One of the reasons for my travels was the opportunity to defy the idea that material possessions defined me. The free-spirited me, the real estate butterfly, the forever visitor – I was a skeleton made out of stardust and a bit of water. I didn’t need anything else to be me. Except I did.
Of course, I was missing friends and family. I always miss them. It’s a part of the deal. As a European living in Australia, I carry an immense sense of guilt for leaving my beloved ones on the Old Continent to lead a life on the opposite hemisphere. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss them. And so since I ventured out on my travels, I have been away from the family and friends in Europe – and also from my people in Australia. It sucks, and I miss them all immensely, but somehow I knew that would be the case.
What took me by surprise was the fact that I started missing home too. In fact, I started missing having one.
I missed my own place. A safe space. The private pocket of the world where I didn’t have to be anything to anyone. The place where I didn’t have to repack my bags continually. A little oasis where all the house plants had names (I miss you Paul, Blake, Blake II, Blake Junior and Rosie!).
I missed my Sydney house even though it was never actually mine, and the rent was bloody expensive. My local coffee shop. And the hill behind the house I could see the whole city panorama from.
I missed familiarity, a sense of belonging, the feeling that I knew the place.
My travels, for good reasons, have always found themselves on the opposite side of those qualities. And it was fine when it was all but a holiday, but not when long term travel was going to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the sense of detachment, ability to immerse myself in something unknown and to cherish the moments taking place outside of my comfort zone are some of the most exciting things about travelling for me.
So, here’s what we did to make sure we can do what we love while we build a sense of belonging in the constant motion of travels.
In the beginning, we were moving from one place to another reasonably fast. But when life started feeling a little too rushed, we decided we’d stay longer at every new location.
At the start, it was a week – which quickly turned into a month. Now, we try to stick to that rule to be able to feel at home at a place we’re visiting. Getting friendly with a gentleman who runs the local laundromat usually is a good sign we’re doing well.
The bonus is that once you settle somewhere for a bit, then you get to miss that place too when you leave! But your heart expands too. It’s a good thing.
Celebrate Things That Make You Feel Like Home
While we love discovering the new, we also celebrate some well-known and grounding rituals we associate with home. They help to create a soothing routine and give us a sense of belonging.
For me, it can be reading before falling asleep. Or yoga. For my fiance, it’s signing up to a local gym or chopping vegetables. So everywhere we go, he carries a chef’s knife with him.
We also always, no matter what, have a morning coffee together. And we make sure that at least once a week, we wake up and do absolutely nothing (in other words, we stay in, order takeaways and binge on Netflix for hours).
Make An Effort With People You Meet Along The Way
The value of a shared moment doesn’t depend on time. The most precious encounters in life can be fleeting but momentous.
As much as nothing tops a long, supportive and loving relationship, allowing yourself to be present, mindful and focused on those quick interactions with people you meet on your way can help you feel more grounded – and develop a sense of belonging to the moment itself. Not to mention doing wonders for your social life on the road!
Stay In Touch With Friends And Family
Especially if you can FaceTime/ Skype them. Nothing feels better than seeing a familiar face in their natural surroundings that you happen to know and love as well.
But the most essential part of the process was actually coming to terms with the realisation that I am not, in fact, as much of a butterfly as I thought – and accepting it with an open heart. Because even if I like to settle into the foliage for more extended periods, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love flying.