Home means protection, belonging, feelings of ownership, safety, and overall a place where everything is known. At home, we understand the way things work and the relationships among others. We learn from others (parents) or teach others (brothers and sisters, sons and daughters). We know the rules because we built the rules with them together. An English saying states, “Home is where the heart is”, evoking the connection between our emotions and the place where we are most comfortable, where we want to be.

However, the challenges of modern life have changed the way we live. Home is not quite so easy to define anymore. Globalization has created the possibility for many of us to discover new cultures. Some people move away from home and settle down in a completely different country, even on a different continent. Basic things like going to the supermarket or shopping for clothes can become shocking experiences for the expat because of differences in habits and traditions and everyday lifestyles.

People’s ability to adapt to change differs from one to another. Some people may find these adjustment situations fascinating and challenging and learn to adapt to them in a matter of weeks. Other expats may feel homesick and want to go home as soon as possible. In either case, living in a foreign country represents an opportunity to get to know ourselves better.

However, what happens after a few months or a few years when we come back to what we used to call “home”? We reunite with those things we missed — people we love, the rules we used to play by, places where we grew up. What’s surprising is we don’t see them the same way anymore. We are seeing through different eyes, thanks to what we have learned and experienced while we were away. Often, we are shocked when coming home and have to learn to get used to things that once were familiar. Food, music, public transportation, language, landscape — we seem to be discovering a new place even though we have been here before.

Perhaps these feelings of alienation at home reflect a new “homeless” condition. When our environment changes, then we change as well, and our connections then change to the place where our heart belongs.

Does our heart change, too? Yes. It changes because it reflects a new perception of values and beliefs, new trends and preferences, and most of all, that we are not the same even when we go back to our starting point. We are not the same and therefore home is not the same.

Home is no longer here nor there anymore. Depending on each individual’s adaptability to change, we can be forever homeless, or not.

Maryori Vivas

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