When the soul pulls toward a certain direction it is best not to ignore it. For as long as I can remember, my soul pulled toward somewhere else, somewhere far away from where I was born. Despite the sense of wonder and adventure that the world inspired in me, my desire to explore parts unknown meant I was alone in my family. Indeed I was the sole, would-be world traveller among a host of homebodies.
Growing up in a sleepy, industrial city with a serious sense of wanderlust seemed to put me out of touch with my contemporaries, my teachers and especially my family. This lead to a strong pull to leave my hometown in search of a greater adventure.
My first international sojourn was a semester abroad in France while I was still in high school. As a 17 year old, I gulped up everything that I thought was new in wretched excess. I stuffed my face with pastry and developed a taste for both wine and espresso. I tried my best to ape the accents, behaviors and that famous, effortless French je ne sais quoi attitude with gumption. I felt free, invigorated, challenged, and like I had found my new, dream home. In short, I lost myself in the folie, but my French counterparts were always quick to remind me that I was not in fact, French and likely never would be. So as much as my mind wanted to believe that I belonged there, my heart knew otherwise.
Nevertheless, once I returned to my hometown, I felt even more ill at ease there than before I had left. Now I knew that home was somewhere, but it was neither France, nor Central Alberta.
After high school, I moved to a bigger city for my university studies and spent my summers doing wildfire dispatch in the Northern boreal forests of my province, but even those two changes of scenery did not quench my appetite for adventure. So following my French excursion was a trip to England with my father after I graduated to visit our distant, aging relatives. As we navigated London’s jam-packed streets, narrow and winding country roads and conversations that left us feeling like our interlocutors had just made fun of us in that dry British way, I waited for the inspiration I felt in France to wash over me, but it never did. England was not where I belonged either.
Soon after the England trip, I moved to Canada’s beautiful west coast for my graduate studies. I relished in Vancouver’s unmatched beauty, but struggled to connect with the city’s rhythm the way I had with other places. The search would continue I resigned.
After a series of short international excursions, I eventually made my way to Mali for a 5 month work contract. I thought that surely this was the kind of adventure that would quench my wanderlust, so I set off for Bamako with unbridled enthusiasm. Yet as I settled into my routine with my colleagues and host family, I still felt off-kilter. Living in Mali presented a lot of challenges, and the culture was very different from what I was used to which meant I constantly felt like I was fumbling through my daily interactions with people. Still, despite my fumblings, when it came time for me to leave, my host family and neighbors crowded around my taxi, sullen-faced, not wanting me to leave. I had learned to love them immensely during my time there, and now I realized how much they loved me too. As I made my way to the Bamako airport, I cried in the back seat alone, yet surrounded by love.
I learned in that moment, that home is where there is love. Home is also where there is excitement and adventure, family and friends, and whatever else makes the soul happy. Home can be anywhere those things are found, and those things are found everywhere and in everyone. Home for me is not any one place, and I belong anywhere that my soul feels like it’s home.
About the author: Thea is an aspiring world traveler who has visited 17 countries and an avid outdoor enthusiast who blogs at Zen Travellers. In between trips she enjoys hiking in the Canadian Rockies, cycling, canoeing and kayaking and SCUBA diving.
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