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Home or away?

What do you need to feel at home? And what do you need physically to create a home?

Obviously this varies a lot from person to person, but when relocating to another country or travelling for a longer period of time it’s important to know.

I tried to do a quick calculation the other week on how many times I have moved house over the last 10 years, but I gave up pretty quickly as I simply could not remember all the places I have lived. For me personally, a home has been where I have spent 2-3 consecutive months or more.

What then is needed in a home in order for you to feel at home? For most people it goes back to Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs:

  1. Physiological needs: Food, warmth, water – somewhere to cook, store and prepare food. Somewhere to sleep and stay warm (or cool if it’s too hot outside!). I reckon this is why the thing we focus most on whilst travelling is where to eat dinner and where to stay the night. It somehow pushes all other needs aside and simplifies everything. 
  2. Safety needs: Shelter and security – a door to close and lock. Feeling like you can rest and that your belongings are safe if you are out doing something else.
  3. Needs of belonging: Friends, family and community – feeling like you are part of something more than just you. Being able to say hi to your neighbours and socialise with your flatmates (if you share your home with others).

When looking back at my travels, especially after arriving in Australia more than 4 years ago, I find these needs and patterns very obvious in myself.

Because after backpacking for a while and having all my belongings constantly with me, the first need got a bit maxed out. I had food, water and a very basic shelter in terms of a tent or a bunk bed at a hostel with a small locker to leave my things in. But after a few months of sharing with others and moving around, I wanted that room of my own. A door to close and my own bed to sleep in for as long as I wanted. In bedsheets that I had bought myself, not a sleeping bag I rolled up every so often and moved on.

My first home here in Melbourne was a very modest one. A small single bedroom in the city with a door to close and a wardrobe to hang my clothes in. My need for safety and shelter was taken care of for the moment and I immediately went out to fill the need for belonging. After seeing many of my travel buddies leave town I felt a strong need to get to know locals, find out more about Melbourne and be part of the community that I had decided to stay in.

The main thing that I found, both from my own experience and after talking to many travellers through the years, when it comes to creating a home is that it’s actually not any harder than we make it. For most of us we just need a bed to sleep in, somewhere to cook and some nice people to hang out with.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of the beauty of simplifying things and how it’s often about focussing on the things we do have and that we are grateful for, rather than focussing on the things we don’t have (yet).

What are the key things you need to feel at home?