Coming home


Home is a very mobile concept. When I was a little kid, home was the same house I had lived in forever. I knew that one day I would leave it, in theory, but in practice no other place could seem to fit that definition.

Then I came to IU. And not to steal from all the banners and pamphlets, but IU truly became home for me. The people I met and the things I got to do gave me a sense of belonging.

So going into my journey to London, I thought it would make sense to try to make it into a third home.

It seemed like a good strategy. After all, I had just finished my last final, packed up my entire dorm room and shoved it into two cars. I barely had time to take a breath before embarking on my first-ever trip outside of the United States. I would live with a group of people I knew but wasn’t particularly close to, work at an internship at a music blog, cook for myself and make plans for myself in a country further from home than I had ever been. For six weeks! I didn’t believe I would survive it.

And yet, I did. But it wasn’t by making London into another home.

I couldn’t. I tried, for sure. I devoted way too much space in my carry-on for a stuffed Alpaca my boyfriend gave me. I scoured Tesco for foods that reminded me of home – apple-cinnamon oatmeal, Hormel chili – to no avail.

No, instead, I had to find pockets of unfamiliar comfort to get me through. The taste of English tea with a splash of milk, warm and earthy and homely, even if it wasn’t from my own home. And even though I wasn’t used to public transport, the rumble of the Piccadilly line on my way to my internship became a comfort. It was something about the way it all worked, about the predictable order of the stops, about the gentle voice over the intercom. “Mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

And between those bits of unfamiliar comfort, I found adventures: the bustle of Camden Market, vintage shops tucked between copies of tourist-trap souvenir shops. The austere mystery of the Tower of London. The rickety, rain-soaked fire escape I had to climb to get to my internship.

No, London is not my home. Nor do I imagine I’ll ever see it that way. But on the way back home, I’m glad I got to stay there all the same.