Alex, Emily, and Elvis on their last day in the house

Is Home a person, place, or thing? How we found our Home as full-time travelers.

“Where are you from?” “Where are you living now?” “Where is home?” It is usually right up there within the first five questions somebody will ask you in a new conversation or a catch up chat, right? 

When our travel plans in Mexico abruptly changed, we had no choice but to go to Texas for a few weeks and lean on family to help us regroup. And while we love being with my family, we don’t have a great relationship with Texas. It has made for a lot of mental gymnastics over the past month. We were really forced to think about the idea of home and what we are really seeking by becoming nomadic. 

None of us get much of a choice about where we live as children. I was lucky enough as a kid that I didn’t think about the concept of there even being choices about where to live. I felt a concept of home based on the family I was with and I was content. 

Baby Erika and Emily
Baby Emily always looking to big sis.

But, as an adult, that started to change. Without my family being there, I never really loved any place I lived. They all just seemed like a means to an end. Like, I’ll live here until I finish my Associates Degree (Gainesville, Georgia)… my Bachelors Degree (Denton, Texas)… my Masters Degree (Fort Worth, Texas)… 

The first big move

I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, lived in rural South Carolina and rural Georgia. I’m from the south and once I got an education, I was never particularly proud of that. The first time I moved as an adult was completely my own choice. When I left Gainesville, Georgia to pursue my university education in Texas, I had a large group of close friends and a boyfriend. It was hard to leave. And, honestly, my best friend ended up resenting me for it and it broke up my relationship. But, I wasn’t growing or getting any happier staying in the same place with the same people. And this is something my true family always understood. They knew sometimes I needed space to grow and they wanted me to be happy. 

It’s also important to live through the wrong fit

I lived in Texas from 2006 to 2018. Although I moved around in north Texas, it was the longest I ever lived in the same state. When I traveled, I would often get asked how I liked living in Texas. To which I would always take a beat before replying as diplomatically as I could muster, “It’s fine. I guess it’s ok.”

I wish I could say this helped me admit I was in the wrong place, but it took me a while to really figure that out or do anything about it. And I don’t regret it. I needed that time. I had a great group of friends and I had a job in my graduate studies field. I was afraid to change too much, even if sacrificing a bit of comfort could have improved my overall happiness.

Emily working at Amon Carter Museum of American Art
A photo of Emily working on cataloging Eliot Porter photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX.

When I started working for myself I had the opportunity, for the first time, to reevaluate where I lived. I finally figured out that I must not like Texas because I left every chance I got. I was existing in Texas but, again, only as a means to an end. I just worked toward the next opportunity to go to Disney World or Disneyland. 

The next big move

So, I finally made another big step towards living life for myself and moved to Anaheim, California. Again, I lost some close friends and another relationship. But this time, I also gained life-long friendships that stay with me today. I was learning more about how to change, how to evaluate my own happiness, and how to select new members to add to my family. 

I can say that Anaheim was probably the only place I’ve ever been really excited to live. I could walk to Disneyland or I could drive and be there in 5 minutes. While it was a fun time in my life, I now realize I never really felt at home there either. Once I met Alex about 6 months into living there, he was the first to point out that I never even decorated my apartment. I never really let myself believe I wasn’t just passing through. Part of that is because once I met Alex, I knew my life would change. 

We created our home in each other

Alex had already been working on buying and renovating a house in Desert Hot Springs, California. I moved in with him before I had even lived in Anaheim a full year. We were so eager to create a home together. And we did, but in a very unexpected way. We created a home in each other. And while we were doing that, we realized we still didn’t even like where we actually lived! Alex had created a beautiful space for us and welcomed me and Elvis in with open arms and equal share. But, again, we were leaving every chance we got. 

Our last day in our empty house, Desert Hot Springs, California.

Yes, it is an enormous privilege to get to be able to leave. I do have bouts of guilt wrapped up in being able to change my situation in life. I know other people go through much worse and I do think it is important to acknowledge privilege and good fortune where it exists. We don’t have the power and money to change everyone’s lives, but we do have the resources to change our own. And I realize I do not have to feel guilty about that. I’m working on it. 

But, we decided that we were also willing to work hard and sacrifice some things for the sake of happiness. We compared our stories and acknowledged what we both knew we could lose by leaving California, by selling our house, by paring our lives down to a few suitcases. But, we talked more about what we could gain. 

Now that we have changed our lives, we always get asked, “Where do you see yourself settling down?” And the answer is, we don’t know. And we are ok with that. A big part of this full-time travel journey is to figure that out. We have both moved in the past in hopes that it would solve some problem or answer some questions for us. But, we just end up bored and questioning the new place too. We are in part seeking a place we can call home, but we also fully acknowledge that we may travel the entire world and say, “hmmm, it doesn’t matter where we live!” But we do know, that until (or even if) we decide to set roots, we will not get bored. 

Have we been deliriously happy since we became nomadic? No! We have fought, we have cried, we have yelled, we have been robbed by police officers in Mexico. We have had panic attacks, diarrhea, cleaned up dog pee, and sat on hold with the bank as our blood boiled beneath the surface. We have gone grocery shopping, run errands, cooked dinner, and washed dishes and clothes. We have changed plans, gotten lost, lost money, and made mistakes. And there was more diarrhea. 

You see, changing where we live alone won’t magically make us happy. But, changing where we live (or don’t live in our case) helped us learn how to change and how to deal with change. And learning how to change and how to deal with change can make you happier! 

Getting somewhere new could be a start as long as you just don’t stop changing the things that make you unhappy once they crop up. 

For us, Home became a person. We found our home in each other.

Alex and I may never be satisfied. We will always be seekers. We may never find a place that feels like home, or a place that we want to stay very long. So for us, it is time to reframe the idea of home. Now when people ask where home is, we point to each other. 

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