Friday, March 21, 2014

search for home

Life on the road...

In the summer of 2011, I sorted through my belongings in Boracay Island where I had nested comfortably for nearly 5 years, selling half of my things and packing up the rest to place into storage in my father’s house in Manila. For me, it was a bold decision; I had plans to visit my sister and mom in the US for the summer and then India in the fall, but beyond that I had no idea, I just had this overwhelming sense that it was time to go, that moving forward also meant leaving the place that I had, for some time, called “home.”

It had occurred to me that in my adulthood I went where I was called, never with any clear intention to put down roots. Living in the Philippines seemed an accident. After university, I originally planned for a year of work and travel in the region, then I lingered, never thinking it was permanent. It took me a couple of years to cancel my health insurance in the US, for example, and nearly seven years to work on my residency in the country where I was born. I accept now that I had chosen to live in the Philippines, but I must admit I wasn’t totally conscious of it.

Where was I to live after studying yoga in India? I didn’t know. Though I love the Philippines, I wasn’t sure if that was where I really belonged. Traveling came with the idea that I was also in search of a home, a home of my deliberate choosing, a place where I could continue to grow and live the way I liked, that suited my needs, which had changed since first moving to the Philippines in my early twenties.

So, I have traveled. Not always to the places where one might expect. A couple of destinations, I have chosen for this purpose, with a real desire to try things out. Though mostly, I have played the “accidental tourist,” ending up in places through forces outside myself, herded here and there through some person or desire to study yoga or work opportunity.

Needless to say, the so-called “search” is still on--I write this while flying between Rome and Cairo.  I have just been in Barcelona for two months, Egypt previous to that, Japan before Egypt, largely driven by work, without forgetting this homeward intention.

At some point, I thought, I would find myself in a place that would click, a community I deeply resonated with, that I would instantly know by the measure of happiness I felt in the place.

The great irony is, of course, I have been happy just about everywhere, many places appealing to one aspect of my personality or the other.

In Japan, for example, I loved the sweetness and the diligence of the students. I liked how everything worked like clockwork, the trains were always on time, there was a certain ease in living. I enjoyed Kyoto particularly, the energy of the river running through the city, musician students practicing along it, hundreds of years-old shrines and temples raising the city’s vibration.

Like a madwoman, I liked Cairo for pretty much the opposite reasons. I struggled with the chaos, lack of infrastructure, and socio-political instability, but recognized that along with that came this incredible spontaneity, like anything can happen—contentiously, not always a good thing—but when it’s good, it’s indescribable. I admired the students for their vibrancy and outspokenness, their ability to revel in the crazy, their resilience amidst insanity. Cairo’s frenetic energy is intense, but I loved how it brought the practice to the everyday.   

And then there was Barcelona, its cool Mediterranean energy in the streets, in the culture, in the students’ practice, the natural warmth of its inhabitants, easy going and friendly, familiar and demonstrative. I loved the people, the opportunities for spiritual exploration and alternative living, the sense of community—it’s at once a big city and a small village. I loved its city landscape, its architecture sandwiched between beach and mountains. 

It seems sometimes that seeing more of the world hasn’t narrowed down my choices, but has alarmingly increased them.

What I’ve started to realize, however, is it’s not so much about searching for a home, but more about choosing one.

The last year of travel, staying at least two months in one place, has shown me that I can be happy pretty much anywhere, that truly "home is where the heart is" and that I can grow pretty much anywhere so long as I stop and relax long enough to lay down roots. That our humanity makes us a different kind of plant, we can grow regardless of the condition of the soil, so like as we like it.

And what of the search? This projection of some future home continues to echo in the recesses of my mind, but living not searching has become more and more important.

For now, I am happy wherever I land. When I arrived in London a week ago, I got a "welcome home" message from my friend of 20 years. When I returned to Barcelona, I was welcomed home by friends who picked me up at the train station. This evening, I landed in Cairo, where I entered my friend's flat, the one I lived in for two months last year, and felt at home. 

When people ask me, "Where do you live?" My answer is not always straightforward. Most of my things are in Manila. I'm from the Philippines. I also grew up in the US. Most of my heart is where I am standing at this very moment, but bits of my heart are also in other places that I've put energy into recently, where I loved, where I have been loved. 

At some point, I reckon, I will choose one place to plant myself, but for now: Where do I live? I guess my best answer, the most honest if not a little supercilious, is I live in the world--and yes, very happily.  

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