Home*: Thoughts on What Home Means

I remember when I was in design school we discussed the concept of home. What is home? What makes it feel like home? How do homes differ in different countries? As a designer, how do you make a house a home? What does the word ‘home’ represent? For me, Hong Kong is now home. Home is where my husband is. Where my job is. Where my life is. It’s where my belongings are safe, where I stash my passport and clothing, where I feel secure, and where I go to sleep at night. It’s where I watch my favourite Netflix shows in the evening while wearing PJ’s and all the food in the fridge are things I like to eat.

The idea I had when I was in school was in school is that home could be visually represented in a bunch of concentric circles, getting more and more specific. When traveling and asked where home is, I might only need to answer, “Canada,” and that would be enough. Or I might get more specific: where in Canada? “British Columbia,” or, perhaps, “Vancouver.” If the new friend I am talking to knows Vancouver, I might clarify, “actually, I live in the GVRD – we have a place in New Westminster.” I might explain that our place is just a block away from all the bridal stores. Then I might share that it’s across from the church, or give the exact address. Depending on the audience, any of these answers could be the appropriate description of home. Of course, this example is no longer home and we have a whole new circle of answers.

Our home circle Pre-LifeShift. I will always love Canada and being Canadian!
Our home circle Pre-LifeShift. I will always love Canada and being Canadian!

Having just being back to Canada, which I still feel is a home*, because I will always love Canada, being Canadian, and landing on Canadian soil. Home with an asterisk is a new idea for me – I’ll have to think more about what this looks like. For most people I have spoken to in Canada, our new response of home being, “Hong Kong” is specific enough. A few people who have knowledge of HK or have visited them self might ask more questions.

Our new little home circle. Yes, these are literally napkin sketches.
Our new little home circle. Yes, these are literally napkin sketches.

As I flew from Kelowna to Vancouver today I spent much of the time with my nose pressed to the glass. From thousands of feet in the air I could identify so many recognizable landmarks, name bridges, streets, and building, and connect memories to dozens and dozens of places. Many of these places have overlapping memories; they are places I have experience over and over as I was growing up. For the first time since I moved to Hong Kong I felt homesick – and it occurred as I WAS home. I think what I miss is that connection to places that triggers memories and reminders of times passed. These memories exist regardless, but don’t necessarily surface without that visual trigger.

This got me thinking about what Braden and I are missing, and what we have given up. We have given up a lot. More than anything I miss our friends and family (to me, this is different from being homesick). That being said, while giving up a lot we have also opened ourselves up to so much. Just as there are lakes and buildings and parks and addresses and little rooms in Vancouver that hold memories, there are hundreds – thousands – millions of new places waiting to attach themselves to a new memory. These are things I couldn’t have even begun to imagine when we were in Vancouver and are now so much closer to. We are seeking more than we know: dumplings in new restaurants waiting to be eaten, temples begging to be explored, new beers to be untapped, and new dreams to dream. Unidentifiable birds are building strange nests as we explore streets whose names we can’t pronounce, and our brains are exploding as we store all the little details away to build a whole new complex web of memories in Hong Kong and beyond.

3 thoughts on “Home*: Thoughts on What Home Means

  1. You sure have a way with words Ali! Love the napkin visuals. I’m so glad you and Braden are exploring and happy in your new home*!


  2. So well expressed Alison. Really, at the end by of the day home is where and what we make it, and in fact, we can be attached to more than one Home.


  3. I’m reliving 7 years in Australia as I read your words Alison. I remember missing family and friends so much when I lived in Melbourne and for some reason I couldn’t get the intersection of Georgia and Burrard out of my mind. It was as if I’d pushed a giant pushpin onto an imaginary map of Vancouver and that dot was ‘home’. I remember well that discussion we had in design school. But trust me on this – home is all those memories you and Braden are making right now and all the people you’re meeting. Enjoy the adventure and keep us posted. Miss you.


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