If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or saw my last post, you would have seen that I was recently visiting my home city, London (and you’ll know I currently live in Toronto, Canada). I went back mainly in order to meet my adorable baby nephew, Finn, but also to spend time with my family, the cats and friends.
Eight months is the longest I’ve been away from home for, and by far the longest I’ve gone without even seeing my family (my parents once stopped in Melbourne on their world cruise while I was living there).
Honestly, I expected coming home to feel completely normal: I didn’t feel like I had changed and my family and friends – for the most part – have stayed the same too. Basically, it was the opposite of when I came back home from Australia and got a pretty bad case of reverse culture shock (even though this time was only a visit back, so it would never be as dramatic… I’ve got another year or so for that).
So it surprised me when, along with stubborn jet lag, I did actually find certain things quite odd.
Why did I find it weird? What did I learn from visiting home?
England will always be home, but ‘home’ is more fluid.
I’ve never been one of those people to say that my home is the world, or everywhere I’ve been is a home in some way or whatever it is some people say. To me, London/England will always be my solid, first home. It’s where I grew up, it’s where the majority of my family and friends are and it’s with Londoners/Brits who I can talk to about nostalgic things, which means a lot to me in a time of my life where I frequently get odd looks in Canada when I mention some UK programme or reference.
But now that I have set up an apartment with my boyfriend in a different country and city – with two cats, a routine and habits that are more true to my personality – I’ve found another version of home. It’s not so much Toronto or specifically this one apartment; I feel like it could be anywhere, but the important things are that my boyfriend, my cats and the little things we do as part of our life together stay put.
Moving properly out of home to a different country heightens a lot of the feelings you’d normally have when first leaving your parents. It’s certainly more intense than when I moved out for university – even though my uni was two and a half hours away from home, I’d still take my laundry home for a while (classic student), visit on weekends and eat actual real food, be able to return for birthdays and special occasions and talk on the phone.
These days living in Canada, thankfully I do eat proper food and do my own laundry, so the thing I missed most about home is just being able to be with my family or friends for a brunch, a BBQ, a few drinks, or chatting in the garden with a cup of tea in the morning. If I could have those little things, then quickly transport myself back to my Canadian life, that would be amazing. Evidently impossible, but amazing.
So now there are three countries I’ve lived in and will have to work out my feelings about them as time goes by. England, my born and bred home; Australia, my heart and soul’s home (as cheesy at that sounds); and Canada, my… well, I don’t know yet. It could be my slow-growing home, my home where I learn how to ‘adult’, my home where I figure out what home means, or maybe just a home I’ll appreciate but never feel too connected to.
What I do know is that it can take coming back to your first, childhood home to get a meaningful perspective – as it did when I came back from Australia – so I’m uncharacteristically patient for discovering whatever Toronto/Canada means to me in the future and simply just happy I still feel kindly towards London.