Home and Place


A Twitter buddy posted this article a while ago and that started a somewhat rambling 140 character discussion about what home and place actually mean.

Some of the post resonates with me. I do miss friends and family and it’s hard to watch as you become disconnected from them. My partner is watching her niece, nephew and cousins grow up via photos and Skype. I’ve certainly been in that conversation with other expats laughing over some of the differences between one home and the other (what’s with tomato ketchup dudes? I mean really) although I rarely lament them.

I used to think I called Melbourne (the one in Australia not the one in Florida) ultimately “home” but then I’ll say “We’re heading home” and mean Portland. Or switch back and forth in a conversation with of one of my Australian colleagues and describe Australia and the US as “home”. Confused? Yeah I was too.1

But then it dawned on me that I’ve always used “home” as a marker for a place with a set of criteria to it that appeal to me. I realised that although Australia is what I describe as “home” (and indeed I am proud to be Australian despite how much I complain about politics and other issues2) I actually don’t think of anywhere as “home”. I live in the United States (and probably will for some time to come). But it’s just a place too.

I’ve even characterised the small set of simple criteria that I execute on everytime we think of living somewhere new (and indeed are usually the only things I notice in a place):

  • Good bookstore(s)
  • A wide variety of nice restaurants
  • Good bars
  • No one blowing things up or shooting at me

And that’s really about it. I’m actually largely oblivious to many of the details of where I live and the things around me. Ruth is always having to tell me about something new has been there for months that I’ve missed.

(Obviously that list makes me a hipster/dinkie/insertcliche douche and clearly precludes a lot of places that I am sure some people find lovely. I doubt, for example, that I’ll ever live anywhere rural or overly regional. I don’t drive so being someone where I can’t easily get around is also difficult. I also have a deep love for cities that I find hard to break.)

And before someone points out my callous disregard for people, family and friends are an attractive criteria for a place but they don’t make it “home” either. They move and shift and come and go from place to place themselves (usually when you most want them to stay - looks pointedly at all his friends in NYC and London).

So I am going to stop pretending “home” has some emotive meaning for me and just get on with enjoying my criteria in peace. Oh and complaining about the lack of tomato sauce.

  1. Amusingly, at least for me, I’ve started answering “Portland” when people ask where I am from. It’s hilarous to watch people try to parse that and my accent. “But…” ↩︎

  2. I think this a national pastime. Australians can’t cope unless we’re explaining what’s wrong with Australia to one another at least once a day. :P ↩︎