In Search of Home

Photography by Chanel Irvine

The answer to the question “where is home?” is always a hard one for me. Growing up, home was never one place – my parents travelled regularly for work, and I with them. I was born in Delhi, raised in Germany and grew up in Singapore before moving to Australia for university. The environment I was brought up in was constantly changing; for me, travel became home.

Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to describe children raised in a culture different from the one their parents grew up in. As a TCK so much of who I am today has been shaped by the places I have travelled to and lived in. Intersecting cultures, languages, different environments and people defined my formative years and have contributed to my identity. The constant ‘in-transit’ lifestyle instilled in me a need to travel, to move and experience new places that I don’t think will ever leave me. I think this is because my fondest memories of ‘home’ are all linked to different parts of the world.

Most vacations I take with my family are in India, visiting friends, relatives and travelling through the country. India has been the place of my many firsts: the first time I went horse riding, swam in the ocean or attended a wedding and, yes, even the first time I got food poisoning at 6000 ft. It’s a country full of potential, thriving with life and culture. Travelling through India and visiting the places my parents grew up in helped me develop a greater connection with my motherland.  

Singapore is probably the country I have lived in the longest. It was where I first fell in love, where I started school, and where I got my first real job in a digital marketing firm. Growing up in Singapore I had a very sheltered and privileged childhood, but one that I am forever grateful for. It taught me the value of hard work, of never giving up and that math would never be my strong subject.

But I don’t think it was until I came to Australia and stepped outside of my privileged bubble into an unfamiliar environment that I realised how influential these places I come from have been on me. I’ve seen anew how these experiences have shaped my identity and perception of the world. Sometimes you need a move to another continent and gain a fresh perspective to value what you have, and embrace your roots.

Through the constant moves and fresh starts, I have come to terms with the fact that home isn’t a postcode, but rather, a feeling which you carry with you wherever you go. Home can’t be pointed out on a map – it’s your family, and it’s the friends you make along the way. Where you live might constantly change but home is what you bring to the places you live in.

Travel helped define my concept of home. Moving from one place to another, my home became the journey, and I took comfort in its uncertainty, unpredictability and endless possibilities. Sebastian Modak’s article in Condé Nast Traveler beautifully articulated what it means to be a TCK. His experiences with travel brought me peace of mind and helped me reconcile with my own ideas of home and belonging.

He wrote: “In all those cases, including my own, travel serves as an affirmation of sorts. It’s an acknowledgement that a TCK’s roots, flimsy and widespread as they may be, cover large distances and bridge divergent cultures … When home can’t be singled out on a map, I travel because the experience, no matter where I’m headed—the unfamiliar food, the sound of music never heard, and yes, even the jet-lag—feels like a memory of things past.”

I used to think that we travelled in search of home, but to me, travel is both home and the ultimate destination.