I was chatting with a new friend yesterday and per usual they were very curious about my lifestyle. We went through the usual questions about how I sustain myself financially on the road, what it is like traveling alone as a female and specific questions about some of the countries I had visited. But the question that struck me the most and gave me pause was her final one, “Do you miss home at all?”
The truth is that when I packed my bags and left Chicago in November 2015, one of the many reasons was that my home in Chicago no longer felt like home. The bigger truth is that as someone who also moved frequently as a child living in a countless number of houses and lacking a singular childhood house that so many others retain fond memories of, it was not until recently that I really understood what “home” even meant for me.
For a lot of years, the feeling that I lacked a “home” and didn’t belong anywhere caused intense sadness. It took a lot of letting go of preconceived and self-inflicted expectations, allowing myself to be open and vulnerable, spending a ton of time outside of my comfort zone, and a ridiculous amount of internal reflection to realize that for me home is not a location. It is a feeling and an endless amount of self-love. It is the people I interact with daily whether for a mere minute or if I have known them for twenty years. Home is being present and enjoying the absolute uniqueness of this very moment in the very place that I happen to be in right now, no matter what.
Miriam-Webster defines a home as, “one’s place of residence”, and while I don’t have a permanent home, I am fortunate in that I have been able to reside in a lot of places over the past two years. I am even more fortunate in that I have been able to make anywhere that I am residing feel like “home”, regardless of whether I am in that location for a few days or a few weeks. So the answer to that question – I used to miss home, but the longings for that space are a thing of the past now that I understand that home has been with me all along.
If you are struggling to feel at home in your surroundings, below are my top three tips for making anywhere in the world feel like home, no matter the location or the circumstances. You might want to grab your journal too, because each tip has a set of exercises to help you implement them in your own life.
1 – Choose to surround yourself with items that bring you joy
When I left Chicago two years ago, I decided to downsize to make my backpacking trip possible. And by downsize, I mean that I sold nearly EVERYTHING that I owned. With the exception of my backpack and its contents, I have three boxes of belongings that I kept including a few photo albums, some precious art pieces, and a small box of seasonal clothing. And inside my backpack? That is reserved for essentials and a very small number of items that bring me joy. Wherever I am, these small items get unpacked and placed in a visible location that I like to refer to as my shrine.
My current shrine consists of a photo of me with my niece and nephews, my journal, Tibetan prayer flags, a heart rock gifted to me by a dear friend that reminds me that nature is love, a clear quartz crystal to encourage healing and amplify energy and intention, and the following quote handwritten on a journal page:
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” — The Velveteen Rabbit
You don’t have to sell everything you own, but it might be helpful to reassess the belongings that you do keep around you to determine if they are essential, bring you joy, or cause more burden than you realize. Every time I set up my shrine or wake up to these items, its easy for me to instantly find comfort no matter where I am in the world.
TRY IT: SURROUND YOURSELF
If you had to narrow your belongings down to a small handbag or suitcase, what would make the cut and why do those items make your soul sing? Are those items front and center in your life or tucked away in a closet? If they’re tucked away, what can you do to get more value out of them on a regular basis?
2 – Find a ritual that you can practice anywhere
My life is anything but routine, but I do have a morning ritual that I practice no matter where I am in the world that starts each and every day on a comforting note: coffee and journaling.
My morning ritual consists of a glass of water followed by a morning coffee and journaling session and a five minute silent meditation. The best part about this ritual is that I can practice it anywhere in the world and it comes with a host of benefits. My day starts calm rather than rushed. I am able to have an honest check-in with how I am feeling physically and mentally, which makes it easier to identify any self-care that might be lacking in my life. Most importantly, though, it that helps me stay focused on being in the present moment (see point three below).
This routine is so important to me that I reserve space in my pack for two journals and a handful of instant coffee sachets… just in case. I definitely prefer fresh brewed but thats not always logistically possible when I am traveling, and since my morning coffee tastes so good when sipped along side my journaling, I’ll take instant over nothing.
Your ritual doesn’t have to take place in the morning or involve coffee or journaling (but lets be real… coffee is life blood). This routine doesn’t even have to happen daily, but having some sort ritual that you can take anywhere in the world with you and brings you joy is a good way to feel comfortable and cozy no matter where you are. (If you are interested in learning about my journaling method, check out my Self-Guided Intentional Journaling Workshop here for all the details on how you can adapt my morning practice to your unique lifestyle and needs.)
TRY IT: MAKE IT A RITUAL
What activities would you spend doing on your dream vacation if you had absolutely no other responsibilities to think about? You know those things that just bring you an abundance of joy and calm? After making your list, which of those activities can you turn into a ritual in your every day life, no matter where you are? Can you reserve 15 minutes a day to read a book or a real newspaper or can you find time to wake up 30 minutes early for a daily walk? Maybe you can schedule a weekly Skype date with a loved one or find a live music show to attend every month?
3 – Foster a habit of presence
When I lived in Chicago, I had a really bad habit of constantly having my head way too far in the future ALL OF THE TIME. And if my mind wasn’t years ahead of me, it was probably stuck in my phone in a mindless escape from the present moment. I was miserable even though by most measures I had a damn good life, but my resistance to being in the moment was detrimental to me enjoying my surroundings.
When I was in the thick of the worst period of depression I had ever experienced, a therapist I was seeing at the time encouraged me to focus on my day in one hour increments rather than worrying about the next day, week, or month. The mindset change wasn’t easy but it was life changing and has yielded significant benefits. Over time, I saw my productivity increase, I became better at handling unexpected situations and my anxiety over my workload greatly decreased. Most importantly though, I started experiencing small glimpses of happiness because I wasn’t stuck always worrying about things that had not yet happened.
Now, instead of worrying about my to-do list, I am better able to appreciate and experience my current surroundings, no matter my location. This practice of presence has allowed me to be more open to the beauty that exists in every location, in every moment, in every little corner of the world. Where I am right now can feel like home because I’ve chosen to reside right here, right now, rather than craving to be somewhere I’m not.
TRY IT: GET IN THE NOW
Close your eyes and take five deep and full belly breathes focusing on the sensation the air makes as it enters your nostrils, travels down your windpipe and then fills your core with space. After five breathes, open your eyes and take a look around at your surroundings. What do you notice? What intrigues or brings you joy? What about this space are you grateful for right now?
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