I once sleepily watched a documentary on minimalism via my friend Netflix. I learned a lot before I passed out, cozy and snug in the warmth of Dad’s and Jane’s newly renovated home. A mug of honeyed tea in hand that I miraculously didn’t spill. It was proper cold outside, maybe even snowing.
In the documentary, one of the interviewees (Colin Wright) shared his experience as it pertained to living a minimalist life. He shouldered two well-stuffed carry-on sized duffle bags (bags stuffed with all of his worldly possessions) and explained how he lead a fulfilling life without having a home. He travelled the world and rented apartments never staying in one place for very long. He referred to himself as being ‘homeless’. He took a beat and turned to camera and changed his choice of word to ‘homefull’.
I like this word.
Homefull has stuck with me these last six months as I’ve contemplated what it is to be home or to have a home. And as there are only four days left until Christmas, it is a certainty I won’t be home for the holidays. But what is home?
I love Christmas. I love this time of year. People are nicer to one another, more patience abounds, I can practically feel the positivity exuding out of people’s pores. Desserts get a jazzy makeover (cinnamon! Ginger! Peppermint!). Mostly, I love the lights and if we (southwestern Ontario Canadians) are lucky, we will have a white Christmas, a beautiful snowy backdrop to all the homes decked out in strings of Christmassy magicalness (i.e. lights).
The thing is though, I am not home for Christmas because I made the choice to stay abroad in less-than-snowy London (though I actually will be in Northern England come Christmas, maybe there is snow there?). I woke up this morning with a slight anxious/nervous pang in the pit of my stomach. I was confused where I was, I didn’t recognize the bed I was lying in (this is seemingly a travelling hazard that has occurred to me from time to time) and once the confusion dust settled, I had thoughts of home: Canada; Ontario; Toronto; Yonge and St. Clair. Until finally, my thoughts settled on the home I gave up to take advantage of this one-way ticket adventure: my Toronto apartment.
She was spacious, bright, and was enviably located between two great public transit stops. My bedroom was a dream, decorated to my tastes and outfitted with a large, clean-lined desk from Structube accompanied by a highbacked white vinyl and chrome swivel chair. I miss this desk and chair a lot. More so, I miss having a home and knowing where all my things are (cooking in 1001 different homes proves taxing when you’re trying to manoeuvre your way around a kitchen), what tools and utensils I possess, where I keep my cooking spices. Though even as I write the word ‘miss’, I don’t truly miss my home and these things, it’s more the idea of home and what it represents.
Comfort and convenience. Family. Friends. Stability.
I mostly forget I don’t have a home to go home to. In the nanosecond it takes for me to come to this realization, my thoughts have gone from thinking of the home in Toronto I will return to, to the realization that that home no longer exists (and my desk and chair and spices are alone, in the freezing dark in storage). I typically feel a little sad about this truth.
On the flipside of feeling homeless, I think of this documentary, and I think of Colin Wright and his choice word: I think of homefull.
I have spent nearly six months abroad, without a home of my own, but I have had homes opened up to me and always had a bed to sleep in. There were only three occasions in the whole of my travels thus far where I exchanged money to sleep in a sterile environment (aka a cheap hostel). Three times in six months. This makes me pleased. Proud even.
Doing the math:
1 night x airplane
3 nights x Groningen hostel
1 night x Maastricht hostel
2 nights x Domburg hostel
That leaves 182 days of having a home divided by, oh I don’t know, a million different homes via a lot of family (a week here, three weeks there), two best friends (months vs weeks) and strangers’ homes with either pets (TrustedHousesitters), children, or none of the above. Some people became friends (we’re on Facebook! Hi!) some were friends for the night (I say this in a non-sexual way, having met via Couchsurfing) and then *cough* (sorry dad) (in the sexual way!) some were men I met and stayed with (what up solo travelling perks).
The haphazard math shows I have had a lot of homes. Yes, they’re not my homes and I have not contributed to the finances that involve maintaining them and therefore I cannot possess any claims to their ownership. HOWEVER. The hospitality and friendship offered has opened these homes up to me and welcomed me so much so that su casa truly felt like mi casa.
I used to think I was less than. Less-than because I rented (my apartment). Less-than because my friends around me were buying homes, then buying second homes. I thought I had done something wrong because I was not where I thought I was supposed to be by this point in my life. Silliness really. There is no one template that a life should subscribe to. And thankfully, I had a rental I could (relatively) easily walk away from. I imagine it’s much harder to live the life I’m presently leading with a mortgage and lack of income. And if I’m to continue to find my joy in life, quite frankly, in this moment all I need is a hot cup of tea sweetened with honey to find my home.