Straddling the Atlantic

Välkommen hem!” (Welcome home!) is what everyone in Skellefteå said when we saw each other for the first time after our 7 months of traveling the United States. Most of the time they paused and seemed unsure, contemplating their use of the word “home” and looking at us questioningly. “We’re home,” we’d say, “for the summer. Then in the fall we’ll go home again.” We laughed but affirmed their insecurity. The concept of home is admittedly a tricky one for us, but that didn’t start when we gave up our apartment and moved into a home on wheels. It began the day we got married, or perhaps even before that, but it has always been complicated. It probably always will be, and we have adapted accordingly.

Marrying and starting a family with someone from another country and culture is rich with gifts. It is also fraught with challenges. As young as we were, we were wise enough to start off with a commitment to live for a season in both countries, forcing both of us to learn to be at home in what was initially foreign to us. I could write at length about the challenges of culture shock, language learning, and assimilation; the frustrations of explaining one system to another and either being stuck in both at the same time or falling through a crack and landing in neither; the pain of always being far away from people you love, no matter where you are, and eventually trying to teach children to navigate these emotional waters as well. The end result is that we are more adaptable, nuanced, and empathetic people than we would have been otherwise, and like most challenges, it turned out to be a gift in so many ways. We feel at home in both countries and have one foot firmly planted on each side of the Atlantic. In so many ways, we are straddling the ocean, which at times is exactly as painful as it sounds.

When we chose to pursue our nomadic lifestyle, several people expressed concerns that our kids would not grow up with a sense of roots in a specific place. Those people typically experienced this rootedness as something important in their lives, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. What’s difficult to explain, though, is that our lives were always going to look different in this way, with or without an RV. Roots that cover great distances are by nature shallow. There are advantages to depth, but there are other advantages to breadth. It’s natural to prefer the one you’re most used to, but please don’t assume that this is the only healthy way to live or raise children.

We realized years ago that there would always be many different places in the world that could claim the title “home” for us, and that as a result the word means everything and nothing at the same time. We also learned that we find in each other all the security and feelings most people associated with the place they call home. “Home” for us is not a place, but people. Our kids can put down secure roots in our family – roots that can be moved to a new location without first being torn up. Home is wherever the 5 of us are together.

Shifting our weight from one foot to another… Airports mean both happy reunions and sad goodbyes. But right here – where the 5 of us are together – we are “home”

 

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