Saturday, May 8, 2010
The importance of bringing familiar household items with you to help make you feel "at home" in your embassy housing is well known in the Foreign Service community. Although difficult to consider when you're packing out and want to get rid of everything, the difference between living in a hotel and a home may be what you do to make the space your own. However, when you move every couple of years, truly feeling at home in each new place may require cognitive as well as physical adjustments.
Sometimes our home is simply the place where we reside. While on vacation, I find myself saying that I'm ready to "go home" when I'm ready to go back to the hotel room. Sometimes we feel that we are at home when we find a place that fits well with our interests and values, even if we don't live there. Some people identify so strongly with their hometowns that they never feel at home anywhere else, and some will always consider the place where they grew up home, even if they establish another home elsewhere. In all of these definitions, home is a place where we can go to rest and regroup before heading out into the world again. However, those who feel most at home in a mobile lifestyle may prove that home doesn't necessarily have to be a place.
Feeling at home is connected to one's emotional state, attitude, and social network and thus, may not necessarily depend on a physical location. When you live in the same place for a long time you attach feelings of belonging to that specific place, but it may be possible to attach those same feelings to a community--even a worldwide community. If our homes are places of refuge, familiarity, and belonging, then perhaps home can be a group of people who share a common experience or lifestyle.When I think about why I consider Florida home I realize that if the people I care about didn't live there, the physical place would likely cease to be home.
Some new Foreign Service families come from a long history of frequent moves, but those of us who are used to being at home in a specific place will need to broaden our understanding of what makes a place home. For myself, one of my homes will be in Florida, but I hope I will continue to feel that I belong in the Foreign Service community.