Living Abroad: Home is wherever I am now

by Nano Betts

They say there is no place like home, but as my life as an expat evolves I keep asking myself – where is home?

Believe it or not, I’ve never been one to be attached to one place, home. At times my mother softly reprimands me asking “don’t you miss home, our apartment?”. The truth is, I don’t. Not in a sense that many people do – missing their house, their bedroom, their pillow. I always craved to fly away, literally and figuratively, somewhere far and new. I guess I was born to be a nomad. My dreams came true in more than one way. Born and raised in Georgia, I became a US citizen yet have been living abroad ever since. You see, that makes me a double expat. Made in Georgia. Processed in the US. Currently based in Japan.

Over the years I’ve come to terms with the notion that it is totally fine to have more than one home, because after all, home is not just a place, it’s a feeling. A feeling of utter comfort and security, happiness and completeness.  These feelings are, more often than not, created by intangible things and the people in my life.

My mother. The comfort of coming home after work and having her delicious tolma (version of pigs in a blanket) in a scrumptious creamy sauce and a fresh-from-the-oven khachapuri overflowing with cheese ready and steaming hot on the table. Putting my head in her lap and feeling her hand stroke my hair. My grandfather. Taking me for a ride around the city after we’d both finished work,  our ride inevitably ALWAYS ending up by the farmer’s market where he would pick up (among many other things) the freshest pink and juicy tomatoes the size of his palm, flavorful fruits of the season and cheese. Always the cheese. We both loved soft and creamy sulguni (a Georgian take on mozzarella). My tribe. Because while you’re bound to make new friends everywhere you go, I found that no one else in the world will understand you completely, to the core as much as your people. Your tribe. That sense of belonging is irreplaceable and incomparable, no matter how well you blend in elsewhere. Those lovely conversations about everything and nothing with my closest friends, and laughter and being goofy and making silly memories. Georgians are also one of the most hospitable and tourist-friendly people. People who love to host their guests with lots of food, and even more drinks, as attested by Anthony Bourdain during his recent visit to Georgia.

The beauty of Georgia. Sounds a little exaggerated, I know. From the winding cobbled streets of Old Tbilisi, to the lush pine forests of Borjomi, mighty mountains of Kazbegi, Svaneti or Tusheti, vineyards of Kakheti and the coastline of Adjara, my home-country never ceases to amaze me with its natural beauty. I regret the fact that I never took full advantage to explore it in a proper way. Have you ever put off traveling around your own city/state/country thinking it’s right there and you will have plenty of time to get to it and then time goes and you end up seeing more of abroad? Now traveling around Georgia is on my travel bucket list. Sad, but true.

My new home and most importantly my new family in Florida. I miss those nights when everyone is at home (including two 8-year-old labs, one of which still loves to cuddle and sleep ON my father-in-law’s chest), in the sitting room watching a show or American football and making totally unrelated conversations. Admittedly, I also miss my father-in-law’s lobster bisque, shopping in the sprawling American outlets with my mother-in-law and strolls by the ocean side.

And despite all this missing, I still feel the happiest wherever I am now, and not because we live in one of the most amazing countries in the world (although that does help), but because that’s where our nest is, the word “our” being instrumental. It’s the place which we are creating together piece by piece. Here, every item tells a story, our story; everything is just ours, exactly the way we like it. It’s a place where we both feel utterly and completely relaxed. Because that’s where I feel the safest and most loved. So to answer my own question: home is wherever I am with him and as long as he is there I’ll know that’s exactly where I am supposed to be.

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