The old proverb says ‘home is where the heart is,’ but what if your heart is in more places than one?
I spent the second half of January in the first place I ever called home. I hadn’t been there in almost a year and a half, marking my last stint away from that home as my longest one yet.
Like most people, I moved out when I went to college, but unlike most people, I figured if I was moving out I might as well go far. I spent three of my four college years in Vancouver, Canada, which, as a Californian, I figured was perfect: it was just up the coast, yet far away enough to say that I left the country.
I loved living in Canada. I agreed with a lot of the social politics, I found some of my best friends in college, and Vancouver was an incredibly beautiful and calming place for me to fulfill my education.
For my third year I went on exchange to Oslo, Norway, where I tried to replicate the experience I had in Canada. Once again I made amazing friends and had a lot to learn from the policies and education available to me, and the scenery was certainly beautiful, but I just didn’t mold to the place in quite the same way. When I inevitably found myself homesick, it wasn’t California I longed for, but Vancouver.
Coming back to Vancouver for my fourth year was a homecoming. This was a place where I could get my footing back, recover, and finish my degree strong before the next thing.
The next thing was Korea, where I currently live.
I’ve been in Korea since August of 2016, when I moved here to teach English. I’ve been told that seems crazy, adventurous, or scary. I just viewed it as the next natural step for me; I had finished my degree and outgrown Canada, and I needed a job.
I’ve gone on a couple of vacations outside of Korea since moving here, and each time I come back I can’t shake the feeling of amazement that this is my home now. It’s not that I’m in love with Korea, or that I feel perfectly at home, but when I come back from a trip and I realize that my apartment with my bed is in this place, that my phone only has service here, and that I know exactly how to get home without any worry, I’m home. I’m comfortable. Those are comforts of home.
It’s not a comfortable home for me. Not entirely. There is always a layer of discomfort, and that’s okay. That’s just what I signed up for.
Last October I got homesick for California for the first time since moving out over five years ago. Of course I’ve missed the people there before, constantly really, but never the place. Last fall, I missed the place.
I missed my friends and family. I missed the food. I missed the beach. I missed buying clothes in my size. I missed the food. I missed going to bookstores where I could buy anything in English. I missed getting my hair done without any worry of miscommunication. I missed the food.
Going home was like letting out a long overdue sigh. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that the sigh came out not when I landed in my hometown, but rather when I took a glimpse out the window as we descended into Seattle, where I had a layover.
I’ve been to Seattle once. I’ve been to the airport in Seattle at least three times prior to my trip home. It wasn’t about Seattle really, but what Seattle is so close and so similar to: Vancouver.
Seeing the trees and fog of the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t help but feel a combination of longing and calmness spread over me. This was a place I called home for three years. A place where I felt absolutely comfortable, even in the things I did not know. A place I felt I could always come back to. A home I had made for myself.
Then I was in my other home, and it was like nothing changed. I didn’t talk about Korea that much on my trip, partially because I didn’t remember a lot. You know when you take a trip for a week or so and come back feeling like it was all a dream? I had that feeling about the entire last year and a half of my life. When people asked me about Korea I usually responded with “what do you want to know?” because I honestly couldn’t think of much beyond “it’s nice, I like it.”
For some unknown reason, I’ve never felt any desire to move back to the U.S. For a while I considered living in New York, but even that was never a certain goal. There’s just something about it that in my heart of hearts doesn’t feel like home, despite being my home. It sounds kind of like moving backwards, rather than forwards, even if it were an entirely new city I moved to.
That said, being in California did kind of feel like being home. I got to see my closest friends and family, which was honestly invaluable. More than any trip to the mall, the aquarium, the city, or elsewhere, it was them who made me feel at home. And the food. I ate a lot of food.
For the first time, I considered moving back. Not to my hometown, but maybe to San Francisco. Maybe to LA. I thought about it, but I dropped it. As much as I want to see my friends and family more, and trust me when I say I really, really do, I know that if I moved back to the U.S. part of me just wouldn’t feel right.
In the way that I am both comfortable and uncomfortable in Korea, I am both comfortable and uncomfortable in the U.S.
For the first time, I really felt that I have two homes at once. Vancouver and Oslo aside, the Bay Area and Korea somehow hold me captive as the homes of my heart – one for the people, the other for the experiences it gives me. Except there’s one more complication.
I want to live in London. And by want, I mean need. I’ve been to London a few times, and each time I had that same feeling I had when I flew over Seattle: the sheer relief of being home.
Home for me is somehow a place of friends and family, but also a place of inspiration. It’s a feeling I get that is rare and unmistakable and cannot be ignored.
What’s currently holding me back from moving to London are finances, job prospects, and an unexplainable feeling that I am not yet finished in Korea. I simultaneously feel the need to stop moving soon, the need to stay in Korea a couple of years longer, and the need to do everything I can to move to London. And with all of these feelings battling inside of me, all I’m doing is growing restless.
So no, I do not have a home, I have three. My heart is in the homes of my family in California, in the experiences I get each day in Korea, and in the feeling I get each time I go to London.
I am torn between my past home, my current home, and my future home, with an allegiance to all of them at once. I’m laying out plans, none of which will be able to satisfy me entirely due to all of these mixed emotions.
But that’s okay. This is who I am. I move a lot. I just hope that someday I can live in a way that makes this all a little easier.