Berlin, Europe, Expat Living, Germany

Where Is Home Anyway?

September 10, 2015
Street Art Along the Esplanade Toronto

Just where is home anyway?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself over the past week as I’ve been on vacation at home in Toronto.

On my flight into the city, I had to fill out customs paperwork stating that I was a Canadian citizen but a resident of Germany. It felt a bit odd not writing down a home address in Toronto but in Berlin.

Is Toronto Home?

Toronto from Above

Toronto will always be my first home. It’s where I went to university, got married, bought my first home, and built a career. My family was close by, and I had a large group of friends.

Life was not at all bad. But then a time came when I yearned for something more, and my life became all about travel. The more I saw of the world, the more I wanted to see.

After visiting Europe, I fell in love with the continent and finally decided to move to Berlin in June 2011.

Or Is Berlin Home?

St Lawrence Market Toronto

I joined the ranks of countless other expats who fell under Berlin’s heady spell. It didn’t take long to settle there, and before I knew it, I’d reestablished myself and soon came to consider the city home as well.

Then things got tough; I moved back to Toronto and did that whole “expat turned repat” thing and easily fell into my old lifestyle.

After my return, Toronto no longer felt so much like home to me anymore. I wasn’t happy there, and all I wanted to do was be back in Berlin.

I wasn’t sure if a move back was really the right decision to make, but after extensively debating the pros and cons, I finally decided to move back to Berlin last November.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve never been happier! I want to apply for permanent residency next year. I’m starting language classes next month. I have a desire to settle down there for a good, long time.

Surely, this means that Berlin is now home?

Maybe I Have Two Homes?

Toronto Novotel Hotel

Then my vacation happened.

To be honest, I dreaded it for months. I thought that it wouldn’t be fun as I had so many things to take care of, so many people to see, and not enough time to do everything I wanted.

And I’m actually exhausted. I’ve been in Toronto for a week now and will head to the airport this afternoon, a very tired woman.

Yes, I’ve run countless errands and spent countless hours on the city’s lackluster public transit. I’ve made Uber my friend. But the real highlight was spending a few days with family and having lunches, dinners, and coffees with different friends. I even found time to tour a few of my favourite spots around the city.

Despite the hectic schedule, I’ve had so much fun! It was wonderful to see everyone again, and I felt strangely at home.

As I wrote this post, I had a hard time keeping back the tears as I’ve missed everyone so much. Saying goodbye, again, was much harder than I expected.

It’s all made me think that I should never discount a return to Toronto, something that I never thought I’d say!

Berlin’s Calling

Kensignton Market Toronto

Yet, Berlin, as always, is calling. I can’t wait to get back to my apartment, crawl into my giant bed (I’ve been sleeping on couches for the past week), and get back to my daily routine.

I’m happily bringing a little piece of home with me as well. My cat Izzy will be coming to live with me, making my life in Berlin all the more permanent.

My heart is here, my life is here, so I guess that means Berlin is my home for *now*! 

Where Is Home?

Watch one of my favourite TEDx videos by Pico Iyer, who discusses the concept of home.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Ralph September 30, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    Hi Cheryl, I’m a fellow Torontonian and former immigration/refugee lawyer turned Spanish bespoke tour guide and find myself in a similar situation, except in my case it’s Madrid vs. Toronto.
    I’ve been living in Madrid for the past 2 years and although I go back to Toronto for about 3 weeks each August, I feel quite strongly that Madrid is now home. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was quite unhappy there and found the city, although ‘comfortable,’ quite bland and genericon architectural and cultural terms, especially comparing to EU cities. I need to be continously inspired when I walk around a city or look out of my home window and, in that regard, TO made me feel depressed. Was that your experience too? take care, Ralph

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 30, 2015 at 6:01 PM

      Hey Ralph –

      Thanks for sharing your own story.

      I think the concept of “home” is an interesting one for those who move abroad and it brings up a lot of questions:

      Why does the place we grew up in come to not feel like home anymore?

      Why do we so desire to start a new life somewhere else?

      Is life in the new place really better?

      Is life in our hometown really all that bad?

      Bottomline, I think home is where you’re most happy. For me, it’s Berlin at the moment as it’s Madrid for you.

      I also have times when I miss home a lot. Seeing my sister, my nephew, and grandmother was heart wrenching! While I had so much fun visiting them, it hurt to know that it will be a long time before I’ll see them again.

      And Toronto didn’t make me feel depressed. I still think it’s a nice city that I could easily move back someday and feel happy and at home. I’d just have to setup life on my terms – like not live or work in the burbs but a central area with a lot of amenities that doesn’t demand that I use the TTC too much. 😉

      Cheers!

      Cheryl

  • Reply Cynthia October 19, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    Really loved this post, Cheryl. It’s something I definitely grapple with all the time. I’ve only been home once since I moved abroad (hey, Seattle’s pretty far away!) and it seems like each time I go to my HOME home, there will be different revelations (I like it! I don’t like it as much. I miss it! etc)
    It’s so strange to not be able to control how you feel about a place! In a word where you can control most things… you know? Nice to hear your cat came back to Berlin with you! I am considering adopting a dog here, but am so worried (perhaps needlessly?) that it will make my move here seem more permanent, for better or worse.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard October 19, 2015 at 3:12 PM

      Heya Cynthia –

      First of all, thanks for reading. 🙂

      Yeah, it’s really an odd feeling to come home again after being away for such a long time. I feel different with every visit.

      My cat has settled in rather nicely! She’s currently lounging on my bed in all her furry cuteness as I write this.

      A dog would be super fun! You can always bring them with you, even if you move home again someday. 🙂

      Cheryl

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