Driving down Highway 17 on a drab Saturday morning. Damp asphalt. A thin layer of fog floats through the trees. Roadwork makes narrow shoulders non-existent shoulders. Wandering wildlife hide behind blind corners. Sun and fog peep through green giants. I feel the comfort of the heater on my feet while the smell of the trees fill my lungs. Memories flood my mind as I travel down the windy lanes and along monstrous curves. I am familiar with this death trap. I’ve been driving down the 17 since I was a little girl.
I’ve traveled this road in diesel trucks, slug bugs and old muscle cars. This was the first highway I drove my old 98′ stick shift bug. I yell, “How do I get into 5th gear!?” as my mom tries to calmly guide me as her eyes display the horror I imagine she is feeling. It’s these memories, the familiarity, the smells and the feeling inside me. For many of you this may sound like a nightmare but for me—this is the feeling of home.
I have learned that there are many places and people that give me the opportunity to feel this way. I believe we are always searching for this sensation. It’s what we hope for when we enter new relationships. It’s what we miss when we end them. We search for it in other and in physical spaces. We buy candles for our homes that bring us back to our childhood. We move back to where we are originally from. We move away from where we are from. We search far and wide. We look for it internally and externally.
Many travelers told me that home wouldn’t be the same when I returned. It won’t look or feel as we had left it. They described it as awkward, confusing and even claustrophobic. Many would tell me that we come home to find everything and everyone is as we had left it. All things frozen in time. The ‘home’ has stayed the same but the traveler has become fundamentally different—a loss.
When home doesn’t feel the same we find it in places and in ways that don’t make sense to others.
I’ve met people who find home:
In the arms of partner
In the unknown
In the thrill of checking another country off their list
In not staying in one place for too long
In staying in the same community their entire lives
In substance use
In strawberry farms off of highway 1
In the quietness of the woods
In the sounds and lights of a club
This last year has challenged my perception of home. It has helped me to better understand why we return to people, circumstances and habits even when we know they are not good for us. When our ‘homes’ are categorized as disorganized and messy it would make sense that disorganized and messy things would also feel safe. Our homes are not always tidy. We find comfort in the familiarity even when that reality may seem maladaptive to others.
I am still trying to define and understand what home is but I am beginning to realize that there is no place like the feel of home.
Photo Credit: orlova maria