That Place Called Home

By Nomadic Matt | Published February 3rd, 2014

bangkok skyline
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.”

These were words I hadn’t heard spoken in two years. And they were sorely missed. After landing in Bangkok, I glided effortlessly through an airport where I’ve been countless times and made my way to the train into the city. It was a routine I followed without thinking and I easily made my way to my hotel (I used points to stay for free at the new W hotel. It’s one of the nicest W hotels I’ve ever stayed at but that’s a different story). After check-in, I dropped my bag and made my way to the nearby street market, ordering sorely missed pork noodle soup and Thai lemon tea. (Tip: if you are looking for a market in Thailand, find an office area. Where there are hungry office workers, there is great street food.)

The sights, sounds, and smells had a comforting familiarity to them. After a long flight from San Francisco, I felt at home.

And as I sit here staring out across the city, I ponder what that word “home” really means. Is it a place or a state of mind? A feeling? Can you have more than one home? Is it where you live? Grow up? Own property?

To me, a home is where your heart feels most comfortable. It’s a place you step into with ease and your heart says “yes, this is it” and wraps that place around itself like a warm, cozy blanket. A house is simply a physical structure filled with stuff, but a home… that’s where you know you belong.

For me, that’s Paris, Stockholm, New York, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and Bangkok. There are many destinations that I love and return to often, but they aren’t home. My heart doesn’t belong in them. They are lovely to visit but I wouldn’t want to grow old there. However, put me in any of these listed destinations and I would happily stay there until my dying day.

Traveling has taught me that the word home transcends a physical place. As I’ve traveled the world, I’ve learned I fit into many places. This has given me insight into people and the rhythm of life. There is a certain universality to life around the world. I think that’s why so often we can easily and (sometimes) accurately compare cities. It’s taught me that the grass is never greener because at its core, the grass is always the same.

And no city crystallizes this better for me than Bangkok. It was where I first really stopped and lived. It was a place where I built a whole life and got a job, friends, a girlfriend, and a routine. I came here a stranger, not speaking the language and knowing only one person, and I left with a life.

I learned to survive.

I grew up.

Learning that home can be so many places made the world a lot smaller to me. It is no longer the idea that there is “my home” and “other places in the world” because the world is my home.

I know that might come off as a bit “out there”, but when you can move so easily and feel at ease in so many places, it makes the world a bit smaller, less foreign, and a lot less scary.

No matter where I go, what I do, or how long I am gone, Bangkok will always be home to me.

That’s why I’ll never stop getting emotional when I hear those eight magical words: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.”

Travel is a wonderful experience, but sometimes there’s nothing more wonderful than coming home.


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comments 57 Comments

Ashley Peters

I love your heart in this post. I find many travel bloggers just sound like, “go here, do that, taste this”, but really lack in telling about their personal experience on the trip.

…and well, we are about to land at that airport in about two months for an 8 month trip we have been saving a dreaming about. This gets me stoked. Thanks for sharing!

Khim

I have read your comment exactly 2 months later. I guess you might be in Thailand already or about to arrive here very soon!
Hope you’ll have a great time and wonderful memories here! :)

You know, I definitely agree that the grass isn’t always greener everywhere, but I would argue that it’s not necessarily the same everywhere either. I think I used to think that a person’s ability to find themselves feeling at home in many different places meant they could in every place. I think I thought that about myself. But not all places are created equal and not all places have that homey feeling. What is important — and what I think is the point you’re driving home in this piece — is that home doesn’t have to feel like one, fixed place. We can find similar feelings of comfort in many places in the world — and sometimes the most unexpected places. But I do think there are important distinctions between the different types of “grass” we find, even if they all are grass at the end of the day — and being honest, some grass just is less itchy than others. ;)

NomadicMatt

I’m a firm believer that the day to day life of people around the world is the same.

I understand what you mean, Matt! I feel this way about a lot of places – sometimes it feels that way the first time I visit them. I’ve felt like I am where I belong in New York, Amsterdam, Dublin, Cape Breton – it is an awesome feeling. Maybe I’ll feel that way about Bangkok when I go!

Viv

Hi Matt,

Been reading your blog since my last Costa Rica trip back in Nov 2013. Now you are my go to site for any quick guidance for traveling, and because of the info you have provided I feel capable of traveling around the world. I really want to thank you here. Now, I am ready for my second big trip and I have decided to visit Thailand very soon. I am so excited and hope to have the same feelings about Thailand. Please keep us all posted of you trip since the situation is tense over there right now. Enjoy and be safe!

NomadicMatt

Thanks for trusting me so much with your travel planning. I promise to try to never disappoint!

It’s good to hear your second trip will be to Thailand. Ironically, that was the same order I went in – Costa Rica then Thailand.

Jen

Where I live is Sydney but my home is more than just where I live. I have found that within a day or so of being in a new place I will know if it is home or not. Arriving in NYC, London, Sorrento and Prague all had that feeling for me. I have been lucky enough to live in London maybe next will be NYC, Sorrento or Prague who knows.

Exactly what I have tried to articulate to friends who don’t travel, without much luck. You get it. For me it is Hawaii, Vancouver, Chicago, London and Sydney. Very special places that left an indelible mark on my psyche and helped shape who I am. Thanks for another fantastic blog post :)

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome!

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport…” even reading those words made me smile.

Touching down in a city you know so intimately is like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while — it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking until those first few moments when you realize nothing has changed.

Enjoy Bangkok, Matt! I’m glad someone loves it as much as I do.

NomadicMatt

I hate it at first but it grew on me. Now, I can’t get enough of it.

I find that’s how most destinations creep up on me. That said, BKK swept me off my feet immediately. It did take the rest of Thailand time though.

This is a very refreshing article. It makes me smile to know you’re in your happy place. It’s rare that we find these special moments to call our own, but so blissful when we do.

It’s amazing that you’ve found your ‘home’ to be in different places around the world. It’s like they say: home is where the heart is. It doesn’t have to be a specific place – sometimes it can even be a person. Home is such a subjective word; it’s different to everyone and that’s the most wonderful part about it. You’ve done a beautiful job of explaining the feeling here.

For me, home is with my family (spread out around the world), as well as San Diego, London, Paris, and, more recently, Tainan, which is slowly creeping its way into my heart unexpectedly. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I also have callings to places – like home is calling to me (San Diego did this for me originally). Spain and Seattle seem to be pulling me in… We’ll see what happens.

Thanks for getting personal here… and welcome home!
Jillian

Yah man, sounds like BKK is the same place for you as Kyoto is for me. I’d rank BKK up there though–perhaps a third home-away-from-home?

Good meeting up again last night–see you in CM or NYC or wherever!

I’m reading this while sat in the airport waiting for my flight to Thailand and you managed to sum up exactly what I was thinking in this post. Thanks Matt for putting my thoughts into words, next time someone asks when am I coming home already il send them this :)

I am a big fan of yours and reading your updates for 3 months now. Really Matt this is a good post and the words that you have written is same as my thoughts.

Love this post, made me feel happy
Home is where the heart is :)

Jay

Lately, I’ve been thinking about leaving. But this is my home, along with Vancouver, Ottawa, New York, and San Francisco. Ah, I can’t wait to travel and explore again.

Have fun in Bangkok, Matt! Take care.

I totally get this. There are a few places my heart always feels at home in when I’m there…and if I had never travelled I never would have known that I could be so happy in more than one place. Certain winds and temperatures make me feel homesick/nostalgic for those place.

NomadicMatt

What places do you call “home?”

sue

It’s Cairo for me. The moment I arrive in that chaotic, crowded, noisy and dirty city I feel like I’ve come home!!

My other “homes” are Georgia, the country and Kyrgyzstan.

Debbie Brooks-Dabney

Lucca, Italy is my ‘Home away from Home’. I feel so connected there, and comfortable!

Amanda Panda

Love this simple and honest insight, Matt.
Indeed, home is where the streets know your strut, no matter how long it’s been!
I, too, will return ‘home’ to Bangkok/Thailand in 6 short days, after being away for 15 months; this time for a 2-month stretch…SO EXCITED, SO HAPPY and SO AT PEACE!
xo

NomadicMatt

You’re going to be happy to be back!

Love this post Matt! I feel exactly the same. I hail from the English countryside but I found myself living in Melbourne, Australia for 10 months last year and it genuinely broke my heart to leave. It just felt like home, my soul was content there.

Thanks for sharing!

Welcome home! We are currently in Chiang Mai, getting ready for a slow boat to Laos.

I can see why you love it here, Matt.

Seems that the more I travel, the last I feel “at home” anywhere. There are a couple places I’d love to return to and live, but I’m not sure those places will live up to my memories.

So much heart in this post. Every traveler who would read this can absolutely relate. Welcome home Matt!

Sophie Bannister Martin

Welcome back home Matt! :) this post is great.
I completely understand where you are coming from, I miss my home too (Prague) . I feel that little bits of my heart have been left in many places, it hurts every time I have to leave.

I hope you are have a fantastic time in Bangkok :)

Hong Kong and many other parts of Southeast Asia feel like home for me.

Here’s a great quote that sums it all up:

“Some people have to leave home to find their home. I’m one of those people.” – Richard Dawson

NomadicMatt

Lovely quote.

“the world is my home” – I love that! Absolutely how I am feeling in Amsterdam right now and how I feel about a few great places such as Vancouver, Toronto and London. Enjoy Bangkok!

NomadicMatt

Vancouver is a great place. I’d it on my list too.

Oh wow do I know exactly what you mean Matt :) I lived in Sydney and Melbourne while I was in Australia, and then went to live in Auckland. Then, when I didn’t get the Visa I’d hoped for in New Zealand I had to come home to England. I moved to London, and I LOVE London, but honestly I think Sydney will always feel more like home. I think it’s because it’s really the first place I ever travelled to. And like you say about Bangkok, it’s where I kind of grew up, I learned a lot. I arrived there knowing nothing, I had nothing, no job, just a suitcase, and I left knowing a whole lot more about myself than I did before.

I’m so glad you’re happy being back in Bangkok, have a wonderful time while you’re there :)

Indeed! Thanks for this lovely piece.

Travelling has stretched my idea of ‘home’ to dimensions beyond my wildest imaginations.

Despite being based in Singapore most of the time (like most people who haven’t taken the leap to be a lifestyle traveller), I see a little bit of New York, or London, or Shanghai, or Melbourne, or (insert place I’ve been) everywhere I go.

A plate of pad thai at a food centre reminding me of Bangkok, the noisy rumble of the metro making me yearn for its much quieter counterpart in Taipei, the cacophony of laughter drifting from bars and pubs bringing back memories of the vibrant streets of East Village. The list goes on.

I often feel like I live physically “here” but my heart and soul is travelling all the time. At times when I feel like I need to ‘get out’ but can’t afford to, time-wise and money-wise, I take comfort in the knowledge that I don’t need to be “there”.

Because I already am.

p.s. Have fun in BKK!

For me I think home is wherever I can plant a garden and see it through to harvest. If I’m in a place long enough for that then it qualifies as home. :)

NomadicMatt

How long does that normally take?

Josh

Great post. Slightly curious about staying at a hotel though. Is it because of free points? I got the impression from reading your blogs, you prefer hostels and guest houses in Thailand.

NomadicMatt

Yeah, I’m staying here because it is free with points. I’m leading a tour in a few days so wanted a nice place to getaway, hunker down with work, and relax. Hotels do that.

And free is the best form of budget travel!

Thanks for this post Matt. I’m with you there. Even though I’m a British person, I feel more comfortable in Berlin, and my second home is Prague. Having said that though, I still feel a jerk of the heart strings whenever I go back “home” to the English countryside or to the history and glory of an English City like my home town of Manchester and my career years in London.

when many ask me “as a seasoned traveller, where do you recommend where to go…”
and before they have finished asking i always say “home”.

NomadicMatt

Nice answer.

I think there are many places around the world I could live – top of the list being parts of California, and NYC and Toronto – but from what I’ve seen, Auckland is home and there’s nowhere else I would pick up and move to just like that.

This was a beautiful and thoughtful post. I appreciate your point of view. Home is definitely where the heart is.

Awesome post Matt!
Having spent a lot of time in BKK I know what you mean when you can’t help but feel at home. From the street food to catching the crazy buses in the evening, it is an amazing city full of heart and atmosphere. I can’t wait to get back!

Happy travels for you

Jamie

Thanks for the insight, Matt. Something I’m going to be remembering when I’m writing my novel, and the character is getting some insights from people she encounters. And I completely agree with you. I’ve thought that about other places in America–I love my state, the land–and in the end I think I’d always come back to it–but other places would feel like home too. San Diego (actually had quick a potent dream about it last night–so beautiful) where my dad spent his childhood, and where our family has had great memories, and a region in Alabama. I never knew Alabama was so forested and hilly until I got there! It was such a difference to my usual landscape. Beautiful.

The whole world is our own backyard.

Sam

Cant agree more Matt – I have BIG LOVE for Bangkok! We spent a week there but I could easily move there in a blink of an eye!
SO many fun and strange new experiences in Bangok!

audrey

thailand and tasmania is my home and where i felt i belong with at ease totally.
its true… when your heart feel comfortable the most, it makes you feel really home and not house.

Love this post. Full of personal experience. Makes me excited to visit Bangkok too.

I love the idea that you can have five homes, or even 10! I’ve always been a nomad at heart but there are several cities that will always be home to me. (Orlando, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Abu Dhabi….) I love the idea that maybe we don’t have to choose just one. That we can continue to search for new homes while always going back to our favorites places too…

LOL, I always love the words “Welcome to Thailand” as it means I’m home (I’ve lived in Bangkok for almost 12 years).

But…..I’ll never enjoy being back in Suvarnabhumi. It really is a dismal airport with some of the grumpiest Thais I’ve ever met working in immigration there :)

NomadicMatt

I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said.

Khim

Well, some people just really don’t understand what “service minded” is!

I’m Thai, but I couldn’t agree with you more, LOL.

Yes!

Some places just feel like home :) Completely agree with you on this one.

Khim

Thanks Matt for your simply impressive article. Love it so much! :)

Adrienne Morton

When you enter certain times, or phrases, or environments in your life, you don’t have to figure it out. It’s either HOME or its not, and once you feel it, you know. And what does “home” mean anyway? I certainly hope that Ive evolved enough to think that whatever HOME may be is different than what it was five years ago, ten, twenty years ago.
I arrived a few days early before our Thailand tour with Matt in Bangkok not knowing what on earth to expect, especially with the political situation. It was exhilarating. Home is a state of mind, not a place. What makes you comfortable? What challenges you? What makes you excited about the future?
In turn, I think that if we can’t get out of our usual space and travel that we lose our state of mind. There is a balance that has to be achieved in order to be fulfilled; happy, in order to grow.
I felt it so strongly, immediately, in Bangkok. Bangkok rocks. And our tour, while it took us everywhere- was always home at the end of the day. Its the accomplishments, friendships, and the promise of more than that that keep you peaked about life, and make you feel so alive. It makes you not want to go to bed and dying to go to bed at the same time, you’re so exhausted!
Rock on, superstars of the world.Let nothing ever stop you.

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