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.


Ahyeon Sijang (traditional market) in my neighborhood
Ahyeon Sijang (traditional market) in my neighborhood


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.


Morning at Seoraksan (Mount Seorak)
Morning at Seoraksan (Mount Seorak)


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.


7 thoughts on “Home is Where The Heart… or Convenience is”

  1. We can relate to the “where’s home” question. It keeps changing and although it may drive our friends and family nuts and we are always asked the question “when (and where) are you going to settle down?”, having a home in a different location every week, month or even night is not a bad way to live.
    I too had a negative relationship with my childhood home town of Baltimore and now when I go back I can see the good there. Unfortunately, we still don’t have the gorgeous view you do at Seoraksan though. Wow, what a beautiful place. I think I’d go home every once in awhile just for that view. 🙂

  2. Well said! I have been having similar thoughts recently, and struggling to put it into words, as I’ve just returned home to New York City. I like how you said you wanted to leave partly because of the convenience. That is an interesting way to view it, but I guess might be true for me too. It is partly about wanting to be challenged for me. I wanted to be forced to learn something new to function. I wanted to be surrounded by a different language.

    Being from New York, it feels like it hasn’t changed every time that I come back. It frustrates me sometimes how time seems to stand still there in some ways. It’s almost like I go back to the person I was before I moved away, which I may not want to go back to. But then the city is stable, which is also why I always feel comforted in knowing that I can just go home to where I spent my childhood. Right now, New York is a home that is convenient for me too, as I’m coming back during my PhD.

  3. Home is a hard word to define for long term travellers. I agree that the longer you stay on the road, sometimes the more exciting getting back somewhere comfortable is. This may also fall into “the grass is always greener” situation. Either way glad your enjoying your time 🙂 take care!

  4. Tehre’s definitely something to be said for convenience! Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenges of trvelling and all that jazz, but it’s nice to just be able to relax, to know how everything works…
    i’m still not sure where home is, if anywhere. But that’s okay too. As travellers, we can have as many interpretations of home as we need!

  5. After nearly 2 years in Seoul i am feeling exactly the same…ready for home…ready for convenience though i am anticipating a quick transition to wanting something different soon after.

    This reminds me of the travelers dilema. Backpacking a while ago someone told me about this guy who had been on the road for a decade or two. Scruffy guy, sunbleached bag. Happy to travel and meet new people but never with the over the top exciteement of his first trips.

    He kept a small notebook where he haphazardously jotted down his thoughts. On one page he had several places written down and the things he liked most about them; all places he thought about calling home.

    As his list grew longer over the years so too did his list of contacts around the globe. He could count nearly 100 solid friends in nearly as many locations. From time to time he would mail off a letter or two but there was never steady contact.

    When he would visit the town where he grew up to rest and collect mail he would enevitably run into childhood friends. He would meet over drinks but realize soon after the first sip that there was a gulf between their experiences and thinking. And soon he would tire of his hometown and all that it lacked that set him out on the road in the first place.

    And his lists would grow. But for every new place with new qualities he loved, it only grew harder to find a place that contained all of the traits he was looking for in in one place he could call home.

    1. It’s the priority, I think. I keep go back and forth with this definition of ‘home’. I desire something comfortable, but also I long for something exotic and unknown. It’s a tricky balance. I do feel comfortable being in Seoul, but I also know there are better ‘home’ for me out there that will suit my many different desires. 🙂 But I also know that we can’t always chase the perfect Utopia. We have to know when to realize that the reality is Utopia we’ve been searching for. Life is a complicated thing! 🙂

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