Home sweet Home? Reflections on another year of life…

Birthdays are an interesting thing. If you are like me, you get slightly reflective – to the point of being slightly neurotic.

Case in point – my blog last year on my birthday, I wrote from Alexandria Egypt – and it was one of those transformative experiences where I look back and realized it was more impactful in it’s wake than in it’s present. More than anything, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to visit some places in the world that have allowed for me to see, think, and feel differently.

Many times I’ve wondered how I’d be different if I never left home and ventured out into something different.  I like who I am because of it – I’ve learned how to be “at home” most anywhere – urban, rural, domestic, international – I truly like that I can find the beauty of another culture and embrace it and love it and do my best to call it “home.”

But there is something that I’ve never really put into words before that is a darker side of experiencing so much of the world. It’s about not having a sense of home.

If you’ve met me and my family, home has a very strong geographical sense. My family has dwelled in the same town, and occupied the same home for nearly 50 years. Home is primarily geographical.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself asking a question of myself that I have a hard time answering – where is home? What is home?

When you are a child, home is the place that you know you will be when you return from going somewhere. After church, we go…home. After school, we go…home. After work, we go…home.  It’s the center of existence – an unchanging place in a changing world.

This past week I spent three days hiking miles and miles into the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, and stopped and camped at a different site each night. I had great conversations with backpackers along the way. One couple I met with we enjoyed a meal together and talked.  They were honestly glad to see me because they had only talked with each other in the past week. I was welcome company…we shared a bottle of wine together around a campfire and talked about life.

We were strangers in life enjoying a chance encounter on the journey, trying to create some sense of home in a place that isn’t very conducive to home. Isn’t that a metaphor for life?

One of my best friends and I had a lot of talk time when I was in Colorado – we discussed the usual – careers, family, romance (or lack thereof), sports, business, politics, etc. Then we talked about how the longest he’s been in one place in the last nine years has been fifteen months. And that was Iraq.

When you are single and mobile, and not necessarily attached, home is hard to make.  We’ve both reflected on this – He far more than I – and realized that living in an interim state is difficult.  Home is meant to convey a sense of permanence, but when it isn’t there there is a sense of lacking.

A scene from the film Garden State haunted me when I first watched it years ago. It’s between the two main characters – Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. They are talking about the idea of “home.”

Andrew Largeman: You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone.


Sam: I still feel at home in my house.


Andrew Largeman: You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

Ever feel this way?  When home was once a place, and is now just an idea?  What made it change?

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3 Responses to “Home sweet Home? Reflections on another year of life…”


  1. 1 Robert Szczesniak September 11, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I can empathize. We quite haven’t reached Alex’s state yet and there are 2 of us…soon to be three. But I do wonder how we will be able to define a home for the new guy. I am sure we will be able to do it, but how is he going to look back at these years.

    Sometimes I think that a period of travel is good for the soul. It allows you to cram a lot of experience into a short time and provide some prospective for when you set up your own home. It can be hard though changing the momentum, and occasionally you look around and wonder what you are doing.

  2. 2 Keri Dunlap November 2, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Ok Andy I just came to your page after you added me as a friend on Facebook so I am a bit late in replying to this topic but it touched me and I had to respond.

    You asked “What made it change?” and to that I reply, that the home did not change, the love changed. When you live at home your whole world is circled by the love of your parents and by the love you receive from your siblings. You give your love to them freely and without caution.

    Then you move out and you don’t feel that love everyday and you are alone and you must find that joy and that love within yourself. That same love that your parents shared is shared in a whole different way, through phone calls and emails but not over regular family dinners or the smell of your Dad’s aftershave.

    You learn and you grow and then you come back. You come back where the smells are not the same and you have become familiar with a different type of love. A love where you have grown and learned, a love that your parents can only give the way that they know how.

    But see we have changed, our parent’s love for us hasn’t. Us changing, makes it all seem so different and so lonely. But we are not, they still love us just the same. The house smells and feels the same, we just intepret it in a different light, in a new world.

    For you are right, where we come from a lot of people do not experience all that you or I have. They know only what they know, they love only in the way that they know how, but we have seen different things, felt different things.

    This is why our home seems like it is imaginary. We have changed.

    Not to be cheesy, but home truly is where the heart is at. Like you said, you try to make home where ever you are. I think that is all that you can do, to feel love in your heart no matter where you are or who you are surrounded by. That is home.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. 3 andybilhorn November 9, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Keri. Where in the world are you these days?


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