“Home is where the heart is.”
Well, that either means I have no heart or no home, because my heart is broken apart among family members I miss and beautiful places I’ve traveled, and my home is somewhere between Massachusetts and Madrid.
- A tiny piece of my heart is in Granada, Spain, where I fell in love with Spain and travel.
- Another sliver is in Argentina, where I found that traveling alone wasn’t so scary and that the world’s natural beauty trumps its famous monuments (in my opinion).
- A big piece of my heart is in Seville, Spain, the city where I truly became an adult, lived completely on my own, met my husband, and fell in love with Spanish cuisine.
- Another piece is in Cádiz, where the beaches and mountains beckon and my in-laws prepare fresh seafood daily, enjoying lunch on their Andalusian patio almost year-round.
- A growing piece is in Madrid, a beautiful, accepting city where we’ve done it all on our own. A city where I started following my dreams, opened a business, and have endless possibilities for the future.
- And an enormous piece is in Massachusetts, the place where I grew up, where I have all of my memories from birth to adulthood, and where my amazing family still lives. It’s where my three-year-old niece is learning about the world, and where my three-month-old nephew will soon follow her example. It is where my parents are enjoying their new status as grandparents, and where my sister bought her first home. It’s where I can drive the streets without needing a GPS, and where I know exactly where to find whatever I might need– be it new shoes, medicine, or good Thai food.
I thought that we would be okay living in Madrid, with multiple visits to see my family every year, and various other small trips to see Ale’s parents and travel in Europe too. It sounds great in theory, a dream come true for many. But the reality is that it is still difficult. Every time I go “home” (to Massachusetts) I wonder what life would be like there, if I’m being foolish to trade weekly tea parties with my niece and luncheons with my mom and sister for a city where we have no family and few connections.
After a lovely, whirlwind two weeks home for Thanksgiving, going “home” (to Madrid) was difficult. I don’t remember being so sad about it for a very long time.
Other long-term travelers and expats will say that when they go “home” (back to the place they grew up) nothing has changed. Their old friends, they explain, are still stuck in the same jobs, and their family still follows the same routine. But while this is true for my friends and family as well, let’s not fool ourselves. Things are changing constantly, because time is always passing. And while it may be difficult to observe with our friends and siblings, it is crystal clear with children and the elderly. Within six months a baby doubles in size and develops a new set of language and motor skills, while an elderly person can lose those very same skills just as quickly. I’ve observed both of these situations, and in both cases I’ve felt like I missed an important time in a loved one’s life.
So there comes the idea of the homeless expat. Someone who hasn’t fully connected with the true sense of the word “home” in any part of the world, yet often uses the word to describe more than one place they have lived. Sound familiar? Maybe you’re one too. We should start a club.
As my years spent in Spain continue to accumulate, I’m still unsure of what lies ahead. And, for now, I still find myself missing home, wherever that may be.
Where do you call home?