Home is where the heart is (goodbye Florence...)


Part way through my time in Florence in one of my Italian classes our teacher set us a simple assignment: close your eyes, visualize home and describe it (in Italian of course). It was at this point that I got overwhelmingly and extremely upset, not because my Italian was so poor that I couldn't describe home (it was still pretty poor but I could string a few sentences together)… but because the first thing my mind screamed out was “I don’t know where home is!”

Now of course I know I am from New Zealand and remember the town I grew up in and all of the important family and friends from my past. But my father no longer lives in Milton, and I haven’t lived in New Zealand for almost 5 years now. I had a sudden realization that I no longer know where I belong, or where it is that I call home. This was yet again an unexpected discovery for me. For someone that feels very much grounded and generally confident in my life and where it is I am heading (I don’t quite know where exactly that is, but I have faith that I am on the right path); to feel like I don’t belong anywhere was very unnerving.

I can only assume that many a traveler has felt this way after years away from ‘home’. You move around, building a new base and community here and there, but before long you are saying goodbye and moving onto the next destination. I can quite honestly say that I am now much better and much more confident in my abilities to make a new city my own - to really create new and strong foundations in my personal and social life. But where does that leave me in the long run?

All of the amazing places I have been and more importantly friends I have collected along the way are soon just another photo album in the collection of incredible memories. Well no, of course they are more than that; there are people that will always be in my life, but there are also amazing people who I will most likely never see again. Sometimes I feel like I have lived a million lives, when I look back through all the albums remembering different moments in time – not only where I was, who I was with, but also who I was. I am constantly changing and evolving – which is a good thing, but sometimes it scares me a little – what if I return ‘home’ and the friends and life I once had no longer sits right with me; I no longer recognize them, nor they me? Will there be a time when this wander lust will cease, or have I unbeknownst to me set upon a course of travel that will be how I live out the rest of my  life?...

When people say where do I want to end up? I honestly cannot give an answer right now. I say Australia or New Zealand out of habit; but I really can’t picture where it is I will finally lay down roots. Is it that I haven’t yet been to the place I will settle, or that I just am not ready to settle anywhere yet? Big questions (but I seem to have a habit here of tackling nothing less).

So, where does one go to next with this very heavy culmination of thoughts? Well after I finally recovered from the initial shock of such a realization; I did what I always do… and that is to look at this fear and see it for what it always is – a fear based on the uncertainty of the unknown. Of course I belong somewhere (and hopefully with someone); or maybe I belong everywhere - sharing a little of myself with all those I meet, and learning something in return. I don’t know the answer yet, and I am not meant to.

What I do know however is this: that I can take comfort in the fact that wherever it is I end up, I will always have certain things in my life. So the next part is dedicated to that, and also to the fact that I am once again leaving a place that has captured part of my heart and given me so much. A friend of mine said to me before I left “to make sure that I take the time to say a proper goodbye to Florence, because not only has it given me energy and inspiration, but I also leave a part of myself behind…” so I need to pay Florence it’s dues. (warning: this may be boring to some, but it is part of my goodbye and tribute to my life in Florence)

 There will always be scenery and sunsets and scenery that never ceases to amaze me...

There will always be girls' nights out (or two or three)

I will always find a special partner in crime; someone to not only have adventures with, but someone to talk to about everything - love, life and all of the ridiculous stories in between. This person will have picked me up when needed (emotionally and literally), and are an essential part in not only my experience of the city but also my personal journey; without whom it would not have been the same.

Guaranteed I will always meet amazing people just before I leave that I wished I had known the whole time; but I will always be thankful that at least we had the time we did together and just hope that our paths will cross again...
dangerous combination!

I will always have some of my very nearest and dearest come visit me from around the world, and this means more than I can ever say.

Fitness is now a big part of my life; and there will be someone to teach me something new, to push me, or to inspire in me what I am capable of.

There will always be cute bartenders (in some cases twins..), and I will at some stage end up behind (if not on) the bar...

I will always have a favourite restaurant where I am greeted by the staff when I come in (and always poured too much wine)

The city/country for whatever reason will always leave a lasting impression upon me - emotionally and literally...

I will always find joy and give 110% to whatever I do (whether it is working for a psychologist, managing restaurants, a tour leader on a boat, an au pair…)

I will always wish I had done more, given more, seen more… but I know I always live the experience I need at the time.

I will always be sad and never manage to find the right words to say goodbye and show my appreciation to the amazing people I have encountered along the way, and who have meant so much to my journey. But I know that they will always be a huge part of my life – whether a fleeting visit, or here to stay, they made an impact, and I hope they know who they are.

As you can see through the majority of these photos, it is always the people that make up my experiences. After all of my travels, I know without a doubt that wherever I go, I will always build and have a beautiful community of people around me (God knows how...), for which I will never stop being thankful for. 

After the jumble of emotions and inner turbulence from the simple classroom exercise I have once again learned a valuable lesson that may be apparent to many; yet which I failed to recognize in and of itself. So as I currently sit on a train bound for a new country and adventure, maybe I don't know exactly where home is. But what I do now know is that for me, my home - IS - the people around me. Because they say that home is where the heart is right? Well of course my heart will always be with my family- but my heart is also in the moment - in the place and with the people around me. 

So for now I will continue to make mini homes and communities around the world because though it seems like I am just creating more and more albums, I know that each album contains a piece of me, and also ignites or inspires a new part of me, and hopefully I can do the same for all those I come into contact with. And maybe; just maybe, one day when I finally (hopefully) find love - I will have found a longer lasting home...

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