When my fiancee Kris and I first started planning our holiday to South Africa, we were extremely excited to be going ‘home’. We would be returning to the friends and family that we’d left behind all those months ago, and it would be a momentous, happy occasion. Sitting here in Incheon airport, waiting to start the first of two flights that we need to take to return to Johannesburg, I feel strangely different.
Over the past few days, we have been frantically trying to scramble together all of the things that we need for our wedding (the main reason that we’re heading to South Africa in the first place). We took our cat, Catsby, to the home of friends where he will be staying for the month. We collected my suit and received Kris’ wedding dress back after modifications. We bought Christmas presents for the close family that will be there when we return. As the date of departure drew closer, I began to feel like we were actually leaving home, and not heading towards it.
The more I thought about it, the more conflicted I became. Surely South Africa was my home? It was where I was born. It was where I went to school and university. It was where I met and fell in love with Kris. I had spent the vast majority of my life there. Surely that was my home? I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt otherwise until I mentioned my feelings to Kris this very evening, and she hit me with wisdom that I simply couldn’t see.
You see, home isn’t about where things happen, or where you have property. It isn’t about how many experiences you have in a place. It isn’t about how long you’ve spent there. Home is about people. The people around you are what make a place a home. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros accurately expressed this feeling in their song ‘Home‘, which Kris just happened to be whistling for most of the day.
Sure, we have friends and family in South Africa. We have many people that we frankly can’t wait to see, people that we haven’t seen for months or even years. But, now that we have spent many months living in Korea, we are also leaving a host of friends behind. These friendships, like those in South Africa, were forged through board games, Ultimate, food, or late-night deep conversations. And they are why Korea has felt like home – the amazing community that we have built around us.
In the end, my home will always be where Kris and I are together. For the next month, that will be South Africa, and we will relish our time catching up with those that we haven’t been able to hang out with due to the inconvenience of being on the other side of the world. After that, our home will once again be in Korea, where we will share our stories with our newer friends. Wherever Kris and I are together, we are home. And that is a pretty amazing feeling.