Where do you feel most at home?

By Caitlin Kelly

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How about Washington, D.C.?

 

A friend recently posed the question on her Facebook page — and the many answers she received were fascinating.

Many said “Mexico”, and I was among them, and yet almost all of us were Caucasian.

I miss Mexico, having briefly lived in Cuernavaca as a teenager and having visited various regions there many time; I also speak Spanish.

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Or Donegal, where my great-grandfather is from…

But feeling most at home?

It’s always, since I spent a year living there on a journalism fellowship when I was 25, been Paris.

Seems unlikely, for a Canadian born in Vancouver and raised in Toronto, Montreal and London.

(For one American friend, it’s London or bust! If you aren’t reading her blog about life there, you’re missing out. For another, whose blog I also adore, it was a huge leap — from Portland, Oregon to Lisbon.)

It’s a cliche, I know, but I’m fine with it. I speak French, so that’s not an issue.

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One of my Paris faves…

I love all the things many people love about that city: great food and wine, style, flowers, the architecture, history, its scale, ready access to the rest of Europe.

I know the city somewhat,  and feel bien dans ma peau each time we return. It’s also a place that changed my life and work for the better, forever, so it’s marinated in memories.

And I know it’s not an easy city — as this blogger who lives there is sure to remind me!

 

 It’s not always easy to feel 100 percent at home.

 

Factors to consider include:

  • long, cold snowy winters — and/or hot, humid ones
  • lots of rain and cloudy days
  • jobs! And well-paid ones, a huge issue in this year’s Presidential election
  • quality (affordable) education — at every level
  • media — is quality journalism done there, and incisive reporting?
  • shopping. If this matters to you, what’s the quality, price and ready access to the things you value most?
  • food. Are there farmer’s markets? Great restaurants?
  • culture! Can you afford to attend ballet, theater, opera, dance, concerts?
  • style/elegance. If this matters to you, (as it does to me), a place where everyone schlumps around in sweats 24/7 is a lousy fit
  • landscape. I stare at the Hudson River every day, grateful for its ever-changing skies and beauty. One friend posts astounding images of his life in Arizona’s Sonoran desert.
  • history — is the place shiny new or filled with ancient stories to discover?
  • politics — right/left/mixed (and it the place welcoming to those who vote otherwise?)
  • guns. In the U.S., a serious issue; do your neighbors own them and carry one?
  • drugs. A scourge in many places now, whether meth or heroin.
  • public policies — what happens when you’re ill and/or out of work?
  • citizen engagement, volunteering and activism
  • the diversity of your fellow residents — ethnically, economically, religion, work, education
  • personal safety from crime
  • personal safety from natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes
  • Access to, price of and quality of housing, rental and owned
  • Do people on the street smile and greet one another — or do you prefer anonymity?
  • The quality (or lack of) urban planning and design
  • Clean, safe parks and ready access to nature for recreation
  • Clean, safe playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts
  • Well-financed libraries
  • Bike trails and lanes
  • Air quality (New Delhi and Beijing are now hardship posts because the air there is so foul)
  • Good medical care and safe, well-run hospitals
  • Policing — how safe are you and your loved ones? These days, for many angry and frightened black Americans, it even means being safe from the police.

Terrorism is now a serious issue for many people.

 

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A walk along the Palisades, on the western shore of the Hudson River

I’ve been living in a small town on the eastern edge of the Hudson River for more than 20 years, 25 miles north of Manhattan.

I love this town, (here’s my post from 2012 with 20 reasons why), and am very happy here, but it lacks, of course, the bustle and culture of a big city.

I chose Tarrytown on a recon trip for some of these reasons: it’s very diverse for a suburban New York town; its gorgeous location; its history and architecture and scale; easy access to Manhattan (40 minutes by car or train.)

It’s now become home to all the hipsters fleeing crazy-expensive Brooklyn!

I grew up and spent 25 years in Toronto, a large city that often makes lists of best places to live.

I didn’t hate Toronto, and usually return once or twice a year to see old friends there, but it has many ugly areas, a brutally expensive cost of housing, (and very poor quality below $1m), for purchase, crappy quality rentals and a long, grim winter.

More than anything, it held a limited set of professional opportunities — I know people still in the same jobs or workplace as when I left, decades ago.

As we hope to retire in a few years, deciding where to live and why becomes more and more a conscious decision, not just dominated by the proximity to enough decent jobs in our field.

I’ve long planned to spend some of that time living in France, some in the U.S. and some in Canada, with a lot of travel, as long as our health and finances allow.

 

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I believe that beauty – wherever we find it — nurtures us deeply; this is a painting of northern Ontario, a landscape I know, love and miss

Where do you feel most at home and why?

 

Is it far from where you were born and raised?

 

14 thoughts on “Where do you feel most at home?

  1. this is a very thought-provoking post. for me, i feel most at home exactly where i am. it’s not far from where i grew up, maybe an hour away at most, but i moved around a lot before landing here, in ann arbor, for grad school at age 40. as a child, i would come here with my dad to attend football games, and when i came back, under very different circumstances, it felt like home and i vowed to make my home here. the people here are open, friendly, diverse and humanistic. with the university here, there is always something cultural, interesting or new going on.

    1. It sounds like a great fit for you — and how nice you could re-establish yourself happily in later life.

      When I’ve considered returning to Toronto (occasionally), the lack of great work opp’s always slowed me down. And journalism is really in a mess these days, so there’s no point really going anywhere in search of a job in the field as it could end at any minute.

  2. Like ksbeth said, I feel at home where I am right now too. That said — Spain and Greece are two places where I feel very much at home too. I love hearing Spanish spoken around me (Greek is a lot harder to learn and understand!), the laid-back culture, the fiestas, the warmth of the climate, the food…
    Sadly, both countries have terrible economies and challenges facing them. So my perceptions of what it would be like to live there are probably somewhat idealized.

    1. So true. I’m also aware that France has super high taxes, some serious issues with terrorism and integration of Muslims and refugees and is a long flight away from friends here in North America.

  3. Caitlin, if I could leave France tomorrow, I would. (Ive been here far too long.) Problem is, I’m not sure where I’d go. Somewhere quiet, a little bit isolated, with clean air (the air pollution in Paris is horrendous.) Nova Scotia? Vancouver Island? Southern England? Portugal? It’s nice to have choices.

    In answer to your question, where do you feel most at home, I fell in love with New Mexico. I’ve been twice now (both times in autumn). Why it gave me an immediate sense of homecoming, I do not know. But I felt an affinity with the place. I loved the colors, the climate, the churches, the smell of burning pinon. It’s a photographer’s paradise. I hope to return, but this time for longer.

    1. It is great to have choices! (And thank you for the air quality warning.)

      Too funny — My husband is from Santa Fe and from the moment we met, I said “I want to retire to France” (not def. about Paris or Paris FT) and he wanted Las Cruces, in s. NM where he attended college. So we went to see it.

      That city wasn’t for me but I also LOVE New Mexico; it’s a stunningly beautiful place, for sure. Also a very poor state with deep divisions between wealthy (Santa Fe) and the rest. But I know well why you fell in love with it. I’ve been there twice and felt the same way as you did.

      The Georgia O’Keefe museum is on the site of his father’s former church and rectory.

      As we get older (and remember the U.S. might be tricky for you with health care), access to v good/affordable medical care is also important.

  4. I can make myself feel at home almost anywhere, which has served me pretty well in life. Right now, I feel most at home in my own apartment, which is where I have the most freedom to do what I want, when I want to. Of course, there are other places I would probably just love to live. I miss Germany nearly every day, and I would love to see England and Israel again. Oh, and I had such a good time in France.
    Yeah, I’ve got a lot of traveling to do.

      1. I think home, for me, is where I can feel free. Where I can relax and write and just be me without judgment or restriction. Living alone does that for me, and living in Germany allowed me to do that as well. But I think for many of us, that is home. Where we feel most like ourselves and most at ease.

  5. Danke for the link! Funnily enough for one of my brothers, who happened to be born in Germany, he’s decided he’s from Texas. Says ya’ll, loves country music, and every single stereotype in the book–it all makes him unapologetically happy. My parents, born in upstate New York and Utah respectively have chosen Virginia as their spiritual home. We’re all confused!

    1. Right?

      I find it so interesting when/where we really find our best place…it can be so far away from where we began, which (when you think about it) is pretty random anyway. It’s really one of the great acts of adult self-determination to say No, THIS is home.

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