Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Many Homes Can One Heart Have?

They say home is where the heart is. But that assumes that there is only one place for your heart, only one place that's really home. In my experience, you leave a little piece of your heart everywhere you go, and that makes it harder and harder to accept one home.

I was born in Germany. I suppose that means it could be my home, but other than fond memories of vacations after the fact, nothing ties me there. I would still love to go back, though.

When I was three we moved to Austin. It is my default home, and I love it, but there have been ups and downs. Being Texan is taken very seriously, and moving here doesn't cut it. It seemed that to many, I didn't belong. Many times growing up I doubted where I fit in, feeling like the only person who was questioning anything about themselves.

That was part of the reason I decided to go to college in New York. The other part was the fantastic school. I found so many people I connected with, and I was able to really experience learning the way I wanted, pouring over books and writing papers and having sincere discussions at circular tables and on sun-kissed lawns. It was all very much like a college brochure, I assure you. Leaving was not easy. I don't know how to live in New York, but I'm not sure I was ready to live outside of SLC.

But in between years in Bronxville, I spent a semester in Prague studying abroad. My father is Czech, which made me want to explore a little of my heritage, especially considering my wandering childhood, which was plagued with questions of what citizenship meant. More friends were made, but the revelation was simply living in the city. Walking down cobblestone streets and taking trams, splurging on Marks & Spencer's dark chocolate digestive biscuits and pushing my way through grocery shopping at Tesco. It was the most independently I have ever lived. But beyond that, I love the city. I joined a knitting group and made my own friends, was able to search out great bookstores, yarn stores, and, most importantly, bakeries.

Other places I've visited and would love to see again (to the point of elaborate day dreams) are Kefalonia, a Greek Island; Paris; Hallstatt, a small town in Austria; and Cesky Krumlov, a historic Czech town. There are others, but these are the ones I'd be sad to never see again. One other major spot is the U.K. With family there, I've spent a total of many months there, and it's a familiar and comfortable home. I considered spending my semester abroad there, and I think I would enjoy an opportunity to explore London and its outskirts in the same manner as I explored Prague.

Now I'm back in Austin, and I'm glad to be back. I'm looking forward to Buda's Annual Weiner Dog Races in the spring, and the Trail of Lights at Christmas. But I'm starting to suspect that there's nowhere I can be without missing somewhere else. In New York I missed being home, just like I craved Mexican food in Prague. But being here, I miss walking through Prague, feeling vastly superior to camera-wielding tourists. I miss my New York friends.

Is there any solution? How can there be, other than suddenly coming into masses of money that allow me a work-free rotational system, with three months in each place, or perhaps six or more, with each rotation taking two or three years. I think my major stressor is the thought that, barring this lottery fate, I might not see some of these places again. I've reached adulthood, and the time for summer vacations has ended. What if I don't have the luxury of travel, which emotional investment has made me feel is a necessity? The world gets smaller, and I can chat with friends thousands of miles away or look at photos online of my favorite spots. But the distances are still the same, the cost is higher, and nothing can take the place of actually being there.

Staring at postcards. Wish I was there. Every there.

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