Stateside Concerns

My mom insists that the water in the fridge is the same water I grew up drinking. The same water that I’ve been drinking for 21 years. But it tastes different. It tastes like chemicals and it’s too cold, but it’s free so I shouldn’t be complaining, I guess.

But that’s not the only thing: The portions here are too big and everything tastes like it came from a box. Everyone drives everywhere and walking anywhere is completely unfeasible. People scream on the phone and bask in too-cold air conditioning. Everything is too loud, too big, too bright.

But yesterday I got a root beer float. I got mashed potatoes and gravy and then I got a cheesecake (a real cheesecake, not the sad little pastries they try to make pass as cheesecake in Brussels). I got a new car. And these things make it worth it to be back. Still, I’ve come to realize, in light of the fact that this is my last post (something that has inspired much introspection), that I was wrong about something very important.

In one of my earlier posts, I mused about the beauty of Brussels (something I never did get used to) and my new life there. I claimed that everywhere is home. But I was wrong. When I wrote that, a little over a month ago, I didn’t really understand the concept of home. Now that I’m older and wiser (or at least older), I understand a little more. I understand that a place isn’t home. It can be, of course, but it isn’t the place, or even the people, that makes a place home. It’s us.

I made the mistake, in June, of attributing my feelings of being at home to the routine of my new life, to the familiarity of a new setting. But the truth is, I was carrying home with me all along. My preference for sugar in my iced tea, my American accent, my habit of texting my mom every day and seeking out cats at every opportunity- these are the things that matter. When I left America in May, I didn’t leave my home for a new one in a new place. I simply took it with me to Brussels, to Amsterdam, to Paris.

The beauty of thinking that everywhere is home is in the implication that everywhere is generally the same. That nothing is truly foreign and so nothing is truly scary. It’s comforting and it’s simple. But it’s not true.

The truth is that new places can be scary. They can be unfamiliar and overwhelming and different. And that’s why we go. We go to be scared, to be enchanted, to be moved.  So, my loyal reader, I’d like to leave you with a final shred of what I hope can be considered wisdom (humor me): If we could allow ourselves to let go of the idea that everywhere is home, an idea to which I, like many other travelers, so desperately cling, then maybe we could see the more difficult reality: we alone are what determines home. Everywhere may not be home, but if we can embrace that and face it without fear or apprehension, we can make sure that home is everywhere.

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