Back in October 2013 when I was a sprightly twenty eight year old residing in London, I was getting ready to move home. Not down the road, or across town, or even to a new county. Nope, I was ‘following my sunshine’ half way around the world to the Middle East to be closer to the man I loved.
At this point in time, as I was saying goodbye to all that was comfortable and familiar to me, the concept of home and what it meant was really important – so much so that it inspired me to start this blog. The second post I ever wrote talked about the places and feelings that I associated with home and it was pretty clear to anyone reading that the only place I was willing to call home at that point in time was where Mr Sunshine was. I was so in love that I would probably have moved to anywhere in the world if it meant waking up with him by my side every day.
But over two and a half years as an expat, one marriage and a baby later, the way I think about home has become far more complex – and it’s got me a little confused.
Home is where my friends are. London and Essex is where the oldest and closest of them live. They’re the steadfast ones that I stayed up until the early hours with, snuggled in sleeping bags and chatting about boys; the ones that I snuck into clubs with underage using fake IDs and passports pinched from older siblings; the ones that I picked up the phone to first after Mr S got down on one knee. They have seen me at my very best, and have seen me at my godawful worst. Some were bridesmaids at my wedding and will be ‘aunties’ and godmothers to my children, and I miss them every day.
But not long after I moved I began to make new friendships in Qatar and these friends became my lifelines out here. They’ve celebrated some of life’s biggest milestones with me. They have provided me with the support I’ve needed when I’ve felt far from home. They’ve baked, shopped and changed nappies for me. And they are at the centre of some of my most amusing and precious memories.
Home is where my family are. When I was new to Qatar, I missed my family terribly. I pined for all of the things that I associate with family time at home. Sunday roasts, chats over breakfast, watching films by a roaring fire, cuddles and Christmas and days out and debates. These days I still miss those things, but I miss my family for additional, and bigger reasons – for the little things they are missing out on as Sophia grows up, for the relationships that she is missing out on on a daily basis and for the support I am missing out on when I need it the most!
Now we have our own family, and Qatar is the only place we’ve called home. I know that when the time comes for us to leave, we will miss things associated with here too. The weather and food, days at the beach, walks around the marina. Nostalgia is the quickest way to forge a feeling of home.
Home is where I feel safe. England used to be that place for me, where everyone I met was polite, friendly and welcoming. Where neighbours were concerned with each others’ welfare and whoever you were you were able to walk the streets safe from judgement or harm.
Then Sophia was born and it wasn’t just about me any more. I had a mini human to keep safe. Politicians became embroiled in campaigns of hatred, Brexit happened and then we started to receive reports of racially-targetted attacks. All of a sudden, the muti-ethnic, accepting and largely crime-free society of Qatar felt a far more safe and homely place for us to raise a child.
Home is where I feel fulfilled. This has always been England for me. It has all of the things that make me feel alive. History, culture, greenery and countryside, excitement and entertainment, variety and life.
But there are of course, new things that make me feel fulfilled these days and Qatar provides them all. Having a job that challenges and excites me, and helps me to feel like I’m giving something back; being in a place which allows me to save money and to provide for our family; blogging, traveling and opening myself and my family up to opportunities that we could only have dreamed of before.
Basically I think I’ve come to the conclusion that home doesn’t have to be just in one place, and nowhere on earth will tick all of your perfect home ideals, but instead there are opportunities to build a home wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances. Home is where your sunshine is. And even on the gloomiest of days it is possible to create your own sunshine!