From the vaults – Home and a sense of belonging, April 19, 2013

I was reminded of this blog post I wrote back in 2013 while completing an interview with another blogger. Her first question was: If you had to choose just one, would you prefer to live in Toronto’s Beach, in Calgary where you have also lived for many years, or in Bequia in the Caribbean where you have a house? Where I “belong” has long been a question I’ve asked myself. And since writing the following post, we’ve bought a trailer that’s permanently situated in an Ontario campground, and I plan to spend summers there from now on, and winters in Bequia.

My writing pal, Lisa McGonigle, published an article, In It For the Long Haul, in the Feb. 2012 issue of The Fernie Fix about her long-distance lifestyle. I met Lisa several years ago at the Fernie Writers’ Conference, before she published Snowdrift, and I’ve followed her travels since that time.

This particular article resonated with me because, although my travels have not been as far-flung as Lisa’s, I have maintained two residences, one in Calgary and the other in Bequia, and spent these past five years flying back and forth between the two. Most of my worldly possessions have remained at the house in the Caribbean, along with the cats and Dennis, while I’ve moved around between Calgary apartments to house-sitting situations, accumulating more stuff in an attempt to make a home for myself in the city where I actually worked. Because of the nature of my business, I was able to manage three trips to Bequia every year, usually during their off-season. I told myself I didn’t mind the Calgary winters – really – and I was able to build a good business as well as an extensive network of friends and colleagues that always made me feel “at home” again every time I returned to Canada.

Unfortunately, my circumstances changed in the fall of 2012 and I decided to return to Bequia – at least for the winter months – and reassess my business and my life. I gave away most of what I’d accumulated over those five years, stored the rest in a locker as well as with several friends, and flew off at the end of November. (I have Vincentian citizenship, so I am allowed to stay indefinitely. And the immigration and customs agents usually say, “Welcome home!” upon my arrival. I never hear that from Canadian officials.)

The plan was always to come back to Canada in April, because I had committed to giving a presentation at a Calgary library on the 12th. I’m also planning on attending my high school reunion in Toronto’s Beach in May – the neighbourhood where I grew up. I figured 7 weeks was lots of time to see everyone I needed, and wanted, to see, and to visit with family.

The reality is, though, that Thomas Wolfe was right: You Can’t Go Home Again. Or once gone, easily forgotten? I feel as though I no longer belong in Calgary. People are too busy; appointments and dates are being cancelled; all plans I made previous to the trip have suddenly dissolved. It’s left me wondering why I’ve come back.

But then I never felt as though I belonged on Bequia either while I was there over this past winter.

So now I really wonder where home is for me. Sometimes I think it’s in the air, on a plane, somewhere between Calgary and Bequia. If I were once again Lisa’s age (which is about half of mine), I would consider a new start in a brand new place, creating a new life for myself. New horizons, new possibilities.

But I find I’m too old for that now, so I’ll have to be content to live vicariously through Lisa as she continues on with the adventures of her own life. And create and invent reality in my own mind by writing stories.

… when you remember that You are the author of Your own Life story, You enter into the beautiful process of becoming, as You should be, the author of Your own life, the creator of Your own possibilities …
Mandy Aftel

Since this original post was written my good friend Patricia, who we first met in Calgary in 1980 and who has also managed to “relocate” herself a number of times during her life, ending up part of the year on Bequia, wrote this comment concerning her own experience and thoughts about Home and a sense of belonging.

12 responses

  1. Great post. I am constantly torn about the issue of: Where is Home? When I’m in the U.S., I miss Europe. When I’m in Europe, I miss the States. That’s what happens when you live(d) in multiple countries for long enough, speak the languages fluently, have relatives in each country, etc. The worst part: when interesting career/business opportunities come up in both places…you want to take them both, but you can’t be jumping across the big pond all the time 🙂

  2. I can relate, Sue. I’m no longer sure where home is. It’s my ongoing search …

    1. Ah, but for you, Rach, the ongoing search if definitely the fun part! Enjoy that while you can.

  3. […] had me returning to a blog post I wrote in 2013 titled, “Home and a sense of belonging” (… ), because I have been again wondering exactly where it is I do belong in this world. What I have […]

  4. […] had me returning to a blog post I wrote in 2013 titled, “Home and a sense of belonging” (… ), because I have been again wondering exactly where it is I do belong in this world. What I have […]

  5. Love this! My partner and I are trying to forge a similar life between Arizona and Alaska and I kind of feel the way you described: When I’m in Alaska, I long for Arizona. Yet when I’m in Arizona, I miss Alaska terribly. Maybe home is a concept that’s more emotional and spiritual than physical? P.S. Living in a trailer in a campground is a huge dream of mine. Take care, and have a great week.

  6. […] response to my blog post, Home and a sense of belonging (reblogged here), I received a number of comments. That post seemed to strike a chord with a few of you, and with […]

  7. I seem to recall from my time in the Middle East that my Canadian colleagues needed to go back every 6 months to keep their citizenship? Also, The (Canadian) Company We worked for automatically deducted and paid their tax to the Canadian Tax Office.

    1. Not citizenship, but residency, which is what paying Canadian taxes is dependent upon. I still maintain Canadian residency, because I went back in 2008 to take a job, but Dennis has “non-resident tax status” that we both applied for when we first moved here in 1996. That meant we no longer owned anything in Canada and had no affiliation with the country. And no longer had to pay taxes there. But we never lose our citizenship, no matter how long we may live abroad. And since I’m the Canadian resident, the car and trailer are in my name – ho, ho!

      1. AHA – I wasn’t too far off then 👍😃

  8. Nice, reflective post. Maybe you can go home if you understand that home will have changed. Or maybe you can go home in your heart. Or maybe your home is a work in progress and still defining itself.

    Lovely illustration!

    Writer Advice Managing Editor,
    Author of YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers & Author of TALENT

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