Finding home
February 13, 2017 2:59 AM   Subscribe

I've lived a lot of places. Nowhere is "home," nor do I have a specific career path to tie or lead me anywhere. How can I find a place to make my home base for the long term?

I moved as a kid from my original home to a place in a different country where I've never felt like I belonged and always wanted to leave.

I tried going back when I became an adult. Didn't work out for various reasons that may now be irrelevant, so going back there is a possibility.

Have also lived many other places. Haven't stayed anywhere more than a couple years max in over a decade of adult life. I know nowhere becomes home unless you stay and establish yourself but I've never felt like that was even a possibility in the places I've lived so far.

To compound the problem, I'm severely chronically ill. As in, variable from mostly bedbound at worst to mostly housebound at best. I'm unable to work so don't have a career to draw or tie me to a specific place or connect me with people. I'm ok financially so that isn't something I have to factor in majorly.

The place I'm living now is ok. But I still have this certainty that it doesn't have what I need and I don't fit the culture here. It's always on my mind so I always feel unsettled, temporary. I know some of this is mental but I also know I feel more comfortable and alive in the US, where I'm from, than here.

I've thought about returning to my home city. It's very appealing. But it's a huge city, overwhelming and not very accessible, and it seems impractical given my health. I don't know anywhere else well and when I try to search by the criteria I'd like in a place, I come up short.

Obviously nowhere is going to be 100% what you're looking for but I feel like this is more than that. I don't want to just pick a place, start over yet again, and hope. There has to be a better way. No one I'm close with lives somewhere I could go, and as I've said I can't base it on what I do.

So how do I stop bouncing around indefinitely and find a place I can commit to?
posted by bizarrenacle to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
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posted by amtho at 3:32 AM on February 13, 2017

It's a very difficult question to answer, when you have at least a continent's worth of cities to choose from!

What goes wrong when you try to search by the criteria you'd like in a place? Why do you think staying and establishing yourself never felt like a possibility before now? On a more practical note, could you investigate neighbourhoods within (or in the suburbs of) your huge overwhelming city that could offer more accessibility and make the prospect less daunting?

I know you ruled out living very near anyone you know, but is there anyone that you like the idea of being eg. within visitable distance of?

I'm sure I've come across the idea (probably on metafilter) of people who've moved between countries struggling to find "home" after their experiences. Maybe reading about the stories of others might help you.
posted by limoncello at 4:03 AM on February 13, 2017

I feel somewhat in the same boat as you, including the feeling of things being temporary. I agree that nowhere is perfect and one of the challenges when you have lived in several places is knowing that the grass isn't necessarily greener. Everywhere has its flaws but if you'd stayed in one place you might never have known that.

One idea might be to move house into a place you can make more your own even if you are renting. Another might be to try and find an activity you enjoy doing regularly that can only be done where you live now. I won't suggest time healing wounds or making friends or those sorts of things. They are hard too.

I am feeling a bit trapped at the moment, we decided to return to home country but can't find work so are still in third country, second country is no longer an option. I found a class that I really like and it's nice to see those people every week and winter is nearly over but we are still renting the crappy flat we moved into years ago that we swore was only 'temporary' and have not really put down roots... when my husband asks what those are I don't really have an answer, just a feeling that I don't want to think about moving somewhere else all the time. And figure out how to organise myself for retirement one day which is one of things that becomes a total nightmare when you move around.

Good luck - it's not easy.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:18 AM on February 13, 2017

The concept of one special "home" is a bit like that of "finding the one" - it's a romantic idea but it's not actually representative of a lot of people's experience.

Like different people throughout someone's life feeling like the one, I think many places can feel like home over a lifetime, sometimes simultaneously. I grew up in one "home" location, moved to another and became an adult there, that feels like another kind of home, moved again and I became who I am now, met my partner, and made many lifelong friends and here feels like home too. They all do, and also none of them do, entirely.

What made those places feel like home was getting involved in them, exploring them*, particularly meeting people that were part of them, feeling like I belonged in some way and that parts of it belonged to me, that I was part of it. It's fine if you haven't felt that yet! Your previous questions indicate that you've struggled with social anxiety and "getting out there", so to a certain extent, it's no wonder you don't feel connected.

My advice would be to not worry about the place so much as feeling at home in yourself, and able to connect to people. You haven't mentioned how you're doing with the anxiety (better I hope!), but once it gets easier to reach out to your local communities (and not just chronic illness related, but other ones related to your interests and identity) you might find that you start connecting to a place, and feeling like you can try doing that with other places, and see where feels best to connect to.

* I'm not sure if your chronic illness affects you physically, but by "exploring" I don't necessarily mean walking around - you can explore the communities that make up a place, the culture which fuels it, without tramping around its physical streets :)
posted by greenish at 4:54 AM on February 13, 2017

Look for someplace socially and politically stable. This place is not that, you are lucky enough not to be in the US. Keep it that way. Look For someplace that is more self-sustainable in terms of energy and food production. That's where I would make my long term home. Stable people enjoy a happy lifestyle and sense of community, the US is not promoting that right now. Don't live in the past.
posted by jbenben at 5:03 AM on February 13, 2017

The short answer is, I don't know, but I can tell you about my own experience from the other side of this feeling you have.

My parents moved our family to Canada when I was 14, and I lived there for many years. I never became a Canadian citizen, for no better reason than that I felt more American than Canadian, even though I did feel like I did fit the culture there. As a working adult, I went back to school and got two degrees while working part time. At the end of that, it hit me that now was the time to act on my feeling, if I was ever going to act, because I would be seeking employment in a completely different field. So I moved to Chicago to see what "feeling like an American" was all about.

It's a wonderful city, in part because it's a city of neighborhoods—it's easy to get comfortable in the right one. I happily lived and worked there for 25 years, and eventually retired.

It definitely felt like home... until it didn't. Partly because places change. My neighborhood got popular and built up, which was great for property values, but it also got more violent. In the year before I moved, two people were shot and killed within blocks of my house.

And partly because people change. Over the years I found that I no longer wanted the same things as when I was younger. Going out became a chore; I began to find more comfort in staying in.

I now live on a lake in a semi-rural area in another state. I love the change and now "here" feels like home. I don't miss the city at all.

But here's the thing: I have every expectation that, at some point, it no longer will feel like home. That's just how it seems to work for me, despite long periods of rootedness in between the episodes of restlessness. This doesn't bother me at all. I know it's a cliché, but home is where the heart is, and that means home is inside of me, reinforced, perhaps, by location and relationships, but also independent of them in a way that is hard to quantify.

If I have any advice, I'd say it's to watch out for inertia. It's hard to pull up stakes and move, especially when, as you say, you don't know if where you land will be better than where you are. You need to be aware of your own "tipping point," when it's simply time to ignore the uncertainty, commit to the decision and resolve to make the best of it. Once you know that, it may well be that you never reach it. Anyhow, it's always going to be something of a crap shoot as to how much you like your new location, so I don't think it's fruitful to invest a lot of concern on that score, apart, of course, from basics like cost of living, general livability, etc.

That's all I've got. Best wishes.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:40 AM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think you need a kind of "in" to make a place really feel like home, because the biggest thing about home, afaic, is feeling connected and accepted, by other people. A job or avocation (some kind of commitment, even volunteering), or a person/people (like a partner or family) would give you some kind of role in a particular community. You need a structuring device like that, a hook, to facilitate repeated exposure to people, and give them a reason to accept and trust you. I think that should be part of the calculus.

I'd prioritize access to (appropriate, affordable) healthcare and accessible transportation, if I were you.

(Me, I prefer medium-sized, human-scale [generally low-rise, walkable] cities with some kind of infrastructure for/investment in arts/culture. Places like that might be more likely to have decent hospitals etc. than smaller towns, and usually aren't as overwhelming as large cities. If you have access to such a place. I know and love a few cities like that, but they're all in Europe, where I have no legal claim to live, and where my family etc. are not.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:02 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

In addition to things others have offered, for me the sense of home relates to the character of both the built and natural environments. So, for example, while I understand why people find the high skies and flat plains of Texas beautiful, for me they will never be as compelling as small New England towns with either mountains or seascapes nearby. Since that's what I like, I felt immediately at home in places like Breckenridge, CO or Mendocino, CA because they share enough vis-a-vis scale, building materials, main streets, landscapes, etc. even though they are, objectively, very different. Similarly, people who grew up in Boston often find they have little problem transitioning to San Francisco and vice versa.

TL;DR - Give some thought to the community character that just feels right to you, sit with that, and see if you get any insights into particular places, even if you only know them through photos.
posted by carmicha at 6:59 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing what others have said about home being about relationships. Do you have a few good friends or family in a particular area? One or two people might be the "in" you need to make a connection to a place.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2017

I found solace in the replies to this long-ago question: What is home when it isn't a place? It was about my kids so there are some family-focused answers, but lots of responses that work well no matter your household makeup.
posted by headnsouth at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

In your condition I'd want certain things: the right climate – if you often don't feel well, you might want to have access to a balcony where you could just rest in the sun. You wouldn't want to have to dig snow. But, you might want to be in a city for its services: accessible doctors, physiotherapists, reliable helpers you can hire when you need them, restaurants that deliver. Those are what I'd be looking for if I had cash but wasn't well. You need to make your own list and narrow down locations for how close they come.
posted by zadcat at 9:07 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your current place doesn't feel like it has what you need and that you don't fit the culture. What do you think you DO need? Is it weather? Culture? Size of settlement? Type community? Without knowing why going back to your original home didn't work last time or what you Do want in a home, it's impossible for us to say.

Maybe try journaling some exercises for yourself about what you think home would look/feel/smell like, from your own living space to the larger community, and see if anything about those suit some places where you think you might fit.
posted by ldthomps at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2017

I know some of this is mental but I also know I feel more comfortable and alive in the US, where I'm from, than here.

Where is "here"? Are you limited to only that country and the US?

Think about what you need - accessibility, disability benefits, civil rights protections, a certain cost of living, things like that. For example, I can't move to North Carolina (among other states) because I am transgender, so I can cross that off right away.

Then think back to the places you've lived and what you liked about each one. I lived in a small Montana city and I loved seeing the mountains and being able to walk from one end of the city to the other.

Then think back to what you could not stand about each place. Why did you move? The heat, the rude people, etc. I can't stand Chicago traffic.

You're unlikely to find a place that meets all your criteria, but that should narrow it down considerably. Ultimately home is where you make it and you do just to have to commit to it (then again, why is this important? how have you been able to bounce around thus far? what prevents you from doing it again?).
posted by AFABulous at 11:15 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone who answered. You've given me some more to go on.
posted by bizarrenacle at 2:40 AM on February 14, 2017

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