To me, a home away from home is a place where you feel just as comfortable as you do in your own home. In these places, I find the muscle memory of getting around or what I love has never left, even if it’s been many years since I’ve visited. The places that are my home away from home have changed over the years of my life.
When I think about growing up, home away from home instantly conjures up images of my Nanny’s house, and my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The moments that I spent in these two places are moments that define my childhood. How could I ever forget the feeling of comfort that I felt at either of these places? There was always a feeling of peace after arriving and hugging my Nanny or Grandma. It was a safe and happy place to be.
I grew up on the east coast, and it will always feel like home to me. Whenever I go back to visit family, there is an immediate comforting and familiar feeling the minute that I get off the plane. It doesn’t matter if I land in Philly, Newark, or Baltimore - it always feels like I am being welcomed home. I couldn’t stand the winters growing up, but now when I go back east for the holidays, the cold air feels inviting and refreshing. The lush, green, rolling hills in the spring and summer months are the most comforting scenery that I could imagine. The leaves changing in the autumn are the most welcome and beautiful sight.
There’s another place that feels like a home away from home for me, and that place is London. Even though it’s been a few years since I lived there, whenever I’m back, it immediately feels like home again. The distinct scent of the underground and the air moving past me as the trains arrive and depart on the underground makes it feel like being there is still the most normal thing in the world. Walking past Regent’s Park and Baker Street Station reminds me of my many mornings going to school and spending time at the pubs with friends after we had finished our classes. There are many other spots all over the city that remind me of wonderful moments and memories with both my family and friends. When I see my dad’s family again, it always feels like no time has passed at all. Everything in the city still feels familiar and comfortable like when I lived there.
I always try to be appreciative of where I live in the present, but I have so many days where I feel the longing to be on the east coast or in London, or I suddenly miss the memories of seeing my grandparents as a child. Whenever this happens, I try to do things that make me feel in tune with those places and moments in time. I have a cup of tea and listen to some of my favorite English bands. I’ll watch a show or movie that takes place somewhere in the Northeast or in the UK. I’ll look back through photos of my favorite spots in these places that feel like my other home, or look back through family gatherings during holidays over the years. I also remind myself that I’ll never stop going back to my home away from homes, and they will always be there to welcome me back.
I firmly believe that a good walk can change your life – it’s happened to me before.
On a solo vacation to London, I was feeling completely frustrated by the fact that I hated my current producer job and hated myself more. So, I went to this beautifully massive park called Hampstead Heath and walked, and walked – for a solid four or five hours.
For a long while, I let my mind run wild with its tornado of anxious, existential thoughts: What am I doing? Why am I here? Why didn’t I wear shoes that fare better in mud? The usual. But once I hit hour three and half, I had somewhat of an epiphany. Everything started to straighten out – It’s like my brain got too tired of thinking at ten thousand miles per hour, and in its surrender, decided to settle on some decisions.
Feeling a weird sense of peace, I sat down on a bench and started to type out a simple one year plan on my phone (I could never plan for longer, due to a deep-set fear and respect for fate). I paused, looked at the muddy grass in the empty field around me, and reminded myself that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. So: I was going to quit my job to “write.” I would stay in LA, and for a whole year, I would give it my best shot, even if that meant completely depleting my savings account. I was finally going to go for it. And it was going to be okay.
Despite this epiphany, I’ve found it difficult to bring the “art” of walking home to Los Angeles. Though there are walkable neighborhoods, when you consider the most “walkable cities,” it just doesn’t make the list. How can I walk in a city that makes me wander under a freeway just to get to Trader Joes? I daydream about moving someplace else, a place where maybe I wouldn’t be able to afford a backyard, but at least I could go to a bar without having to order a Lyft.
But the past few months have been different. The world is different – we’re collectively fighting off a virus! I’ve lost my job, my social life, and my sanity. My weekly schedule is wide open – like wiiiiiiiiide open. And I can only vacuum my apartment so many times.
So, just about every day, I’ve been walking. Walking to absolutely nowhere (after all, there isn’t anywhere to go). Sometimes I follow a specific route. Sometimes I weave aimlessly through my neighborhood, hoping that the time would pass by faster. On a good day, I cruise through audiobooks of the romance/beach read genre, and on harder days, I listen to the Dixie Chicks and pray that my neighbors can’t see the welling tears through my sunglasses.
Walking isn’t very romantic when you’re not on vacation. It’s starting to feel more like a chore – similar to virtual yoga, it’s just another way to ensure that I won’t have to purchase a new size of jeans whenever we have to wear jeans again. I’ve memorized the homes in my neighborhood, and I hate them all.
But then I take a few days off, and I’m reminded of how much I rely on it. I start to crave it again. I need the escape – a scheduled time to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating inside my apartment. A time to let my mind run: Who am I? When will I start to feel normal again? Will there ever be a normal again? Why didn’t I put on sunscreen before exiting the house?
Slowly, but surely, the spaghetti-like blob that is my brain starts to unravel. And I become more aware that I am a living, breathing person rather than just a bunch of feelings inside a head. I don’t type out a plan, because it’s hard to plan for anything these days. But I do thank the walking gods for letting me feel at ease, even if only for an hour or so. I am here, forcing myself to keep moving. And it is going to be okay.