Where is Home?

By Adriana Brea

A simple question such as “where’s home?” can stir different sensations when the answer today is different from the one two years ago, or the one-two years from now.  That’s the common denominator for trailing spouses who follow their partners’ career paths all over the world.

How do we make a foreign place at home? Different culture, sometimes even different language and certainly a lifestyle. Is not always easy. Although there is not a perfect formula, if something I’ve learned - the hard way, was to look for the good wherever you go.   

My journey started 18 years ago when I moved to Barcelona, Spain. My husband and I immersed in this beautiful city that provided endless opportunities to enjoy ourselves and discover the European culture.

Five years passed and we left the city of Gaudi with a new family member, to embark in the most extraordinary journey: Singapore. For the next five years, we’d move houses every two years as it’s customary to do lease contracts for that short time. For us, was the lease terms and the fact that we added a new family member with each move.

There is always something that you are going to miss from a place and love about the other.  When I left Spain, my husband and I both missed the weather, walks on pebble stones, the food, our scooter motorcycles and the extraordinary beautiful road trips within Spain and quick and inexpensive escapes to Paris, London, Prague and other major cities in Europe.

In Singapore, I found a welcoming expat community and a country that never stops developing and growing. Also, an Asian hub for traveling. The weather is horribly humid, but the easiness of life and safety makes up for it. In our case, in particular, the 12-hour time difference with our home countries and long trips for our family to come visit made it difficult to stay connected.

When I moved from Singapore to California with 4 children - ages 7,6, 3 and 3 months, I went from having a full-time helper to being the full-time helper, to this day. Although I miss having help at home, I’ve found other amazing things in California; the weather, the outdoor lifestyle, the openness of the people, the organic and environmentally conscious trends and friends that have become family over five years in the Bay Area, similar to Spain and Singapore.

Even though there is no secret recipe to make a home wherever you are, I have experienced that the following tips have helped me adjust smoothly wherever I go:

  • Find at least 3 good things about your new place and be thankful for them

  • Learn about the new culture and lifestyle. If it doesn’t resonate with you, go to its history. You’ll be surprised!

  • Visit local art museums and markets

  • Tourist the city or town where you live as if you were there only for a few days.  If the town has nothing to offer, go to the nearest city

  • When you are in the process of making friends and your weekends are still available, plan fun nights with your family: game night, movie night or a homemade dinner will do.

  • Join a gym, club, volunteer at school or at an organization that resonates with you.

  • Study something you’re always wanted to learn.

  • Embrace their traditions without losing yours.  

  • Be certain that you are not alone. People need to socialize and feel part of a community. Be open to making new friends, instead of constantly missing the ones you left behind.

It’s all about perception. Home is also a state of mind and like everything else, the story you tell yourself is crucial to your happiness and those around you.

Adriana is an entrepreneur enthusiast, indoor cycling instructor in the Bay Area. Mother of four and seasoned expat.

Gabriela O'Malley