The longer I travel as a digital nomad and experience the ups and downs of permanently being on the move (at least during “normal times” – but even the pandemic didn’t manage to keep me in one place for too long), the more I get asked where my home is. It’s been over seven years since I left my “home” to take some time off, a trip that ultimately led to me developing a new lifestyle for myself and starting my own online business. For the first few years, I kept a room in my old “home” and went back to it for a few weeks or sometimes even months every year. In 2018, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort (and cost) of having a place with “my stuff” that I rarely ever saw. So, I packed up and sold what was left, put a few things in storage and enjoyed the freedom of not having a home for the years to follow.
Seven years on the road
In the last seven years, I have explored different corners of the world, been to North and South America, travelled across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, discovered new corners of Europe, and went back to many old favourites. In some places, I stayed for a month or two, in others, only a few days. I have travelled alone, with my partner, and with friends and family. Many of these places have temporarily become my home.
I stayed long enough on a Thai island to set up a kind of “home”. At least I bought a small motorbike, a kettle and some pots and dishes. The pandemic, of course, forced me to slow down as well, with a first lockdown spent in the French countryside and, later on, nine months of almost Covid-free life in Australia – the longest I have stayed in one place in over seven years as a digital nomad.
I immediately felt at home in some places, regardless of how long I was there. Sometimes it was the people, and other times the nature – there’s nothing like a great view from your balcony to make you feel instantly at home!
My home base
In late 2021, I came back to Europe to set up a new home base in Paris, not because I missed having a home, but because an amazing opportunity to do so opened up. It’s been lovely to spend time in Paris again and to have my own place to come back to, especially since it has a comfortable bed and a well-equipped kitchen! But as much as I am enjoying this flat, I think of it as a home base, not my home.
My registered home
My “official” home, i.e. the address that I’m registered at for tax purposes, is in Southern Germany. In fact, it’s where I’m currently putting the finishing touches on this post. But is this place my home? No, only as far as the German authorities are concerned. I have not been here since July 2020, never really lived at this address, and the longest I ever stayed here was three weeks. So this can’t be it either…
Home is where my mobile phone automatically connects to the wifi
This may sound good at first, but wait a minute… If it were up to that, then my home would be everywhere, every Airbnb I’ve stayed in over the years, every other restaurant I’ve eaten at, and many cafés I’ve worked at… But I recently had to re-enter my mother’s wifi password because it had changed since my last visit. So no, my home has little to do with wifi. However, I obviously can’t work and barely live without wifi, so maybe there is something to it. But if need be, the sim card with enough gigabytes of data will do 😉
Home is where my heart is
But where is my heart? Is it where my friends and relatives are? Is it in those countries I am most familiar with and tend to spend the most time in – Germany, France and Australia? Or is it on all those great beaches I’ve discovered or on the mountains I’ve climbed? Or perhaps in the cities, I’ve fallen in love with?
While I don’t have a physical home anywhere but in Paris, there are many neighbourhoods in countries all over the globe that evoke a feeling of coming home every time I visit, whether it’s because I used to live there in the past or because I keep returning to them. Although I usually stay in a different Airbnb every time, there certainly is a familiarity in these places, such as recognising my favourite shops or knowing the best place to get a coffee, which feels like coming home in a way.
So is my heart really only in one place? Have I left a piece of my heart behind in these places, or have I simply taken a piece of these places with me? Looking at it from a different perspective: my heart is in my body. So maybe my body is my home?
My home, is that me?
This is an update of an article I originally published in German four years ago. I remember how long it took me to write an article on this topic back then – it just felt too close, too raw back then. The topic of “home” kept coming up, whether it was through questions from the outside or my own worries and questions about this new lifestyle and my future.
But it’s funny how our perspectives change, isn’t it? Now that I am so much more settled in this digital nomad life, the question of home isn’t one I think about too often. Many places around the world feel like home. I love coming back to them, and they bring back memories of previous visits or times I lived there. But ultimately, my home is me, wherever I am right now.
Finally, to add a different perspective to the question of “where is home?”, I would like to point you to a thought-provoking TED Talk by Taiye Selasi. In her speech, she raises some very valid questions: What if home isn’t defined by our nationality or our passport? After all, these are merely concepts invented by humans. What if, instead, home is made up of the experiences of our lives and the places where these experiences occurred? So perhaps, instead of asking someone where he or she is from, we should ask where the person feels like a local.
Where or what is home for you? Or, to take Taiye Selasi’s approach, where are you local?