In the kitchen I can hear my roommates laughing over something. Christmas music in the background. My clothes are strewn all over the bed and the clothes rack, a half-empty jar of Nutella and a spoon have taken up permanent residence on the mantlepiece; tickets, receipts, papers, passport, a jar of moisturizer, a spool of thread lie inches thick across the desk. A pile of yet-to-be-read books is perched precariously next to my bed. A cup with the abandoned dredges of hot chocolate in it sits at my elbow.
What I am trying to say by showing you these things is, I am entrenched here. Leaving the place that has been home for as long as you can remember really makes you think about these things: these are the particles that make up a life. These are the tell-tale signs of living – not travelling, not a nomad, just living and being in a place. That’s why I went on exchange for a year: I wanted to truly live in another city, I didn’t want to just visit. I have been in Grenoble for a while, and I’ll be here for a while yet. This is my home now. I have felt the heat of summer sun in my bones in this room and I will taste the tang of winter sunshine on my tongue here too. I’ve watched the mountains sink into golden glowing sunsets, I have seen them coated in the first November snows, I will watch them shake themselves loose again come springtime and dance, dance with a freshness that stretches from their rocky roots to the tips of their new budding leaves. I am learning another city’s heartbeat. I am swaying to another city’s rhythm.
What makes Grenoble feel like home? Is it the wall of photographs I brought from Vancouver, all the laughing, smiling, well-remembered, well-loved faces that greet me every morning? The memories I took with me when I left, folded carefully for the journey and then brought out again when I moved into my new apartment, gently shaken loose and hung up to line this new room? Or is it the mountains encircling this city, just like mountains have done for me since the day I was born? Are these the things that have made it so easy for me to slide from Vancouver to Grenoble without even noticing I left home?
I don’t think it’s any of these. I think these things helped me feel more comfortable at first, but what I am finding more than ever is that home is not a geographical place. Home is inside of you. My goal for exchange was to make another city feel like home, and while I’ve done that, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter where I go because I’ll always be able to do that. Your home is within you: your home is you. If you are at home with yourself, you can find happiness anywhere. You are with you wherever you go. You’re the person you fall asleep with every night and the person you wake up with the next morning. Being at home with this person means your home is the world, your home is the universe, because your home is wherever you are. You never truly leave it, and so you never need to worry about forgetting it or leaving it so far behind you that it’s lost to you forever. You can relax, you can push your boundaries, you can go as far away as you possibly can, because you’re never really far away at all.