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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

Home is More than just a Place

Travelling is one of my greatest teachers. I have learned that no matter how far we have travelled and what we have had to leave behind, we all want to know that we are coming back ‘home’ to whatever that is and to wherever that may be.

My understanding of what it means to “be home,” came to me in a gentle and quiet moment early one winters morning while strolling through a park in Melbourne. The dog-friendly park is a favourite meeting point for local dogs and their obedient owners. The sports oval provides perfect turf for flocks of circling seagulls as they hang in the air above excited dogs who are just waiting for them to land.

Walking up a leafy avenue of giant fig trees, I spotted an elderly man dressed in layers of mismatched clothing. He was focused intently on sweeping a patch of bare dirt around a park bench, his breath making clouds of steam in the chilly air. Alongside the bench, under an old tarpaulin, stood a shopping trolley loaded with his worldly possessions. The bench would be his home for the day, he was making it as comfortable as he could, sweeping away cigarette buts, leaves and dirt.

Home is where the heart is’ - Pliny the Elder

Children carrying large backpacks laughed and bumped each other as they ran up the nearby path on their way to school – blissfully unaware of him. Commuters climbing off at a tram stop just a few feet away barely glanced at him, those that did - quickly looked away again. I smiled at the old man, hoping it would make a difference. He was not just a nobody, I had seen him, and he mattered.

He got me thinking about what ‘home’ means

  • Is it knowing that I have somewhere familiar and safe to return to?

  • Is it connected to my relationship with another person or animal or things?

  • Does ‘home’ make me feel connected – that I belong?

  • Is home not more than just a space? What if ‘home’ is a collection of memories and feelings associated with a place?

I realised then what I had been learning all along during my travels and time abroad. Home is more than just a place where I lay my head down to sleep. It is so much more than a structure, defined by walls and filled with material possessions.

It is a state of mind, alive with thoughts, feelings and collections of memories.

It is built upon the connections we have formed with one another

It is filled with the experiences we have accumulated along the way. The memorable occasions and holidays we celebrated with joy, even the sad days when we came together for mutual support. All of these have their place in creating a bank of memories, of shared times that were important in defining who we are

This is what home is – this is what makes us feel we belong, that we are part of something much bigger than just a place. No matter who you are, how much you have or where you are in your life right now, home will always be where you are, where your heart beats and your energy flows. Home is you and all the treasured thoughts and memories you carry with you.

You are already home.

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