What is the definition of home? (2017 edition)

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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124 Replies to “What is the definition of home? (2017 edition)”

  1. For me, wherever mom is, it’s always where my home is. Though the house we lived the longest could be considered as one too. :)

  2. People define home base on their views and beliefs. For me, a place will be considered home when you feel accepted and loved by the people who lives there. Whenever I visit my parents I definitely consider it as one of my home because I have precious memories I shared with my family and it’s a place where my heart will always be.

  3. For me, home will always be where I spent the first 18 years of my life, regardless of where I live. Going back there will be the only true definition of going home.

  4. Fascinating article and discussion. I’ve personally been based overseas for 6 consecutive years. Although I don’t have any particular attachment to any one place (where I’m from or where I’ve been in recent years) I feel very comfortable with that. Home for me is where I am now.

  5. Wow! This is such a thorough, thought-provoking look at how we define “home” that I will have to read it again to get your full meaning. I agree, if one is traveling to “find themselves” then they won’t necessarily find a permanent “home” abroad. On a side note, it sounds like you get some really interesting, personal emails asking for advice. How do you usually respond to these inquiries?

    1. I reply slowly to these emails. Most are really personal from people, and I don’t like to rush out quick replies. The counter to that is that it usually takes me a while to write back. That said, this post answers a lot of what I reply to.

      1. I just read this again and it raised new questions for me. Love that this is a thoughtful, detailed piece that is rich with meaning. Not the typical travel blog post. This time I’m reflecting on your point that one person’s dream is another’s reality. It reminds me of traveling though southeast Asia, where we enjoyed the “great bargains” on food and lodging while many local people were just scraping by. It’s all a matter of perspective (and, you could argue, having enough money by local standards to live comfortably and not have to worry about supporting a family).

  6. yea i agree with you.It is not an easy thing to describe a home in a short essay, but your article is really nice. I like the quote “home is where your heart is”. For me a home is where you feel a glimpse of heaven.

  7. A great, wide-ranging, and in-depth exploration of what a “home” means, both from a practical and an emotional point of view. An interesting read!

  8. Thank you for your thought-provoking article. Life seems to be ever so fleeting. Asking questions, that I believe have eternal implication, is always good for the soul’s growth. These kinds of questions must me pondered, some over a lifetime. Home is about relationships and memories that echo an eternity. Families are eternal.

  9. Home?
    When I meet you, that’s home.
    For all the time we spend together, like in this blog, this is home.
    Simply beacause home is where you share your life with somebody that you have chosen.

  10. “Home is where the heart is” —- I like and agree this Quote, I feel my home as palace a place and a protective care on me, nice article, it’s not that easy to describe home……

  11. Wealth never defines home. It is all about where the heart is.

    I’ve been traveling for 13 years now and living abroad since January of 2008, and I can absolutely say that without a shadow of a doubt that home, for me, is where I feel most comfortable. I’ve had a lot of homes over the years; Missouri and Colorado in the U.S., Bulgaria, Colombia and Mexico outside of the U.S. It always comes down to the “feeling”.

    Some places it comes faster than others. Sometimes a destination lacks that feeling. But it’s always about the feeling, not the money, at least not for me. Now, granted, I’m successful enough that I’m not in the 99% (I’m not living in poverty, I’m debt-free and I make enough money to pay for my travels + be retired for all intents and purposes at the age of 32), but I’ve never let the cost of a place define its worth to me. It’s always, always, always about the culture, the people and the experiences that make it feel like home or not.

  12. Hi,

    This is a beautiful site! I´m a traveller at heart. Mentally and physically! Just returned from a two months stay in Australia, and again asking myself that question:
    What is home?????
    This time it felt good to be home and I had a feeling that I´m after all born and raised in Sweden and here are my roots.
    But then again, it doesn´t take long until I hear myself talk about the next trip!!!??

    For me home is really where I put my hat (my bag). I have a peculiar talent of being able to make “home” just about anywhere. As long as I have a bed and a crner for my things, I´m all set and ready to go! :)

    Thanks again for a beautiful site!!!! I felt “at home” right away and will come back often!

    Swedish summer greetings,
    Sanna

  13. In other words, “The grass is always greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it”. I have always believed that one should make the best of what they have and cherish it all…even through hard labor there are fruits to bestow. Adapt IN that place and make it work. Work hard…play hard….and reflect upon your wealth…no matter where or what home you have…claim a place to rest and hang your hat. You are blessed to see the world like you are…a path I did not choose but love reading about through your experience. Thank you!

    1. “The grass is always greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it”

      That’s a nice way of putting it. There’s a lot of work involved in many things – even silver linings.

  14. This was definitely a thought provoking post but I loved it. It was written fearlessly addressing the unspoken issues people would prefer not to even talk about. I love the idea of home and travelling forcing me to find the relation between the two. Because when you travel you have to find somewhere to stay which would be your “temporary” home and you may find some location in the world that you can call home in which you would make plans to relocate. But I agree that the home starts with the individual. “The person going in search for themselves”. and “find yourself before you find home” was the best advice ever. It is definitely a journey of the self.

    “Home is located in the place you are best at adapting in” A beautiful way to close because everybody wants to feel accepted and comfortable in their environment.

    1. Thanks. A lot of today’s world makes the idea of doing these things a lot easier than the reality. It’s in the nature of people to look at things that make us happy. It’s only when we get started that we suddenly realize … oh, this is harder than it seems.

      I can’t pretend my approach will make people jump up and down with excitement. But knowing what’s really out there will make the reality of it happen that bit more realistic!

  15. This is truly an eye opener for everyone. I agree with all your thoughts and was impressed for your broad understanding on what really is a home. I think most average people’s ideal home is a place where they can find shelter from heat, rain or snow. Where they are very comfortable, everything’s cozy, everything is provided. As simple as that. I know most of us wishes to have a luxurious home, who else doesn’t? But if you have the things you need, I guess you just have to cherish it and enjoy the comforts of your home, wherever you are… whatever your house maybe.

  16. Dave, I revisited this post because I, too, have been thinking about home, change, and forward motion recently. First of all, I have to say I smiled at the 2012 edition part of the title because it contains a telling insight into how we live: Our sense of home shifts with us. It may not shift in step with our geographical moods, it may not shift easily or quickly, but it shifts. Home, for me, has evolved into a “you know it when you see it” concept. Counterintuitive, perhaps, but it is the most honest reflection of how I make, find, and stumble into homes today. Thank you, as always, for the food for thought.

    1. Thanks Roxanne. That’s pretty much the nail on the head. Many people seem to forget that just because we’ve changed so too is and has the world around us.

      The problem with relying on this is that sometimes we do need to take a leap of faith every now and then. Basing the leap size on the experience we’ve learned in this every changing world.

      There we go… more food for thought. And, possibly action!

  17. What a great post.

    Love “Home is where the heart is”

    Home is also a place to call base, without a home base I would be completely lost

  18. I am warborn. My home doesn’t exist any longer. I am a lifetime traveller with no family. After a long process of searching ( and partly struggeling ) I realized that I carry my home in my heart. For me it is not where my heart is, it is my heart. I am currently living for some time in South Africa, near by the place where once was my home. Many things are familiar to me, but to be honest, it is not home. Today I think I am priviledged as traveller to live in that condition. It comes with a prize, as everything in life. For most people I met in my life was home linked to family and friends. And I think that’s a good life. Once a friend told me home is where you want to be when your heart is hurt. What I strongly feel is that I belong to the red earth of Southern Africa. But these are my roots, my blood. Thank you very much for your blogposts. I enjoy reading them very much. You are an inspirational source of very well researched information. Safe travels ….

    1. Thanks Claudia. You certainly raised a valid point with roots & blood. I have met people at the end of their lives who talk about family and wanting people they love to be around them. Not to be morbid but at the of life people want what comforts them the most around. Home for them as they “leave” it, is with their friends and family no doubt.

      Thanks for your take on this and thanks for continuing to read along!

  19. After I had my apartment flooded a year ago and was basically homeless. My definition has changed about what makes a place your home. I think the memories and experience that you have in a place, make it a home not the physical structure.

    Sally

  20. Hey Dave,
    I love your blog! Home is definitely subjective, you are making me go in deep. For me home is the series of events we create which help us remember the people and places we love. Home is boundless and it is where we celebrate life. Home is definitely relative to the happiness we feel, the support we get and the things we do. When someone wants to leave a place to go somewhere else, it won’t necessarily make them happier, if they are not able to plug in to their communities to make meaningful connections. Alternatively, when I hear someone say that time goes by so fast, to me it means there are not taking the time to capture all the little moments or milestones. Everyday should be a celebration!

    Cheers,

    1. Hi Alina,

      Thanks for your take on this. You hit upon a very could point. “Everyday should be a celebration”. It’s really something that should go along with everyone’s toothbrush to remind them of that in the morning and before they go to bed at night.

  21. Such a convoluted topic and I really love your take. I moved around a lot as a kid and have always struggled with where has felt most like home to me. Travel has definitely taught me to make a home wherever I find myself.

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