I went cycling tonight, but instead of doing the usual round trip around the lake I decided to head into town: the same town I was born and raised in for over 20 years. I've cycled through there for numerous times now since I came back from Japan, but I still get that special feeling that you get when you've come back home after a long time. In my case it was 5 years. I could describe the exact feeling, but this blogpost does a far better of it than I ever could, and calls it time travel for ghosts. I couldn't agree more. Every house, every street, every crossing, evoked memories that I thought I had long forgotten.
Right before I moved to Japan 5 years ago my family sold the house that I grew up in and moved to the outskirts of the town, next to the lake. I lived in the new house for only a couple of months before I left for Japan, and most of that time was spent moving from the old house to the new. I never really built up a strong connection with the new place. My parents did, of course, and after 5 years this place is without a doubt their home.
I want to introduce the concept of 'comfort zone' here, and by 'comfort zone' I don't mean the psychological comfort zone, I mean the physical one. It's the area you feel at home in or safe. If I had to liken it to a game, your comfort zone would be your save point. Whenever you're tired of life and everything and you just want to lie down and relax, the comfort zone is where you go. There's different levels of comfort zones. For example, your bedroom is the ultimate comfort zone, your house slightly less, and your neighbourhood even less. Different personalities have different comfort zones. I know people who will sleep on any random couch anywhere they'll still feel 'at home'. Other people can't even use someone else's toilet cause they wouldn't feel comfortable.
In my case, the comfort zone I had around the house I grew up in was very large. I was reasonably comfortable in every street around my house. In the place I'm living in right now, my comfort zone is very small, and I have myself to blame for that. I'm basically restricting my comfort zone to my own room and no further. The reason for that is that I keep thinking that I'll have to get on with my life some time, which means leaving this place, therefore abandoning any and all connections I build up here. It's an illogical, perhaps lazy, way of thinking, because I did make those connections in Japan and they're something I am very proud of right now. In any case, increasing the size of my comfort zone in Japan just happened explosively, in Holland it just won't grow. Japan's culture and infrastructure helped a great deal with that. Free, clean public toilets, convenience stores and an all-encompassing train network are like savepoint-extenders.
The concept of 'home' is quite intriguing. I used to be very home-bound. Didn't want to leave my home for extended periods of time. Ever since I quit my job in Japan though, I've been 'homeless' for a year now. I do admit that I prefer to stay at my parents' place because that's the closest thing to a home that I've got, but I really don't feel uncomfortable if I'm anywhere else. For better or worse, I guess I really am free as a bird. Free to go wherever I please. Well, until my money runs out, anyway.