An Ode To Being Home

Photo by   Jim Surkamp

Photo by Jim Surkamp



1. the country or region where one is born and grew up, or where one feels at home because one has lived there for long.

Even though a borderless Europe is great, many of our generation (including myself) often don’t value Heimat - or home - enough. Modern culture commands us to move away, study in the big city, work in another country. Those that stay put are regarded as backward or afraid of exploring their boundaries, of exploring beyond their "comfort zone”. In some cases there might be some truth to that, but we tend to overlook something important when dismissing the choice for Heimat: a deep sense of belonging.


Home feels different than any other place. Childhood memories are the subjective experiences that make our home the special place that it is. My own memories are of my first bedroom, of playing outside for hours (in the rain if need be), of the friends with whom I took the first steps into adulthood, of my neighbourhood’s physical spaces, with its tall trees and ugly sixties architecture. The connection with a specific space is as much part of home as my family and friends are. For you it might be the hills you saw from your bedroom window, or the smells from a nearby bakery in the morning; for me it is the small field where I spent most of my time playing football.

Modern Europe has created a borderless culture in which we have lost the sense of importance of belonging to a Raum (space). To feel at home, we need not just people but also a physical space that we identify as native to us. Feeling truly at home somewhere takes a lot of time; time that many of us don’t see the use of spending in one place.  What we don’t realize is that this time is necessary to develop a real sense of belonging.


Nostalgia - the wistful desire to return to times past - is intimately connected to home. The wish to return to the times when our lives weren’t that complicated, when our parents still made all the difficult decisions for us, when the biggest worry we had was whether our best friends would be free to play after school. These are all nostalgic thoughts that most of us have at some point, and they are vital in order for us to understand the things that are truly important to us.

Maybe, by moving away, we lose something that we cannot recover somewhere new.

Almost all of us have specific memories of Heimat, and if we’re lucky these memories are linked to positive emotions. The village, region, or city we grew up in are where we truly feel at home. In many cases, it is and forever will be unlike any other place that we may start to call home later on in life. Home is where we know ourselves best, where we are most comfortable and content with ourselves. Looking back at the simplicity of childhood enables us to be reflective of ourselves and to forgive ourselves our flaws, perhaps because we know how far we’ve come already. 

Having a Heimat is healthy too. We only have to consider the enormous rise in levels of stress, anxiety and other mental problems that young people endure to see that the demands of our fast-paced culture produce real problems that need solving. Rediscovering the importance of being truly at home is part of a larger adjustment that our culture needs, because it is the place where we are most easily at peace with our surroundings and ourselves. Awareness of this conservative piece of wisdom will help us alleviate some of the ills of modern-day Europe.

Choosing to stay in the area where one is from, surrounded by family, old friends and our village or city is not a backward choice. It is not something to look down on, nor must we assume that it is motivated by fear of the new. We all need the feeling of home, and maybe the people who do stay at home understand something about the importance of Heimat that we "Europetrotters" do not. Maybe the homestayers are better at understanding that life isn’t going on elsewhere. Maybe we are all the best, most calm and respectful versions of ourselves when we are at home, and maybe staying somewhere where you are familiar with everything is the key to emotional balance and the "good life". Maybe, by moving away, we lose something that we cannot recover somewhere new. No matter how hard we try.