Every now and then a thought pops into my head. It happens at those moments when I feel down and troubled. When I am tired of the nothingness and insecurity of our situation. When I see the world in shades of grey instead of shades of sparkling sunlight.
At those moments I sometimes think: I want to go home.

It seems a simple thought at first. Just go home. But when I come to think of it, it’s not that simple at all. Where is home for us these days? Is it Dubai? The Netherlands? Utrecht? Fact is that at this moment nothing really feels like “home sweet home”.
As expats we are somewhat used to the feeling of being “in between homes” for a while. When we moved to Dubai in 2015 I did not feel at home straight away. I remember how exiting the plane on my first trip back to the Netherlands felt as coming home. It was all so familiar. But when time passed this started to shift and soon enough there was a moment when I felt a warm, friendly feeling when entering Dutch grounds, but not like coming home anymore. Instead, it was Dubai where I felt coming home now. So our sense of home transitioned from the Netherlands to Dubai.

Over the years we have had a few different places we called home. When we met in college and were both living in student housing we called the tiny 6 square meter of our room “home”. Later we moved into various apartments and houses and in one way or the other they all felt like “home”. We even called Chef, our Chevy Van with which we toured through the US for some months “home”. And for sure our FJ Cruiser would have been our “home” if we had made the trip we planned.
So I asked myself: what makes a place feel like home?

Some of the places we called “Home” (or planned to) over the last 20 years

“Home is where the Hubby is.”

Clearly: Home is where the hubby is – no doubt about that.
But there is more. And interestingly I found that my sense of feeling at home at a place often grows as we develop a certain routine. From the daily routine to the sometimes rather quirky rituals which we apparently have. Much to the laughter of some of our friends in Dubai it became quite clear in the past 5 years that we have a weakness for “recurring events”.
Every Thursday evening we would go to Nezesaussie Bar in the Address Marina for ribs & beer to celebrate the start of the weekend. Sometimes accompanied by friends, but often just the two of us. And we almost never skipped an evening.
And what started as Friday morning yoga quickly resulted in Friday morning yoga & breakfast (and later only breakfast..) with friends at Le Pain Quotidian. Staff at both places quickly started to recognize us and with time the welcome became warmer and warmer.
That and the fact that Hendrik Willem has a tendency of always ordering the same (ribs on Thursday and a double espresso with orange juice, fried eggs with toast and salmon on the side on Friday) made it feel for all of us like…well…like coming home!

So perhaps it is as tacky as the “Cheers” tv-show tune implies: “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came”. Perhaps coming home is just that simple as setting routine and developing your own little rituals. Creating a sense of belonging and familiarity, warm and safe with friends and loved ones.
Now, we are looking forward to create a new “home”. Wherever that may be.

Home. Such a small word for such a big meaning.

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