On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home

On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home - The Atlas Heart

It’s official. I bought my plane ticket two nights ago. The start of an adventure I know all too well, I’m moving abroad again to a new part of the world. I’ll be leaving for Hong Kong in October and traveling around multiple countries before possibly settling down in the Philippines or another place that my heart likes.

This trip has become profound to me already – much more so than when I first started planning our move a good 6 months ago. The truth is, I thought I would feel such a wave of relief to be home again after two years in Oceania. I thought I would find a familiar place that welcomed me with open arms and a gracious understanding like it used to. I thought I would find home again. I didn’t.

There have been some wonderful aspects of being on the West Coast again. I cried when I saw my mom for the first time in two years. I was overjoyed when I could just pick up my smartphone and call my parents, my sister, or best friend without having to plan a Skype date and figure out time zone differences in advance. I loved knowing all the cultural quirks and indulging in the idea of being American…in America.

Pacific City, Oregon - On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home

I’ve appreciated all of this and more since I’ve been back for almost a full year now, but there’s an anxious cloud that has only grown bigger as the months have passed. There are days when America makes me angry, where I feel lost, a place that I don’t belong anymore. Maybe it has always been this way and I’m just noticing now that I’m immersed in the inner workings of my country again, but Americans seem to be terrified of everything.

It makes me horribly depressed in a way I’ve never felt before. It makes me angry that I feel so much disgust at the hate I see every day. The closed-mindedness and fearful nature that people seem to cling to nowadays. How many school shootings there have been since I’ve been home. How many racial slurs or social injustices I’ve witnessed. I haven’t really felt whole since I’ve been back, I’ve felt broken.

I’m not saying that moving abroad is going to change that, in fact, I always had plans to only stay in America for a year or two, before I moved abroad again. I’m also not saying that other parts of the world, including Asia, don’t have their own serious problems. It has been two years since I first traveled to Southeast Asia and there has without a doubt been increased violence and corruption in certain parts of the region.

Southeast Asia - On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home

I’m simply over the hate in my own country. I want to be around people who love life again. Who feel its vibrant nature and want to grab it by the handles, not hide in a closet away from the rest of the world, terrified of what they might find.

I want to be surrounded by other travelers again, those who understand the beauty of a nomadic life and are as excited as I am to see as many wonders of the world as possible. I want to feel alive again by experiencing a culture that is outside my own and truly living in it. I want to find love and human kindness. I want to find acceptance in the most unlikely situations and moments. This is what I get from travel and living abroad and why I’ve become addicted to it in a way.

Sydney, Australia - On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home

I thought after I left New Zealand and came back to the States that I would reaffirm my belief in eventually wanting to settle down in America. It’s my home, my country. I’ve loosened that belief since I’ve been back, and I’ve realized that that’s okay. I still love my country. I’m still proud (or at least I try) to be American. I’m still going to send in my mail-in voting ballot from abroad come November when the general election is at our feet. I just feel ready to leave right now.

Being American, that is something that will always be a part of me. Americans are instilled with a sense of pride and boastfulness about our country since before we can walk. Our patriotism is in our blood, sometimes to a fault, and I love it. I also know that even though I’m not my government or my media, I usually have to shake off a lot of haters and anti-American sentiment while I’m abroad – it comes with the passport.

I’ve always whole-heartedly believed in surrounding yourself with positive things – whether that be your relationships, job, or outlook in life. And so, I’m taking my life and moving it to Asia at the end of this year to see what positive aspects I can find in myself and others.

I recently read an article that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about her time visiting Indonesia. A time when she wanted to only find solitude from her shattered life back in the States. She traveled to this little speck of an island to be alone, but instead she found a sense of community and welcomeness from one local woman in particular, who made an effort to reach out to her.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from that article:

“I tell this story because it occurred almost one year to the day after September 11, 2001. I was a New Yorker whose city had just been attacked. A bunch of people had warned me against going to Indonesia because they said that I—an American woman, traveling alone—would not be safe there. But I went to Indonesia anyhow, right into the heart of a small Islamic community, and there I met one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known. She enveloped me in safety when I was most afraid, and she helped me to heal. She also modeled for me an example of how we are meant to look after each other in the world—a model that I have tried to live up to ever since.

I am not afraid of the world, but I am afraid of people who are afraid of the world. (Terrified people, after all, have a reputation for making terrible decisions.) I want to live in a society filled with people who are curious and concerned about each other rather than afraid of each other. I want to live in a world full of brave people who are willing to risk not only adventure but emotional intimacy. I want to live in a world full of explorers and generous souls rather than people who have voluntarily become prisoners of their own fortresses. I want to live in a world full of people who look into each other’s faces along the path of life and ask, Who are you, my friend, and how can we serve each other?”

I once thought coming back to the States would heal me, center me, and provide me with a sense of relief that I could truly be myself again. When I bought that plane ticket a couple of nights ago, I realized that’s the most relief I’ve felt in the last year.

I don’t know where I’ll end up but I know where I’m going. I love you America and I’ll miss you dearly, but I’m excited to get on that plane in October and fly across the world to be reunited with the unknown once again.

On Leaving Behind the Idea of Home - The Atlas Heart

Mimi McFadden
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30 Responses

  1. This is so brave, but most of all it is so amazing! You are following your heart, and you are going to go on so many fantastic adventures.

  2. Very well said! Living in a country where we are all scared to speak our minds and let everyone in on what goes on in our hearts is very disappointing. I hope you find a lot of people similar to you in your travels and I’m glad you are doing what makes you happy!

  3. Love this post! I can see how leaving home would be scary, but what an exciting opportunity you have been given. Hope you have an amazing time wherever you end up traveling to! 🙂

    1. Thank you Cara! It was a little nerve wracking the first time I moved abroad in 2013, but I love the excitement of discovering another culture too much to stay in one place I think.

  4. How exciting is this! I heard the Philippines is a beautiful place to live. I totally agree with you about America (and I live there!!) we are expereincing some crazy times and I wish I could just pack up and move to Europe. I think traveling is amazing. I am going on my first European trip in June going to Paris and I am super stoked. I hope one day I can move abroad and travel the world. Congrats and good luck to you!!

    1. That is so exciting Shamira, I love Europe! Have a great time in Paris. I’m excited to experience the Philippines, I’ve heard such amazing things about it – it will be a grand adventure to be sure.

  5. mimi you have such a beautiful blog! i am going to go through the archive because traveling around the world is my dream too! =) i relate to what you said about america, and hope we move towards a better place!

  6. Travel does bring out the best of us and congratulations for setting off again. I can relate with the idea of being around people who love life. Not always true in the U.S. Have a grand time and looking forward to reading about your adventures.

  7. I love this piece so much! I relate to it 100% and have full faith in you that you’re going to find yourself and feel more free than ever in Asia. I’m sorry to say that I’m actually leaving Thailand in a couple days so won’t get to cross paths with you, but somewhere down the line, I’m sure we will. Follow your heart and make the most of your time in Oregon while you can! 🙂

    1. Thanks Debbi! It’s still half a year away but I can’t stop thinking about Asia now that I’ve bought my ticket – I’m really looking forward to going back. Safe travels and I’m sure we’ll actually meet each other in person one of these days, haha. I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

  8. What a fantastic post. Balance is so hard to find but how wonderful that you are going with your gut and doing what your heart is telling you to do. Looking forward to following you and your upcoming travels! Enjoy these next months while you’re still “home” with your family!!

  9. i definitely feel you. i haven’t really done much moving abroad yet (except for moving to the states from korea when i was a kid), but i know where you’re coming from. we’ve been moving to a new city every year, and i keep saying that i’ll end up back at home in atlanta.. but each new year, we keep coming up with more excuses to travel more. the only thing that makes me sad is that i know i have a limited amount of time with family.. they won’t be around forever, and it makes me wonder if later on in life, i will regret putting all my adventures and travel above spending time with them.

    i also find it a little funny that i feel quite differently from elizabeth gilbert’s thoughts on indonesia. i am always relieved when i leave 😛 bc that’s where all my husband’s family is. hahaha anyhow.. your trip sounds really exciting and i hope your journey allows you to surround yourself with many more positive things in life. happy travels!! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Esther, I’ve been loving reading about all of your adventures around the States for sure. I can definitely understand wanting to spend as much time with family in the present, and that’s one of the major downfalls of living abroad so much. If only my family traveled more, haha! But in all seriousness, it’s hard to find a balance sometime but it’s something I’m working on – to still have those strong connections with home life even when I’m living across the world. That’s funny about Indonesia, I can understand how that could be a bit more stressful for you!! 😀

  10. I think the line that got me the most was ” I want to be around people who love life again” it’s so true. Having just moved to the states, I find people very stressed out. Congrats on having the opportunity to explore the world more and look for that love.

    1. There is a very stressed out culture I’ve found since being back too. I think it comes out more once you’ve lived outside of the States for awhile where priorities are a little different and people don’t take the same things quite so seriously. Best of luck with you recent move Angela, there are definitely still some great aspects about this country!

  11. This was the quote I read on Gratefulness.org immediately after reading your post:
    “To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe — to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it — is a wonder beyond words.”

    Namaste—-fly, my little bird.

  12. This is a really well written piece. I’m sorry that you find America the way you have described it, but I agree that it is not a happy place right now. I think election years tend to bring out the worst in our country. I hope that you find a wonderful place to settle down in Asia, and good for you for being the type of person willing to get up and go and love the unknown.

    1. Thanks so much Meghan. I do think election years bring out the worst, and it’s too bad it started so early this time around. I’m looking forward to a different pace in Asia for sure, maybe I’ll find the US completely different next time I come home. I hope so. 🙂

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