On Being at Home in the World
At the start of a nomadic year, a small, but very distinct voice inside my mind offered up a phrase that has haunted me long before I began to travel, and became the theme, the overarching idea, behind my travels. In truth, this phrase haunts me still, well into this present-day. I can’t let it go, because something about it resonates within me so strongly.
What did this voice say to me, that has haunted me so?
It’s a mere phrase – but really, it’s an idea, a way of being in the world. And the idea is that, no matter where I happened to be in the world: that that would be my home. From the Andes of Peru, to the streets of Cartagena, to the islands of Ecuador: no matter where I happened to find myself: that was home. Whether for a day, a month, a week – it didn’t matter. The amount of time was irrelevant. It was more the feeling I wanted to create within myself; to look at a place less as a foreign environment, and more as my home. A home where I am not the “other” – but a place where I am accepted, and a part of (even when it does not at first appear that way).
So, it would be fair to say that my goal for 2016 was simply to feel at home in the world, no matter where I was.
At first, this may sound like a very simple thing: to be at home anywhere you are. But I dare you: try it. It is not, in fact, as easy as it sounds. And the ramifications of “feeling at home in the world” actually has quite large implications.
Here are a few of those:
- If everywhere is home, then I am safe everywhere – because at home, I feel safe and secure. At home is where I feel the most safe. So if everywhere is home, than I am safe and secure everywhere I go – and I bring that feeling with me, wherever I go.
- If everywhere is home, then I bring a sense of peace and self-assurance with me, wherever I go.
- If everywhere is home, then that means that I must learn to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, for surely, in life and in travel, I will be confronted with new, potentially uncomfortable situations everywhere I go. I can choose either to fight this fact – or instead, I can choose to embrace the discomfort, knowing that facing it brings growth. Therefore, I must say “yes” to feeling sad, anxious, out-of-sorts, angry, alone, elated, rejected, joyous, disappointed, happy, and ecstatic – because ALL of these emotions are a part of the human experience. To fight them is to fight being human. To fight them is to fight growth. And the point of travel is nothing if not growth. Therefore, I feel at home even when I am uncomfortable, for I know it will lead to growth.
- If everywhere is home, then I must be at home in a state of constant change, as all of my new environments cause me to reflect, adapt, and even reinvent myself. I must feel at home being flexible, in order to absorb and understand each of my new environments. To travel is to realize that change is a constant in life, and that to fight change is a misuse of energy. Instead, I must feel at home being fluid and adaptable to my ever-changing environments.
- If everywhere is home, then that means I can calm myself during stressful situations, by using the power of my mind to accept the current situation, not run from or ignore it. If everywhere is home,then I can get to a calm place in my mind anywhere I am, simply by choosing to relax into the situation and observe my surroundings, instead of choosing fear or hasty judgment.
- If everywhere is home, then I realize I am in greater control of – not necessarily my circumstances – but my reaction to those circumstances. And it all begins in my own mind.
- If everywhere is home, then I can find and make new friends anywhere and everywhere I go.
- If everywhere is home, then I must treat everywhere I go as if it is my home, showing respect for the land itself, for the country’s language, and for its customs.
Now that I’ve explained this concept in a little more detail, let me explain how I used it during my travels.
I spent almost two months in and around Cusco, Peru, between the months of December 2015 and February 2016. During that time, Cusco became my temporary home, and it was my home base for exploring that particular region of the Peruvian Andes. When I first arrived there, though, I was with a friend. We hiked Machu Picchu together and explored much of the surrounding area. When she left though, I found myself alone in Peru as an American blonde in a place with very few other blondes (aside from tourists), not knowing how to speak their native language, Spanish – and I found that I didn’t exactly feel at home. Not in the beginning, anyway. What I needed to do was to re-acclimate myself to this place. But now, without the comfort of my like-minded, American friend.
So, what happened was this: while I walked down smooth, cobblestoned Cusco streets, feeling a bit more like a foreigner than I would like, this phrase would somehow wander into my head: “Right now – this place, Cusco, is your home. I am home. I am safe.”
Something would happen to my heartbeat when I heard those words: it immediately seemed to get calmer. My breath became a little deeper. I felt my whole body become calmer. I held myself a little taller, and I felt better able to observe my surroundings. I noticed more of what was actually around me. I went from feeling, “I am an outsider here,” to, “I belong here.” I began to smile more. I began to observe the people around me with greater clarity. How did they act? What made them laugh? Why did they behave a certain way? What is the significance of their clothing? I started having more interactions with the people around me. I found myself looking up at the sky more, and noticing the mountains, and how they surrounded the town in a protective, almostsheltering kind of way. I began, more and more, to feel at home. I began to feel at home in a land that had once seemed entirely foreign and strange to me. I felt more at peace – with this new place, and within myself. And I wondered what kinds of curious things this place had to teach me.
When we are a tourist, we are ever the “outsider.” We don’t really belong in that place, is what we are told, and what we come to believe. We are different, by nature – and therefore, we cannot understand. We cannot fully understand these people, this new place.
But I do not fully believe that to be true. I believe that by reading, observing, being curious – by walking, trekking, noticing, absorbing, and mostly, by talking to people of that country, of that culture – we can understand not everything, but more than we did before. We are a witness now, to another culture. We may have friends now, from that new place. And though we may never understand fully what it’s like to be someone other than ourselves, perhaps we can begin to understand that “foreign” refers to customs and languages and nuances, but it does not necessarily apply to the hearts of people.
If the entire world is our home, then in fact, this must be so.
As Wayne Dyer says: “If God is everywhere, then there is nowhere that he is not.”
If God is everywhere, then there is no country, no city, no man, no place we can travel where God is not. Or replace the word “God” with the word “love.” There is no country, no city, no man, no place we can travel where love does not exist. It is impossible.
Therefore, we can come to feel safe anywhere. We can come to feel confident anywhere. We can make new friends anywhere. We can explore new paths, climb mountains, and discover new territories anywhere and everywhere. For the world is our home.
Now replace the word “God” with the word “home.”
If home is everywhere, then there is nowhere that is not home.