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As the plane descended for landing, I felt the heat of the earth rise and engulf me.
It was good to be back in the Middle East; these vast and complex lands seem to hold endless possibility.
The words of James Elroy Flecker came to mind:
We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should be known
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.
The land felt familiar, but I was not coming home. And I had left a place I knew well but could not truly call home either. It struck me in that moment that I had still not found my place on this planet.
The freedom to pursue our adventures is a wonderful thing. As explorers, we are blessed to experience the richness of faraway cultures and peoples and lands. We feel the same lust for the unknown as millennia of travellers before us, setting out from one place as the rising sun lights our faces and arriving in another as dusk draws closely around us.
But the truth is, it can also be f*cking lonely. Sometimes we are anxious at night, long to rest our heads in a familiar bed, or miss the simplicity of coffee and a chat with an old friend. Secretly, somewhere deep inside, we may harbour a fear that our loved ones—busy with their own lives in a different time zone—will forget about us, and when the end eventually comes we will face it alone.
And so, as weary travellers, we start to wonder where we can return to.
I have met two types of globetrotter. The first steps out into the world with a boldness that comes from knowing where their home is, and that it will always be there for them if they need comfort or are tired of roaming. The second inadvertently falls into drifting around the world, often with a restless and buried longing for something they can’t quite describe.
As I began to search for my home, I realised it is much more of a feeling than a physical place. We are coming home to ourselves as much as any town or village. Many people establish this sense of home through the attachments formed during infancy; a sense that wherever we go in the world—however many thousands of miles away—there are people that care about us. This leads to an inner settledness which we carry with us through life.
But not everyone acquires this security early in life, and some of us grow up with a deep-seated, if repressed, fear of never fully belonging anywhere. Ironically, those of us who are most in need of roots often gravitate toward a nomadic lifestyle. Perhaps because we don’t feel worthy of a home or it is an unfamiliar idea that we do not quite trust.
So, how can we build a safe place in our hearts?
- Stop running away.
When we have been let down by others, it is tempting to immerse ourselves in solitude so we are never exposed to such pain again. But isolation will not help build a home in our hearts if the foundations are not already there. It will only reinforce the idea that we are undeserving. In fact, those without a secure sense of home need more than most to experience relationships that strengthen our beliefs that we are worthy of belonging, and that we can safely trust other people.
- Invest in meaningful friendships.
The idea of home is inherently linked to family, but it’s a reality that early attachments are not always nurturing. In our globalised existence, we increasingly find anchors in those we meet along the way. The world is full of generous, loving people who have big enough hearts to accommodate us waifs and strays. When you find those special humans, keep them close.
- Figure out what matters to you.
We carry our passions and values with us; they are a guide to how we behave, and they can create familiarity wherever we are in the world. It could be as simple as wanting to treat others with compassion and honesty. This is something we can act on in any situation, and it will help bring us back to ourselves and our true nature.
- Reflect that, as human beings, the entire planet is our home (which is why we need to look after it).
And it’s not that big of a place. When we walk, the land beneath us joins up with the land we walked on before. When we breathe the air, we are inhaling the same elements that filled our lungs somewhere else. And when we listen to the waves of the sea lapping against the beach, they are part of the same waters that whispered in our ears in some other place.
- Imagine home as a very small, warm place tucked safely inside your heart.
We don’t need to worry about forgetting to pack it or losing it on a plane. The loving home in our hearts is always there—even when we don’t think about it. But consciously connecting to this personal sanctuary, through meditation and reflection, will remind us that it is available anytime we feel lost in the world.