, nor what makes me tick or why I am un/happy. I found this out years ago. But not everyone is so fortunate nor have they followed a similar path.

In among a midlife crises, a marriage or relationship, even a professional lifestyle one often sees the frustrations of “finding oneself” intermingled with leaving home and going out to find a better one.

I can tell you the un-romantic truth to this right now: You will inevitably return to your original home at the end of such a journey.

In such cases, you were not looking for a “home” but rather a meaning to your own “life’s questions”. A travel experience will often provide you with such answers. Hence you will often end up back where you started.

There’s a greater chance of happiness now as you’ve seen yourself, others and intermingled experiences for better or worse. If you are still not happy at being back then perhaps you are seeking such things as less responsibility in the guise of freedom. In which case it’s still not a “home” you are looking for, but rather answers to who you are.

Find yourself before you try to find home

Is a permanent home abroad so different to what you have now?

Forget one month, six months or even two years. Imagine permanent relocation to greener pastures. Move past cultural or even social integration. Forget work visas or even residential visas, least of all permanent citizenship that few in reality will ever acquire in all but a few “western developed countries”.

Never-mind owning property in your own name from any country other than the one you were born in.

Forget about marrying someone from another land and the many years of bureaucratic tape required to let you live in your chosen country together. Never mind the paragraphs above that they too will now have to endure. And on that note do remember: One person’s paradise can be another’s hell.

Lastly ignore the fact that if you have a tidy sum of money, or political connections most of the above can be eliminated or at worst eased.

Focus instead on the reality of living abroad

Surviving the first two years over with, be prepared to look up from your phone and see the same dull faces on a commute to work. Yes, the surroundings will be different. But when living a monotonous life of survival then most things look the same no matter the location.

Your dreams of home are someone else’s reality

So there you are surrounded by the dull lifeless faces of others on your commute to work. Or alongside you in an office built for another hammering out a days work, all with the same intention of going home to something better.

A paradise island

What’s paradise to one person is the reason to leave for another. Then again if we are not happy with ourselves then that paradise can be just as bad as the place we fought to leave

A television offering escapism. A couple of hours of cable therapy will numb the pain. Living a life through others offers a titular hope that helps us pass into a nights sleep with hopes of a better tomorrow.

The notion of somewhere better cannot help but pass through our minds. We are essentially looking for better pastures once again.

While next door there is a person who fought to escape a war, a drought or the collapse of a political system. They marvel at the running water from a tap. They sit upright in-front of a television they just purchased for the first time. Tomorrow they start a new three month contract for a meaningless job. Yet will marvel with pride at a weekly pay check that will allow the first visit to a dentist for their child.

They are living the life you have from their dreams of yesterday.

It will continue until the novelty wears off and they too look for a form of escapism on a commute to work and when looking at those similar faces or moreover; see yours staring back.

The solution to the definition of home

A home is not the answer to many people’s definition of what it “should” be. We can have ten homes scattered across the globe and jump between each one at random intervals and still, eventually, grow lacklustre with a longing for something more.

In this case, “home” is not what we seek. What we seek is a better life to live in our homes. By leaving such homes without understanding this we become fragmented and lost. If that is the case then all the home searching in the world won’t bring you peace.

The four rules of home

Understand the basics of survival.

Understand that no four walls nor roof will ever suffice unless you know what you want in life.

Understand that once you have a family, it’s not just your home, but theirs too. Live in it together, for each other.

Understand that once you have what you want … you’ll eventually want more. Be prepared.

The final definition of home in 2012

My conclusions in these writings are my own.

Reread the opening paragraphs otherwise it is a fruitless endeavor to conclude on my thoughts.

Throughout these 7 years I know that the thought of home evokes many impassioned emotions on many levels from many people. I wonder why this subject becomes just so impassioned.

There are probably several television series on moving abroad. They are not built for reality, but for ratings. Escapism is a good rating ploy.

As a matter of comfort we generally like, need, and want to define home as:  Home is where your heart is most happy. Home is a place where you are loved unconditionally. Home is where you feel safe and protected. Home is where I am right now.

The physical reality is this:

“Home is located in the place you are best at adapting in”

It may never be a permanent abode but knowing what you want in life are the true title deeds of home, take such knowledge and make the most of it based on this foundation.


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This is an additional editorial featuring travel related articles, view points, conversational topics and helpful resources based on experiences I’ve learned from my around the world journey

*additional news source added post first publication

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118 Great responses to What is the definition of home? (2014 edition)

  1. this guy has a wonderful way with words.so easy flowing yet sounding like each word was placed with with great thought in mind.i can see him saying each phrase.
    TO ME HOMES WHERE YOU HAVE YOUR STUFF.and you can spread a little stuff a long way.and a small pile of dirty clothes here and there along the way gives it a nice touch of home sweet home.but your base should have your one true love, your hotrod in the garage and your wife in the bed I HEARD SOME SAY HOMES WHERE YOUR HAT IS OR HAVE A GIRL IN EVERY PORT. not me i do like going home and getting into my own bed with my one and only wife. but thats just ME!

  2. Lianna says:

    Thank you!

  3. EJ Juen Jr says:

    Luther Vandross :)

    Home is where the heart is. I agree.

    Problem is my heart is divided.

    Love for my wife and kid who are in her hometown which uses a language I’m not used to and my love for my hometown.

  4. Anna says:

    Home is where you make it.I agree.

    I moved here 15 yrs ago from Poland and I am very happy

    here.

  5. Todd Waldorf says:

    First, I’m a new visitor to your blog and I will be back. Thank you for your effort.

    You struck on something that is a new revelation to me. I mean, brand-spanking-new. I’m currently in New Zealand. I am originally from the USA. Over a year ago I quit my job as a finance executive. Afterwards I moved to Australia in search of nothing. I really had no idea what I was doing. I just went because I didn’t feel alive and I very much wanted to.

    While in Australia I realized I was onto something. I had gone against the trend of conventional living as a North American citizen. Normally life equate to a college degree, a career, a family, and retirement. I was happy that I was taking the metaphorical hatchet to the weeds of societal teachings. I would find my own way.

    After my visa expired in Australia I have traveled more. I am not house-sitting, which is fantastic. Now my residence is someone a home that belongs to someone else. In January my Aussie-partner will meet with me and we will marry in April/June. Outside of my window right now is a view of Pukerua Bay. I am high on a hill and literally over tree-tops. It is magnificent, but after a few days it became normal. It wasn’t as splendid as the first day.

    Why?

    I thought that was peculiar. All of my life I have told myself that I want to live some place beautiful, but what does that mean? I’m not questioning that. After living anywhere for a period of time it could lose the luster of beauty that it once had. The excitement of a new place and viewing a new painting is now replaced by something familiar–however, this is not so bad either.

    It’s like being in love, isn’t it? At first the relationship is exciting and you get butterflies of wonder. After a few years you become more content and familiar and find out how you really feel. I think that comes with a home as well. It doesn’t take a beautiful landscape or a view of a bay to be your home. It isn’t necessary. I had thought it was desirable and even still it is as a preference, but that is all, no more and no less.

    Eventually the luster of the view will become the “norm”. The thrill of a first date becomes the sanctity of a love eternal. These things develop inside of you and the view and the dates transform into a part of you. You’re wife becomes an extension of you as does your home.

    Todd Waldorf
    The Bang – Better Living

  6. Rosalie says:

    For me home is where you find true happiness and peace of mind. Of course, it should be a place where the environment is clean and peaceful and there is enough supply of water and electricity.

  7. Vee says:

    “Understand the basics of survival.

    Understand that no four walls nor roof will ever suffice unless you know what you want in life.

    Understand that once you have a family, it’s not just your home, but theirs too. Live in it together, for each other.

    Understand that once you have what you want … you’ll eventually want more. Be prepared.”

    Wow… straight out of my head…

  8. Wil says:

    The house I grew up in has always seemed like home to me. It’s the place I feel the safest and most familiar.

  9. Giovanna says:

    I’ve gone back to the very main-or at least it seemed so-subject of this blog of yours, and like better to go and search among your first travels to Europe, the only I’m very interested in,as present far East articles are more of touristic interest for me,becouse I’ll never be able to go there. Crisis has also make vanish many expectations.
    So went back to these commentaries and found many true things in them.

  10. Paul says:

    Certainly a lot of insight in is post. It’s really given me a lot to think about. Home really is a state of mind I suppose, but I really do agree with your conclusion at its the place you are best at adapting in. When in lived in my birthplace, Perth, I never felt right. It was my home, but I never connected with the place

    When I moved to London, I found that I really adapted well. No shock in adapting to life in a big city, I just slotted right in. So many things that were different to what I was used to just seemed right. Within a few months it felt more like my home than Perth ever did. Now I’m in Melbourne, I crave that feeling that I had.

    Home. Such a simple concept on the surface, but so much more than that. Thanks for the great post.

  11. Stephen S. says:

    Since I’ve started traveling I’ve always viewed the road as home. That is where my heart lies and only when I’m traveling do I feel like what I’m doing is right. I don’t know if I’ll ever stay put completely.

  12. Giovanna says:

    I realize the majority of your readers,Dave,are “romantic” people,the way it was meant by proto-19th century ones-Lord Byron & Company are not dead, they survive inside “road,elsewhere,search” supporters. Maybe you too,or did you find home in Nepal? It’s a lot of time you are being there!

    • I think most people are romantic in their definition of home and even travel. As written above it’s not as simple as getting up and moving. Visas, work, money, human rights heck even basic rights are not even possible. Nepal is a fantastic country. It’s one of the reasons I came back. Can I own land here? No. Can I ever vote here? No. Can I try to live here? Yes. Is it home? Well in an unromantic sense, no. In a romantic sense, yes.

      I’ve written more in my newsletter about the next few months.

  13. Clayton says:

    I’ve lived places for a couple years that didn’t feel like home and I’ve lived places for a few months that felt more like home than where I grew up.

    To me, home is the place that I feel the most sense of belonging. I guess that means its the place that has the whole sense of being that is closest to where I am in my life.

  14. Daniela says:

    I was looking for information to do my homework of the university, and I found it.. I think that HOME refers to the feelings like peace, love, security, comfort. A home is the place you belong, is the place where you can truly be yourself. When you are at home, you feel in your own world..
    I think that your definition is describing a HOUSE.. I mean the building..

  15. My home is more about people than places. Although I have been wandering for the past 9 years, I return for temporary solace and love to the arms of my loving children or the home fires of my worldwide friends. Home is a feeling not an actual structure or location, at least for this compulsive traveler.

  16. I am over 50 and my parents left North America to work overseas when I was 4 months old. I have been an outsider my entire life. And I agree with you completely with regards to ‘Social Integration Lost In The Wind’. You have to be yourself. And it has worked for me. From time to time I do sputter in vain about ‘drinking dirty water’, but afterwards, having accomplished nothing, I berate myself and go back to being quiet. One has no choice. It was a pleasure reading this entry. You write very well.

  17. Attorney SEO says:

    Great article comes from inspiration and frequently reading the latest news and articles about a subject and keep up the good work in this website.

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Wade says:

    I don’t know where home is, but I will be there when I get there.

  19. Chloe says:

    This is a beautifully written piece, along with some gorgeous photos! It really can be hard to decipher where “home” is. For me, home is where the backpack sits at any given moment.

    Thanks for sharing the great piece!

    Chloe

  20. Monnette says:

    Isn’t “home is where the heart is” the same as “home is located in the place you are best at adapting in?”

  21. Hamish Healys says:

    Wow! You certainly had a lot to say with what a home is… and I like the way you put it. I’ll go along with “A HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS”. Deep down that’s how I honestly feel. I can go and visit some of the most beautiful places in the world and stay in the grandest, ritziest hotels but when I open my front door on my return the warmth of my home tells me … it’s here that I belong.

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