I used to not enjoy coming home. In fact, I felt almost miserable on the way back from short trips. I choose to be away from my family during the big holidays. It was my only chance to do something out of the ordinary. I wasn’t happy at home.
But now? It’s a different story.
First, I have a different sense of home now. I don’t have a ‘home’ anymore. Which means, I don’t stay anywhere permanently. Even though I want to, but that’s another story. I didn’t have a home for the last three years, but I had a ‘home’ up until two weeks ago, in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I had an apartment where I put my stuff and went back to after trips. It was my happy place for the last seven months. There’s also another ‘home’ where my parents live in Seoul, Korea. I come home every now and then, especially during big Korean holidays. I still have most of my stuff in their house (books, clothes, souvenirs…). There’s also another ‘home’ where Stephen’s parents live in Virginia, USA where I enjoy visiting. But I haven’t found my own ‘home’ yet. It’s an ongoing journey.
I used to think I would find the perfect place just like that (sound of finger snap). Where my home would be. I thought it would be magical. But in reality it’s more like a series of research and trials and error. There’s no perfect place, and it doesn’t happen like magic, but we learn to compromise and make the best of it. But we start with the place we like. That’s what I did in Kota Kinabalu (KK). It wasn’t perfect but it was good, and I appreciated the stability. I still do believe that I will find somewhere magnificent sometime soon. I’m a positive person.
Now I’m in Seoul, a home where I was born and raised, and where my parents live. I spent most of my life here except the years I studied at university and graduate school. Seoul and I didn’t have the best relationship by the time I left, but now coming home is exhilarating.
The word home can contain various meanings to different individuals: where you’re from, where you grew up, where you found your love, where you fell in love with the place, where you work, where you just feel happy, where you’re based, or something else. We often say “home is where the heart is”. But sometimes, “home is where the convenience is”.
This time I felt a sense of relief on the way back. Coming home, coming to Seoul meant no more challenges. (Of course spending time with my family excites me too.) But after long-term traveling and living in foreign countries where I was the outsider, coming home was a bit of a relief. Home is where the heart is for sure, but the convenience also moves my heart.
Home means convenience because I know everything about it. I’m more independent. KK didn’t have sufficient public transportation, but Seoul is one of the best. I don’t need to Google because I know exactly how long it takes to get to places. I know what to expect in the supermarket. I don’t have to wonder if I’m getting ripped off. I know how much taxi costs (and they use meters). And there are people speaking my language. It’s easy. It’s convenient. A relief.
Funny how life changes.
The routine, what I just described as convenience was the reason why I wanted to get out of here just a few years back. I needed something more than this homogenous place. I wanted to eat something other than the same old Korean food. I thought some traditions were stupid. I didn’t like my home. It was boring. I didn’t know how to appreciate what I had. Several years later, after 40+ countries, now I appreciate the comfort of home. I truly think Korean cuisine is the world’s best. The flight back home is a ride of joy.
It’s funny how the human mind works. We are such greedy creatures, so we often overlook what’s really important right near us. It’s like we are all giant babies. In the room of toys, babies always want the ones we take away. As I mentioned during my photography exhibition “Respect”, I learned how to appreciate home by leaving. How ironic is this? Why can’t we skip the hard part? But I guess it’s the process of growing up. I’m thankful that my family is healthy and happy in their own ways. They always welcome me whenever I come home. Sometimes I can’t take them anymore (don’t tell me you don’t feel this way!), but I truly appreciate their existence. Seoul is more beautiful than ever whenever I come back. I’m proud to call Seoul my hometown.
What a difference one person can make in just a few years.