Finding Home, Once And For All

31.March 2014

Our Journey

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.

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?

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15 Responses to “Finding Home, Once And For All”

  1. Oliver Says:

    Wonderful post Gillian! This must have been some sort of revelation and sounds like a wee ode to your home indeed… :)Not sure if “home is where your memories live”, but it’s great to see that there is such a place for you! So you are basically on your looong way home then… ;)
    I for my part did not find this place yet I think. Probably mainly because I did not completely discover myself yet. Still, I’m convinced that a thing like “home” exist somewhere out there. And maybe I have even been there already… :)
    Oliver recently posted..Josh McBride ~ The Head And The Heart

  2. Randy Says:

    I was hoping you might think this was home.
    I know its the home I love. Even though I have a passion for travel (my outings to all over western North America seem to be coming up more and more often now), I still could not bear to be gone from here completely.
    Most places fill my senses, but home is a comfort that can’t be replaced.
    Go and experience the world. I do so enjoy following your travels, but one day I will also so enjoy sitting on my front porch, or the patio of the local watering hole and reminiscing with you on the travels we did.
    Enjoy my friends.

  3. Kim Says:

    I LOVE this Gillian and can totally relate on so many levels. It is strange to be back in the U.S. We are driving a car with Virginia license plates and everyone asks if we are from there. We say, no. We’re from… well, nowhere. We are homeless, we live in a car. You can imagine the reactions we are receiving! HOWEVER. We are back in Oregon right now and the way I feel in Oregon I feel nowhere else. Oregon is home. Oregon is where my heart lives. I feel lucky to know where I love.
    Kim recently posted..Reporting from the other side of our first presentation (WE SURVIVED!). Only 64 more to go.

  4. Emily Says:

    I love this post! We’re ‘from’ Calgary, but it isn’t that city that we would say is our home. After moving all around Canada, I think the closest fit would be Toronto just because we just loved all the diversity, good food and things to do there. But I think that place that truly feels like home will become even more apparent once we finish our year of traveling.
    Emily recently posted..In Peru: A Review of Peru Hop

  5. Corinne Says:

    Home is extremely hard to define. For me it depends on who I am talking to and what the conversation is about. Mosttimes it’s just where I am. In fact, I’ve been known to say, “Let’s go home” many times and what I mean is the hotel. Love this post, because I live it.

  6. Audrey Says:

    Can totally relate to this. No matter what we are doing or where we happen to be, Vancouver Island will be home. The ocean waves and salty air will always call us back. It is such a special place and a lifestyle that only those of us that were born here or have lived here for a any length of time can understand.
    Audrey recently posted..Every Few Years Winter Packs A Punch On Vancouver Island

    • Gillian Says:

      I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that salty scent when we come home. As soon as I get off the plane I’m sniffing the air!!

  7. Carmel Says:

    For the longest time my answer was always, “I live in Portland, but I’m originally from Seattle.” I was really stuck between two cities I loved dearly. But now it’s been so long since I’ve called Seattle home, I truly consider myself to be an Oregonian. Shawn too. So now we say we’re from Oregon. No addendum needed.
    Carmel recently posted..S-21 AND THE KILLING FIELDS

  8. Ali Says:

    Great post Gillian! Obviously we have a home, so the “where do you live?” question isn’t so hard. It’s when people ask “where are you from?” that things get a little messy. My standard answer is that we’re from the US but we live in Germany. But then they’ve gotta go and ask me where in the US. Andy’s from North Carolina. But I stumble on it because I lived in New Jersey until I was 15 and Atlanta from 15 to 31. So more recently, I’m from Atlanta, but saying you’re from the south brings with it a lot of images and characteristics that are just not me. I’m a yankee. I don’t say y’all, I don’t eat grits. So yes, “where are you from?” is a tough question sometimes!
    Ali recently posted..Planning Australia Transportation

  9. Dana Says:

    OK, I’m a bit late responding here but nevertheless… Technically, I’m homeless as well, for the first time in my life. Nine months ago I left Canada for extended travel; first, three months in SE Asia and then a year in New Zealand (been here six months now). I quit my job, gave up my apartment, sold my car, and gave away or sold most of my stuff. So, truly homeless.

    When people ask where I’m from, I tend to say Vancouver which is where I lived for 14 years before I left for this time abroad. That feels inaccurate though, as I moved there at 22 from elsewhere in Canada. I’m proud of where I was born and raised, so usually I say I grew up in Ontario (most people outside of Canada have never heard of my home town) but have spent my adult life in Vancouver.

    Sometimes I get asked for what my plans are for when I go “home”. This, of course, assumes I’ll head back to Vancouver after my NZ visa expires. I love Vancouver, but I can’t say with absolute certainty I’ll be returning there or to Canada. It’s a big world after all, and though I took a few international family vacations in my teens, I then didn’t travel outside of North America until I was 34 (am 37 now). I’m making up for lost time and enjoying the freedom of being homeless, even if difficult to explain sometimes. :)