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Last week for our wonderful monthly tele seminar with an expert, through Emma Walton Hamilton’s Children’s Book Hub, we were privileged to sit at the feet of someone with 25 years experience in the children’s books industry, the well known editor, Emma Dryden. While the session was rich in information, what struck me most was Emma Dryden’s approach; her heart for her clients and colleagues. This past week I have been reading back through several of Emma D’s blog posts. She isn’t a frequent blogger, but there is enough gold in each one to have you musing for days. My post today was inspired from reading this one from Emma D’s blog.

1.  a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the  usual residence of a person, family or household.

2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.

Neither of these two dictionary definitions truly reflects what home means to me. I’ve been thinking about it because I have had that itchy-feet feeling again for a number of months and know that the time is coming, sometime soon, to: pack my bags, pick up the guitar and say some “au-revoirs”. I have done it many, many times before; exchanging the known for the unfamiliar, immersing myself in a different culture, learning new languages, embracing new friends… I don’t think it becomes easier but the excitement remains.

I left home at 18 for university and I was so ready to go; to become a separate identity to my family, to pursue my own journey of self discovery. I wonder if home can ever be a dwelling for me? It isn’t simply because I have lived in so many different nations,  but home seems to be more of a state of internal acceptance, punctuating the course of my life. I am sure it is linked to location, but each place I have lived in has brought me to a new level of personal understanding and yielding (often through some pretty rocky country along the way) – a being OK with myself. Of course the frequency of change when I was involved in humanitarian work, also forced/enabled me to learn to create a sense of security & belonging wherever I was.

While my home is meshed closely with my emotional and spiritual well-being, I think it is also linked with friendships. Wherever I have travelled in the world I have been blessed with wonderful relationships, with one exception. My time in Togo was lonely and fragmented, leaving me with more of an orphan spirit for a while. Retrospectively, I believe this was because I shouldn’t have gone there. Each time I have been transferred to a different project or chose to move on, I have been able to follow an inner instinct urging me to go for the new challenge, with Togo I followed a voice of fear and need and paid the price. How wonderful for me that even bad choices can be redemptive. So, with this one blip on the roadmap, the colorful tapestry of friends weaving in and out of my life, some staying, some moving on, has also created a home for my heart along the way. Thus the second definition above comes nearer, in part, to my experience, but I would probably rewrite it as “the people in whom one’s domestic affections are centered.”

Kalahari - Namibia


Apart from living in tents in the Kalahari for a few months, my most primitive dwelling has to have been living in a 7 x 7 ft ex-chicken hut with stone walls and a corrugated iron roof, in Malawi. Here my nighttime ritual was to carve into a wooden beam, the number of cockroaches I killed each night! One of the coolest places I have lived was in a house like one of these below, in the Black Forest with a crowd of rowdy Germans, Swiss and Austrians.

My little apartment here in Nice is also very special to me, not just because of the address, which I wrote about here, but probably because of the garden, which in the middle of a big city is a true oasis for my soul. But even though I love where I live and have dear friends here, I can face letting it go and finding a new home, if I feel that I am following the path I should be on, as at least part of what home means to me travels with me on the inside.


One final thought I had after finishing this post was that home is also taking on a new twist for me as a writer; wherever my creativity flows!

Home has many meanings, often quite personal, what does it mean for you?



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10 Responses to Home

  1. Alexis says:

    A wonderful post – as always! I love these sorts of questions – the ‘unexamined life being not worth living’ xox, A.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    So beautifully written, that I’m speechless. You’ve been walking a spiritual path for some time, and this post only helps me realize how profound it has been for you. Your journey has been remarkable and you have always kept moving forward, saying “yes” to the opportunities that were ready to blossom within you. You’ve found a level of comfort that most spend a life time seeking. And, I know there will be many more new and meaningful journeys before you. You can take them knowing that strong emotional and spiritual well-being (home) is always present. What I find exciting, is that you are fully consciousness of it! Thank you for sharing.

    For me, home is finding the deep place within that allows me to weather any storm, being fully present in what I’m experiencing now and not looking backward or forward. I have been challenged with incidents and opportunities that have given me the strength wisdom to not react. This has given me a kind of window on the world, where I can view events and not judge or get caught in the hysteria others may feel. It frees me to look at bigger pictures rather than the details. It allows me to be more authentic and do what I feel I’m being called to do. I am very comfortable in this space and find this and exciting time to be alive — and to be life.

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, thank you so much for your comments and perception. I am appreciative of the grace to keep saying “yes” to each new adventure.

      I so enjoyed your different perspective on ‘home’. I love how you have learnt to be comfortable in the midst of storms. It seems like it not only frees you to keep moving forward but has equipped you with strength to help others walk through stuff. Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. Diane says:

    Oh wow, like Pat I too was surprised by this wonderful post Joanna. A real eye opener into who you are. When reading it I am reminded of something Julie Andrews said when interviewed about her bio book “Home”, how home is in the present, the now, inside you, you take it with you where-ever you are. It made sense hearing her say it too.
    Gosh where do I go from here… I am speechless as well, I only know that for me I guess I crave stability, love, and closeness. That’s why I love my home and regularity. Don’t get me wrong I also love travel and meeting new people. Sometimes when on the plane coming home hubby and I will look at each other and wonder why go home. But, and I think you will agree with me here, when you see some of the places and the life styles of some that I have seen, you are greatful for what you have, and know you have a beautiful home and country to go back to. I too love the wanderlust and seeing new and interesting places, and yes often I am at peace and happy to be there. Actually a few years ago another couple and us were even thinking of setting up a B and B in
    Switzerland or Austria, but we felt it wasn’t yet right for us. While I am often shy, reserved, thoughtful, the peacemaker, I am still know to at times reteat within to my comfort place, I am also in awe of your tremendous courage to go forth, explore, taking your home with you. You are very comfortable with yourself and will travel far my friend, I hope this will mean a visit down-under…

    • Joanna says:

      Isn’t it wonderful, Diane, how unique we all our with our desires and needs. I do so agree that travel and living in other nations has helped me so appreciate aspects of my own nation and Europe in general. What a privilege!

      I am long overdue a trip down under both to Oz and NZ… so look out!

  4. It will be exciting to learn where the road takes you next! I was particularly drawn to your reflections about Togo, and why it had turned out to be not the right place for you. How good that even that experience taught you and helped you grow, and learn more about how to recognize the *right* move. This is such an intriguing and challenging post.

    Like Emma Dryden, I have “come home”, not to the house where I grew up, but to the apartment my parents lived in for seventeen years. I am gradually making it mine, after a lengthy grief process of realizing that they would never come home again. Now that I am feeling more that this place is my own, I’m finding the wings to move forward and outward, eagerly embracing travel and new experiences which I would have been too anxiety-filled to even consider in the past. So part of this journey to “home” for me is becoming comfortable in myself, and well, letting my SPARKLE out. I, too, am pondering a change, and your words have given me a guidepost for deciding if this change might be the right one, motivated for the right reasons.

    Thank you.

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, I am glad this post touched you. I certainly feel I was born to take the road less travelled. Clearly you have experienced many big life changes these past months that are actually preparing and freeing you up for the next step. “Coming home” seems to be giving you a new base for “going out” and allowing even more of us to experience your unique sparkle. Can’t wait to meet up 🙂

  5. Hi Joanna. You are a powerful writer, and I love how reflective you are in your posts. I also admire your courage in sharing your soul and your ‘center’ with us – regardless of whether it constantly shifts geographically. I feel that your groundedness is what keeps you focused, alive, and with that beautiful open sensitivity to the world around you.

    I just wanted to share with you that this is something I have explored as well, being an expatriate here in Singapore – I have written a post that asks this question as well. Hope you can visit it:

    • Joanna says:

      Thank you, Myra. Blogging is helping me discover what I like best to write about and while it makes one a little vulnerable, my most fluid expression comes from my heart and personal experiences, both uplifting and sad. I am off to check out your post as I am sure I shall discover a kindred spirit 🙂

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