Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
Home. For some of us, home is where we are right now. For others, its miles away. We feel a certain kind of safety at home, a sense of ease. Home is our comfort zone, and when we have to leave it from unfamiliar places, we’re not in that “safe zone” anymore. For example, in Homer’s “The Odyssey” (which I had to read for school this year), Odysseus must leave the safety of his home in Ithaca to face the dangers of war in Troy. (If you’d like to read my post about the Trojan War as described in “The Iliad,” click here.) Odysseus remains in Troy for roughly 10 years before setting sail to return to Ithaca. A long series of events results in him being stranded at sea for another 10 years, during which he must face many obstacles in order to return home safely.
The human experience is very similar. We leave for a while, face some challenges and obstacles, but in the end, we long to return to the place that will always be waiting to welcome us back – home.
For those of you who don’t know, my family and I moved to Ontario, Canada 2 years ago. We will be living here for a total of about 3 years before moving back to the United States. In a way, I can relate to Odysseus through the fact that we both traveled to foreign lands, faced some hardships, learned to adjust, and eventually returned home.
There are three specific challenges that everyone must face when leaving home: change, adaptation, and homesickness.
The first is change. In the Odyssey, Odysseus had to face the struggles that came with being at war in a foreign land. He was no longer in his “safe zone.” In fact, he was far from it. Not only was Odysseus constantly on his guard, but he also had to keep the peace between the Greeks. Even though they were all fighting for the same cause, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some arguments in their camp. Odysseus was also looked up to by many Greeks for battle strategies, and in the end, it was his brilliant idea for the famous Trojan Horse. While we are not in constant danger of losing our lives to a Trojan sword, we must still adjust to the inevitable changes around us.
The changes we face force us to adapt. After being at war for 10 years, Odysseus had grown accustomed to constantly looking out for danger and enemies. Similarly, we must adjust to our new surroundings when we venture to a foreign place. Although our adaptations are nowhere near as drastic as Odysseus’, it can still be difficult to cope with change. For example, when we first arrived in Canada, simply going to the grocery store or finding the nearest gas station quickly became a hassle. We didn’t know where anything was, and it was extremely different from what we were used to in the States. Even our new house took some getting-used-to. I remember the first morning I woke up in my new room, I didn’t know where I was. I had to unpack all my belongings and put them away in different places, which felt really strange. Even driving down the street and seeing a Canadian flag flying felt funny, as I was expecting to see the Stars and Stripes. I had to adjust to the new people as well. Making new friends and going to a different school was pretty tough, but now I have a great group of friends and love my school. (Well, if you can call homeschool co-op “school.” XD)
The third struggle is homesickness, and believe me, it is by far the hardest one. The dictionary defines homesickness as “a feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” While Odysseus was at Troy and on the sea, he was longing to be in his “safe zone” again. He was pining to see his wife and son, and was willing to do anything to get back to them. He couldn’t communicate either, because he had no way of writing or receiving a letter. Today, with all our modern technology, communication is definitely not a problem like it was for Odysseus. However, it is still emotionally difficult to be separated from your friends, relatives, and favorite places. Despite the countless texts, FaceTimes, and phone calls I’ve had over the past 2 years, its just not the same as talking to and seeing someone in person. I desperately missed my family, friends, and favorite spots, and ached to be back with them. I still do. One day, while, driving down the street, I noticed that the road we were on looked exactly like the one that we used to live on in America. I asked my Mom, and she agreed with me. Even though I’ve seen some amazing Canadian landmarks, that road is my favorite place because it reminds me of my true home.
While all of these things are challenging, we can learn to cope with the change, adapt to the differences, and continue to communicate with loved ones. Eventually, Odysseus returns to Ithaca, where his family and friends are waiting for him with open arms. Even though it’s difficult in the moment, just remember that there is a road to lead you home, and that it will always be there to welcome you back.
It’s a funny thing, coming home. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald