Natalie Murfin muses about what home is, and how to take it with you.
For me, it goes like this: Peel open my eyes, assess surroundings. Feet on the floor, with a slight flinch if it’s cold concrete. Stumble to a kettle, pour water to make something resembling instant coffee in something resembling a mug. Flick the little red button on my Bic lighter, and spark up the end of a nasty habit that I really need to quit. Open my eyes the whole way for the first time. Breathe out.
Routine and Familiarity
I do a variation on this clumsy routine every single day. No matter the surface the soles of my feet fall onto, or the difference in the worn little design on the ceramic cup, or the strange, scrawled language on my pack of cigarettes.
I do this because it is safe, it is familiar, and this routine is mine. It’s almost reflexive in how naturally I dance its steps – unthinking – but it’s my anchor before I wade out into the highs and lows the oncoming day may fling at me.
This little stumbling, bleary dance of mine is Home. My Home is warm, familiar, and most importantly – portable.
Travelling Solidifies The Notion of Home
We travel because we want experience difference. In the most surface-level sense, we want to take our bodies and put them somewhere else. But I would like to propose that travelling is about solidifying the notion of a ‘Home’ to us.
We, as people, create meaning through contrast and dichotomies. There is no ‘on’ without ‘off’, no ‘hot’ without ‘cold’ and no ‘home’ without ‘away’. When we go elsewhere, explore and pioneer and expand our idea of what ‘away’ means to us, our concept of a home will grow and expand in tandem.
Bearing this in mind, I believe that as a traveller, it is important to detach the idea of home from a specific bed, and stoep, and set of smiling faces – and rather assign it a more mobile, malleable idea.
An idea that can be bundled into a rucksack and carried through the metal detectors at airport security.
Charging Into The Unknown With The Armoury of The Familiar
And so, this begs the question, how does one charge into the unknown with the armoury of the familiar? I am a creature of heightened anxiety – the thought of a stove left on is a cataclysm, a cat un-fed – an armageddon-esque event.
The new spaces and exotic smells and shoal of shifting bodies in transit can take on a threatening cadence to me if I don’t carry my Home tightly held to my breast.
I can’t truly enjoy myself in the spitfire introduction of the brand new if I don’t have the quiet recess of a mental home-base to retreat to.
Take Home With You
So, I find my solution in the mundane. Wake, look, stand, coffee, nicotine, exhale. Before I look at my phone, before I acknowledge the people in the place where I have laid my head, before I reconcile the altered way I have chosen to live out the 24 hours in front of me.
Because this is what I have done every day before this one – and every day before this one has turned out, in some cases with time, to be just fine. And, hey, no matter how this day – all crystalline and fantastic in its potential – looks like it may be daunting, tomorrow morning you can just return to Home.
Home manifesting in your habits or your favourite shirts or the way that you insist on coffee at inappropriate times. Home coming from the photograph of your lover in your wallet or the way you tug at your ear like your brother does when he’s thinking. Home in the way you fold your shirts before you leave to the next new experience.
Take Home with you, and it will mean all the more to you when you get back from whence you came.
Natalie Murfin is a hospitality industry professional, bar consultant and markedly over-enthusiastic enjoyer of things; tier Eight Nerd and Herder of Cats.