Home, anywhere: what makes a home around the world

About Vivek Wagle

Is home actually all about food?

When we asked you what’s so special about home, many of you went immediately to eating and drinking. On Twitter, SaRah loves “the smell of fresh cooked tortillas coming off the fire,” while jdkunesh of Chicago loves his “butter-burgers at Mickey Lu’s BBQ.”

Our Facebook fans also think of food and its associated customs, dreaming of “summer days at [the] grandparents’ house, picking fresh, juicy strawberries in the garden with them, and homemade pancakes for an early breakfast” and recounting “the smell of a huge pot of gumbo simmering [back home in] New Orleans.”

With such a response, we might be forgiven for saying that food is what makes the home. But when we looked deeper, we realized that home was all about emotions.

Specific images evoked waves of nostalgia, such as “your stack of books, your very own bed, your computer set to all your faves, your son, your very favorite coffee, your own refrigerator, and your own bubble bath and the cat.” Or “raindrops on the tin cornice above the apartment balcony.” Or even “the smell of a good wood fire.”

Once we realized that home was about moments – instants in your past that evoke specific emotions – we started wondering how those different moments might be perceived by different people of different cultures in different places.

If home is about smells and tastes, then what might someone who lived a semi-nomadic existence on the Mongolian steppes feel as they literally moved their entire extended family? Would a permanent home feel sterile and lacking in soul?


If home is about touch and feel, then what must someone who fashioned their home out of snow and ice in freezing climes feel when they enter a well-heated cabin with a fireplace? Might that “cozy” space feel alien and uninviting to them?


And if home is about sounds and familiar patterns, then how might someone who grew up mainly outdoors feel about entering someone’s insulated house? Would the absence of nighttime sounds, shadows on the wall, and tempered sunlight lighting up the environment at dawn be bleak and depressing?


How do those moments change with different expectations? Someone who lives in suburban USA, who enjoys dinner parties and rec rooms, might be confounded at the lack of public life in an English home, where so much socializing happens in common areas such as the pub. Someone who lives in Tokyo, where space constraints mean that your living room becomes your bedroom and everything has to be kept spotless, might be shocked at the expanse of a Tuscan villa, where the indoors bleeds into outside areas and vice versa and no one takes their shoes off.

The only way we can truly appreciate how these moments that make a home might affect us in such disparate ways is to experience different homes firsthand. If we could recapture that “homey” feeling – no matter where we might be around the world – then that would be an amazing achievement.

And for those of us who already think we’re quite worldy, well, the world always has a home experience that could throw us.

Like a boat.


Or a tree.


Or even an airplane fuselage.


If you can feel at home in these places, where couldn’t you be at home?

(Love homes around the world? Check out our “Amazing Abodes” board on Pinterest.)


About Vivek Wagle

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  1. Michael Chamberlain-Torres

    I think that “home is all about emotions” really hits the nail on the head. Between late 2011 and 2013, my wife and I spent 17 months straight traveling the globe and during that time stayed in all kinds of places. Our “home” became the place we rested our backpacks, meaning that home could be an overnight bus, a hammock, a ship board cabin, hotel suite, or someone’s couch. I came to understand the saying, “home is where your heart is” because once you get over the anxiety of the unknown, and embrace the beauty of the world around you (even when it is not visually beautiful) you can truly be at home anywhere.

    After returning to the U.S., I started to ask myself what makes this home so different than the hundreds of other places I called home while traveling. The answer I came up with was the personal connections that I had with friends and family and the way those relationships made me feel. After you have stayed in enough places,adapting to change becomes easy. Experiencing different smells, foods, sounds, and sights becomes almost second nature. Sadly, too much continuous travel can cause a loss of “wonder.” But stay in a place long enough, meet some great people, have some wonderful shared experiences, and the next thing you know, you will be calling that place your second home. When you become emotionally attached to the people of a city or country, then home transcends physical location.