expat problems: where is home?

in two short months, I'm going to be on my way back to the states for a visit. and the thought of going home brings up all kinds of questions for an expat - namely - is home really still home?

I've been a bit spoiled in my expat experience. last summer I was able to go back to my home country for three whole months after just one year abroad. and after only eight months in Taiwan, I will return to the US for almost another three. [sure I don't make a salary anymore, but this whole blogger/writer thing has its perks.]

last year when I first returned to Michigan, I was overwhelmed with a sense of "I'm home." I had family, friends, my cats, and all the foods I had been missing. but after a week, the novelty wore off and the reverse culture shock set in. I had changed in my time away, and America wasn't quite home anymore. and then the most shocking thing... I began to miss my home in Taiwan.

but Taiwan isn't exactly home either. we know we won't be here forever. international teachers are transient animals, and though we'll return to Taiwan for the school year next fall, there's no plan for what comes next. having an existence that's practically defined as being temporary is hard. it's hard to build lasting friendships when you know someday you'll both leave. it's hard to justify investing in things like mattresses or even decorating your walls.

so where is home? how does that saying go - home is where your heart is? but I've left my heart in so many places.

the older I get and the more places I travel, the longer the list grows. home is Michigan - from metro Detroit to "up north" to East Lansing to the shores of Lake Michigan. but home is also New York. home is Philadelphia. home is Taiwan. heck... home is Railay beach in Thailand. I've been leaving little pieces of my heart everywhere I go.

I was born in Texas, raised in the midwest, spent five years on the east coast after college, and have been an expat in Asia for nearly two. I've been traveling my entire life. a part of me wants a house and a yard and somewhere permanent. to put down roots. I think if we settled down somewhere for long enough it could feel like home... or maybe we'd just feel restless.

[I know this isn't what my mom wants to hear.]

the struggle between wanting a place to call home and still wanting to see the world, is the hardest thing I've encountered as an expat. trying to balance the things that you want with the things that you miss is damned difficult. I worry that giving up this life would feel like just that - giving up. that it would be a waste of an opportunity. but I also worry that my other option is to be searching for home all my life.

is this just a side effect of being an expat? or does everyone with wanderlust in their heart suffer from the same affliction?

but maybe there's a third choice. if I've been scattering pieces of my heart like breadcrumbs everywhere I go, maybe it's not to lead me to this mythical place called home. maybe I've been planting seeds everywhere. putting roots down all over the globe.

maybe, if home is everywhere, I can be at home wherever I go.

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today I'm co-hosting the expat diaries linkup with Chelsea and Rachel. if you're an expat or traveler too, you can linkup below to share your stories.

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