In honor Mismo Cielo’s fourth birthday, and my Erasmus Anniversary (the day I landed in Sweden, without having a clue of what was waiting for me) I’m switching to English after a loooong time! (Quizás la versión en español llegue, o puede que vengan palabras mejores…)
While I was in Sweden, I remember finding the following quote somewhere on the internet “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place” (Miriam Adeney). This quote resonated me when I returned to Montevideo, full of nostalgia, with my heart all over the place, wondering if my beloved city and country would ever feel completely like home again (spoiler alert: they did). I even shared it with friends from those good old days who nodded how related they felt.
I won’t get into the drama of returning to your home country after a long absence or the heartbreak and confusion of being separated from people you care about. A wise woman (Jane Austen) said “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure”. And you can always find pleasure in the past if you have an easy laugh and carry with you all the lessons learnt.
After time has passed, and with it farewells, reunions, more farewells, expected and unexpected travels and many, many lessons, I no longer agree completely with Adeney’s words. Yes, once you leave home, meet people from different places and/or experience any sort of detachment, your notion of home changes, but not necessarily in such a tragic sense, instead it expands. I would change the expression “you will never be completely home”, to “you will always find home”.
And in this world full of news of tragedy and confusion, we need home more than ever. We need the world to feel safe again. That’s why I am convinced more than ever that breaking barriers between people and building intercultural friendships is a must, an act of rebellion to a society that so many times insists on fear and mistrust.
One of my favorite untranslatable words is Saudade, that roughly “the love that remains”. Instead of contemplating this word with the melancholy for the hugs, kisses or pats on the back I would love to give but can’t, I now see it in a more poetic light. The people that touch our lives transform us, we carry them around wherever we go, even if we stop seeing each other or we are kilometers apart. And that also creates the responsibility of taking care of each other and the world we live in.
After travelling, and making friends from different places, my notion of home transformed. I no longer only see it in physical places, but also in people, those people that make the world seem like a safer, friendlier place. Home is wherever I find welcoming smiles, friends, community (even if it’s just me and a long-lost friend). Yes, there will always be a special pull and safety that comes from the madre patria, after all, it’s in our mothers that we first encountered home (both physically and affectively) and in our family and first friends where we learnt community; in a way, travelling, makes us value it more and connect with our identity in a new way, but also question many cultural “impositions”.
We belong to each other, and not necessarily in a romantic way. Everything that happens around the globe- even in the most random far away places- implies us in unimaginable ways. Through our everyday actions we can participate in people’s tragedies or happiness, that far-off catastrophe connects with us unexpectedly, the impact of our consumer habits and relationship with the environment know no limits, the horror in foreign lands gives us the moral obligation to welcome the stranger. Its time to realize geographic (and so many other) boundaries are a human invention and human connection knows no limits. Knowing and caring for people from all over the world helps us make those connections not only at an intellectual level, but at an emotional one.
I no longer travel looking for my place in the world (though I will definitely feel connected to certain places), and I refuse to travel as a passive observer disconnected to what she is observing, staring at people and places as if they were something exotic, unrelated to me. I travel (whether its 50km or an ocean away) because I’m in love with the world, I am convinced it is my home, so I want to make it feel so and discover its wonders. I travel because I want to understand, because I refuse to believe that the everything is as terrible as it seems and people in opposite parts have nothing in common. I travel because I am fascinated by human encounter and am convinced that through it we can achieve peace, a genuine one, not the one they print about in newspapers.