– Illustration by Mark Conlan
I grew up in a fairly small town called Salzburg in Austria. You might have heard about it because of its beautiful landscape, sound of music clichés or mozart balls (and other desserts, we have way too many good ones). For me however, Salzburg was never more than just this: Home.
Simply put: the place where life happens, the place where my family is, where my friends are, and where my own bed is. As a child I never questioned this.
Home was not a concept for me, it was a place and one place only.
As I reached the end of school, my life was about to change drastically. My ambitions for the future grew and so did my horizon of all the places the world has to offer. I was curious about other languages and cultures. When I was 18 I made my decision: I’m moving abroad to study in London. Without knowing anyone there, I wanted to challenge myself and build a new life in a new town. I chose London. I remember the first time I went there on my own, moving day. The moment the plane landed I felt only one thing. Excitement. To my surprise, I didn’t feel sad for leaving Salzburg, I was ready for something new. And I am glad I took this step, as hard as it was. In the past two years, London has become a new focus of my life. I have made many friends there and met amazing people. I have grown as a creative and as a person. I have learned what it means to be a foreigner and how to be an adult (work in progress).
After a year I casually began to refer to London as my “second home” when talking to friends. No big deal, I needed to give it some kind of name.
And then it happened. I was on holiday with some friends from Austria. I mentioned flying back to London after the holiday and called it “flying back home”.
My friends just looked at me and said “wait, what do you mean by ‘home’? We thought you were flying back to London?”
…“Yeah, I am”. Silence. Somehow they were confused. And so was I. I didn’t just call this fairly new city I moved to my “home”? Freudian slip?
For the first time in my life, “home” was not just that one place it always was. I had this other place that I felt comfortable in, accepted, safe and understood.
I had gained another home. And somehow that was scary.
I almost felt like it was a betrayal of the place I grew up in. To my family and friends that were still there. I felt like there couldn’t be another home, or that I would lose one home if I had another. Can I have two homes? Is that allowed? Who says what home means anyways?
I feel like most of my life my definition of home was based on the definition that was used for a very long time. “The place where one lives permanently” like it’s described in the Oxford Dictionary. This is simple, as long as you don’t leave your birthplace. Many people simply don’t have a permanent home. Often times people choose to go abroad to university or like many of us DPS students, for internships and work. Right now, I’m living in Berlin for the duration of my internship. I love this city and feel more inspired than ever. I don’t know if it’s the people I have met, the things I have learned here or the wonderful architecture and art I’m surrounded with. I feel at home.
So what do I say when someone asks me where my home is? I think my answer is still evolving. It will always be. I stopped trying to find one right answer for such a personal concept that I don’t even understand myself. But I don’t have to. Everyone has their own definition of home. For some, this might be where their parents are or it could be the feeling of laying in the arms of a loved one. It could be where they know how to use the kitchen, where they can be themselves without judgment or wherever their phone connects to the wifi automatically. I don’t mind having more than one home. I’m only 20. I think I have space in my heart for more.
Where is your home? What does home feel like to you?