A House is Not a Home

Words by: Marla Sommer
Art by: Therese Dias

I was 12 when my parents bought what is now our family home, nestled in between beach and parkland. I remember being the first to slide my hands across the sold sticker; while my parents were busy adulting, I was already picking my room. It never occurred to me how much being at that one auction would shape what I’d come to know as home.

It changed — the pool went in, the deck was laid, and the kitchen upgraded — but the feeling remained.

I was 18 when I left that house. I didn’t know it then, but the home that I knew was about to be shaken, set ablaze and reimagined. I woke up in many different beds that year (and not the beds you might be thinking of). There were hostels, friends and even strangers’ houses, but that feeling of comfort always remained no matter where I was. 

My first stop was Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a small alpine town south of Munich, in Germany. I trembled at the first sight of a home away from familiarity, but slowly my mindset shifted. Moments became things I couldn’t do without, like trudging through the snow or the morning glow on the mountain peaks. A place I had never known became a safe space. My neighbours became my second family, and a few months was enough to convince me that this town had become my second home.  

I turned 19 in Heidelberg, Germany. The comfort that I’d previously known was once again in flames. New challenges surfaced, but from this fire spread a warmth to the deepest corners of my body. It extinguished the fear and with each new day, the familiarity I’d left behind came back to me. The living arrangements didn’t matter, and neither did the brevity of the mere two months I was there. The city was my place because of my willingness for it to be.  

I was 19 when I realised that I’d left tiny fragments of my heart in every home I created. A version of home existed in every place and every person I’d touched, even if only for a short while. All this is important because, you see, this sweet home of mine isn’t just the house at the beach, but the safety I feel when I get up in the morning. It’s connecting with the people around you and knowing how to be completely comfortable with yourself and your situation.  

It took three months of solo travelling to reimagine the traditional idea of a home. I was never in one place long enough for it to be labelled a home but for me, they were all sweet places of growth. And it is through growth that we truly find ourselves at home.

I am 21, and it is with these words by Miram Adney I leave you. The epitome of everything I have experienced, and why this sweet home of mine cannot ever be a house.

“You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

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