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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tian

How to Feel "At Home" Anywhere You Go - My Story & Advice

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

What is home for me?

At first thought, home for me is where my family and loved ones are. But after thinking more deeply and reflecting on how the ways I have created a sense of home in three continents and four countries, my definition of home has evolved. I think:

Home is physically the space I live in where I can rest and recover from the daily stresses of life; home is where I can be comfortable and just be myself; during the pandemic, home is also the place I work that best allows me to pursue my goals in life.

Through moving around the world, I have learned the ability to establish my home anywhere I go. I also have the confidence that wherever life will lead me, I will be able to feel like home. Let me first tell you a little bit about my background, and then I will delve deeper into how I create my "home" despite always away from home.

I was born in Zheng Zhou, China -- my first home. When I was five, my family and I moved to Budapest, Hungary for my father's job. For college, I moved again to Minneapolis, MN, and also stayed for more than three months various other states (Virginia, California) for my internships. Since the pandemic started, I moved to Boston, MA where my boyfriend works and have been living here for over 9 months now.

My Home in China (1993 - 1997)

Although China will always be my home in the sense that is where I was born, where all my relatives live in (except my immediate family), I have almost no memory of living there because I was too young. I only remember two concrete things: One of my earliest memories of my childhood was living with my grandparents', it was Chinese New Year, and crying in the bedroom because I was terrified of the fire crackers outside. Another memory is when my mum visited me at my grandparents' place and I dreamed that my mum was going to leave me (some separation anxiety there) and I woke up crying with my mum besides me.

My memories of China after moving to Budapest, Hungary are fractured, made up of summer and winter holidays throughout my childhood and middle-school years. Although I barely lived in China and don't have much memories of living there either, I have always loved to go back to my motherland. The Chinese snacks, food, the small local stationary shops, and just seeing Chinese characters written everywhere, on the billboards, on the packaging of snacks made me so excited and made me feel like home. I remember telling my mum how I wished in a perfect world, I could live in a place where my school, my friends, my house in Hungary and my relatives and favorite little shops in China, restaurants are all in one place!

I think Chinese food is probably the key thing that connects me to my home in China. Wherever I go, as long as I can get some Chinese food, I feel at home.

My Home in Budapest, Hungary & Prague Czech Republic (1997 - 2012)

If someone asks me where I am from, my answer is usually: I was born in China and then grew up in Hungary. Since I grew up with my parents and brother and so far, spent the majority of my life (13 years) in Hungary, it most closely resembles the most traditional definition of home. Nevertheless, now that I've been away from my home in Budapest for over 8 years, I find myself referring that place to "my home in Budapest" and not simply "my home". Adding another layer of complexity to my home, is that for around 10 years out of the 13 years I was in Hungary, my dad worked in Prague and commuted back and forth every 2-3 weeks. We also paid frequent visits, usually during school holidays to live with my dad in his apartment in Prague. So Prague was like our "holiday inn" but also felt like another home.