Chasing Home | A Few Thoughts On Being Between Places

Chasing Home - Cover

Hey guys. So, I recently participated in the World Nomads Travel Writer Scholarship programme, where I wrote a piece on the theme ‘a place that is unfamiliar to me’. Devastatingly, I didn’t win the scholarship (next year, perhaps?), so here is my entry published here instead, entitled Chasing Home:

Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong

When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I described the city as a sensory overload.

Fresh durian and fermented bean curd in the steaming streets of Mong Kok. Strobing neon signs on Nathan Road. Soup noodles slipping from chopsticks held between clumsy fingers. The telltale salty tang of MSG. Tonal Chinese languages with staccato one-syllable words.

I loved it.

Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong

The longer I spent in the city, the more it felt like home. Weekends spent hiking in the New Territories or lapping up the sun on the trio of Tai Long Wan beaches. Evenings spent in TST or Central or Wan Chai, drinking overpriced cocktails in tiny bars or sitting on the waterfront with cheap beers from 7-Eleven.

Summers were coated in a thick layer of smothering humidity, while winters sparkled in red and gold, auspicious signs for the coming Lunar New Year. The sunlight was thick and creamy like milk tea in the day, then deep orange like the peel of a mandarin in the evening.

Chasing Home: Pub Life, England
Chasing Home: Pub Life, England

Back on British soil, home turf, I feel that sensory overload once more. Somewhere in those five years away, England became exotic and strange and paradoxically new. The air tastes different, like newly cut grass. When I exhale, I marvel at the puffs of dragon’s breath that appear.

The colours of England are different. Vivid greens of patchwork-quilted fields and a mysterious grey of cloud and mist. There is a freshness to them. A crispness. A fertility.

Chasing Home: British Beach
Chasing Home: British Beach

The seasons are different too. Front gardens and back gardens (two!), filled with flowers that pop pink in spring. Stark winters with skeletal tree trunks and clawing branches; frost on the bark like the tinsel of the holiday season. Summers with long days and nights that stretch out, reaching to extend lazy days barbecuing or picnicking in the park. And autumn with leaves the colour of bonfire flames.

I bounce between them, Hong Kong and England; their intricately entwined histories wound tightly together with my own. I am not quite here or there. I am not quite now or then. I stand with a foot in each continent – two places that I call home.

Chasing Home?
Chasing Home?

Perhaps, to break my tossing between them, there must be a third place that comes after. Where is that new place, where I will build a new life? Will it be back in the steaming cities of Asia, will I find it on the cobbled streets of an English town, or is it somewhere beyond where I can imagine myself being?

Where will I next say the word ‘home’ when it slips inadvertently off my tongue and in what language will it be? How will I know when its seasons pass? Where will the colours of that place sit on my kaleidoscope?

Where is next?

Where is forward?

Where is home?

chasing home: thoughts on being between places chasing home: travelling the world and living abroad

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40 thoughts on “Chasing Home | A Few Thoughts On Being Between Places

  1. You have such a gift for painting a vivid tapestry with your words. I’ve never even really considered visiting China before, but now I feel the need to add Hong Kong to my destination list! Thank you!

    1. Oh wow, thank you so much, Leah! That’s such a lovely thing to hear. Hong Kong should definitely be on your list! Let me know if you visit.

  2. Really enjoyed this post. It was nice to hear a positive take on the reverse culture shock. I’ve also been abroad for about five years, having gone home to America for a few brief visits throughout. The first time I went back I felt terrible, really had a hard time adjusting (it was also Christmastime, when America is at its worst). But in my trips home then, I think I’ve experienced something like what you describe. Home has become new and I can see it with fresh, appreciative eyes. Great post!

    1. Hey Megan,

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s good to know I’m not the only one out there that feels like this! I’ve really struggled with ‘home’ these past few months back in the UK, but I think I’m finally accepting that it’s OK for home to be complex. Home doesn’t have to be one place.

    1. Haha! Glad you liked it – I’m taking it you are also someone who can also detect MSG in food?

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. That’s so interesting – I never think of British beaches as standing out, but then I’ve always lived inland in the UK!

  3. I relate to this a lot. I always miss Austin when I travel, but I miss London more. I spent 3 months studying abroad there in college, and now I’m just desperate to live there permanently. Every time I visit reminds me of why I want to live there. And then I come home from long trips abroad and home feels weird lol.

    1. Hey Haley, thanks for reading. I’m glad you could relate to it. It’s strange actually the way that some places naturally call to us. I have the same connection to Italy, though I really struggled to live there, but something about the place always calls me back!

  4. Loved your post! I meant to enter that World Nomads scholarship too but never found (made!) the time. Thank you for sharing your entry.

    Xx, Eleonore

    1. Hey Eleonore. I know, right! I did the same last year, so this year I forced myself to enter! I’d love to try out the video scholarship too, but I’m such an amateur I’m not sure it’s for me!

    1. Hey. Amanda. Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. Yeah, they’re quite opposites, but I think that’s what I love!

    1. Haha! I know, right? Not a word I would usually associate with the UK, but that’s how it felt coming back! I used to think that my home country was somewhat ‘cultureless’ until I went away and came back and same everything with new eyes.

  5. You should have won the scholarship with your lyrically descriptive writing style. Great post. Sometimes you return home to find it frozen in time but seems you changed enough that home looked different now. After many years of starting over and over sometimes I consider many places home and other times I think I’m still searching.

    1. Thank you so much! Haha! Maybe next time, eh? And yes, I totally relate to what you’re saying. In fact, it’s been strange getting used to a UK summer again because for the last five/six years I’ve only visited at Christmas! in my head, the UK is perpetually in a state of Christmas! Hope you find a place to call home too!

  6. You are a really talented writer! You successfully made me feel what you were feeling, which is hard to do with writing. Thanks for sharing your feelings/experience!

    1. Oh wow, thank you so much for your kinds words – it means a lot to me. I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  7. woow it is interesting that you are able to call two so different countries as home!! I think I would totally feel divided too, both are great but at different, almost opposite points.

    1. Hey, Isadora, thanks for reading. Yeah, I feel a bit like I’m being pulled in two opposite directions at once. And also, it’s strange because both are home, but not home at the same time, you know? I’ll never feel like a local in HK, but I no longer fit back in the UK either!

    1. Hey, Ketki. Isn’t it just! I heard today that it takes half of the time you’ve lived somewhere abroad to get used to living back home. So I only have, like, 2.5 years to go!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you could relate to it as well. And I totally will apply again, but maybe next time with a more solid theme!

  8. I couldn’t relate more to this!
    Recently came back to England after being away for two year, the first two weeks of being back were something I’ve never experienced before – it wasn’t jetlag but a complete culture and mental shock. I wrote a post on this as well – Lessons and the Goodbyes and was literally crying when writing it! So surreal. xx

  9. I appreciate the imagery of this post! You’ve really described both Hong Kong and Britain with so much color. It’s a challenging feeling when you don’t really know where to call home in the world. I’m sure the next place will feel very different from Hong Kong and Britain, but hopefully it gives you what you need in this next chapter of your life. Wishing you the best 🙂

  10. I am pretty much “chasing home” right now, too, as I am 6 weeks into a US road trip trying to find my next home town! Heading to Tucson today, hoping it measures up!

  11. It’s so incredible when we travel halfway across the globe to a foreign place. The food is different, the language is different, the sights and sounds are different, and then we are different. Yet, we feel comfortable in this newness and at home. I totally understand. And after an extended trip to Europe a couple of years back, when I returned home I felt like I was also in a new place. And for these past two years, exploring my own backyard, I’ve found home and foreignness so close.

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