Home is where the Heart is

Something more personal today.

A hot and very sweaty summer day in Tel Aviv, four months after I made the move to leave my career, friends and family behind in the Netherlands and start a new life in the land of milk and honey. Although I had been multiple times over the years before moving, and already had some friends to hang out with and of course the best boyfriend to move in with, settling and integrating into a society came with a lot of ups and downs. Mainly ups though I would say, but anyone that has moved abroad, albeit for a longer or shorter period of time, knows that there’s also times where things are just very hard and you might even doubt what you’re doing there in the first place.

And if it’s not difficult enough to adjust to a culture that’s not your own, learning a complete new language, and maybe even adapting to a religious lifestyle that you haven’t grown up with, there’s also the practical problems. What are you doing for a living? How are you managing your savings when sorting everything out? Plus most importantly: how is your legal status in the country? Do you have your visa sorted for a shorter or longer time?

It doesn’t really matter for how long, but for anyone moving to another country without obtaining either a permanent residency or nationality, there comes a time where a visa is about to run out. And that obviously raises the question: are you going to stay or leave? And if leaving: where are you going to next?

Over the years I have spoken to many people in a situation like this, but the meaning of it did never fully hit until I found myself in the same position. When traveling there’s always people that have been roaming for months, sometimes even for years, and the conversation will at some point very likely come to the topic of what is home?

For some people home might be where they grew up. Where the family still is, where there’s all the childhood memories, where the place is familiar and comfortable. For others the feeling of home might come from just having the necessary things with you in a car or van and living on the side of the road. And for some home might be a person, or multiple people, or even a city you have gotten very attached to.

Missing home is a longing feeling that can physically make you feel hurt or sick. Feeling homesick is one of the worst feelings in the world and I think that everyone that has experienced something like it agrees. It is worse than having your heart broken, it is worse than feeling alone. It’s an overwhelming feeling of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ And there is no other cure than to either wait and hope that the feeling passes or to pack up everything and go home.

Something that I have come to realise though, not only from my own experience but also from what many people told me, is that feeling homesick – to a certain extend – can also be something very valuable. It’s all about how you interpreted the signs. Because in stead of focussing on how badly you don’t want to be in a certain place, you can also try to focus on the beauty of realising where you want to be. To realise what you value and what you need. Being in a foreign country, for whatever reason it may be, is an amazing experience, one that you should definitely always value highly. But the best you can obtain is not all the adventures, the exciting places to visit, the new people to meet. The best thing to get is to realise where you heart truly lays and what it means, this place you want to call home.

Home really is where the heart is.

With love,
Janne

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Post script, for anyone wondering: although I had to leave Israel for the annoying reason of dealing with bureaucracy, which did mean I left to visit my family for a little bit and got to wonder around in the city I for sure still relate to as home, my heart was really not in it. That’s where this post comes from: the longing for my new life in the Holy Land, my new homeland, my Israel.