The notorious “hometown.” What does it mean to you? If I ask five different people, could I get five different answers? To some it is always, and only, the place where you were born. To others, the place where you grew up and spent most of your pre-adulthood years. For others, it is where you now live. And for some, any place you have ever lived can be a “hometown,” either only while you’re living there or one in an accumulation of many “hometowns” you can make claim to for the rest of your life. For people of the latter philosophy, I have many “hometowns.” I’ve lived in six different states – and the places I’ve lived in feel like varying degrees of “home” to me today – whether I, or anyone in my family, still lives there or not, and whether or not I frequently return. It is the places I have loved that always feel the most like home – not how long I lived there, when in my life I lived there, or whether I live or spend much time there now. Because ultimately home is not a static thing, not constructed out of bricks and mortar, but memories. And given that, there is more to “home” than a static physical location – as I will discuss here.
Then there’s the “home away from home.” What’s in a “home away from home” to you? A place where you no longer live but most of your family still does? A place you love enough to visit on a regular basis – or at least aspire to? A place where you actually own a second home – or just a place where you stay with others in your social circle or a favorite hotel? Can a hotel be “home?” – at least temporarily? What about a favorite restaurant, or park that you frequent and feel comfortable in? People often refer to a “home away from home” being a vacation spot they love – but as I inquired before – isn’t home just what “feels” like home – whatever that means to you, however your mind chooses to build it? You are the architect of “home.”
I did not originally have the idea to write this post. Turns out, I expected to be “home” right now, back in Clearwater (in Tampa Bay), Florida where I now live (and love), but I am still somewhere else, beyond my control and due to circumstances. With all of my travel photography being back “home” on my primary computer, I had to improvise this week. I’m back in a town where I formerly lived, selling a house where I used to live once upon a time many months ago. Repairs are taking longer than expected so I’m “stuck here” getting everything finished. My temporary home is an extended stay in the Hilton Garden Inn, where I’ve made repeated trips to the front desk to advise them of added nights to my reservation. Unlike the empty house devoid of furniture and in a state of being repaired, here I have a bed, a shower, comfort… this is home now – for now – not the empty shell of a place that I once called home.
It can be hard to sell a house that you have at one time lived in, because it either is, or was, probably something you would consider a home. For better or worse, many memories are attached to it. There is a finality in the sense of “moving on” thrust on you. It is one of the reasons I, and probably many others, procrastinated the prospect, even though my move was a positive experience, and where I live now is my favorite place I have ever lived. On the other hand, Fredericksburg, Virginia was not my favorite place to live (to each their own), nor my least favorite. But it remains part of my history, and part of the person I have become, even if that means the way it motivated and inspired me to move yet again. It did, and I followed my lifelong dream to move to sunny Florida.
I have many fond memories of every place I’ve lived, including this one. I returned to a favorite haunt of mine when I lived here, BJ’s Brewhouse, to soak in the atmosphere one more time (maybe more as my stay keeps getting extended here!) While there, I contemplated the way that this restaurant is all over the country. There is even one in Clearwater, Florida, where I live now. Is this a “home away from home?” All of them in all of their locations? Places like this remind you that while different cities and states can be very different from one another, much is also the same.
I don’t know how long I will be calling the Hilton Garden Inn “home,” but what I do know is that this may be the last time I linger in this town where I once stayed day after day. Funny how life goes on and things can change – even things as pivotal to your well-being and sense of identity as where you call “home.”
I often use the expression “most at home on the road,” because I genuinely feel that way. I am most comfortable when I’m on the move, traveling and exploring, not in staying in any one place at all. In a way, I could say “everywhere” is “home.”
So where do I consider “home?” There are so many different ways to define the word “home.” I love my place in Florida, and it sure feels like “home.” And I do feel so at home on the road. But, ultimately, my true, and most important home is with my long-distance boyfriend who happens to live in Michigan, because no where do I feel more like I’m “home” than in his warm embrace. I am the architect of my own “home,” and that home, with him, is my castle and my private island all in one, where there is no better place on earth. Whether we’re in Florida, Michigan, or anywhere else, I’m most completely at home with him.
What does “home” mean to you? Leave a comment below.
Below is a video of my first time meeting my long-distance boyfriend in person, including my road trip to get there and meeting itself! (Home at last!):