The One Place You Can’t Find on a Map

Where you lay your head at night. Where your family is. Where you grew up. Where most of your friends are. Where you work. Where you love to be. Where you feel at home…

The concept of home is ever-fleeting, especially for those of us trying to feel at home abroad. Those of us who may have several homes, or even no exact place to call our own. What makes it even more confusing is that home means different things to different people.

home drawing

What it’s really about is a sense of belonging. And for those of us who wear many hats, belonging can be a touchy subject.

I’m spending the next few weeks visiting my friends and family in Toronto, so home is on my mind:

Did I just come home? Or did I leave home to get here? Can I have many homes? What makes a home?

I have some ideas, but dare I be so bold as to ask for a favour:

Could you share your concept of home? What does it mean to you? Is it a building or house, or something more abstract like a country or city?

I dug up Zach Braff’s two cents with this excerpt from one of my favourite movies growing up, Garden State:

I guess here he’s saying you can have a home, but you can also be between ‘homes’ until you make your own.

Can’t wait to hear from you in the comments!



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  • Adriana

    Long time ago, home was for me the place where you felt protected, loved and spoiled – by parents. It took me years to realize it and it was many years after leaving their home.
    Many more years and moves after, I am at home anywhere I am with Andrei, even in unfamiliar places. Home – the house I mean, is still a familiar place to come back to. But it’s something that I feel I should not get too attached off. In this fast moving world, it’s better if you don’t get too attached to the material. Now that I write this, it is occurring to me, that more recently, I loose the feeling of not being home even when I am not with Andrei or in a different country – when I discover how much we have in common as human beings (in spite of numerous differences separating us). Hope this helps, it certainly helped me figure out that last part.

    • Irina

      That’s awesome Adriana. Your comment actually made me realize that I feel the same way. Yesterday, I noticed that home isn’t a place, but people. Thanks for helping me come to that realization myself.

  • Juha

    Ahh that made me want to watch garden state again! The idea of home has to be created in one’s head.

    • Irina

      I’m pretty sure it’s on netflix 😉

  • Anusha

    Really enjoyed reading this one Irina.

    This is something I have often pondered about. Born and brought up in one country, started my education in another and now living in a country that I call home has been an interesting journey. Often confusing. I understand more so why after reading your post here. It is somewhat comforting to realize home is an imaginary place after all.

    I guess I lost that hope of going back ‘home’ when I lost my dog 6 yrs back. Then again, home is a place where your loved ones are. For me it is split between two countries 🙂

    Sense of belonging aside, I do feel that it is important to leave behind your ‘home’ in order to find yourself. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel at home over here in Finland?


    • Irina

      I have to agree with you Anusha, some times we can’t quite appreciate things when we’re so used to them. We definitely notice them when we take a step back… or 6000km back 😉

      For me, I learned recently that home is people, any people or person, that you feel in your bones you’re supposed to be with in that moment and can be 100% yourself with. This happens most often with our loved ones, but it can be with anyone, anywhere really…!

  • I tell my kids home is where you keep your toothbrush…until I realized they have toothbrushes on 3 continents. I should adapt that to say home is where the toothbrush is wet.

    • Irina

      That’s hilarious Christine haha :D!

  • Andrei

    I feel at home when I am are close to people that I care for and I love. This is how I learned that I can go from one home to another seamlessly and enjoy every moment in the process.

    • irina

      I like the idea of home being with loved ones, with a twist on how that enables you to live in the present and enjoy each moment! Hasn’t considered that before 🙂

  • Jessie Hsu

    I love this discussion topic a lot! I’ve moved between different cultural environments within recent 4 years, and far far away from my family and hometown. So I always think about meaning of “home to me recently. Well, “home” is not simply a place which live with family or settle down for future of my life, but also a place that I can feel inner peace and recharge my creativity. It’s not about to keep my home very quite or away from people. On the other hand, I would love to invite people to come to my place for sharing relaxing moment or chit chat with friends 🙂

    • Irina

      Like a balance between yin and yang, a place to recharge but also a place to share and live loudly. Love it Jessie!

  • Ricky

    Home is where you want to die. You can live in many places and move around all the time, but you can only die in one place. Of course, some are not able to choose.

    • Irina

      What about the place they bury you or spread your ashes?
      I read somewhere about a woman who had lived in both Europe and North America and wanted her ashes thrown into the Atlantic so she could be between both.

  • NinaC

    Home is a place of security for me. Somewhere I know well and have created my own rhythms in.

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