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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