I just got back from a visit home- I mean "home", I mean my old home...
-erm, what do I mean?
A Northwest (USA) native, I now live in Berlin. From time to time, family and friends back in Seattle call and I happily return to the land of my origin...and delicious peanut butter chocolate milkshakes at Beth's.
Planning my visit back, I got tongue-tied trying to describe which way I was going when saying "home" - to Berlin or Seattle? After 4ish years abroad, a period repatriating back to Seattle, returning to expat life in Berlin, I am thoroughly confused about where home is.
My parents still live in the house I grew up in and the only place I have ever lived besides Washington State is in Berlin. I know some expats have lived upwards of 5, 10, 15 or even 20 places! I read their blogs and interviews (check out Life in the Fast Lane, Educated Abroad & Defining Moves) and I can't picture leaving a little bit of me behind in each place. I already feel split in two deciding between my dueling home bases. It's funny - being an expat. You are never completely home again, are you?
Shortly before my trip, I saw a tweet that rang true deep in my expat heart.
The hardest thing about being an expat isn't being far from home, it's not being able to be two places at once.
— Anne Ditmeyer (@pretavoyager)
This question has again been brought to the forefront - not just by my recent visit - but in the popular series of Ted Talks. Writer Pico Iyer presented a discussion on "Where is home?"
He starts his talk with one of the most common questions among expat introductions,
"Where do you come from?"
But for him, like so many expats and travelers, the answer is much more complicated than one geographic place. He has three or four “origins” and questions whether the place you are from is genealogical, by birth, taxes, passport and visas, where you are now...or what?
He notes that children of today are more multicultural and in the future, or even today, it is up to us to choose our home rather than be given it. It is up to us to create our own sense of community.
The expat population of the world is surprisingly large. In a recent infograph, we posted that the total number of expats is somewhere in excess of 230 Million. If all the expats around the globe were to form an imaginary country, it would be the 5th most populous country in the world!
Whether we are calling Egypt or Finland or Brazil home (or home for now), perhaps we are the people of the future. Maybe my whole problem is just my perception of the situation. Instead of just one home, I have two.
Where do you call home, or is that a complicated answer? Share your thoughts, feeling or observations here in the comment section.