May 5

The Emotional Meaning of Home

Responsible Travel

Just what is the deeper meaning of home? And is it up to us to define it? 

What is home anyway?

I first wrote this piece when feverish some years ago. Now, we have another definition: home is where you quarantine when corona comes to call. But it's still interesting to wonder... What is home, anyway?

What is home - crab takes his home with him in the Maldives

THE EMOTIONAL MEANING OF HOME

This week, I was supposed to be travelling. But I was sick. I stayed at home.

Much is written about the power of travel, about how new places, people and experiences light up our senses and stimulate our minds. Little is written about those other two words. Sickness. And home.

Recommended reading: The Importance of Doing Nothing

Perhaps it's a product of practicality. When writers get sick, it's much harder to write. Only when all hope of recovery is gone do people push through and put pen to paper, keyboard to screen or blink to assistant as in the case of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the journalist who wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*.

This man had suffered a stroke that left him “locked in,” able to communicate only by closing one eye. An assistant would trace the letters in the alphabet and his eyelashes would flutter when she reached the right swirl. Each word took two minutes. The work, ten months to write.

And to write about home, whether healthy or well, is to write about love. That is, a word we assume we know what it means until we actually stop and think.

And that's how they all tie in together, those three words, I think.

They force us to think. They give us the time to think.  The permission to think instead of achieve.

boat alone
Travel: permission to think without interruption

Travel & Home

When travel strips us from our everyday cares, removes our social crutches and forces us to face the truth that there is no-one but ourselves for company one long and lonely night, when there's nothing, really nothing else we can be doing but waiting silently where we are...We give ourselves permission to really let our thoughts fly.

It's either that or watch another Miley Cyrus film in a language we can't understand. For the third time.

And sickness, spent at home, does much the same thing. It leaves us with our thoughts and a desperate desire for change, to make this stop, in a way that sickness on the road cannot. On the road, sickness focuses on survival: the need to reach somewhere safe and the desire to go home.

At home, we are left with our thoughts. And, if we're lucky, reruns of CSI Miami.

George Washington's House in Barbados
George Washington's House in Barbados

Thoughts of Home

Of all my thoughts about home lately, which I promise to corral into order as soon as these fiery cytokines settle down again in my blood, the ones I recall the most are the cries of the terminally ill.

"I just want to die at home."

Since hospitals remain dismal places, with air that smells like corrugated cabbage and corridors washed down with printed leaflets and bleach, the first hearing of such a statement sounds like a perfectly sensible idea.

Yet it delves deeper than that. A desire to reach home even when it is hours and days away with a painful path to get there and an uncertain welcome at the end.

Helena Rubinsteins' Childhood Home, Kazimierz, Krakow
Helena Rubinsteins' Childhood Home, Kazimierz, Krakow

Searching for Home: What is Home to You?

My father once told me of a patient he cared for in Bellevue Hospital, New York. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, he longed to reach his homeland, Croatia, though he no longer had family there.

Since this was the early 90s, the hospital staff were aghast.

"You can't go to Croatia, there's a war on over there!"

"Well," shrugged the man. "What's the worst that can happen?"

Mozart's Home in Salzburg
Mozart's Home in Salzburg

As I write, I feel shaky and I know that a fight to the death is going on inside me. Thankfully, medical opinion predicts that it is I who should win and the microbes the ones to die. This time around, at least. One hundred years ago, it would have been a different story. And even now there are no guarantees.

I have watched the CSI reruns. I have shivered and slept and let my thoughts fly.

And then I turned on Twitter. To see that the theme for this week's #FriFotos was "home."

Robert Frost once said that "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

To which I'll add my own fevered line:

Home is where you long to be whenever sickness calls.

Keep well. Enjoy the photos. Find home.

What is home for you?


THE Emotional MEANING OF HOME AROUND THE WORLD

Beit Sitti - Cooking lessons in Jordan inside someone's home
Beit Sitti - Cooking lessons in Jordan inside someone's home
Thousands visit Juliet's "home" in Verona from Romeo & Juliet
Thousands visit Juliet's "home" in Verona from Romeo & Juliet
Kakadu Park Forest Fire
The open air is home for many aboriginal people in Australia
Coloured houses in Girona as Catalonia campaigns for independence and the use of the word "home"
Coloured houses in Girona as Catalonia campaigns for independence and the use of the word "home."
A Berber Kitchen, Atlas Mountains
Inside a Berber Kitchen, Morocco. So much neater than my own...
Homes in London
 What is home? London is home to more people than the populations of Namibia, Denmark and Costa Rica combined


Tags


  • Going through some adventurous Travel articles and then suddenly found something interesting and it made me really home sick now and made me realize importance of home. I hope you are better now and measuring some new destinations.

    • Thank you! And I hope that your home sickness has passed you by by now…Here’s to exploring – and health!

  • That is a very interesting take on the definition of home. Never thought of it that way

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