What is Home, Anyways?

by madelineraeaway
Falsterbo Sweden

Okay, heavy topic. But hear me out.

Ever since this COVID-19 stuff began sweeping across the world, I have been struggling to know what is appropriate to post on this online platform, and what isn’t. Many creators are posting work-from-home tips, lists of things you can do if you’re bored at home, and other positive and uplifting messages. Some others have continued business as usual, posting their normal travel-related content to inspire others to explore this big, beautiful world once this weird period passes.

But to me, none these things felt like what I wanted to share.

At my day job, where I work for a large tech/security company and I am responsible for the global blog platform, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions in the past couple weeks. Decisions about what kind of content can be helpful, or useful, and what qualifies as capitalizing on an “opportunity.”

Everyday we are bombarded with COVID-19 content. And I refuse to contribute to the hysteria.

But, one thing I have been thinking about a lot is the definition of home. And what “home” really means when you’re an expat. A couple days ago I posted about this in a caption on an Instagram post, and received an outpouring of comments and support from people who could closely relate to the question I was asking…

...so what is home, anyways?

Skanör beach houses

A note about the photos in this post: All photos were taken in Skanör-Falsterbo prior to the COVID-19 escalation.

it all started with a call to come home

When COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic, I initially didn’t consider flying back to Canada. But, when Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, called for Canadian’s abroad to come home shortly after… I paused. “Should I fly back to Canada?,” I asked myself. Especially considering my Swedish visa situation is still very much up in the air while I wait for a renewal to be processed. Maybe staying is a bit riskier than I initially thought.

Although I did question my decision, I admittedly didn’t think about it long… ultimately the choice was pretty easy. My job is here. My fiancé is here. And so is my cat (who I had no interest in lugging back across the Atlantic ocean). I have an apartment I love. I’m in a city I love. I have a local support system of friends and family. So, albeit with a little bit of reluctance, I decided to wait it out.

From the moment I made that decision, I have experienced every emotion imaginable.

the realization that I literally cannot go "home"

The realization that now, here I am, stuck in Sweden. And while I still stand firmly behind the choice I made, it still feels very scary. This feeling of fear has been coupled with moments of panic and sadness. Had I made the right choice?

Knowing that I quite literally can’t go home to the people that mean the most to me. To my hometown, which has always been my “safe space.” It is enough to leave me crippled with anxiety.

Over the past couple weeks, I have gotten over a lot of this anxiety. I feel calmer and more accepting on this situation that I literally cannot change. I also feel more confident that everything is going to be okay. Sure, the world is going to be a bit different, but it’ll be okay.

"home" has never felt so far away

In the past when people have commented on the fact that I have chosen to live so far away from Canada, I have always brushed it off. “It’s only a seven hour flight, I can come visit whenever I want,” is my typical response. But, then, countries across the world closed their borders. And coming home whenever I wanted to was no longer an option. Home all of the sudden was in fact “so far away.” And that has been a very weird thing to wrap my head around.

Skanör-Falsterbo in the spring

but i have realized something pretty special...

"home" can be defined in so many different ways

I have been questioning the definition of “home” a lot over the past couple weeks. And I have realized that it can be defined in many ways. For many expats, there are two types of homes (or maybe even three or four). There is the home you choose. Similar to how you choose your friends, or a career path – it is a conscious choice. Sweden, in my day-to-day life, is home. I made a very conscious choice to move here. And I am very happy – and thankful – to have the freedom to make that choice.

There’s something really special about the home you choose. And I owe a whole lot to this new country I’ve chosen to call home. Sweden has made me feel welcome and provided me with the safe space that I so desperately need during this scary time. My gratefulness for that is endless.

And then there’s “HOME home”…

This is the home that is written on your passport. This isn’t the home you choose. It’s the home you were “born in” (although maybe not literally because I realize that the world is not that simple). And just like you can’t choose your family, you also don’t choose this home. There are also many people that may not like this home (just like there are people who don’t like their family) – but I’ve gotta say, I’ve hit the jackpot in both these categories. I am so thankful to call Canada my inherent home AND have most of my favourite people living there.

so what is home, anyways? it still isn't super clear.

And I know there are people all over the world that can relate to this. When I travel, when I meet other travellers who ask where I am from, there is always a moment of pause. “He’s Swedish, I’m Canadian … but we live in Sweden,” is the response you’ll typically hear when Sebastian and I travelling are together.

Sweden may not be “HOME home.” But it is where I have chosen to lay down my roots right now. And even though I may be experiencing waves of feeling scared, overwhelmed, and anxious about the state of our world, I am thankful to have chosen to lay down these roots on Swedish soil.

Skanör-Falsterbo in the spring

one final (important) note: i am not blind to my privilege

I know I am lucky to call two of the world’s best countries home. I know I am lucky to have a job, an apartment, friends and family in Sweden I love, internet so I can FaceTime loved ones and a job that gives me the flexibility to work from home… I could go on and on, but the point is that I am not a hero, nor a victim, in this.

I also am very lucky to be here in Sweden with Sebastian. I have people close to me that are postponing weddings, navigating life with newborn babies in quarantine, dealing with being separated from their partners who live in another country, and others who are stuck indefinitely on the other side of the world unable to go home.

And then there are the true heroes – those on the front lines. I also have many people who are very close to me who are working on the front lines right now in essential jobs. They are tired, overwhelmed, and scared. They are putting their lives on the line EVERY SINGLE DAY so I can have the privilege that I do to stay home and work from my cosy apartment. Be thankful for these people and don’t forget to tell them how much you love them. 

And most importantly: be responsible. be unselfish. be safe.

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Bridget April 17, 2020 - 7:53 pm

This is great, thank you!

Letícia June 18, 2020 - 12:01 pm

I loved! Im moving to Sweden and you made me think that its not going to be my new home, home is probably only inside of myself, with my wanderlust spirit <3

madelineraeaway June 23, 2020 - 2:06 pm

I am so happy that this resonated with you! And I couldn’t agree more 🙂 Good luck with your move to Sweden!!

Josy A July 16, 2020 - 6:06 pm

This really resonates with me. We are in Canada (but from the UK originally)
I feel super lucky to feel like I have a second home here, (and another one in Japan, where I used to live) I guess the village where I grew up will also always feel like home, but now i feel like home is wherever I live with my husband and crazy cat.

We are really lucky to feel welcome and loved in multiple places.

madelineraeaway July 17, 2020 - 9:58 am

I couldn’t agree with this more!


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