“Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house-home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane
The holidays are often a time when we think a lot about what “home” means. People ask us – probably less now than they used to since they know us – if we are “going home or staying here” for the holidays. I always reply, confidently, that this is home. We live here, the kids live here, and just about all of our friends and family are here. We are “home” every day.
Last year at this time we had just moved into our then-new house, and that was the first Christmas that we weren’t in the house that had been our home for the previous 17 years. Our kids each have their own place now, so there is no sentimental “home” where they grew up. My parents and Kathy’s parents are both gone, and the places they occupied can now be visited only through Google Street View. So there is no “somewhere else home” when people ask us if we are “going home or staying here” for the holidays. This is home.
The above quote comes from an author that Kathy is familiar with, but I found it by way of a blog I have been following for a while. This Way to Paradise is written by a woman who has been “homeless” for several years, but traveling the world, mostly self-supported but sometimes depending on the kindness of friends and strangers, all the while blogging about it. And of course she’s written a book (I think I need to write a book 😉 ). Although she has already seen more of the world at her young age than I will ever see, in many ways Valen’s philosophy echoes my own – that home is where we make it and that more often than not home is where we are. But that’s not to say that home is every place we are.
Kathy & I take a lot of comfort in having a “home base” to come back to after work and after every vacation. This may change when we aren’t paying our dues on the corporate hamster wheel, but for now at least we envision continuing to use our house as a jumping off point for future adventures. We have purposely made our house into a place that if we never left we would be perfectly happy to stay, and that makes it a terrific place to come home to. So far we have necessarily approached our travels as always having a finite end. Knowing that “home” is waiting makes it easier to return. And for the most part it is a place that one of us could live without the other if that were to become necessary.
Our friends Earl & Bonnie are starting an adventure of a different kind. With a 2+ year head start on us, they have already experienced life without the need to escape the work world every day and have realized that they don’t want or need a fixed home base. So they have decided to literally sell all their stuff and put themselves and whatever is left into a travel trailer and head out to see the world. Whether that ever becomes our own solution remains to be seen, but Kathy & I wish them only the best and are anxiously awaiting their progress reports as they embark on their journey.
So the point of all this rambling is that I find the individual approaches to “home” to be a fascinating study. As Kathy & I develop our plans and speculate on the direction of our own lives, there is quite a bit of uncertainty about how our philosophies will adapt as our lives change, but isn’t that part of the adventure? Wherever we live, the last thing we want to do is to become so entrenched in what we have that we lose sight of what we want. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a house, a travel trailer or even a cruise ship. If we haven’t learned anything else over the last few years we have learned that no decision has to be final. As long as we remain open to other possibilities and flexible about the outcome, home can take many forms. But we each have our own ideal outcome, and that is what I look forward to seeking and finding, as well as to sharing.