Sunday, 18 June 2017


The word 'home' has many different meanings for many different people. For some it is the physical building they grew up in or where their family and friends are, for others it is another sort of inexplicable connection to a place, country or culture.

Whatever it is, home usually means a safe place with food, water, shelter and/or some kind of community. Most people will agree that everyone deserves to have access to these basic necessities and to deny a person of these things is wrong.

In fact the Human Rights bill was drafted so we would all be on the same page regarding this topic. Clearly the concept of 'home' and belonging to a community or in the larger sense a nation, is very important to us as humans.

The bill recognises the concept of home as being a deeply personal matter so when people tell new migrants to 'go home,' it really isn't that simple. Apart from a range of complex social, political and economic issues keeping people from going home, to tell someone to go home, you yourself have to be very sure that the land you're standing on is actually your home too. But that's a topic for another day.

Over the past three months I've spent a lot of time with people from all kinds of different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. It's been eye opening, insightful and brilliant. I've had a taste of what it's like to know nothing about a place and to have to muddle my way through. Thankfully the majority of people I've come across have been incredibly helpful and compassionate and I would like to think that New Zealanders would be the same if these people found themselves in my home country but sometimes I'm not so sure.

When you have a home you tend not to think about it. Such is the nature of privelege. I am lucky enough to have had a stable, physically safe place to live, a close community of friends and family all in the same beautiful country. Unfortunately not everybody has this.

Sometimes, despite being stubbornly unpatriotic on most counts, I'm proud to say I'm from New Zealand even though there is no logic in being proud of something you have no control over. Maybe proud is the wrong word. Perhaps it's more grateful.

However, after being away from 'home' for three months, I haven't felt that old homesick feeling and it began to worry me. Surely it's only natural to miss something good and familiar?

Of course I miss my family and friends - the history we have, the in jokes, the unspoken understandings we share and their loveable, familiar quirks and that beautiful rugged Pacific Ocean - but not to the point that I want to go back. Not yet at least. I've been able to feel at home where ever I've dumped my backpack. (It's the best feeling ever to know you have everything you need in a 40 litre bag on your back.)

Upon some reflection I have come to realise I'm not homesick because I know that my home will always be there for me to go back to. I love the feeling of having all my belongings on my back because it doesn't have to be that way. It's very much a priveledge position to be in.

Many people who are being forced to flee their homes and immigrate to new countries don't want to leave everything they know behind. They don't want to make a new life for themselves and their families in a completely unfamiliar world. For some people who have chosen to leave their homes for economic, social or political reasons, the new country may never feel like home.

If I've learnt anything from my travels so far it's that being constantly confused is just a fact of life when you arrive in a new country you don't know much about especially if you don't speak the language. Of course some lucky people may feel an instant connection with the culture they find themselves in whilst others may never understand parts of it. The other thing I've learnt is that this doesn't matter so much if people are patient and kind.

What I'm trying to say, in a very long winded way, is that I've come to the conclusion that 'home' isn't a place. It's a feeling.

You can feel 'at home' somewhere that isn't actually your home and a big part of that depends on the people you are surrounded by.

So perhaps if we all started caring less about where we came from and focussed more on where we are going we could all just get along.

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