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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

What Home Means to Me

What home means to me quayside


What is home anyway? It’s a funny question, one which I am sure many expats would answer with a shrug. When your home involves two or more different countries, things get a little more complicated.

What home means to me: two nationalities

I have dual nationality. My mum is English and my dad is Turkish, although they met in the north east of the UK. I lived in Istanbul, Turkey until I was 4 and then moved to England where I lived the rest of my life until last year when I spent 7 months in Singapore. You can read more about that here if expat life appeals to you.

Because I have a parent in each country as well as their extended family, home has always been a weird concept for me. What if you have two homes? What if ‘home’ (where your parents live?) doesn’t actually feel that much like home?

What home means to me: Istanbul

To complicate things further I moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne when I was 19 and never returned to the town my mum is from. It is only an hour's drive away, granted, but this made home feel like even more of a weird, mixed-up concept.

I never quite felt settled in ‘the toon’ as Newcastle is colloquially known. I love it, I could wax lyrically about it for ages, but it never felt like my forever base. That’s why last year I decided to just up and leave for the promise of a new life in Asia for 7 months, or potentially longer if it felt right.

I loved the Singapore experience. Together with my other half we explored everywhere in Asia we had our hearts set on and really threw ourselves into the expat lifestyle. I loved Singapore, I really did, but I didn’t find my home. (Although how cool would it be if this was actually your view when working from home...)

What home means to me: Singapore

What home means when you've been an expat

After our 7-month stint we decided to head home as planned, and I was very nervous about how it would feel to be back in Newcastle. I wrote a post about reverse culture shock when we got home, with many of those points still feeling very valid. However, time ticks by, and before I knew it we had been home 6 months and some things had started to feel the same as before we left.

It really ends up feeling like you've never been away after a while (this is both good and bad at the same time).

What home means to me now

I am writing this on the plane to Turkey to visit my family in Istanbul and I am so excited to see them after nearly 18 months apart. There is always a part of me which feels like I am ‘coming home’ when I fly to Istanbul and I hope that never goes away. I am so proud of my heritage, and I cannot wait to introduce my future children to their Turkish relatives and teach them our cultural norms.

However, the big change is that I feel like I am leaving my heart in Newcastle on this trip. Since leaving the city to live abroad, it is like I am seeing it with new eyes. I plan to write a whole post soon about why I love living in Newcastle. 

The day-to-day mundane issues still get me down and at times my heart is begging me to sack it off and run back to Singapore, but as my grandma says, ‘there is worse than boring’ and I finally feel really content with my life up north and don't actually find it boring in the slightest.

What home means to me: Newcastle Quayside

Yes, our weather is rubbish at times, but do you know what, I found when I was living in a place which was constantly hot and humid that I actually love seasons! I don’t seem to feel the cold as badly as I used to, and I have this level of gratitude for life that I just didn’t have before. If you can find a way to feel more grateful for the simple things, your level of happiness will really increase.

One major thing I have finally realised, and it has taken me quite a while, is that home isn’t actually a a place. It is a person or people. I could go anywhere with my partner, my family and some close friends and truly feel like I am at home. 

In an ideal world I would have my Turkish family by my side but then I wouldn’t have such an interesting family dynamic and obviously the excellent excuse to jet off to sunnier climes each year.

What home means to me: Turkey views

What if nowhere feels like home?

If you’re reading this thinking ‘I don’t know where my home is!’ then believe me when I say that at some point it will click and you will know where you want to settle down eventually. In the meantime, don’t rush a thing and enjoy every experience life throws at you: the ups wouldn’t be so exhilarating if it wasn’t for the unfortunate lows.

I look forward to moving into a house soon and settling down in Newcastle, hopefully building my own little family someday (a dog and cat count, right?) but in the meantime my passion for travel has not dwindled. It just might be more in the form of the odd weekend break and summer holiday, rather than long term backpacker life.

I say like that I was always off backpacking. I did it once in Australia and I could hardly carry it. Photographic evidence below.

What home means to me: backpacker life

How to work out where your home is

If you take anything from this then it will be my usual message which you're probably sick of hearing by now but I will never stop believing it. If you have that weird, unsettled, itchy feeling in your bones, then you need to get out there and see the world.

I know this sounds like a cliche, but it is a cliche for a reason. You will come back with a changed outlook or perhaps you will find somewhere new which feels like home to you.

What home means to me: plane views

Maybe you are going through a crappy life change like a break up, redundancy or family problems? Get out there and travel solo if you have the time and funds. If you can afford to use some redundancy money to take a trip and figure out what to do next, then this could be a life-changing decision.

There are amazing companies like Flash Pack who cater for 30-somethings wanting to explore without being surrounded by laughing gas-inhaling, partying 18 year olds. (If you're older and still do that, no judgement here at all. I'm jealous of your stamina!)

Reading that thinking, yeah but what if I want to travel and I'm not lucky enough to have the savings ready to do that? Look at gaining your TeFL qualification and then research schemes which allow you to work abroad teaching English. Your company may offer a sabbatical, and as the Geordies in Newcastle say ‘shy bairns get nowt’. Translation: shy kids get nothing. So what is the harm in asking if you are really unhappy at work?

What home means to me: Singapore Gardens

Maybe you are very lucky and have met someone you love in the current place you live but still feel a bit unsettled. Get out there, explore together and I guarantee at some point your home will become a lot clearer. I love reading about couples who turn their honeymoon into a year exploring the world before they settle down.

There is also absolutely nothing with having no desire to find a 'home', settle down or buy a house. In fact this gives you such an amazing level of freedom! I have always been chasing home and really wanted somewhere to feel like my place, so I really respect those who prefer the nomadic life or want to travel solo.

What home means to me: closing thoughts

I hope this gives some comfort to those who feel like everyone is settling down and they don’t know where their home is. It might be exactly where you are right now and you just might not know it until you give something else a try. It might be that you don't want or need a certain place to call home! 

I'd definitely say that it was giving something else a try that helped me work out where my home is. Who would've thought that travelling nearly 7,000 miles away from the place I'd been living in for 12 years would make me realise it is 100% where I want to be.

I’ll never forget 2018, the year we saw the world, but now I am happy to slip into that comfortable life. These days I catch more Netflix than sunsets, and I couldn’t be any happier about it.

What does home mean to you? I'd love to hear your views in the comments. If you liked this article, please pin it for later.

What home means to me: jacuzzi

7 comments :

  1. I love this post! I totally agree that home is wherever your friends and family are. I moved away from Orkney when I was 17, lived in the south of England for a few years, and after travelling for 18 months, we ended up living in Orkney again for over a year. But while I was in England, it didn't feel like home - and Orkney no longer felt like home either. Now I really miss Orkney because I have so many people there, but I'm really content in Edinburgh so I hope this becomes what I feel is "home". :)

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    1. Thanks! Edinburgh is such a fantastic city, definitely one of the best places I can think of to make a home. It's interesting how many people find the concept of home not that straightforward! Melis x

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  2. I never realised that where I was born and grew up didn't feel like home until I reached Newcastle and just felt the most incredible connection with the city. I have no idea what it is that makes me feel like the North East is home, but I just can't bear the thought of ever leaving it. My husband sometimes talks about one day settling down near where I grew up in Norfolk, or living closer to his family in Manchester but I just can't ever imagine ever wanting to do it. We have no one up here, just each other and our lovely friendship groups but for some reason it just feels like it's where I belong!

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    1. I love how Newcastle feels like that for you. It's lovely! X

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  3. What a lovely post! I find it so interesting to learn about other people's backgrounds, I bet it is lovely jetting to Turkey to see your family and experience the lovely sunshine!

    I couldn't ever imagine living away from my hometown, unless my family were there with me too. I am such a family girl! I love to travel and experience the world (well Europe is the furthest I have been!) and enjoy it so much more when I get to share it with the people closest to me.

    I bet 7 months in Singapore were amazing and flew by!

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Aimsy xoxo
    https://www.aimsysantics.co.uk

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    1. Thanks, I am glad you found it interesting! That's great that you feel so at home in your home town near family. Family are everything and holidays / travelling are secondary but still amazing. It was really good, I would've liked to stay a little longer but I am happy settled back in Newcastle. Melis x

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  4. I think this is great. Its true wherever your family and friends are is where home is. Personally it's been interesting of where I love traveling and seeing different types of places of where I'd like to live. however, there is nothing when you are in the arms of your love and it could be anywhere and it feels like home. Thank you for your article!

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