I remember the feeling when I traveled abroad for a few weeks for the first time and then came back to my hometown. I was overwhelmed with the sense of belonging, familiarity, love, relaxation and peace.
Being back home after visiting a country with a very different culture and environment reassured me how much I enjoy living in that place that I called home. But, just a few years later, in my early twenties, I made the bold decision to move to another country. It was not only an adventure, but also a wise choice for my future career.
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore a different culture, a different city, a different community, a different me.
That is how my life as an expat began and to this day, I am very grateful that I was given that opportunity. At first, each time I would use the word ‘home’, I meant my hometown, my home country. I would say things like:
Home for me at the time was the place I left, with all the memories, familiar locations, the home was represented by my past. But sooner than I expected, I started feeling less and less connected to that same home. As I spent less and less time there, it all became more distant. I felt more comfortable in the country where I lived permanently.
After a bit more than a year of living there, I was coming back from a ten-day vacation spent in my home country and I caught myself feeling like I am not just coming back to the apartment where I lived, I felt like I was actually coming back home. It was the strangest feeling of all, to be coming home from home. But I knew that the new place where I lived offered me more comfort, a stronger sense of belonging to a community, closer friends, the possibility of planning new adventures – this home was represented by my present and future.
Soon after that, I realised that the meaning of home is so much more than just the place where you were born.
As I ended up moving to two other countries in the next decade, I started to accept the fact that home is not a geographic location for expats like me. For some of us, home is where we are surrounded by the people we love. It is a place where we feel safe, where we feel like we can be ourselves, enjoy life, grow and pursue our dreams. Home is a state of mind.
Wherever and whatever home is for you, you know how important it is to have that feeling of having a home.
I have been blessed to experience the expat life, to meet different cultures, integrate into new societies and start over many times. For me, changing my habitat is associated with adventures, new beginnings, exciting challenges, new homes. But, for so many people out there, moving and migrating means struggling to survive, searching for a place where they would be given a fair chance for a decent life, crossing borders illegally because they no longer have a home, no longer have a past, no longer have something to lose.
It is easy to dehumanise the global issue of immigrants that we are facing today, easy to make it a political thing or to simply look at it as someone else’s worry. But, for one moment, please try to imagine not having a home, at all. Not having a place where you can live, or go back to, or where you can feel safe and secure. Not having a place where your toothbrush is, or where a framed picture of your family stands on a nightstand. Not having a place where you can feel like your life is at its most normal, most regular, most usual schedule. How cruel of a life would that be?
Ena Fejzagić Livančić
Ena was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria. Although she chose a career in Business Development, her biggest passion is writing and public speaking.
She enjoys writing articles, blog posts, short stories, and even fiction. She has published one book: “5 Years of Prague” available on Amazon and Kindle. She is also a co-founder of a small company called Zenos which supports small businesses with admin and marketing work.