Nowhere feels like home? On being a traveler and lost 20 something

by Alexander Heyne · 86 comments

The irony of long-term travelers is that despite all the people they meet and the places they go, they’re often some of the loneliest souls in the bar.

————————-

Nowhere feels like home to me.

The past few years have kind of been a whirlwind – when I get unhappy or don’t feel like where I am has a purpose, I just move. I’ve been to a couple places – New York, China, and home – twice.

The main reason I keep moving is not just that I used to say “what now?” where I lived but because of one main thing: nowhere feels like home.

And that’s one scary ass feeling. It feels like there’s no home base, it feels like there’s nowhere you’re meant to be, it feels like there’s no point in coming back anywhere.

It also feels like there’s no purpose out there for you – cities and places just feel like cities and places you see when you’re a traveler. It all feels like you’re a spectator.

It’s the traveler’s curse. Travel too long, or too far, and you’ve stretched yourself so far that the anchors and tethers have been broken to one place.

As a result, you’ve become a lost soul.

“Omgggg Prague is so nice” And Other Shit White American Girls Say

I had traveled to 25+ countries before my 22nd birthday, and something was getting old.

I was tired of doing the generic tourist route, tired of just seeing a place to check it off the list, and tired of traveling just for sightseeing and for no other reason. It was like traveling just to brag.

“Wow have you seen Prague, Paris, Barcelona?” It was the American white girl bragging status that bothered me: “Omgggggg Prague is soooooo nice!”

Yeah, I was done.

So I started living in places longer. I studied in Switzerland, then lived in China, and have plans to live in a couple more places over the coming decade (even investing in an a place. French countryside? Yes, please!).

Problem was, at some point I started to get a little listless, the 4 hour work week lifestyle began to bore me, and I wanted to return home. Back to my roots. The Anchor.

Except when I came back home I felt empty. It was just another place, another city with more people I didn’t know. Most childhood friends had moved and left.

Sure I had my family and some other friends, but I felt just as lost as a tourist wandering around Rome. It was the strangest feeling of detachment, like I watched a scene unfold before me with no emotional interest or connection.

So what do you do when home isn’t home? 

I’ve noticed a trend that is increasingly common in lost 20 somethings – generic, one-way ticket type travel.

Nothing’s waiting here, so why not go somewhere else, right?

For the majority of people, I totally agree. Book a one way ticket and just get out. Build your wings on the way down. Plan the next year of your life during the plane ride over.

But there is one big problem – 1 year, or 3 years or 5 years down the line, when you decide you want to stay in one pace, you’re setting yourself up for some massive internal breakdown because you’ve constantly uprooted yourself and spread your purpose, pieces of yourself, all over the world and not in one place.

The reason why nowhere feels like home is because in your head you’ve spent too much time changing your external circumstances (outside) instead of your internal world (inside). And you’ve placed all the emphasis on the external for your roots.

The consequences of just changing scenery

At some people during my moving around the world I realized it was totally pointless. Every city felt the same – like nothing. Home (where my parents lived) felt the same – like nothing. They were just.. places.. they held no allure. I didn’t feel anything special in them.

None of them felt like a place I was “supposed” to be in. And that feeling scared me shitless! The feeling of life, or a place, being meaningless is one of the scariest things I’ve encountered in my post-college years. 

I was talking about this kind of long-term travel with some friends when a friend talked about the story of his dad.  His dad is a very wealthy businessman who is constantly traveling around the world.

He’s self employed, so he sleeps and wakes up when he wants. And he can travel whenever he wants. But he travels so much that he’s rarely at his home base, and instead is often at his other places around the world.

After a few years he started to have this feeling of a cloud hovering over him. He traveled so much that nowhere felt like home and he felt totally lost. He had no idea where to go “back” to when he needed to recover and recuperate, so he sought the help of a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist told him one thing: Find an anchor and set some roots Create some place that is your home base, or else you’ll get lost. That can be a person, family, a place, a job, or anything. It just needs to signify that it’s your safe place to come back to. And you need to give some place that significance. 

It’s gotta be deliberate in other words. This place is my home. 

I thought back to the previous years of my life and found an interesting trend.

The first three years of college I hated – they never felt right, meaningful, or connected. College just felt like scenery.  I even applied to transfer twice and got accepted, but I figured if they made me stay an extra year I would hate college that much longer, so I stayed and toughed it out.

Around my junior year I studied abroad in Switzerland and had a crazy fun time exploring Europe, speaking French, yadda yadda yadda. It’s hard not to think study abroad is the best time of your life.

But I came back from study abroad and school still didn’t feel right. So I knew something was up, and I knew I needed to make changes.

I joined the crew team — long story short, after being in a community that felt meaningful to me, close friends I could see 7 days a week because we trained together, my life there took on a purpose. That one year became more meaningful than my entire college experience combined. And the only thing that changed? The people.

That’s it.

People are one form of purpose. And having no purpose in a particular place is why it feels “empty” and like you’re just watching it like a traveler passing through.

The life of most unemployed 20 somethings from the outside looks great to some people: partying, sleeping in, video games and movies all the time. From the inside, it’s often the most miserable, meaningless experience a person can go through.  It’s just hollow, and those experience serve as tiny placeholders until meaning can come in and fill the void.

When Nowhere Feels Like Home

The irony of traveling a lot is that you can truly lose yourself.  Some will argue the opposite: traveling is the easiest way to find yourself. Having traveled a lot, I can say it truly depends on the person and what they are coming back to after their travels.

After all, in all the stories the wisemen would go in search of enlightenment / everlasting happiness all over the world just to say that they never had to leave their home in the first place, right?

I don’t want to get too philosophical here and say that happiness must be internally created first and not found outside – since I don’t really have experience doing that.

But what happens when you travel to so many places and leave so many pieces of yourself all over?

Instead of begin able to say “that tree is where I had my first kiss” or “that corner is where I scraped my knees learning to ride a bike” , they just become more places, more places, more places.

In any case, if you’re lost and can’t seem to shake that uneasy feeling that nowhere is home, remember these couple pieces about getting unlost:

Get un-lost: 

Think about home for a second.  What qualities of a place make you think of home?  Probably #1 is people.  #2 is the ambience, the feeling of it being cozy, warm, where we’re supposed to be. It just feels like home, right? That’s the intuition behind purpose.

“Supposed to be” comes from the feeling of having a reason to be somewhere or do something. And purpose is often attained through your mission or your work.

The single biggest factor I’ve found that affects the feeling of listlessness, the feeling of a place just feeling like a place, is the people you surround yourself with. Aka what community you’re a part of.

But for whatever reason, just having friends doesn’t given people purpose. It’s being a part of a group of friends that have some kind of common goal or mission. It’s a group that helps you improve yourself and attain mastery of something, rather than just a drinking and gossip group.

For me, that was joining a sports team in college. And in China it was training with wrestlers and developing close relationships with two friends that suffered with me in our old-school Chinese training.

Common people + a common purpose = meaningful community. Assuming you’re living away from family, these people become your new family.

A close second to finding a community you belong in is finding work you can engross yourself in.

Think about going through a terrible breakup – what’s the best way to keep going? Yeah.. keep going. Pour yourself into your work, stay focused, and keep trucking along.  Things will regain their meaning and their feeling over time.

Viktor Frankl similarly echoed 3 ways to find meaning, in his memoir Man’s Search for Meaning:

  1. Meaning through work
  2. Meaning through a loved one
  3. Meaning through the ability to rise above oneself; aka finding meaning in suffering and a greater purpose to live for

Roots Take Time to Grow

Just like a tree’s roots, setting your own roots takes time. We are rarely born into a purposeful and meaningful life. Instead, purpose and meaning are consciously created.

In my travels, I’ve met several children of families that were in the foreign service, regularly moving to a new country every 2 to 3 years.

And, surprise surprise they all get along great with me. “Uhh dunno where I should go next. Doesn’t really matter… nowhere feels like home anyway.”

I can’t help but feel like this process is not without consequences.  With family or with a loved one, the process becomes easier and more bearable since you can kind of pack your family to go (meaning through loved ones). But what about the solo traveler? What about the person bouncing around and trying to find their purpose, their destiny, their life?

I would still advise most friends how I always have: if you are miserable and don’t know what step to take, book your one way ticket and plane your life on the way over.

Long-term travel and living abroad, including location independent work, definitely are skills.  The art of purpose maximization can be tricky especially when where you live doesn’t matter.  If you don’t have to live anywhere, what’s the incentive to sit down and actually try to invest in a life somewhere?

Just remember: purpose takes conscious work and investment to grow. It rarely magically appears at the most convenient time.

From one lost 20 something to another, all I can say is this:

Whatever you decide on, don’t forget to set some roots. 

 

Image  

Wondering WTF to Do With Your Life & What Your Dream Career is? 

Snag my free report "What The Hell Should I Do With My Life?"

My guide will help you figure out:

  • What the hell to do with your life
  • Why life feels so unfulfilling - even though you might have it all
  • Why pursuing success and searching for happiness actually make you less successful and less happy
Just enter your email below:

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin June 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I’ve only ever lived in the US, but I totally get this post. This year was the first since I left for college in 2001 that I haven’t moved at least once. I’ve lived in five different US cities in the past 8 years. I’m sure making an effort to put down roots would have helped.

The problem I’ve always come up against, though, is that I know I’ll just be moving again soon. It was my restless nature, being unable to figure out what I wanted to stick with, and now it’s my husband’s job. Each time I moved I would think, “I should join a club or volunteer or something, meet some people.” But the prospect of building a little community (being social is hard for introvert me!) only to abandon it within a couple of years max has always been disheartening.

I think that without school as a common thread, a place to meet peers, it can be really hard for us 20-somethings to build meaningful community. It takes effort, and I’m still trying to figure out how to motivate myself and make it work. I agree, though — it’s a vital piece of feeling “at home.”

Reply

afheyne June 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Erin,

Yea that’s the interesting part. When you meet someone else you want to be with it raises the stakes a little and makes you think more instead of just ditching the issue and moving. The same thing recently happened to me, and it makes me wonder if all these years I’ve been moving I’ve just been avoiding getting to the core of the issue.

I’m just like you, totally an introvert at heart, and even though people would never guess when they meet me (it took a shit ton, and I mean a shit ton, of deliberate practice), like you the thought of investing so much just to lose it again leaves me as a lone wolf most of the time.

TOTALLY agree that after school building a meaningful community is bloody hard. I don’t think people realize how hard it really is. Without the guarantee of 5000 other students looking to make friends, all in the same boat and taking the same classes, it’s surprisingly not easy…especially for us introverts.

Like you I kinda do the “try new clubs and activities thing.” I started rock climbing again, quit and started new jobs, hung out with more friends and got more introductions, and plan on joining some new things soon (salsa classes, toastmasters, etc.).

It’s definitely work though, and the relationships are the most important part of feeling at home. At least you have your husband – for so many lost 20 somethings that are single it’s lonely all the time.

Reply

Mike June 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

I’ve spent nearly two decades in the military and because of the frequent moves also find it hard to connect to a place. We just always connect to the people, because you can not see someone for a decade and then see them again, and it is like they were never gone. Great post!

Reply

afheyne June 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Mike,

This is definitely a truth about life it took me way too long to realize. I wish I would’ve known sooner! It is without a doubt the people and not the place. An awesome reminder for people that are constantly uprooted.. you need to keep that crew together!

Reply

thejournalceo September 8, 2013 at 4:12 am

Interesting perspective from a military view. Helps me understand some of my relatives who say “home is where family is.” I’ve always thought of my home where I am, not where my relatives are. We never could understand each others’ perspectives.

Reply

Vicky June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I really enjoyed reading this. I was feeling a bit down and sentimental and got to googling this whole concept of travelling and ending up not feeling home anywhere, so I found this post. I’m currently in my early twenties and while I never really took any elaborate tourist trips, I spent a lot of time living in other places, and always moved there alone, without knowing anyone when I arrived. That’s how I got to spending nearly three years of my life in small town USA, 4-5 months in NYC and another 4-5 months in Paris. I had a fantastic time in all of those places and I feel more alive than ever when I’m having “adventures” like that.

The crazy thing is that every time I’m home and every time I visit one of these places, I completely change my mindset and what I want out of life. Where I want to be, who I want to be with, etc. I started to realize that no matter where I am, I cannot feel complete and I never know what I truly want, what will really make me happy. When I’m in NYC I miss the country roads, the music, the food and the vibe of small town USA. When I’m in Paris I miss the big city feel and the energy of NYC and when I’m in small town USA I miss the culture and history of Paris. To top it off, I miss home (Europe) in all of those places. And while I do have a clear home with family, there are always things I will miss, and worse, people I can’t see.

Another problem for me is that while I have family here in my home town, my friends are spread out over the world. I have old and good friends here, but no real close friends that I see on a regular basis. I guess that’s where I can take your advice. While I do have clear roots, a clear home, I will always miss other things and other people and I can never “have it all”. Working on meeting new people and becoming close with (new) friends may be a good place to start feeling more comfortable with my situation in my hometown. Thanks for the insights on how you experienced all of this, I loved reading it!

Reply

afheyne June 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hey Vicky —

I sent you an email, your experience totally reflects my own and I’d love to talk about it more —

Alex

Reply

Lauren June 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm

It was refreshing to here this from someone else. For me, I have no choice but to travel and live between two worlds…and no choice but to do it alone. My husband is in the military.

Everytime I go back to my home city it feels less and less like home. In fact, this last visit felt so empty. Now, I can’t stand both cities I am living between. Even having people in each city doesn’t make it better.

Reply

afheyne June 28, 2012 at 1:02 am

Lauren – when did your hometown start feeling less and less like home?

To be honest I haven’t quite figured out why that is. Maybe the people have changed, the places, etc. Maybe it’s just because we’re in a new phase and we feel like we need change, and that “hometown” was a childhood we can’t go back to. But my feelings were exactly like you mentioned – it felt so empty. It just felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there.

You split your time between two cities? My suggestion would be this: find some kind of activity you can bring wherever you go that will become a calling. That can be a business (With the internet it’s easier to be location independent these days), it can be a hobby, or it can just be something simple like learning a new skill or new city.

One routine I always do is the coffee shop routine. The highlight of most of my days is when I spend a couple hours in a coffee shop reading on my kindle or doing work. No matter where I go, I can usually find a coffee shop. I have a friend who does something similar with Tai Chi. Since he just uses his body he can bring it anywhere.

Stuff like that – activities that you can do that are inherently meaningful to you – should make things better. Let me know how things go !

Alex

Reply

Phil July 24, 2012 at 4:14 am

I’ve moved 21 times in the last eight years. I’ve lived on three continents. I have lost all feeling of home.

Reply

afheyne July 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

Phil I totally hear that. What about the place you currently live?

I have previously lived on three continents too and I’ve had something weird happen twice – I hated half my time in one place, and also loved the other half. Nothing changed but the people.

Once was at college in the southern USA – hated hated hated the first 3 years, couldn’t wait to graduate. Finally found a really good crew of close friends and my last year was living in paradise.

The second time was when I lived in China – hated the first 6 months, but once I got a really close crew of friends, and we ended up becoming roommates, it easily became the best year of my life. How would you rate the crew you’ve got where you live now?

Reply

ponti December 18, 2012 at 5:08 am

I am glad I have found this. I was actually googling “why I never feel like home” and found this post. It happens to me what happened to afheyne that when I am living with bunch of nice people I feel much more like home.

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Hope it helps, Ponti!

Reply

Werner January 28, 2013 at 4:32 am

Thank you for sharing this beautiful written article and your insight. I myself have travelled for several years, immigrated from Austria to Australia and now am a father of a 2year boy and five month old girl that mean the world to me and call myself fortunate that I’m truly loved by my wife since the the very first day we met.
My wife is From Thailand and we both miss our families very much at times, especially when we want to share our kids happiness with all of them.
Although there is something I came across while travelling in India that had a profound change of circumstances regarding – not feeling home anywhere in this world.
Its a 10 day silent retreat called “Vipassana” which allows you to stay in one place but go travelling far deep in the insight and boy what a journey that can be.
If anyone ever has a chance to dedicate 10 days to this technique than I can really recommend it to anyone who feels lost and alone in this world.
Please have a read:
http://www.dhamma.org


Satisfying one thousand desires
or conquering just one?

Reply

Alexander Heyne January 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

Hi Werner —

Thank you for your insight and recommendation to check out the Vipassana retreat. I will definitely check it out :)

Alexander

Reply

Benjamin May 20, 2013 at 3:09 am

This piece really hit me. I completely agree it is about the people not the place. And, that is the tough thing about travel you never know if you will land in a situation with a good community. Or if your roommates will be warm and friendly etc… I have traveled a lot in my twenties. Lived 2 years in Italy, 8 months in Chile, and 4 months in Argentina. Currently I am living in a small town in Brazil teaching English. And have never felt more lonely. I don’t know what is wrong, but unlike my other travels this time I haven’t been able to connect with people. I think a lot of it has to do with the logistics of my situation. Where I am living, my work hours etc…, and just having bad luck in that I haven’t connected with my roommate. In the past I have always had such good luck with roommates and they have always been my best friends and served as my family while abroad. This time it has been devastating not to have that connection or someone to fill that role. Living alone or in an apartment with someone who doesn’t care about you is the worst. I lived alone for one semester in college and vowed not to do it again. The best times of my life I was always living with a lot of people. Anyway I am rambling. But you are right it is the people not the place. Right now I am trying to figure out what I will do next. Unfortunately I think I will keep moving. I haven’t made the connections here to have any desire to stay as sad as that sounds. Also I am starting to feel that as I am nearing 30 my life is becoming sadder. Feeling like I don’t have anything, and feeling like all my traveling has alienated my family that I care about most. Also moving all the time I haven’t had any meaningful romantic relationships either. Even more depressing my career path is very unclear. I have an architecture degree, but not a tremendous amount of passion for working as an architect. Although I love languages and teaching. I have realized that I much prefer teaching English to doing architecture. I have toyed with the idea of starting my own English teaching company. In closing this article really hit me hard. But I know it won’t always be like this. I hope to put down roots very soon. I need to.

Reply

Alexander Heyne May 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hey Benjamin,

I totally hear you there man. Many people like us (who spend their 20s traveling a lot, rather than setting down roots) get this uncomfortable feeling about being alone. Like nowhere is home.

I agree with you the best times in my life have always been when I was living with a lot of people. I think it’s that community aspect that makes us human, and makes us feel so lost when we don’t have it.

Let me ask you this: what’s preventing you from staying in one place for a bit longer, or just setting up a “home base?”

And why not start your own English teaching company, or better, take your english teaching online – so you can move wherever, which gives you the freedom to set down roots (and stay in one place) or travel as much as you want?

I’m with you there man. I need to find a way to set down some kind of roots. The irony is that traveling becomes less fun without roots (for me) unless you’re a full on nomad.

Reply

Jon June 7, 2013 at 8:41 am

For me university and travelling in my late teens/early 20s was the pinnacle of what life is all about; learning new things, passing tests, challenging yourself, meeting new people, partying, seeing new places…those years at university and those years spent travelling will never be bettered.

The problem, the way I see it, is returning ‘home’ once all that’s done to find things haven’t changed one bit; you as a person have changed, but the people you’ve left behind haven’t.

You therefore enter a spell of deep depression while you sort your life and finances out, spending years planning your next move; “What do I want to do with my life?” etc…

You can’t sit still, but you have to. And you get drawn into the mediocre existence of the people you left behind and you start questioning everything…they have the mortgage (shouldn’t I be thinking about a house?), they’re having kids (maybe I need to meet someone and settle down?), they have a decent career which they’ve built up (why did I waste my money on education and travel?). The problem is, you see; reality. Home life when you return to it after doing everything you wanted in your youth is just as dull as when you left it. As travellers/dreamers/idealists we can never be comfortable with mediocrity, and seeing others accept their fate fries our brains, and we start to question whether or not we should accept that fate of paying the mortgage on time.

These roles will however, be completely reversed when us ‘lost 20-some-things’ reach 40/50/60 and we can look back and think “You know what? I did good”, while the people who have never left ‘home’ will think “You know what, what did I actually DO?”.

It’s just for now, reality bites.

Reply

Ashley July 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I have only ever lived in Texas my entire life. I have a wonderful family, 3 beautiful kids and a great husband, but I have never, ever felt like I am “home.” I just feel trapped here. I have always said, I feel like I have a gypsy soul. I just feel like this is not where I am supposed to stay. I hope one day I will find a place that I feel satisfied, until then….day by day. Great post.

Reply

Alexander Heyne July 28, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hi Ashley,

Let me ask you this: when was the last time you felt at home? Where were you and what were you doing?

– Alex

Reply

kathy August 10, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I discovered this blog a couple days ago and a lot of what you’ve written resonates. I’m in a corporate job that I’m looking for ways to escape and have just moved to a new city (3rd one in 5 years). I’ve sacrificed a lot of relationships b/c of my restlessness and totally get the “don’t feel at home anywhere” feeling.

BUT. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. I returned to my hometown after years away and felt like I’d outgrown my place and the people who’d stayed behind and there was no amount of investing in the city that could make me feel differently (I know, I tried). With the other places, I felt like I’d capped out in terms of growth opportunities. I think it does get better if you trust the process and you’re not moving just to move but taking steps (no matter how small) to get closer to the things that really matter to you. I’ve only been in my new city a few months but so far it’s been great. I’m thinking of ways to move again so I can spend a few months in paris and new york, which are on my bucket list, but I’d consider coming back here once I’ve gotten my fill of those places (plus, I also totally agree with you that starting your own business is the way to go b/c then you can still be based in one place while still having the freedom to spend longer periods of time in other places of interest).

The loneliness has been tough but I sort of see it as a necessary evil. If you’ve outgrown a place and are not engaged with it and the people in it, then it’s not a good fit anymore and you need to move on. When you’re engaged, you don’t feel lonely and having experienced that before, I know I wouldn’t be content to settle for something less. Better to be lonely but hopeful about finding people/things you truly care about than to settle for less and feel lonely forever.

Reply

Alexander Heyne August 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hey Kathy,

I agree it’s a wise choice to move on if you feel you’re capped out in terms of growth, but there is a limit to it. At which point do we ask ourselves “What am I running away from?”

– Alex

Reply

kathy August 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm

maybe nothing. you could just be just running towards something you’re more interested in. depends too i guess on what you need to feel connected. ex. if you move around with your significant other or family and your home is with them, then what’s the issue?

Mel August 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I gotta say, I am happy to read that there is other people out there feeling the way I do. I started to think that there might be something wrong with me :)

I left my hometown in Germany after university and went to Canada for a year and when I had to come back, I was devastated. It seemed like everything and everyone had changed and soon I realised it was me that had changed. I really tried but I just didn’t fit in anymore, and I felt like I needed to go somewhere else to be happy. I couldn’t get another working visa for Canada, so I moved to England…. I stayed for more than a year but the urge to go back to Canada and see all the great people I met and feel ‘home’ and like I belong somewhere was still there. It started getting worse and I felt more and more lonely, so one day I packed my stuff and got a one way ticket to Vancouver… It was so great to be back at first but that feeling didn’t last very long. I guess it wasn’t Canada I missed, it was more the people I lived and worked with the first time I was there, which made me love that place so much. I moved again, back to London, where I still live now 2 years later.

A few weeks ago my boyfriend said, he wants to have a family here with me one day and I asked him why it has to be here and he said, because this is my home. It made me feel sad, because I still don’t feel home here but where will I?

Reply

Alexander Heyne August 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

Mel,

I think you hit the nail on the head.

It’s not really the places we miss, but the circumstances surrounding those places we miss – the close friends we had at that given time, maybe a job we loved, or just an overall life that finally felt “Right.” It existed ONLY in that time period though (the past), which is why when you went to vancouver you realized it had all changed and didn’t feel like home anymore.

Chances are, to be honest, nowhere will feel like home unless you invest the effort and grow some roots wherever you are.

That means:

A. Getting a job where you can meet people
B. Meeting lots of people and making new friends
C. Getting into a daily routine that you like… that makes you feel at home

Of course, you can do these things anywhere.

Hope that helps!

– Alex

Reply

thejournalceo September 8, 2013 at 4:16 am

Interesting. I, too, landed here Googling “how to make somewhere feel like home.” I haven’t moved around nearly as much as other people here have, but still don’t feel settled, grown up, or attached to a place.

I find myself missing the previous place I lived– my grad. school “college” town. Maybe it’s not so much the place I miss (though I do love that city), but the fun times and people I met while living there.

I think cities can have a “vibe” too. Some cities are fast-paced, noisy, competitive. Others are chill, easy-going, quieter, friendlier.

I’ve tried living in cities that were “cool” but didn’t have my vibe, and eventually felt like I couldn’t stand living there another second.

Amanda October 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I very much level with this reading. I am a roadie, meaning I travel building stages and doing sound and lighting for events. In our community we call ourselves pirates. Only recently have I realized I truly have no home, and nowhere I go feels like home anymore. I rent out a room in detroit I spend 3 days at a year, basically a storage space at this point. I have no family and noone I would consider to be a best friend. Noone really contacts me while im away. Im beginning to feel truly alone. I received a job offer somewhere outside of chicago where I could stay for 6 months before being sent out on tour yet again. I wonder if this would give me the chance to make a home of my own, but then again its only 6 months before im on the road. All my friends envy my life because I travel and see all these places and events, one thing they don’t realize is my crew of workers changes every show, I have no constant. I am beyond lonely. I can’t even romantically get close to anyone because I feel so alone. Im trying to fix this but I feel like its going to take some serious time. This is one of the first things ive read that I can level with. Also I have moved my home base aka the room I am renting 6 times in the past year prior to that I had a home with a ex for 3 years but that was a past life. I once knew what a home base was, but now I personally have no idea.

Reply

Alexander Heyne October 5, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hey Amanda,

So what’s stopping you from changing jobs?

Reply

Amanda October 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

I love what I do for a living and I don’t have much of a background in anything else and no college education. Im in a industry thats near impossible to thrive in and I am at the moment. I’d rather not give up something I’ve worked so hard for no matter how lonely I am at the time. I need to prove to myself and my mother before she dies that I can truly make something of myself. The job I was offered was doing the exact same thing only no more freelance and I get to work in a single place for 6 months but after that I’ll be non stop on the road again.

Im told the life of a roadie isnt for everyone, but the fact is im good at it. There are very few things I’m good at in this world.

Heather November 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I have this feeling of never being “home” , after serving two tours to the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan). I was actually just voicing this frustration a few days ago to my fiance. No matter where I’am…even if I’am at the house we live in, even if I go to the Mothers house…I don’t feel HOME. I’ve traveled a little bit, but pretty much feel restless all the time. It is horribly frustrating…

Reply

Alexander Heyne November 3, 2013 at 3:49 am

Heather, I totally understand you. For me, it’s often the same way.

Reply

Meghan January 5, 2014 at 12:17 am

Pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. I traveled instead of going to college and after a couple of years of that joined the military to start establishing some type of anchor. Even though the military wasn’t for me, I spent three years in a place making some of the best friends I’ve had, and even got married. But the marriage ended, my time in the military ended, and I’ve been endlessly floating on since.
I tried going “home” but with my parents both divorced and bitter it went terribly and I remembered why I left that area of the country in the first place. I traveled some more and it was wonderful but I never felt truly “at home” anywhere, and the realization of this slowly dawned on me the more I was on the road. I remember driving through Kansas with my soon-to-be ex husband three years ago, almost in tears, telling him that I felt like an “orphan”, despite having two living parents, a sibling, many friends (although scattered all around the world), and him.
After the military and some more travel, I moved to Austin, Texas, thinking I could go to school with my GI Bill and set up roots, already having one really good friend in the area, but this friend and I have since developed a more toxic relationship and now I feel like moving yet again.
At a certain point I wonder whether I am running toward something or away from everything. I agree that it is all about community and purpose, it’s just hard to find those and truly work toward developing these things in one place. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be one of those settled people who don’t question and don’t think much about anything in particular and don’t need to move to find a real home.
Anyway, aside from my incredibly depressing post, I really liked this article and it’s given me some hope, and maybe something to work towards. There is something truly beautiful about the thought of finding a home and belonging somewhere, that no matter how far you go from it you can always come back and belong. Maybe this exists for some people, and maybe I can make it a reality for myself some day. Great blog by the way :).

Reply

yvette dobosz February 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

Thank you, your post helped me.I’m 27.

Reply

Alexander Heyne February 22, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Cheers Yvette :)

Reply

Emily April 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm

This is a canny old post now, but it is still relevant and relates to me very well. I’m a UK based student (just finished year 1 of 4), and although I’ve only ever lived around the UK and only left it twice, I literally don’t feel I have roots or a home anywhere. I moved every few years as a child/teen, so never made a solid group of friends or place I can go back to. I have close friends dotted all over the place, some who I don’t see for a year at a time, and mean a lot to me. But they are all part of larger groups who are very tight knit, so I constantly feel like an outsider.

My close family are also dotted all over the place, so I cannot go ‘home’ to where family is. Going ‘home’ to where my parents are (they just moved there recently), I feel like a complete tourist. I don’t really know my extended family, so there’s that too.

As I’ve just started university, and I really want to set roots in the city I’m in as I know nobody can take those roots away from me except myself. I want to experience living somewhere more than a few years. However it’s hard to feel at home somewhere where close friends just haven’t happened.

Real friends have been an issue to make here, as most are from a completely different culture to me (lots of irish for instance, who mainly socialise through alcohol) and just don’t share the same sort of interests, lifestyle etc as me. I’ve tried fitting in, but I didn’t like compromising myself to do so when it was just making me unhappy. I feel like an outsider again. My close friends are people who feel ‘real’, not just folk who gossip and drink as the basis of their friendship, as much as I can possibly enjoy those activities. But making new friends is becoming very difficult as I feel myself becoming introverted. It’s becoming harder to push myself to do stuff to meet new people. I shouldn’t even have to push myself.

Also, as I’m not enjoying my uni experience in general (bad course and uni etc), I want to transfer but can’t transfer to a uni in the city I’m currently in (further bringing on this feeling of just aimlessly drifting).

I realise I’m having a big venting session, but it’s such a desperate feeling of loneliness coming along that I’m scared it’ll just consume me and I’ll just become someone so introverted they don’t want to make new friends because frankly, there’s no point if I’m moving around all the time.

I think travelling would possibly benefit me, but I can’t afford it (hence why I’ve only left the UK twice when I was a kid). I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. I want to find a way to knock it down and move forward. Your bit about finding a good group of friends in your last year gives me some hope that if I do stay at this uni, I will find a solid group of friends I can settle into, and maybe even settle into this city.

Reply

Alexander Heyne April 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Hi Emily,

So what’s stopping you from rebuilding your life where you are at uni – finding a new core group of friends, asking people out to coffee, joining clubs, starting clubs, etc?

Reply

Randy B April 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

My folksy father used to always say. You can move a dead horse and it will still stink. Sage wisdom for moving just to feel better I think.

Reply

mischa April 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm

This is the same whether you are in your twenties, or fifties, like I am now. I’ve been all over US and traveled some in Europe, and nowhere feels like home or feels interesting enough to settle (through seeing it all through travelers eyes is interesting). I keep going and searching nonetheless.

Reply

Alexander Heyne April 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Hi Mischa,

What are you searching for? Home, or fulfillment?

Reply

Katie May 13, 2014 at 3:42 am

I feel the same way. During my childhood I was very secure in my sense of home and would become restless and anxious if I was away from my house for too long. I loved that house and I loved my family eternally. It just felt like it was the place I was meant to be. When I was about 13 some horrible things happened with my parents so my mom and I ran away basically. We moved a few hours away and eventually went across the border and moved to the other side of the continent. Now I am very far from home but I have been here for 5 years and have many amazing friends and experiences but I feel fundamentally empty. I am very depressed some days. I am constantly missing my family and country but when I go visit home I miss my friends from here. It’s like there are people with pieces of me all over the place and they’re never together so there are always these holes in me. There are parts of me missing. When will I feel complete again?

Reply

Ted June 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Wowww…I know this post is from 2012, but for some reason I stumbled upon it. Every word you’ve written here is a reflection of what I am going through, and what I am think.

I grew up in the Netherlands. Had a tough childhood, single parenthood, moved around twice before the age of 18. Lost most of my friends. Moved to Canada at the age of 20, first time away from “home”, family, friends etc. When I came back shortly, my life was changed ever since.

I am now 29, turning 30. Live in 7 countries, just finished a world trip, and completely feel lost after living, working, travelling, studying abroad for the past 10 years. On top of this I’ve been working freelance in marketing, but most of the time unemployed.

Long story short, what you just wrote although from reading you are much younger than me, is exactly how I feel, and I simply cannot talk about with my family or friends, because nobody has ever experienced what I did. People tend to have envy towards me and think I live this celebrity lifestyle of travelling and visiting the most exciting places on earth, when in reality I am just running away from myself.

I keep telling myself that I should stay in one particular place, but my wanderer instinct is so strong that I just keep on going. Its like an illness that I cannot find a cure for. Turning this year 30, seeing how most of my friends are doing well, starting to settle down, having a family, house etc. It makes me feel I am wasting time, especially that I am unemployed and wherever I go, everything looks the same, boring. On top of this loneliness is definitely another issue that arose over the years, and that simply comes with being away for TOO long.

Reply

Alexander Heyne June 16, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Hey Ted,

I think the problem is that for both of us we tend to have somewhat of a “fear” of settling down. We equate it with ordinary, boring, mediocre or something like that. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself “Why” you keep wandering like this. Why do you keep leaving?

Reply

Alexander Heyne June 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Hey Ted – and yes, it is an illness. An illness of the mind.

Reply

SH June 25, 2014 at 6:35 am

Thank you.
You gave a lost girl some answers.
Take care.

Reply

Alexander Heyne June 25, 2014 at 9:42 am

Cheers SH :)

Reply

Marisa August 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Hi,

I travelled a lot as a kid and this made me stand out even more than I already did in school so that community thing didn’t exactly happen for me.

I then went to the US for university for two years and despite meeting a couple of great people – again there was no real sense of community and frankly it was not the right place for me.

I moved to Australia to get a degree which I finally did. I had more independence and autonomy over where I went, what I did and who I spoke to. I joined groups, made friends and had a partner.

I split with my partner after seven years, I organised a conference for the group I was involved in on a voluntary basis that meant o lived below the poverty line to do so and by the end of it I had to step away from the group to focus on myself more because I was so burnt out. In addition my dad in Sri Lanka where I grew up and am from originally, died and I somehow finished my masters degree.

All in all I have been in Australia ten years during which I have struggled to find steady stable work in journalism or publishing so I can support myself and write my books (which is what I want to do). Finding work is a struggle and I feel life will get worse because of the current politics as well.

But I can’t go to Sri Lanka because I have never really fitted in there either and I didn’t grow up in the same way others did so I’m missing a lot of information I would need and there seems to be (much as I love the place) nothing there for someone like me.

I’m thinking England now but I am very wary because it’s hard to get sponsored for a job there and I want to be sure I’m going there because it might finally feel like home and there is a definite job offer. I don’t want to fall into the trap of running away from something.

I feel I will only feel at home in my significant other’s arms and that I have to on some level be able to cope with this homelessness feeling because even if I had a SO and that was true there’s no guarantee they would stick around forever.

So I’m glad I came across this post because it is helpful and very wise. I just think that I have really exhausted myself trying to make things work out in Australia and that I need to find somewhere that’s a bit kinder to me so I can put down the roots.

So I can build a community that shares my purpose (writing) that doesn’t keep fluttering away and breaking apart into pieces. Right now I have writer friends but their main goals aren’t writing or they are already established published writers and so you sort of feel you can’t join the gang just yet or they are at the same place you are mentally etc but not physically and are scattered across the globe.

At the moment my plan is to do any sort of work and just save up as much as I can and continue working on my book since I have just tied up all my loose ends – masters, conference, propping mother up etc. If a stable Jon doesn’t show up by December I may have to move to Sydney and share digs with my sister or to Sri Lanka with my mother and keep trying and applying for work across the world from there.

At this point I know not what else I can do and there are days where it is hard to cope with the feeling of homelessness. But you are right in saying tht it is the people you are around – some of my friends are great but I cannot see them often enough unfortunately.

And I also want to say that Jon’s comment about worrying about mortgages, careers etc when you see all your old friends doing that is so relatable. My mother worries about me not being settled all the time. And you see it in everyone’s eyes but I was never one for that sort of job and I have no problem with the putting down roots thiing but I think I can only do it when I feel properly part of a place – when I have home in the arms of someone, when I have friends with that common purpose – my tribe around. I haven’t found them yet.

Thank you for the post and sorry for the verbal spiel. But it just made sense.

Cheers, Marisa

Reply

joci September 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm

That’s totally me!
I’ve started moving because of what I wanted to study: languages. I was studying in Lisbon for 3 years, and then I wanted to go back home, but somehow I was feeling incomplete. I needed more before coming back. Portuguese was always my second language and It was no hard to me to spend these 3 years there. But somehow It was like mandatory to me to spend some time in some other countries, for example: Germany and France, to learn other languages. Because of the crisis I couldn’t find anything good at the time to stay in Lisbon, so I decided to move to Germany as an au-pair. At the first time it was like “WOW, I’m going to Germany!”, but then, I found an internship in Lisbon, and i did it. Right on the time that I got my visa to travel to Germany my boss asked me if I could stay 3 moths more. Though decision: I went to Germany. It was like hell at the beginning and couldn’t really connect with the family I was living with and working for. I spent 7 hell of months in Germany, although I had made some friends. The most of them were trying to say, and I wasn’t, I didn’t wanted. I wanted to come back because I missed Lisbon so bad. Because of visa problems I had to quickly decide what’s next. Then I decided to go to France, I need french, so got the opportunity and came here. Now I’m here and I’m asking myself if I shouldn’t try harder to stay in Germany, I made really good friends there, and after 7 hell of months I spend the very last 4 months travelling with some friends, living, enjoying. Particularly I used to find the city where I was living boring, but and the end I realized I was truly connected to the people I met there (most of them not Germans). And it is like hell to move again. That’s why I was sad and decided to do some research and found this text. Sometimes I moved because I had no reason to stay, and then I moved because I had to. I have to tell myself my own story every time to remind myself why I’m here, what made me come here. Otherwise I would feel completely lost. Founding this post helped me, a lot. It’s hard to start all over again, and making new friends becomes harder because you’re kinda shaped by the other people you met before. during this 4 years and going to 5 that I’m living abroad I realized what’s the real meaning of having someone there, even just one friend, and having some purpose to be there, in my case learning the language and the culture. life is not easy, living abroad is not easy! A purpose and a meaningful living soul is all you need to get through… Now I have friends all over the world, good, and bad! But it’s the richness of a traveler…

Reply

Kay September 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Sigh, this post struck a cord with me. Albeit, I haven’t travelled as much as others but I’m facing a dilemma that keeps eating away at me and I suspect it’s cause I don’t know what to call “Home”.
I moved back home (Canada) after 4 wonderful years of grad school in Boston. I’m torn because I can’t decide where to live. Moving back home, it doesn’t “feel” like “home” – a lot of my friends from high school have moved away, I live with my parents (for now) and I miss the city life SO much it hurts (and all the people and memories). At the same time, I know moving back to Boston makes no sense cause I think what I miss the most is the people, that school life, how new the city was to all of us and that whole atmosphere – I don’t think moving back there will feel exactly the same either since people have moved away (though I have a higher chance of making new friends).
Part of me is scared I’ll regret staying here (Canada) instead of traveling to another part of the US to work – but part of me think, if I ever want to come back to my family in Canada in lets say 5 years – I am going to be in the exact same boat – feeling lost and lonely as I do now.
I am also afraid of being alone and starting afresh in a new city – and if I set roots there, coming back to my family should the need arise will force me to tear my “roots” in the new city.
All in all – do I start to settle here, make the best of where I am (not in the city and I dislike that) or do I move somewhere new and start there?

Reply

Alexander Heyne September 8, 2014 at 9:55 am

Hi Kay –

My advice would be this: figure out which one you WANT to do most, and then figure it out – no matter how afraid you are.

Reply

niburu.co October 5, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
It will always be exciting to read through content from other writers and practice a little something
from their websites.

Reply

Jen December 1, 2014 at 2:00 am

Hi Alex,

Do you have any articles or views on constantly feeling like the ‘grass is always greener’?

Much like Vicky wrote “The crazy thing is that every time I’m home and every time I visit one of these places, I completely change my mindset and what I want out of life.”

This is how I feel everyday, as much as I try to live in the here and now and focus on what is right in front of me, there is always this unsettling feeling that there is something better out there or that there was something better in the past. Even if I’m trying to work on a hobby or bettering myself, in the back of my mind I have a paranoia that I should be dedicating this time to something else.

I have considered doing the whole buy a one way ticket thing, but feel as though once I arrive in a new country I’ll change my mindset and wish to be back home again!

Reply

Alexander Heyne January 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm
tom January 4, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Thanks for this article. Although I’m not sure if it will change anything for me, it pretty much sums up my life. Been there , done that. I spent(and still do) months every year traveling to far away counties and I still kinda enjoy it – but in the end it doesnt make me happier. I dont feel at home anymore , no matter where I am. When im traveling I tend to forget that feeling, but as soon as I get back to the place I used to call home, it starts again.

I’m also afraid to settle down and afraid to make any real commitments which has led to several failed relationships and obviously to me being single for ages now.

Your introdoctury sentence – “The irony of long-term travelers is that despite all the people they meet and the places they go, they’re often some of the loneliest souls in the bar” pretty much describes it.
I sit in bars all around world and meet lots of people, many people tend to admire me for the life I live but they fail to see whats behind it all.

Thanks for reading, I hope someday we will find a way to become happier.

Reply

Alexander Heyne January 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Hey Tom –

Don’t hope – figure out what needs changing, at the core, behavioral level, then do it. That’s what helped me.

Reply

Joe April 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I totally get this.

I left what felt like home when I was 14. The funny bit is I had only lived there for 4 years, but by the end of that time, my old home town became a place, and this new place became home.

And then I left. I had the chance to move to Ireland and see new things. Then 4 months later I packed my bags and left. Then 2 months later I moved again. Then 8 months later I moved again. And now, I’ve been in one place for 2 years, and I realised that this is not home. I want to go back to my old home town, but I can’t. My dad doesn’t live there, my mom doesn’t live there anymore… now she’s back in my first home, which isn’t home. And now I don’t know where to go.

At first the travelling really did help me find myself. It straightened my life out…. but now it’s bending once more. I need to find a home, but I don’t know where to start…

Reply

Alexander Heyne April 14, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Hey Joe –

It starts here: pick a place, and get building.

Reply

fiona April 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Im 30 and left my home town at 20 as I had no friends. I had fallen out with most of them through my excessive drinking and dumping them for guys. I lived in London for a year as my mum was living there with her new partner. I dropped out of school at 16 as I had no idea what I wanted to do in life and saw London as a way of clearing my head and hopefully discovering what I enjoyed doing. I lasted a year in London, id made no friends, was depressed and had fallen out with my mum. I had though become more confident but I still was unsure of what I wanted to do. So the drinking started again and I managed to fall out with any friendships i regained so was back to square one. I then moved back to London a year later hoping to give it another go. Again after trying lots of jobs, not meeting any new people and not being able to move out my mums (by this age I was 24) i decided to go back to get my degree. That lasted two years when i had the inspirsation from a guy i was seeing to go to australia. So i moved to oz. I was there only a month and got into a relationship(which didnt last) did not gain many friends and after two years moved back to london. i moved back 18 months ago and really cant settle and miss oz. I know want to leave again but iv had over 30 jobs and moved so many timrs thAt i dont think wherever i live i will be happy. I have terrible memories of my hometown from growing up. I miss the security of having my mum around but she lives in the country. i fall for guys then stay in unhappy relationships for security. I have no hobbies and dislike myself. Iv never been on a girls holiday either. I cant help but compare myself to others. I even copy what other people ie jobs, hobbies. Just as i am so lost. Im tempted to book a one way ticket to new zealand

Reply

Ryan May 18, 2015 at 1:28 pm

I get this so much it hurts.

I didn’t really feel homeless until about a month ago. During undergrad, I felt at home among my new school and friends in a new city where I didn’t know anyone at first. It was exciting and new, and more comfortable than my hometown. A month before graduation I met someone, and we became romantically involved. We agreed that we needed to try to make the long-distance thing work. I was accepted to grad school 1000 miles away from her, and she still had a year left. Moving away was so hard, but knowing that I could anchor myself to her gave me a home, especially when I moved to my new school and found a very uncomfortable community. I absolutely don’t belong there, but grad school is keeping me hostage. We made it just past the 1 year mark together and almost through my first year at the new school, and she broke things off. She’s sure our time together isn’t meant to go past this stage. I’m not ‘the one’. With that, my home is gone. She has graduated and remains in the same city, but I don’t belong there anymore.

Now I just want to get out of this town and leave grad school behind, unfinished. I feel like I need to get out and find where I really belong, as it most certainly isn’t here. The only thing holding me back is the thought of quitting school with only a year left and feeling like a failure. I just don’t know if I can go that long feeling like such an outsider. Any suggestions?

Reply

lia July 4, 2015 at 2:18 pm

im just so thankful to chance upon this article..the feelings of emptiness wherever you go can really make you question what we are here for? a meaningless existence.I agree with what you said..it’s the people not the places that make a place a home.There are people in our lives that just seem irreplaceable and it just breaks our heart when we lose them and can’t find people who can fill in the void they left in our hearts.Thanks for this article..it makes me realize..there are people out there who can truly understand what some of us go through.

Reply

Nat August 3, 2015 at 5:36 am

Hey Alex,
Stumbled across your post and it has really hit the nail on the head for me! I’ve been travelling since high school and have lived in a few different countries, but home will always be New Zealand as that’s where I grew up and where my family is. I’ve been back 18 months now this time and have struggled with the idea of trying to settle down. Most of my friends have moved overseas, or are married, some with kids, and whenever things start to get tough or the loneliness creeps in I try to figure out where I should escape to next, until I remind myself starting anew in a different country will bring with it all the same issues! Time to look into some clubs! Cheers

Reply

CRYSTAL August 19, 2015 at 8:59 am

Thanku so much for your post i have been in over 30 places in the last year, i have never lived anywhere more than 4 years. But now this strange emptiness is in my soul i feel like i need to go home and see family as it is one set of roots i know. The urge is strong and it makes sense♥

Reply

Jessie October 20, 2015 at 2:39 am

Thank you for this post – my exact feelings! I am between adventures and trying to decide between putting down roots somewhere or continuing to travel and basically live out of suitcases. While I really want to put down roots, I don’t know where I can even imagine feeling potentially homey enough to do so. And what if, after laying down the groundwork, I decide it doesn’t feel like home there, afterall? What if nowhere ever feels like home? Because home doesn’t feel like home right now.

But this post definitely made me realize that perhaps continuing to travel aimlessly with the hope of stumbling upon a new safe haven actually isn’t the way I’m going to find home.

Thank you.

Reply

Jessie October 20, 2015 at 2:41 am

Thank you for this post – my exact feelings! I am between adventures and trying to decide between putting down roots somewhere or continuing to travel and basically live out of suitcases. While I really want to put down roots, I don’t know where I can even imagine feeling potentially homey enough to do so. And what if, after laying down the groundwork, I decide it doesn’t feel like home there, afterall? What if nowhere ever feels like home? Because home doesn’t feel like home right now.

But this post definitely made me realize that perhaps continuing to travel aimlessly with the hope of stumbling upon a new safe haven actually isn’t the way I’m going to find home.

Thank you.

Reply

Flora October 21, 2015 at 8:05 pm

This is the first thing that comes up when you google “college doesn’t feel like home and home doesn’t either”. And to be honest it’s a really helpful thing to read.

I’ve only been at college for two months, in the Netherlands. Though I’ve lived in England my entire life I applied to Dutch colleges and accepted a place at essentially the college version of an international school. It’s full of kids that have never lived somewhere longer than three years their entire lives, something I can’t even fathom.

My own move isn’t exactly dramatic or much of a culture shock, as I can get back to my parents house faster than my sister who actually lives in England, but it’s still weird to be in the process of trying to make somewhere new a home when you’ve already left one behind, and too be in some freaky, half assed limbo when I don’t really belong to either. But this is an extremely helpful perspective, and if it’s roots I’ve got to cultivate then that’s my new way of looking at things.

Reply

D November 18, 2015 at 2:43 am

Never in my life have a left a comment for post, I’m more of a silent reader. But this time I just had to share my feelings.

Reading your post and the comments made me realise i’m not the only one experiencing the feeling of having no home, on top of that i’m having a kind of…reverse culture shock. Im originally from a central asian country and due to my parent’s job was required to travel in live in different countries and continents.In total I have lived half of my entire life away from my home country. I am now in my early twenties and recently came back after living the last 4 years in UK. I used to frequently visit my country during family holidays or on special occasions but i always knew that it was a temporary stay. Now that I am back for good makes me feel as if I am suffocating. The harderst part is the language barrier. I had to learn English since a very young age and of course through time I became fluent in it compared to my mother language…I think in English, my jokes are in English etc…that’s the other thing-cultural barrier. I became very different from the people of my home country, I have different mindset and mentality, I became simpler and more westernised. It’s hard for me to adapt with the people of my own and it makes me feel down…even in everyday simple situations are hard for me because of those barriers. I just started an internship at a local organisation and I’m hating it. The whole organisation culture here is completely different to what I got used to. I worked for a year in UK before and loved it, while here I have to adapt all over again. On top of that I am very underappreciated here…but that’s a whole other topic. I don’t have many friends here and no connections, I feel unhappy being here and constantly complain about small things that are different here compared to where I have lived before. The worst part is that I can’t just easily immigrate to a foreign country because of the visa restrictions and I am not yet as financially stable to go around on a temporary travel.

Either way glad I stumbled upon your post which is realistic and without any meaningless advise. I think what you said about putting roots down is a great advise on which I am currently working on

Reply

Alexander Heyne November 24, 2015 at 1:34 pm

D – you are definitely NOT alone. It’s not easy! Do your best to stay in one spot for at least a few years, force yourself to create roots. That has worked really well for me.

Reply

SGT JG December 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm

This hits pretty close for me. I was raised in a cult and escaped just before leaving my teens. Then I was homeless for about a year, and since then I’ve been constantly moving with the US Army. In the last ten years, I’ve lived in 23 apartments/barracks, 3 countries, 6 states… I’m single with no meaningful family close by. It sucks, but I’m too restless to settle down in one spot. I’ve become addicted to traveling.

Reply

Alexander Heyne January 2, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Hey SGT JG –

I talk with a lot of people in the military about this. One thing that helped for me was forcing myself to establish roots -get into a serious relationship, stay in one spot, make friends, get a regular routine of some sort.

Sometimes it’s just a hard habit to break.

Reply

Constantina January 18, 2016 at 5:50 am

Hello, I found this helpful post tonight because I bought my fourth home and have buyers remorse yet again. I’ve been here for a couple of years and I still can’t adjust. I have lived in Illinois, Indiana, Maui, Oahu, Tennessee, and now, back in Florida. I guess I lived as a wanderer because nowhere felt right. I was searching for one thing and kept finding different things. Now, I realize that I wasted a lot of time, luckily I am still young though. I am finding some annoyances with my home, but I wonder if my homesickness is to blame. Chicago is my hometown, my comfort zone, my family and friends place, but the winters were hard for me. Despite that, I always found a way back in between my moves. But, winter would get to me again and that’s why I am here in FL. This state comes with a different set of problems. Long story. It is difficult to completely accept it here. I lived in Miami years ago and left there saying I would never step foot in this state again. Never say never. Now, I am here in Orlando remembering why I left this state back then. But, Miami is worse by far. My two choices are to stay and put up with it or go back to Chicago for good this time. Hopefully, I will get it right the sooner the better. Thank you for this post and helpful comments. xo

Reply

Tiffany February 21, 2016 at 10:28 pm

I am just now coming across this article and I’m glad that there are people out there like myself. I have not lived abroad but I have lived all up and down the east coast for about half of my life now and my family thinks I’m crazy because I can’t stay in one place. I would love to go back “home” but it’s so different there and I feel like I’ve been gone for too long. Alex has it gotten any easier for you? Have you had any luck with setting any roots?

Reply

Alexander Heyne February 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Yes, much easier.

I found that FORCING myself to stay in one place, make friends, get a girlfriend, focus on one key career has really made this feeling go away almost entirely. That’s what I would focus on.

Reply

Phil March 23, 2016 at 9:21 am

After reading your advice where you suggest the best way to get un-lost is to get lost i ponder this . Has lived in one place for 15 years . All relatives/friends reasons to be here have either died , drifted apart or moved . I have no connections here anymore . I haven’t even spoken to my neighbours in three years !
i am also well travelled and no place is home . My actual ‘home’ the house i own and live in seems like a prison .

Reply

Melissa March 23, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Thank you, thank you, just for putting out there what so clearly so many people were hoping to hear – that we’re not alone. All of us “home-less” people have a bigger community than we thought I guess :)

Reply

Alexander Heyne March 24, 2016 at 11:57 pm
Spencer March 30, 2016 at 2:04 am

This is how I feel much too often. I have never came across anyone with this issue and sometimes wish I would so that I would have someone to speak to about this. The feeling of being lost and never at home can be an extremely haunting feeling.

Reply

MIKE April 20, 2016 at 11:08 am

I NEVER FEEL HOME ANYWHERE I GO OR LIVE.

It all started when I was 2 years old. I must have travelled to well over 150 countries on 6 continents between the age 0f 2 and 45 , including circumnavigating the world 5 times by ship.
We lived in a total of 32 houses. I never ever felt home in any of the houses.
I studied till the age of 22 and retired a few years ago at the age of 47.
I am seeing my psychologist for the last 5 years.
The only reason is I can not settle down anywhere. I got married at the age of 37 and we have one child , I thought that would solve my problem , it didn’t , so at the age of 52 I bought my first house and after 3 days I already wanted to sell it again because AGAIN I DO NOT FEEL AT HOME even with my wife and child !
During the last few years I have travelled alone by car through 100’s of small towns and larger towns and cities throughout Australia and every time I arrive in a town , I think wow I can settle down here and that happens every town I enter.
Travelling has made me unsettled. Have any more people got that problem and are getting treatment for that ? Please reply.

Reply

Alexander Heyne April 21, 2016 at 11:32 am

Hey Mike,

That’s an interesting story and really fascinating one too – so when you live in places and you don’t feel at home, is the urge to just pick up and go then?

Reply

MIKE April 22, 2016 at 2:52 am

Hello Alexander. Yes it is very bad , one day I was sitting at the car dealership ready to pick up my car from a service call , next minute , something clicks in my brain , car is finished and I pay , I drive home , pack my bag and drove few thousand km’s to a town and came backg a couple of day later. Not long after that , I was somewhere in a town and I was finished looking around and jumped in the car and drove 410 km and stopped to have a coffee and ten minutes later I drove back the whole 410km again.
It must be ten years ago , I packed my car and drove 5500km from Sydney to Perth and that took me 16 days driving along scenic routes , I spend 55 minutes in Perth and after that I drove back 16 days to Sydney.
I can still remember that once we bought a house in Adelaide ( the house we just lived in before that we didn’t even own 6 months ) , so in the morning we bought the house in Adelaide and the same afternoon we cancelled the sale and then we did not find an other house , no the next week we migrated to Europe.
Even during my studies I never knew what profession or job I wanted to do in the future , so I just kept studying till I was 22 years old. At that point I think I reached the limit of my iQ and stopped studying. Just took any job I could go far. Even I never ever kept any jobs longer then a few years. Every single job I was already bored after 2 or 3 weeks of starting that job. So again started another job.
When I was younger many times I didn’t visit my uncles or aunties houses. Every time I walked inside a house , I wanted to live in that house and later always dreamed how to change that house , with knocking down walls and building extensions. Lucky I never told them that. That is the same now , I now never ever visit my wifes friends houses.
I was recently diagnosed with severe Aspergers Syndrome , and that even made it more of a mystery. Asperger Syndrome people can have very high IO’s ( and I never boosted about it ) and an A.S. Syndrome person also hardly ever likes change and sticks very strict to their routine , so I have no clue why I am like this restless person.

Shelby May 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

My dad moves for his work every six years or so, so as children we were constantly uprooted. We weren’t military, so had to start from square one every new place. When the family uprooted again my first year of college, I dug in and stayed until college was complete. The relationship I was in went to pot, so mom jumped in and hauled me ‘home’ with her. Got my life together somewhat, just in time for dad to move again. Mom insisted all three of us kids move with her. My sister had married, I was just starting my Masters, and my brother was looking for work. Suddenly, the ‘fabulous’ Midwest was garbage in favor of the new South – to the place where my folks had lived 25 years earlier and had had my sister. She was thrilled to return to the place of her birth, but I dug my heels in and stayed put.

Now my brother, sister and I are all married with children of our own. And every time WE try to put down roots, our parents try to dig them up again and move us on. They don’t understand we need the anchor we never had, if only to give to our kids. The whole situation sucks – I’m tired of being the bad guy trying to make a home for my kids when all I ever hear is how great moving and traveling is from them. I’ve moved. I’ve traveled. I’m good. Yeah I’ve lived here 10 years and still don’t know a soul, oh well.

Fate willing, I will move to a place where I will find a friend if need be, but until then I will have to sort myself out here. But I hope to never end up like my mom – unhappy everywhere she goes. I’ll be unhappy here!

Reply

Rico June 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

I don’t like to spend a week in one place because while abroad I like to just walk around and immerse myself in the local day to day. I used to live in three different countries since I was 20 (now I’m 23) lol. Here’s how I survive while living abroad :

1. Expect to get lost. That’s how you will find your won path while living abroad.
2. Make friends with people from whatever country you’re living in. Find the locals and be their bestest pal, your life will be richer for it.

Reply

Mia July 3, 2016 at 10:46 am

Hi!
I loved this article. I moved back to my hometown after living in London for 3 years whilst studying. Initially my plan was to move back to London once I got a job there. Well I starting working in London, and commuting from my town (it’s not too far), any plans to move to London fell through (plans never materialising with friends and just generally not really looking into it). I also realised I loved being back in my town. I loved seeing friends and being close to my mum, as well as being close to the sea. I was happy to commute and get “the best of both worlds”. I also have a partner here whose family are close by. I felt like everything was coming together and I was “setting down roots”.

I left my job in London as the company was relocating, so for the past 6 months I’ve been temping and being unsuccessful in finding work in my hometown or London. I’ve found myself becoming unsettled and as if I should consider the move to London again. However, I’m thinking these thoughts might now be arising as I’m unsettled in terms of work. I am starting a job next week which I’m excited about, and I’m hoping it’ll gradually make me feel more settled again, I need things to keep me grounded!

I’ve always liked my home comforts and whilst I absolutely love travelling far for holidays, I love my home comforts and coming home to something that is mine.

I have quite bad anxiety so this unsettled feeling hasn’t been kind to me! This article has made me feel better though and I’m really looking forward to starting work :)

Reply

Rabail August 7, 2016 at 3:15 pm

i don’t even know why i’m writing to you. Guess i feel somewhat defeated. Life seems redundant and i have no desire to stay in one place…but where does one go from here? do you just get up and leave… do you make a new path for yourself or do you just talk yourself into your old routine.

i’m tired. i don’t know what i want or what it is that i want. I feel like i’m genuinely not happy in any aspect of my life. Relationships and Work the two staples of adulthood.

Reply

Pete September 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

Definitely feeling this article. My mother is selling my childhood home and I never realized how much of an anchor it was for me to have that place available, with her there. She’ll be moving farther away from the city into a much smaller place and I know this will totally compromise the family events we always have there; some of the times of the year that I look the most forward to, along with my siblings.

I’m planning on living abroad for a time but this has really challenged my feeling of belonging; even though I haven’t lived there in over a decade, all our family times still happen there and with that place gone where is home base? It made me realize I never really connected where I was living to “home”. Maybe I was using it as a crutch, and it’s time to set my own foundation. It’s hard to let go.

Reply

Alexander Heyne August 13, 2013 at 12:56 am

I agree, no issue if you’re moving around with family or significant other. But I feel like the majority of people I know (including myself) make constant moves to avoid things they dislike, even if the move isn’t getting them closer to any personal goals.

Reply

kathy August 13, 2013 at 7:51 pm

hmm…can i ask how many moves you’ve made? what types of things have you avoided? maybe those are legitimate things to avoid but the majority of people haven’t stopped to think about it enough or have gotten themselves stuck and can’t get away? have you always moved to get away from something as opposed to because you desperately wanted to go somewhere or do something?

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: