Only a trivial question at first glance, because the answers and experiences are quite diverse.
It will soon be time to plan the next vacation time. For some, however, this question does not necessarily arise because they are driving “home”. In the course of globalization, this applies not only to “foreign” workers, refugees / displaced persons, love emigrants or permanent travellers like athletes and artists, but also to children of divorced or patchwork families, boarding school students and (business) consultants working abroad etc.
I myself know that feeling quite well, since I have lived and worked abroad for a total of almost six years. More on that a bit later.
What do you think of spontaneously when the word “home” is mentioned? The place where you were born or grew up? of parents and relatives? Do you remember the favorite food that grandma always cooked? Or do you think of the smell of the lilac bush in front of the door or other positive moments like: the first kiss, a photo album, a bag of earth from the garden at home? It is usually a first experience, the familiar environment in which you learn to walk and speak, it includes neighbors and friends, a typical meal, the usual celebrations, the security of being in a “group or family”, etc. People often call it „the paradise of memories cannot be lost“ All these aspects but also a landscape can be a description of HOME.
At some point, however, home is the place you have to leave in order to become adult and learn about the world, the place of farewell and maybe homecoming. Home can also be defined as follows: “Where you feel comfortable and understood, there is home for you.” So true … https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimat
If you take a closer look at the term “home”, it contains (in German) the word “being home”. In the etymologically sense „home“ is derived from the old Germanic word “haima” and at that time referred to the place of residence of people: that could be the house or a small settlement. But “home” is not becessarily identical with „being home”. I think a person can have multiple “homes” over time, but only one place of native origin. Especially in the Middle Ages it was very important for people to have a home that would protect them in times of need. In order to enjoy this help/ protection, people had to have a so-called “home right”. They received this right directly from their place of birth in the house they lived in or later by marriage into another family. In the other hand also some obligations were drived from this right, namely to support and assist each other „at home“.
Well, the only thing certain is: home is something different for everyone, sometimes it is a whole country, sometimes a village or simply the local pub. The main thing is that this place makes you feel safe.
Today, this feeling can be applied not only to where you live, but also to people you like, who are familiar with you. Often you only get to know the feeling of home when you leave your protected environment. In a foreign country you initially feel rather lost and maybe even threatened, homesickness arises. As nice as new things and experiences might be, everything becomes more difficult and requires permenent reorganization in the beginning.
The old homeland, which people like to tell stories and reports about, then come alive in glorified memories. Nevertheless some people find different places during their lives where they feel at home. Or they meet people who are similar to them and easier to get along with.
The understanding of homeland changed drastically aproximately 200 years ago due to industrialization. The people living in the countryside no longer had enough work and were forced to move to the big cities. Most of them longed to return to their old grounds. That is why many painters, poets and musicians of this time also dealt with the theme of “homeland” during the so-called Romantic period.
The meaning of “home/ homeland” continued to change strongly during and after periods of war, especially World War II. If the demarcation changed, it became even more difficult to deal with the term „home“: Because some had lost it, others found a new home, and many people simply didn’t want to hear about it anymore. They longed for new security, warmth and Beauty, regardless of any location. But – this circumstance made it possible to exchange different cultures.
Apropos: there is even a “ministry of home” in Nuremberg! The employees in particular take care of cultural assets being worth of preservation, such as the old buildings, palaces and parcs of Bavaria. And in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony, the “home right“ is an important law in their constitutions. Every citizen has the right to have a home there.
Does everyone have a home? … or two? Mexico City (where I lived for 1,5 years) is still a home to me, just like Ludwigshafen / Stuttgart and Speyer in Germany. I know enough people in both cities and everyone became part of my life because of shared experiences. Interesting enough, there is no mix of the places: one is there, the other one here. The same applies for my second residences in Switzerland, on the Baltic Sea and in Bavaria. All of them became a temporary home and part of me because I voluntarily chosed them and they were – at that time – perfect places to recharge my batteries. But everything has its time.
I also had a very special feeling at the end of the 1980s when I was an employee of an American service agency. I entered the fenced and secured US barrack area with an installation passport control and turnpike in the morning and left the site in the evening. Different language, separate worlds and separate views – every 12 hours.
It may be that „home“ is also the place where it draws you back in advanced ages (to imaginary roots). Honestly: in the past I was always at the forefront to travel or go somewhere; today I am thinking about a trip or change of lifestyle more carefully and much longer.
Personally I am grateful to have multiple homes due to modern mobility – whether in Germany or abroad. Sometimes it takes a temporary uprooting to allow for an improved rooting. Because you only learn to appreciate your original (small) piece of home when you have seen the (big) world and had the opportunity to compare !! Furthermore, I am convinced that you can only feel at home in a country when you are able to communicate in the local language. Therefore, the step abroad was/ is always particulary critical for writers, filmmakers and for examples lawyers.
And despite all appearances, a floating ship and even a hotel can obviously be a home. Rock legend Udo Lindenberg lives in the “Atlantic” hotel in Hamburg since quite some years now and many sailors/ captains can hardly imagine a life on land.
Anyway, “home sweet home” or the saying “my home is my castle” seems to be a perfect match as regards the definition of „home“…. so relax and move on with your vacation planning, even, if it results in remaining home. Have fun …