As digital nomads, our concept of home is constantly evolving. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s hard for us to answer where “home” exactly is. It seemed only fitting, then, that as we returned to Jamaica, our friends here said “Welcome home” to us, additionally adding: “Will Jamaica be home?” We made sure to answer them directly. “No. But we do love Jamaica.” Continue reading “Homes for the Holidays – Part 1: Jamaica”
I wrote this post in February 2012, before we left for Peace Corps, and for some reason I left it in the draft queue. My thoughts are still incredibly relevant to our situation today as we move from place to place…
Have you ever tried to imagine the perfect place to live? When you see yourself in that city or town (or in the middle of nowhere), in that house, is everything as it should be? If you could just live there, would you never need to move or remodel or change the furniture or improve the yard?
Would you be completely satisfied?
I’ve gone through this “exercise” more than once in my head, each time running through many places I’ve thought would be cool to live. A condo in the city with a great view! (Too much traffic, expensive parking, claustrophobic busyness…) Four acres of farmland with big sky and fresh produce! (Too far from the city, neighbors aren’t close enough, endless work to be done…) A colorful hut on a tropical island! (Too far from family, mosquitos, difficult to travel…)
Even if I truly enjoyed the place I was imagining, there were always other things that wouldn’t let me be totally overwhelmed with satisfaction and endless joy. There was still poverty in the world. There was still my own shortcomings and failures. There was still reality.
No matter where, the image of that picture-perfect place was always more enjoyable to imagine than to actually live in or own. There was always something missing.
According to the TV series/documentary “This Emotional Life,” human beings tend to expect that what makes us happy for a day will make us happy for a lifetime. There’s a fancy term called “Hedonic adaptation”- which means that human beings are good at getting accustomed to, or adapting to, positive changes in our lives. On the other hand, people find ways to like things when they’re stuck with them.
The few times I’ve gone through this thought process I’ve described above, I mourn a little. I have the overwhelming feeling that I will never truly feel “at home.” I will never find a place where I can be perfectly at peace. I will never truly rest. I will never arrive somewhere where I won’t need something else, something more. I will always be just a little bit restless. Do you ever feel that, too?
Maybe this is why I’m addicted to travel and I put off settling down. Maybe subconsciously I avoid finding a home because I know it won’t make me feel “at home-” I’ll get my hopes up and then have to mourn that loss of a dream. Instead, being a nomad is closer to my true nature. I do love to travel.
But why do I long to feel at home in the first place? Why do I try to imagine the perfect place, where I can stop searching for something more, if it doesn’t exist? Why do I have this life-long restlessness and the unshakeable urge to keep searching? The answer, I think, is theological.
I believe there actually is a home where I will finally feel at peace- it’s just not of this world. For any fears of dying I might conjure, this consolation is greater and I put my faith in it. I believe I was created for a heavenly home, and all the longing and dissatisfaction I encounter in this life are a result of not yet being there. The dissatisfaction is a reminder that something remains unfinished, something I have to look forward to.
All the same…
I suspect that some day we will settle down somewhere. It likely won’t be a typical set up, since we’ve sort of outgrown our ability to fit into anything cookie cutter. Perhaps we’ll try a tiny house. Perhaps we’ll still travel a few months out of the year. But we do value community highly, and I think that will eventually pull us back out of orbit.
Whenever that happens, it will be interesting to see how much I’ll still feel that existential homesickness. Will I ever be content to stay in one place? I don’t know. I know now that no place can ever be perfect, but I still hope to find somewhere that’s right for us. Whatever that means…
“I am born and raised from Hawaii” and I know I am lucky to be able to say that. But for many of the years that I lived in Hawaii, I don’t think I fully grasped how blessed I was or appreciated home the way I should have. I remember watching “Wheel of Fortune” episodes and contestants would cry or go crazy when they won a trip to Hawaii. What’s the big deal I thought. It’s an island. I’ve seen it all.
I haven’t seen it all.
The truth is I never left Hawaii to appreciate it more. I left because I felt that I wanted to experience other things in the world, to cry or go crazy for other places the way the Wheel of Fortune winners did. That’s why I left and that’s why I love traveling today. But when you return to the place where you grew up, it’s suppose to feel like home and at first it didn’t. I felt like an outsider. A visitor. A tourist (it stings to even write that). Things seemed familiar to me, but yet, very foreign.
As the days went by, I started to remember what it meant to be from Hawaii. It started with the food. The diverse, rich blend of cultures and flavors unique to this place. The land of sweet and savory.
But most of all, what brought me back full circle, was spending time with my family. Doing the things we love doing together like fishing, surfing, playing games, eating, and hanging out. All of the things that I had missed these past couple of years.
If you want to appreciate home more….leave it.
But don’t forget to go back and rediscover everything all over again, and new things.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back in the United States for a little over a month now. First, we went on a road trip from Orlando to Chicago to reconnect with family and friends. Then we went to Oregon to see more family. Finally, for the last two weeks Michelle and I had a chance to spend some quality time with our own families, Michelle in Oregon, and me in Hawaii.
Being a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (the official term – RPCV) everyone seems to be asking 3 major things:
1. What was it like? How was your experience? – We’ve talked about the difficulty of this before for any volunteer to sum up their 2-year lives as volunteers and how we’ll probably be reflecting about our experience for months to come.
2. What’s next? – We’ve sort of mentioned things here and there but we are working on a post to better explain what we’ll be up to this coming year. As we said in Jamaica, “soon come.”
3. How has it been to be home? – This is the focus of today’s post: Home.
Home….Not Yet Home
As travelers, I’ve come to understand that “home” is different for everyone, especially for us wanderers. I grew up in Hawaii. That’s home. I felt a deep connection to Portland. That’s also home. Jamaica has a special place in my heart and life. There’s a part of me that calls that home now, too.
Here are my favorite recent questions we’ve been getting that I struggle to answer:
Where are you from?
Umm…where did I grow up? Where did I just come from? What country?
Where are you living now?
Well…right now I’m visiting family in Hawaii, so I guess there??
Ok, then, where will you be living?
Good question. We will be traveling for awhile so…yeah.
How’s home been since you’ve been back?
When I landed in Hawaii 2 weeks ago I thought I would feel as if I returned home. For anyone that has been to Honolulu, once you land, you actually go outside right away as you walk to baggage claim. It’s another small thing I love about returning “home.” The warmth, humidity, and trade winds gently remind you that you’ve arrived. Yet as I walked through the airport, I didn’t feel home. The local people that I grew up with seemed different to me. I started wondering: will people know I was born and raised here? Will they see me as a tourist? I didn’t feel that I fit in.
What’s crazy is how things change and don’t change in two years. Honolulu has more new condos and big buildings. They started building a rail system. Yet Diamond Head, the mountains, and valleys are still there and still beautiful. I love surfing. I love the local Hawaiian food. And most of all, it’s been great to see family and friends. It’s been great to see so many people I haven’t seen in years that have changed and in many ways, haven’t changed at all, too.
But I didn’t go home to the house I grew up in. My family moved while I was away. I thought I would be sad about it but being with my family, I’ve realized wherever they are is where home is. I’ve forgotten about the old house.
And really that’s it. Home is not a place. Home is not a physical structure. Home is a familial structure. Home is a feeling. Home is being surrounded by the people you love that also love you. That’s why I can be home with just Michelle, or in Portland, Hawaii, and even now, Jamaica.
So yeah, it’s been great to be home.
“Where is home again?”
Wherever I’m with my family and friends….I’m home.
Here are some things I’ve been up to since being back in Honolulu (including some random part-time jobs).
Helping setup AV equipment:
Helping setup a wedding:
The latest “Jumping Jedd Photo” – Surfing out by Diamond Head