It’s an awkward exchange.
Sometimes in the grocery store; no thank you, I don’t need a Thrifty’s reward card – I don’t live here. Sometimes at the doctors office; well no, I don’t have a family doctor – can you write a prescription for me? Sometimes while meeting friends of friends; these are our friends Gillian and Jason, they’re from…well…they’re from nowhere.
Where do you live? The question comes innocently and, often, I’m left fumbling to answer.
We, of course, live nowhere. We have no home. No apartment. No car. No furniture. No things. No stuff. We are, by definition, homeless.
It feels weird to say and, depending on the audience, the reaction is mixed. Fellow travellers seem to get it. Even if they don’t travel as much as we do it’s likely they have moved around quite a bit; they are usually interested in our story and how we manage to do it. More stationary folk tend to cock their heads and look at us with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.
Honestly, I usually tailor my answer depending on how much time I have to explain. The grocery store clerk learns that we’re from Calgary (our last permanent home). I tell the doctor a truncated version and rely on the fact that he’s my mum’s doctor to smooth the story over. And new friends get the closest version of the truth; where we’ve been most recently and that we live in the world.
I’ve thought a lot about where I call home, about where I’m from, about where I might return to one day.
There are plenty of places in the world where I feel comfortable and welcome. Where the food is delicious, the climate is warm, and the culture is easy; but there is only one place where I truly feel at home.
Returning to the west coast of Canada this month after 3 years away has me realizing that it is this corner of the world that holds my heart.
It’s the salty scent of the air; a mixture of ocean spray and the iodine undertones of seaweed on the beach (for me, the stronger the better).
Seagulls swoop along the shoreline – sometimes dark against a bright summer sky; other times themselves brightly illuminated ahead of dark storm clouds.
The landscape is almost always green. It may rain a lot but it is this constant west-coast companion that cleans the air and creates the lushness that is a west coast rainforest.
It’s the familiar sound of seaplanes droning overhead. Reaching for remote communities, these flying workhorses bridge between sea and sky, connecting fishing resorts, logging camps, and those out of reach with the rest of the world.
The constant marine traffic reminds me that the water is for more than just gazing at. Tugs,log booms, cargo ships, fishing boats, and ferries share tidal space with sailboats, kayaks, outriggers, and mega yachts. It’s a fine balance ruled by ancient mariner laws and right of ways that determine where each vessel should be.
It’s more than that though; it leans to the intangible.
I know the place. I know the people – not just my friends, but everyone – I know who they are, how they were raised, and where they come from. I know where to get a good breakfast or beer. I know the good places to live or stay. I know the weather patterns and the tide charts. I know the best running routes and the secret mountain bike trails. I know it all like the back of my hand.
It’s the deep comfort of feeling in place. As much as I enjoy the unknown challenges of travel, it is innately relaxing to know where you are, to be able to find what you need, and to trust that you’ve got it covered.
We don’t plan on quitting our travel life any time soon but it has become crystal clear where we’ll probably return to if, and when, we’re ever done.
Where do you call home?