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That’s How We Roll: Where is Home?

That's How We Roll: Where Is HomeWe’re spending a couple of weeks back in our old eastern PA stomping grounds, and the other day someone asked me how it felt to be home. It was a reasonable question – after all, we lived in Philadelphia for ten years before selling everything and flitting off in the RV. My reaction, however, was surprising. I felt a little startled … a bit confused … and then a mild wave of panic ran over me.

Thoughts began to burst like popcorn: “HOME??” “What does home even mean?” “Is this home?” “If not here, where?” “How can I not know the answer to this simple question?” “Where do I belong?” Some semblance of a polite answer blubbered forth as these ideas wrestled for attention just below the surface of my brain. It seems humans are wired to have a place in the world, and it took a little internal exploring to locate mine.

Is Philadelphia “Home”?

We’re having a blast being back in the city that we knew intimately ten years ago. Walking the old streets where we lived, eating at the old haunts, and meeting up with friends bring the memories flooding back. It’s a precious thing to be able to sit on the bench where we met for lunch every day, or to walk past the window of a restaurant where we celebrated a special occasion. But a lot has also changed. Buildings are springing up, business have shut down, and we find ourselves clamoring to remember what was there before.

A city is a living thing, and Philly has grown, evolved, and become a bit unfamiliar in our absence. She’s like that cousin you grew up with who’s been out of touch for a while – certainly if you got together you’d be fast friends again in no time, but the longer you’re apart, the more distance grows between you.

Being back the Philadelphia also makes it clear that I’ve changed a lot since we left. The energy and constant bustle that I used to thrive on now feels like a chaotic assault on my senses after a few hours. I’ve grown accustomed to cricket serenades and the sound of the wind in the trees, and have forgotten how to block out the horns and sirens and babble of the city.

Ty and Buster in Philadelphia, PA

Certainly, it’s nice to be back in Philadelphia … but it’s not “home.”

Is Wisconsin “Home”?

Spending the first seventeen years of your life in a place automatically puts it on the list of spots you’d consider “home,” and for me that’s a small town in southwestern Wisconsin. Unlike Philadelphia, the town I grew up in has changed very little since I left. It’s a beautiful, rural area with green pastures dotted with dairy cattle, river bluffs with nesting eagles, and people who’s names haven’t changed in a century. It’s where my parents still live, along with the majority of my extended family, and when I talk about “home” with my sisters, it’s understood that’s where we mean.

But I’ve called a lot of places home since I lived there, and it’s not somewhere I’ve ever considered moving back to. Truthfully, even visiting there has felt a little empty since Grandma died five years ago. Somehow I feel her loss more intensely there, and while others may find it comforting to be near where she lived, for me it brings more frequent moments of sadness.

Buster and Ty on the Farm

Wisconsin is where I’m from, and perhaps I’ll change my mind one day … but for now it’s not “home.”

Is South Dakota “Home”?

If you look at our motorhome, you might guess that we call South Dakota home. Full-time RVers have to establish residency somewhere so that they can get a driver’s license, register their vehicles, an vote. We, along with many other RVers, have opted for South Dakota because they are income tax friendly and otherwise very accommodating to their transient citizens.

South Dakota’s Black Hills also resonate with something deep inside me. You may remember this from the blog post I wrote about our last trip there:

Our first family vacation was to Custer State Park when I was four years old. Perhaps it was that early introduction that kindled my love for this place. Whatever caused it, when I see those mountain begin to appear on the horizon, some part of me feels like she’s coming home.

Buster and Ty at Sylvan Lake - Custer, SD

 

There is no question that South Dakota holds a special place in my heart, and it’s where we get our mail … but it isn’t “home.”

Home is a Feeling, Not a Place

What I’ve slowly come to realize is that my definition of “home” has changed. Home isn’t a place. I may never be able to point to one spot on the map and say, “That is home.” Living in the RV has taught me that home can be many places … it’s more about the feeling of belonging, the good times you have, and the memories you make. I’ve felt at home in Philadelphia, in Wisconsin, in South Dakota … and in Terlingua, Texas, Victoria, British Columbia, Bend, Oregon, and a dozen other places.

Home is about spending time with the people and pets you love, meeting new people that become dear friends, and making memories that you’ll cherish over the years. Some spots may only rise to the level of “places I’ve lived,” but I know that wherever we park the RV has the potential to be “home” … as long as Rod, Ty, Buster, and I are together.

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  • Yes! I love that about this life, Mary. It’s so cool to know that there are places in the country that resonate with you. So many people never get to find that out – we’re definitely the lucky ones.

  • Thank you, Cheryl. Home certainly is where the heart is. <3

  • Thank you, Monica, and congratulations on the purchase of your property. Life is such an interesting journey – who would expect a simple word like “home” to take on so much meaning and casue such angst? I wish you all the best, and hope that your new place does begin to feel like home for you.

  • I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever settle down again and have that feeling of “home” being in one place, Cathlin. Right now, I can’t imagine where I’d choose, and I’m having way to much fun to think about it! =)

  • Great post. This gives me so many feelings. Quite frankly, I’m surprised this has just now come up for you! I grapple with it constantly. Throughout my transience, I had always felt like the town I went to high school in was home, until my mother died last year and it felt like all the warm feelings I had for the place quite simply died with her. Unlike your small town, it has changed greatly, and not for the better. I also have trouble simply divorcing the idea of home from being tied to a place, though if I could come to the same conclusion you have at the end of your post, it would likely be a great comfort.One of the places we felt most at home when we visited was the Pike’s Peak region in Colorado, and now we have bought two acres of land in a small town called Florissant. We hope to someday build a house, but for now, it will be a place to park the camper from time to time. Maybe it will even become home!

  • Beautifully written. I come from a very small town that has hardly changed at all…except there are fewer people and many of the businesses have closed. It’s a wonderful but sad feeling when I go home for a visit. My ex was in the military and we traveled to several places after that. Yes, there is a comforting familiarity but a very unfamiliar feel at the same time. So, I understand your article completely. It rings true “home is where the heart is”.

  • So true. We get asked the same question, and always answer…”Today, we are from here.” I get a sense of “home” in Jackson Hole, Arizona, and I really like western South Dakota. Home is quite simply, where we park the RV.

  • What a great article! I lived in the same place for 44 years and then moved to PA. We have been here for 13 years. When I go back “home”, it feels so different. It does not feel like home anymore because home is PA now. I agree, it is where your favorite people and pups are.

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