On the last night of spring break, Miranda and I took a backpack filled with dinner, wine and utensils out to the shore down the block from our little Airbnb in Redondo Beach, just south of L.A.
We ate quickly as seagulls gathered unabashedly around our picnic blanket, and the sun disappeared beyond the horizon like a fat peach rolling off the edge of the kitchen counter. Miranda and I waited until the last shades of daylight were replaced by moonbeams on the water.
“Come on,” I said as we gathered our belongings, “Let’s go home.” I wore the blanket like a coat; the night air was getting colder by the minute.
Miranda laughed at me, “it’s only been a week and you’re already calling California home!”
I thought of all the places I call home: my duplex at school, my parents’ house, my host family’s apartment in Morocco. And now, of course, our funky little condo in Redondo.
Walking back up the block, I remembered a quote from Miriam Aedney’s Kingdom without Borders I had seen while studying abroad. I had been scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came across one of those kitchy sunset pictures with a cursive text overlay that read, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”
At first, it resonated with me. I smiled at the thought of all the people I had met abroad, students at the university, my host family, the guys who helped us hitchhike to Pamplona, local shop owners, women at the local bathhouse. I smirked at the number of places with names I had finally begun to pronounce properly: the nearby markets, our favorite cafés, my host dad’s furniture store, the French hotel with the gym down the street, that one ice cream stand by the edge of the old medina. The beach, the mountains, the desert.
But then, upon considering the scope of people and places I associated with home, I knew the first part of that statement would never be true for me.
I will always be at home, because parts of my heart will forever be scattered across continents, in the homes of people I know and love, the places I once set foot, and can only hope to travel yet again.
I will always be at home in places I have visited, but also in places to which I have never ventured, provided that I continue to love and be loved in each of them.
I will always be at home because I choose to be.
I turned back to Miranda, who was already halfway up the shore, half-dancing, half-running. I ran to catch up with her, trying not to trip on the oversized towel cloaked around me.
She had brought me to her state, with her family, in her home, and made me feel like it was my home too, even if it was only for a week.
“Of course I’m calling it my home,” I defended as soon as I caught up to her stride.
“It’s about time,” she teased.