an expat's musings on home

they say that home is where the heart is, but I've left my heart in so many places.

being back in the states right now, approaching my 5th expat anniversary, the topic of home has been heavy in my mind. I like to travel with an open heart, and sometimes it can be a hazard. I've fallen in love with locations all over the globe. places I grew up, places I've lived, and places I've only visited.

the more I travel, the longer the list gets, and the more I realize the question of "where is home?" never seems to have a clear answer.

I used to worry about this. a lot. especially after we first moved abroad. I wondered if I would ever really find a place to call home. I had memories scattered all over the earth -- but I'd never stayed somewhere for longer than a decade. there were so many places I thought I could belong, that maybe I would never belong anywhere.

then I realized, if so many places felt like home... maybe I didn't have to choose. living this expat life, I may never have one specific place to call home. but who says that "home" has to be a house with a yard and a white picket fence? why should it be only the place you were born or raised or live? or even a location at all?

to me, home is not a place. it's a feeling.

home is sitting on the edge of a dock, dipping my toes in the water, holding my morning coffee and watching the mist clear over the lake. it's standing on a rooftop in Istanbul, listening to the call to prayer echo over the Golden Horn at sunset. sipping a glass of wine on a bench at Prague Castle while husband has one arm around me and a beer in the other.

home is baking in the Thai sun with my favorite book on a sandy beach in Railay, turquoise waves crashing on the shore. it's navigating through the tourists to find my special secret spot in Central Park. it's dumplings and drinks with friends on a steamy Taipei night. home is hiking up a mountain trail or through a forest in Taroko Gorge, Milford Sound, or maybe the Olympic Peninsula.

home is a hug from my husband at the end of a long day, a text from a friend checking in, the sound of the keys on my laptop clicking as I write. or, home is just watching TV with my parents while a cat is curled up in my lap.

maybe, home really is where the heart is.

that is -- home is in my heart, wherever I go.

linking up with Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of a London Kiwi and Kiwi Footprints for the monthly travel link up, 


Elephant Mountain

I've been back in America for a few weeks now -- just long enough to start missing my adopted home of Taiwan. [or, at least my favorite parts of it: husband, friends, mountains, dumplings, etc.] so today I'm sharing a collection of photos from one of my favorite views in Formosa: Elephant Mountain.

of all the easy-access hikes I've explored in Taipei, Elephant Mountain is the one I return to again and again. it offers the most bang for your buck - or really, view for your climb - and can be done in under an hour if you only go so far. the trails go back quite a ways and loop with other mountains, so it's up to you how far to climb. pro tip: the further you go, the better the views and the thinner the crowds.

the first time I climbed Elephant Mountain, it was about 95F and I was wearing flip flops and jean shorts. that's not what I recommend - but it is doable. since then I've been back in all kinds of weather [and outfits] but usually with more suitable footwear.

the trail is paved, but the steps are made from stone and can be a bit uneven. they are definitely not uniform. sneakers or gym shoes are best for this hike, but if you can climb stairs in your gear then you can climb Elephant Mountain.

the main draws of this hike are its proximity to the MRT, and the views. I visited with Anna on a misty November afternoon. the visibility wasn't great, but we could still see Taipei 101 and Xinyi.

a week later I climbed with my sister-in-law and the skies were almost opposite. the air was so clear I could see a whole new layer of mountains I'd never spotted before. while it would be great to see so far every time, I still think it's worth the climb in the mist or a little bit of rain.

the day I took my parents to Elephant Mountain was pretty polluted. the sky was almost white and the city just faded off into the horizon. not ideal. but. even on hazy days, the climb can still be enjoyable. if you continue past the famous rocks [after possibly stopping for a photo on top] the trail goes on to another observation deck before winding back through shaded jungle.

we all know sunset light is magic. and sunset views from Elephant Mountain are no exception. the evening I climbed in January [with Geneva] there was a crowd around the rocks, a line 15 people deep to take photos with 101 in the background, and a dark streak across the sunset sky.

it turns out there was a fire at a tire factory in Taoyuan. not a good thing for the factory or the environment, but it made for some dramatic skies.

the point of this post [other than to say I miss Taiwan maybe a little] is that Elephant Mountain makes a great hike, no matter the weather.


sunset at Lime Kiln Point

Lime Kiln Light on San Juan Island is not just a great place to watch for orcas, but a beautiful sunset viewpoint.
on the first day of our Pacific Northwest road trip, we drove north from Seattle and hopped a ferry from Anacortes out to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. my parents were fighting a 3 time zone change, while my jetlag was a difference of 15 hours. we were all tired, but we only had 2 nights on the island. so when we realized the weather would give us a beautiful sunset... I had another cup of coffee and we drove out to Lime Kiln Point.

Lime Kiln State Park is situated on the western coast. which means: stunning sunsets. across the water you can see the Olympic Peninsula to the south and Canada [Vancouver Island] to the west. but the real reason we picked this spot for sunset? the lighthouse.

Lime Kiln Light may be small, but I thought it was adorable. we also gave it bonus points because it was built the same year my mom's mom was born. [I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that my love of lighthouses is genetic - at one point we had a lighthouse themed bathroom at my house.]

between the reflective water, craggy rocks, and cute little lighthouse - we were all in photo heaven.

Lime Kiln is known for being a prime orca watching spot. we didn't see any that night [though there was a promising shadow that turned out to be seaweed.] it was still a lovely spot to spend an hour or two.

our trip is coming to an end now. even though we've been traveling for 17 days - and have seen several gorgeous sunsets and many many lighthouses - we all agreed that this was our favorite.

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