I did my first proper post-Christmas house-clean today. After I’d packed away all the gift bags and stored away those ’emergency’ dining room chairs, I sat back and reflected on how much I valued my home.
I spent most of my 20s not really knowing what ‘home’ meant to me. Not including my time at university, I’ve lived in a staggering 15 different properties in the last decade, which is just ridiculous. This involved two stints living and working in London during which, on both occasions, I jumped from house-share to house-share, due to circumstances out of my control (but that’s a boring story for another day).
Anyway, by 2015, I was exhausted, and desperate to know what it felt like to have a cosy base in one place. I decided to move back to Warwickshire – the place I’d originally moved to in 2009 – to move in with my partner, now soon to be husband (but that’s an exciting story for another day).
Today, three years after moving in together, I’m sitting down with my lemon tea and my laptop and I’m going to attempt to answer the question – what does ‘home’ mean to me? Is it the concept of being in one place? Or is it the feeling of being with the people who matter the most, no matter where you are in the world? By ‘home’, do we just mean ‘nostalgia’, familiarity and memories?
A year ago, we moved from our town-centre flat into a house in the middle of the countryside. In summer, we wake to the smell of fresh rapeseed, in autumn, watch the colours of the leaves change around us, in winter doze off to the sound of light rain drumming on our skylight window. Our home is quiet. There is little phone signal. Working from home, I can go days without seeing any human beings… but I’ve gotten to know some familiar robins, squirrels, magpies and pheasants. We love living here.
For the first time in my life, I’m not looking for the exit, not wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. There is no other side anymore. This is everything. It took a decade of packing and unpacking for me to realise what would really make me happy. I wouldn’t turn the clock back, of course. Life’s just one long series of lessons and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I had to do those things in order to wind up here, and really want to be here at the end of it all.
But, for me, ‘home’ doesn’t stand for static, it doesn’t stand for being settled. In the words of First Aid Kit, I’d always “rather be striving than settled.” Not striving ain’t my style. For example, despite loving my home, one of my dreams for the next few years is to buy a campervan. It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time and after our camping trip in Italy last summer, we decided that next time it would be pretty epic to upgrade tent for van.
I was sitting here reflecting on how much I love these four walls, yet also how much I yearn to run off into the sunset on a new adventure with nothing but four wheels and the person I am going to spend the rest of my life with. How could I love my home so much, yet be excited to leave it?
I think there are two answers to this. Firstly, for me, one of the joys of adventure is knowing what you have to come back to when it’s all over. It’s OK to enjoy the ride and look forward to the destination at the end. Adventure doesn’t have to mean escapism.
Secondly, and most importantly, I’ve come to realise that home is just wherever you give your energy permission to live. I was never able to enjoy sharing temporary city-centre flats with strangers because for various reasons I wasn’t able to stamp my energy on my surroundings. Plant the seed of my energy and let it grow.
After recently embracing minimalism, our home now has the perfect amount of stuff, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect set-up, the perfect energy… for us. And so would a shiny new van, weathered old tent, or any other permanent structure we would choose to make home.
Wherever you live, or whatever you live in, if you encourage it to happen, that place can be filled with your energy, your memories, your dreams and ambitions. After a year of living in (and loving) our little hobbit hole in Warwickshire, it’s absolutely buzzing with our own positive energy, and that’s what makes it home.