I just got back from a short visit to the other side of the planet. I lived in Perth, Australia, for fourteen years and went back to visit my friends. It was great to absorb some sunshine again, to go outside without wearing a coat and see the vast blue sky. And to catch up with my friends of course. It was like being home away from home.
On my way back to Scotland, on my twenty-two hour trip, I was thinking if I made the mistake of moving to northern Europe. But when I thought again of how much I like the change of seasons, the green-ness of the grass, and the occasional bad weather spells that make you curl up under a blanket with a hot coacoa and a good book in front of an open fire, I was positive that I was at home in Scotland.
So what is home exactly? I lived thirty years in The Netherlands, fourteen years in Australia, three years in Scotland, two years in England and a couple of months in Paris. Is Holland my home as I grew up there and spent most of my life there? I’m afraid not anymore. In the years I have lived abroad it has changed so much. The amount of traffic and people have increased way above above my comfort level. Not to mention the change in language. I have been taught Latin and know it is a ‘dead’ language. It hasn’t changed for over thousands of years. I know that other languages are alive and that they change over time. But the rate that the Dutch language has changed is incredible. I wouldn’t be able to write a book in Dutch anymore, my spelling just isn’t up to scratch.
Even though I have lived in Australia for a long time and I have lots of friends there, I don’t think I can call it my home. As I didn’t grow up in that country I am missing vital information like their typical English and their history, even as common as television programs. However long I have lived there, I can never be part of daily conversation as well as I would like to.
As a writer this really sucks. They say you should write about what you know best. But what if you know lots of little bits but never anything really well? Yes, I have access to the Internet and I have already written two novels in the English language. Both of these novels were set in America, a country that I have visited but never lived in. There were quite a lot of issues that I had to deal with whilst writing ‘in America.’ For example, there are no ‘pound stores’ in the USA. They say ‘parking lot’ instead of ‘car park.’ There are many more examples like these. I got there in the end, but it wasn’t easy.
Back to the question of what is home. I guess home is where the heart is and my heart is wherever I am. Yes, it is also with my family and friends, it is where I have lived, it is where I have made memories. Some people can’t be anywhere else than in their own home. Not me. I am a universal traveller as I am at home wherever I go. As long as I know that I am surrounded by people whom I can love and who love me, I am happy. Lost in space, but happy…