Notes from the editor: Where is home?

Green Fields Seen From A Hut in Pai, Thailand

Is home where the heart is, or is it wherever you lay your hat?

While the rest of the S.E.A Backpacker Team flew to exotic South East Asian destinations, I decided that it was time for me to go ‘home’. Instead of palm trees, white sands and tropical smells, for some strange reason, I was craving the colder climate, comfort food and familiar faces of my birthplace, England.

What!? Wait a minute… rewind back to 2008 working in an office in Manchester and all I wanted to do was to get as far away from home as possible!

Constant itchy feet and a desire to discover the big wide world made me feel trapped in my hometown and eager to get away. Flying straight from London on a one-way ticket into the chaos of Kathmandu certainly flung me out of my comfort zone and I felt very far from home indeed!

After living in South East Asia for nearly four years now, and with family and friends scattered across different parts of the globe, the concept of ‘home’ for me has become somewhat diluted. In a short space of time, I’ve lived in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Koh Phangan and Chiang Mai, I’ve slept in more beds, bunks and hammocks than I can remember couch-surfed at friends flats and am forever waking up with that bizarre split-second feeling of not having a clue where the hell I am!

During incredible, life-changing adventures in South East Asia, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that here have been times when I have craved home…

I’ve missed going to the pub to see friends, having a good old natter with my mum and having my own kettle to make cup of tea – oh the luxury! There have also been times when I have felt bizarrely and instantly at home in a place where I have never been before, have felt like I’ve known a brand new group of friends all my life, and nostalgically stepped onto flights not wanting to leave a place that I’d been in for just a few days but that had strangely began to feel like home.

For many backpackers, the initial leap of leaving ‘home’ is often a difficult thing to do…

Much as you can’t wait to experience amazing new sights and sounds, the tug on your heartstrings at saying goodbye to your family, friends and dog is a constant reminder that you are stepping out of your comfort zone.

Yet the minute you get to South East Asia, dump your backpack on the bed in a lively dorm room and start to meet like-minded travellers, you start to feel much better.

Despite the paint peeling off the walls, the pet rat you’ve acquired poking our your bin or that dim light bulb hanging precariously without a shade… it does feel, well, just a little like ‘home’. With the friends you make and the travel experiences you share along the way, you create a ‘home from home’ and once again find your comfort in a strange new world.

So what is a home exactly? Is it a building or a place where you grew up or where you went to school? Is it where your family and friends are located? Is it a place where you feel like you can just relax and be yourself? Lyrically speaking, is ‘home where the heart is?’ or is it ‘Wherever you lay your hat?’

A recent article I read suggested that one of the developments of modern, digital society is that people now make a home online… Skype, Facebook and Email are places where you connect to family and friends, no matter where you are in the world. Surrounding oneoursleself with photos, walls full of quotes and images that are meaningful to you is a virtual representation of ‘home’.

I looked to the trusted Oxford English Dictionary to get an official meaning:

1)    The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Mmh… I was worried. That certainly didn’t apply to me. I don’t really live anywhere for any real length of time and at the moment I’m living alone… As a backpacker turned expat was I deemed homeless in the eyes of the Oxford English Dictionary? Where was my home? Did I have one? I turned to the next definition for inspiration…

2)    A place where something flourishes or grows.

Aha! Much better. For me, this definition shed light on a phrase that has made many a backpacker cringe, yet still rings true; “I left home to find myself!” Well hang on, some people might say… if you are in the comfort of where you came from in the first place, then why do you have to leave it and go away to find yourself? Why do people travel to find something in themselves that they can’t find at home? There must be more to it…

For me, home is not somewhere that you can put your feet up and watch TV, or somewhere where you can spend all day in pajamas or even a house with bricks and mortar… or a building, or town or country. And, as much as I’d love to collect all of my friends and family altogether onto a beautiful, remote South East Asian island and call it ‘home’… I know that wouldn’t be right either.

Home for me, far from being a comfort zone, is somewhere that you just know that you are meant to be at that moment.

Home is everywhere and anywhere you want to be. Home is a place where you can be true to yourself and pursue the constant journey of following your dreams…

As long as you carry on chasing what you believe, you’ll find yourself at home wherever you want to be.

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    Nikki Scott is the founder & editor of South East Asia Backpacker. A traveller-turned-entrepreneur, she left the UK in 2009 and after 6 months on the road, she started a bi-monthly print magazine about backpacking in Asia. South America Backpacker soon followed and today she runs her backpacking enterprise from her base in Spain. Her honest and fascinating book, Backpacker Business, tells the story of her success in the face of adversity.