Written by Kacie, an alumna of our Latin America Gap Semester Fall 2018. Find her full blog here. Thanks for sharing with us, Kacie!
“This year was full of major turns in my life – I traveled to Ireland, turned 18, went to Thailand, decided to take a gap year, graduated high school, lived in Guatemala, realized that many relationships aren’t for a lifetime, formed new relationships and discovered that many are. Through all of this and everything in between, among all the changes of scenery and company, life never aligned with what I expected.
Growing up, I had always associated the idea of ‘home’ with a fixed place – more specifically, one place with four walls and a roof to sleep under, trees for climbing, a lawn for playing soccer, and a sidewalk for chalk art. I have lived in the same house, in the same city, my entire life. Yet, there have been days in my house in suburbia when I have felt anything but peace, like this place was miles away from where I was meant to be. That house will always be a home to me, and yet, so many far away places have felt familiar in a way I couldn’t define as anything but, well, home – and that right there challenged the basis of my definition. If home is not simply that square with the triangle on top that any kindergartener would draw if prompted with this same question, why not, and what is it really?
At the start of this year I had my first true experience abroad. My family and I packed up and spent two weeks in Ireland, a country we’d been dreaming of for years, in the hopes of feeling maybe a sense of ancestral connection and more so, a connection to the beautiful land we’d seen only in pictures and read of in stories.
I was not disappointed – I was in awe. The country felt so otherworldly to me. Yet, we road-tripped across Ireland like I had California a hundred times before, locals spoke the same language, I was with family; it felt familiar and like a fairytale, all at once. I felt a sense of peace standing on the Cliffs of Moher gazing at the Atlantic – I could have easily been sitting on West Cliff taking in the Pacific, where I’ve found myself an uncountable amount of times before – but I was halfway across the world, in a place completely unknown to me.
So begins the reworking of my definition of ‘home’: not a set place, but perhaps anywhere when you are with the ones you know and love.
In February, I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand. I was not traveling with family, my language was not their language, the culture was completely foreign to me. However, I was with a small group from my school, so I had people familiar to me and some close friends. This was the logical next step in my travels, as I began to make a reality of my passion for the world.
It was there, a fifteen hour flight away, the only English coming from the few others with me, in a place with customs so unlike those I was used to, that I felt that feeling again. In a small town at the border of Thailand and Myanmar where I should have felt completely out of place, with the people I met there, I instead felt overwhelmingly at peace. Those ten days I was not yearning for my four walls and roof back in the States; I had my friends to talk to and I was perfectly content, there, with those kids.
This experience again had me questioning my existing definition of ‘home’, and so came a new facet to what I was learning to be a concept more ethereal than physical: perhaps home, more than geography, more than those you are familiar with, is anywhere you find that connection so unique to a fellow human spirit, friends and strangers alike.
At the end of summer, I set out on my biggest adventure yet – two months living in Guatemala, in a community I had no experience with, speaking a language that was not my most comfortable by any means, with complete strangers.
Two months away from my house, my family, my friends, and I have never felt more at peace, more at home, more like I was right where I belonged, than I did in that small lakeside Guatemalan town, despite being away from everything and everyone I knew.
When I left the States to take on this new experience, I left behind a lot of people that had been both in and out of my life for quite some time. This felt monumental, life-altering, and I was worried – if I left, would they still be there when I eventually came back? Would things change?
These fears were naive – people come and go in life, that is how it always is, by no fault of anyone.
What did change though, was me. I realized that definition of ‘home’ I had been growing and editing over the past year in my head, was skewed. That definition did not match up with all those days I had spent – surrounded by the places and people I knew like the back of my hand – feeling miserably discontent.
In all my travels, through four different countries, through relationships, I had moved past the notion of home being just a house, but then landed on the idea that the constant in my life, what brought me peace and comfort and familiarity, was another person. If being within the same four walls is the only place you find your peace, you are in for a rude awakening the moment you step out the door. Similarly, if another person is the only place you find your peace, you will never be completely at home.
So, my great discovery: You Are Your Home
I have found that when you strip everything else away, if you make a home for yourself, within yourself, you will always be okay. In the midst of all of life’s unpredictability, what will always be familiar is your own being and once you make peace with who you are, you will always be home.
I just googled “what is home” and what came up is so painfully simple – home is where you live. And where do you live, if not within your mind, your heart, your spirit?
It has been my personal realization that until you find that peace that comes with accepting yourself, you could never form a healthy relationship – whether that be with yourself, with friends, with family, with a partner, with the world. You could never feel completely at home without understanding You are where You belong, always. You deserve to know that. And once you do, the whole world opens up.
Now, writing it into existence: May this next year be filled with even more acceptance, more growth, more exploration, more joy, and more love for self and the world around you.