Where is Home?
February 25, 2004 1:22 PM   Subscribe

My sister moved about 5 years ago from Los from Angeles (we both have lived there all our lives) to the left coast because her husband was transferred there. She was excited about the move, and has a job she enjoys and made good friends. So I was surprised when she mentioned during a recent phone call that although she wasn’t homesick nor did she want to move back, she would always feel that Los Angeles was “home.” So my question is for those who have relocated, where is home?

oops, not "left" by "right" coast.
posted by lola to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i get asked this all the time, as i never lived anywhere longer than three years as a child, and have lived places only slightly longer as an adult.

i consider chicago home. we spent holidays here when i was a child; my parents both grew up here; my siblings and i live here now. my family has been here for over 100 years. i know the stretch of highway (and the stretches of overland routes) between my grandmother's homes like i know the insides of my own eyelids.

i have good friends and really great memories of and in other places i've lived. but home? nowhere else will ever be home, no matter what good things i have there. not sure that's much of an answer. i've said this before and i'll say it again, what you consider to be home is a lot like who you consider yourself to be: ineffable.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:28 PM on February 25, 2004

I am also one of these people who've moved around a lot, not necessarily out of free will. My father was in military and had to go wherever he was sent; even after his retiring my family moved several times (including emigrating to US). I've bounced around a bit on my own as well.

To me, the place I call home is where I feel my identity was truly shaped and formed. That happened while attending college, and so my college town is what I think of when someone says "home". I now live about an hour away from it, and visiting it does give me the warm and fuzzy feeling. I'd likely enjoy living there, if there were any jobs to be had - but I had to move to a more metropolitan area for that.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 1:35 PM on February 25, 2004

My parents were born and raised in a small town in Florida, but I never lived there myself, just traveled there to visit other relatives and then, when my parents retired and moved back there, them. It used to oddly irritate me when my dad referred to those visits as my "coming home."

Virginia is where I mostly grew up (school and college), so I suppose that's "home," but the house is sold and there're only a few family members still living in the area, so it seems dumb to call it "home," especially when I've lived in Maine for the last ten years and hardly ever get down there.
posted by JanetLand at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2004

Another frequent mover here; For me, home is pretty much wherever I live. This is probably more related to immediate surroundings (my home) than the more extended ones (city) though.
posted by fvw at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2004

the experience of me any my partner (she's s american, i'm english and we've lived in both the uk and chile) is that you feel vaguely homeless everywhere. after picking up parts of different cultures you understand more but feel less comfortable. wherever you are, something seems odd.

so no area feels like home - in fact the only place that feels "normal" is being together, at home (the rooms, not the country).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2004

For me, home always seems to be where I'm not. I grew up in BC and then moved to Toronto. If I'm in Toronto, I'll talk about 'going home for the holidays'. But when I'm home for the holidays, I'll talk about 'my flight home is on Friday'. I don't think one or the other wins out.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:54 PM on February 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

I've moved around a fair amount, too; I feel like I have an "ancestral" home (for lack of a better term) in Wyoming, as that's where my family is originally from and where I spent huge chunks of my childhood with my grandparents. More currently I guess I sort of feel a pull to Chicago as "home-like", since that's where I lived for the longest period of time (7 years, before moving to L.A. 3-1/2 years ago) as an adult. But yeah, it's weird: whenever anyone asks me where I'm from, I always laugh and ask if they want the short answer or the long answer.
posted by scody at 2:02 PM on February 25, 2004

I've never really moved, but home is still where I am not. I lived in the same place until university, lived there ever since. childhood-home is "home" when at school, school-home is "home" when at childhood-home. Despite never having moved a lot though, anyplace can be "home" within a few days for me (e.g., "this museum/concert/etc. is boring, let's go 'home' " to a hotel).
posted by whatzit at 2:29 PM on February 25, 2004

I grew up in Ohio and lived in Detroit for ten years, but I couldn't wait to leave both of those places. I didn't really feel like I'd found home until I moved to Seattle in 2000, but didn't know it until after I move here.
posted by kindall at 2:33 PM on February 25, 2004

Home is the place where, when you have nowhere else to go, they have to take you in. Which is to say that home is not necessarily a town or city, but perhaps wherever your family is at a given point in time.

Having emigrated to Australia more than 20 years ago, this sort of feels like home but not completely and NZ still has a big place in my heart, but it is no longer home either.
posted by dg at 2:38 PM on February 25, 2004

I lived in Wyoming from 5th grade all the way through college. I no longer live there, but when I go back and cross the state line, I feel as though I can exhale. That's when I know I'm home.
posted by split atom at 2:39 PM on February 25, 2004

God, I have no idea. I also was an army brat and moved around a lot. I spent my teenage years in Virginia, and my college years in Minnesota, so I suppose a mix of those two, though I don't really get that gushy home feeling from either state.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2004

May favorite response to this question is "How To Figure Out Where You Are From" by Kevin Fanning:

You will need: a pencil and a piece of paper.

First write down the name of every city you have ever lived in.
Then, next to each name, write down the number of times you had your heart broken there.
You are from the city that broke your heart the most.
posted by vraxoin at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh, and tharlan, I read the "home is where your heart was broken" thing on Kevin Fanning's website. I assumed it was his original thought, but I could be wrong.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2004

Damn, vraxion beat me to it.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2004

I've always considered California "home" even since I spent my formative years there and the longest part of my life there. But I've lived in Austin, TX for the longest time now. I'm itching to return to California even though my family has since migrated east. Based on the Kevin Fanning test, California would win.
posted by birdherder at 3:28 PM on February 25, 2004

You are from the city that broke your heart the most.

I am sorry to derail, but, why?
posted by JanetLand at 3:53 PM on February 25, 2004

For me, home is wherever my wife and kids are. My family is one of the many shattered by multiple divorces. My mom and dad live 250 miles apart, my dad in a city I've never been to and both of them in houses I've never seen. My only surviving grandparent lives an additional 210 miles farther down the road. Add to that late blooming sibling rifts (in 2 separate generations), 3 dead grandparents, and my siblings living in another state completely, and the place I grew up isn't really home anymore. Hasn't been for a very long time.

I remember the first time I went back, having been gone for 10 years, and how utterly tiny it felt. Not like a town of 1,500 souls is ever going to feel big - but god it was claustrophobic.

We got out, and traveled to another, slightly larger town - and even my grandmother's house (the place I always wanted to be my home) seemed (and still seems) like a breadbox to me. I remember chasing my cousin from the living room through the kitchen over and over and over again when we were little kids. It felt like a million miles around that loop, and the trek down the hallway to my grandmother's bedroom was even longer than that.

And now it turns out that she lives in maybe 800 square feet, with a tiny lot full of trees that really aren't all that tall.

I imagine many people experience this kind of shock when they go back and visit places from their childhood, but this really left a mark on my soul
posted by Irontom at 4:07 PM on February 25, 2004

Home is where I was happiest, which was Vancouver. I lived there for twelve years. Before that, I was in the Ottawa area (these are places in Canada, for those who don't know) - I grew up there, but it's not home. Home for me is a feeling that's best described as "comfortable", a place where I feel I fit as perfectly as I can. I miss my Vancouver. . .
posted by ashbury at 5:30 PM on February 25, 2004

wherever you are, something seems odd... so no area feels like home - the only place that feels "normal" is being together

This is exactly my feeling. I've lived in two countries and four states and even though I grew up in the same house in rural Mass. where my Mom still lives until I went to college [when all the moving started], home is where Greg is getting dinner ready.
posted by jessamyn at 5:39 PM on February 25, 2004

Yet another military brat here, dad was a third generation officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, though my parents are settling down now and I continue to bounce about.

It's a very hard question, because I honestly don't know, and could never know, what it's like to know a town intimately, to stay in one place. I have only impressions of many places, never roots. andrew cooke said the feeling perfectly, "the only place that feels "normal" is being together."

For me, home is just where I am, with the people I love. That's where I feel most in place, secure, normal, peaceful, whatever it is that's supposed to be associated with homey feelings. Where I feel right. It has nothing to do with the geographic location. I could be at home anywhere if I have that.

Although, when I do chose to settle, sub-suburban coastal places feel much more normal to me than cities do, because those were always the sort of towns my parents sought to raise us in. I could never be at home in a city.
posted by nelleish at 6:49 PM on February 25, 2004

Another military brat. My Dad was in the Air Force and every 4 years we moved until high school. New Jersey was the place to say where we were from since we lived there the longest, but I still don't answer that I'm from there. I don't really identify with the state. Going to Wisconsin every summer to visit my grandparents was what I would consider a greater influence. Going to college and returning there reinforces that home feeling. Although I can identify with the ways to know your from Jersey if...and Wisconsin.
posted by brent at 7:21 PM on February 25, 2004

Lene Lovich had a priceless song about this :

"Home is where the heart is.....home is so remote. Home is just emotions, sticking in my throat. Let's go to your place!...."
posted by troutfishing at 10:36 PM on February 25, 2004

Another military brat. My Dad was in the Air Force and every 4 years we moved until high school.

Every 4 years? [yorkshireman] you were lucky! [/yorkshiremen] Probably one of those wusses that only got shipped around within the US, too.

At least nine times before I was 18. More if you count places we only spent a couple-few months as temporary residences, and if you count offbase-onbase moves.

Worst case it goes Oxon Hill MD, Spangdahlem AB, Zweibrucken AB, Homestead/Miami FL, Phoenix, Luke AFB, Schwarzen GER, Hahn AB, Ramstein / Vogelweh AB, Brandon FL, Jacksonville FL, Gainesville FL, and then off to college. Add in some TLQ's here and there while transiting if ya want.

Home is the Triangle region of North Carolina, which is the only place I've lived more than four years, and which grew to feel just plain right in a lot of ways after going to school in Virginia.

Texas is emphatically not home. The land is all wrong, and the seasons are all wrong, the trees (or lack thereof) are way all wrong, and I've been here for a couple years now and they STILL haven't let me execute a retarded child.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 PM on February 25, 2004

What Andrew Cooke said: I'm British, my wife is Canadian, we live in Sweden (I've also lived in Italy; she's also lived in Australia) - I feel at home when I'm with her, whichever country we happen to be in at the time.
posted by misteraitch at 12:29 AM on February 26, 2004

Embassy brat, grew up all over. Wherever there's a good bookstore, that's my home.
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2004

My family moved around a lot during the first decade of my life. They settled down and stayed put during the second, but it was the original experience that stuck with me. I lived in the same house in Sacramento (California) for ten years or so, which is still a record, but never thought of it as home and still do not think of myself as being *from* California. In fact, it is only in the last few years that I have started to think of myself as being "from the west," where I have spent most of my time, instead of just being "from the U.S." in general.

I don't really have a strong sense of home. I've been living in Seattle for nearly five years now, and I feel like I fit in here; but if I moved away, and talked about coming back for a visit, I wouldn't call it "going home".

People who have a permanent sense of home, separate from the place they currently live, seem to draw that feeling from two sources: either it's the place they grew up, and they feel that the place shaped their cultural identity, or it's where most of their family and maybe childhood friends still live.

"Home", perhaps, is the center-of-mass of one's emotional attachments.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:38 AM on February 26, 2004

AF kid when I was little, then we stayed in Delaware until after college, at which point I moved around on my own, living in four different states. I consider Delaware to be where I'm from, since that's where I spent most of my youth, where I went to college, and where the good parts of my family still are. But as for home, I suppose it accidentally ended up being Greensboro, North Carolina since I've spent the most consecutive years here since graduation from college (3.5!). But we might end up moving to Chicago in late summer so then who freaking knows? I don't have any real desire to move back to Delaware (although if it happened it wouldn't be the end of the world) so I guess I'm kind of a "home is where all my crap is right now" kind of person.

ROU_Xenophone makes an interesting point about the seasons not feeling right. I get unbelievably antsy around Novemeber because it's still hot down here and I just can't quite get the hang of it.

(And oh, my, being from Delaware, I got way too many of the jokes on that Jersey list.)
posted by jennyb at 9:51 AM on February 26, 2004

I grew up in the beach area of Los Angeles County and I still consider it *home* on a deep, cellular level, even if I would no longer afford to live there even if I wanted to.

A lot of my dreams still take place in the house I grew up in, or the beach or surrounding areas, and although I was fed up with LA and wanted out of there badly, I enjoy it a lot (the whole city) whenever I go back and visit.
posted by Danf at 10:32 AM on February 26, 2004

I moved constantly until I was in my 30's...as did my husband. I've got family in various states and countries...and dead relatives in even more. I'm convinced that the reason I'm such a packrat is that I tend to keep the sentimental "things" portable.

I've been around the Dallas area the longest in cumulative time...but I don't think anyone considers Dallas "home", so much as people just kind of get stuck in the tar pit and can't get out. ;) We've been in our current house for a little over 3 years...and I'm ready to move...but the economy everywhere just sucks so much that we can't figure out any place to go. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 2:08 PM on February 26, 2004

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