Go Home Again: 4 Ways To Love Where You Are

cat and owner

One of the best points of any journey?

The second day back home.

It’s like this. Being wise, you’ve taken an extra three or four days off work for a post-holiday holiday, just enough time to battle jet-lag and sort through the mail. The first day is all about sleeping – and on the second day, in the same exhausted, nervous fog you get after drinking too much coffee, you lurch into town…

…and rediscover it. By going away, you’ve unfamiliarized yourself with your own home. You can truly see it again. Because familiarity makes the world – disappear. When you know exactly where you are and where you’re going, your thoughts will turn to fresher topics and your eyes shift to cruise-control. Starved of stimulus, your awareness withers and you start to pine for novelty with a leaden, blunted heart.

So here are four ways you can fall in love with your surroundings all over again.

Encadre

1. Read Like A Tourist

When I was growing up, my parents moved around a lot. (Nothing sinister about that: I’m a British Forces child). Consequently there were gaps in my knowledge of English grammar. With erratic formal tuition, I picked up some of the basics rather haphazardly – and it’s proving difficult to unlearn the worst of these habits.

Inside your head, the place you live is just like that, only much worse. You build your own picture of it, because there are no rules, no classes, no exams. And you build that picture out of your opinions and your specific, limited knowledge. It’s yours subjectively, incompletely, maybe even irrationally – except it feels like the truth, so you don’t question it.

(That’s why the town you grew up in was The Worst Place In The World when you were a teenager – and why anyone who said otherwise wasn’t just stupid, they were actually, like, Wrong).

So…pick up a Rough Guide. Pick up a Frommer’s, or a Lonely Planet. Read a novel set in the city’s past, present or future (for Yorkies, I recommend something by John Baker, or Sansom’s Sovereign). Read a Traveller’s History, such as this one. Peruse the thoughts of other people on topics you take for granted. This may feel very odd: isn’t this kind of reading supposed to be all about escapism? We want to read about Ligurian olive groves, or what Michael Palin is up to. Not the rain. Not the queues. We don’t want to go on a mental staycation, thankyouverymuch!

Except – that’s you talking. And on this particular topic, you can’t be trusted.

So pick up a book and ask someone else.

end

2. Entertain

Isn’t it always the case that when people come to visit you in your oh-so-familiar corner of the world, you do things you don’t normally do? It’s a special occasion, so you go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try out, you visit that museum that you realise you’ve never been to (even though you’ve been living here [x] years and it’s only just next door, for pete’s sake)…you sit by the river with an ice-cream, turn to your friends and say “why don’t I do this more often?”

(Good question. Why?)

Visitors are a very welcome excuse to do things out of the ordinary. So fill that social calendar, and live your life out of the ordinary.

Balcony

3. Live Elsewhere At Home

I can understand how this one may seem…a little weird.

It’s all very well trying to spring-clean your experience of a place during the daytime – but at the end of it, you go home to the same old house and it all stops there. Major interruption. Open the door, and there they all are – those zillions of reminders of the perspective you’re trying to shift. All ready to drag you back into the old way of thinking.

So don’t go home.

Book a bed & breakfast, or a hotel room, or go camping…all within a short distance of your own home. Wake up in a place weirdly familiar, yet not at all.

(My recommendation for any paperwork? Use another address – say, your parental home. Or lie. Just pretend you don’t normally live just down the road. People will think you’re deranged. Or in my case, people’s immediate suspicions that you are deranged will be confirmed).

candycoated

4. Fake It

Budding actors or compulsive liars, this is your hour.

We are creatures programmed by our habits. Without that first cup of coffee in the morning, without the myriad rituals that assure us that the world has somehow held together for another day, we feel incomplete, unbalanced and cranky. Our habits dictate our emotional response to the day – and by habits, I mean three-dimensional habits. An action, a movement, a kinetic phrase uttered by the body in motion.

This is where bio-feedback is your friend. If you behave in the same way you do when you’re travelling, your body will involuntarily react in the same ways. Lift your head and look around (and look up). Stop walking like you want your walk to end as soon as possible. Let your eyes go wide.

It’s small change, but it all adds up. And pretty soon, it’ll all reach your brain, and you’ll start seeing things again…and then suddenly it’s no act, you’re not faking it, you’re really drinking in your surroundings with a thirst you thought was gone forever. You’re in love – and this time, it’s for keeps.

Images: horizontal.integration, Frederic della Faille, dsevilla, . SantiMB and Pixabay.

  • Frankly Mike, where I grew up is much nicer in my head than it actually is these days. I could write a sensations book about the many wonderful things one experiences there. Unfortunately, all the memories happen in nice spring/summer/autumn weather, and since that place is Maine, that encompasses only 3 months of the year. The rest is the most rigid winter outside of a polar ice cap.

    • I’ve heard similar things about Maine.

      Mainly from Stephen King.

      Any experience with post-car-crash psychics, evil clowns, telekinetic teens or vampires?

      • No, none of those. Of course I did not live in Skowhegan, which may have more of those things. One must also consider that Stephen King might have precisely the same expreience anywhere he lived, even York. With less snow.

        • Oh, Stephen King would be overwhelmed by York. His pen would explode. All those dank, foetid corners for Things Of The Night to lurk in…those curious atmosphere you get in certain pubs, a special brand of unease that only comes with the landlord being an incest-barmied cannibalistic vampire cult leader, retired mass-murderer or Satanic rites enthusiast. The coffee that they serve at the train station. It’s all very Stephen King here.

          • Ummm, I saw some of “Last of the Summer Wine” and other than the mangle chase it didn’t loojk that scary.

            • Judith –

              Then you have a stronger stomach than I.

              Norah Batty’s stockings. Fully-grown men careering down hills in nuclear-powered bathtubs. The Unknown Something that Compo has hidden in a matchbox that he shows old ladies to make them faint.

              It’s all the stuff of nightmares. Stephen King with a grubby woollen hat and wellies.

  • Abi

    Gorgeous post.

    I’d recommend Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ if you’re trying this at home on the south coast…

    • Thank you. :)

      Yes, good choice. Although it might give the impression that all British teenagers are sociopaths and gangsters.

      Which is possibly an overexaggeration.

      To some degree.

  • Great post and such helpful tips for enjoying your “home.” I think this can be used for anywhere we are-even in our “expat lives!”

    • Thanks, Cherrye.

      Expat life is another layer of Home. There’s home ‘abroad’ (which is your real home) and there’s *home* home, which isn’t where you live anymore. All very confusing when you want to feel grounded, I guess, but ripe with opportunities for variety…

      Do you find yourself starting to not see the loveliness of Italy, now you’ve been there a while?

  • belly

    sometimes your drivel almost makes sense.

    i have been trying to buy Rough Guide to Hornsea, but most travel bookshops just tell me to ‘F off and don’t be so stupid. what’s that all about?

    • >>”sometimes your drivel almost makes sense.”

      I’ve never been so insulted in my life.

      But don’t worry, it’s just a freak conjunction of improbabilities. The law of probabilities states that the rest of this blog will be the usual impenetrable rubbish, if that’s any consolation.

      There isn’t a “Rough Guide” to Hornsea, my friend. You should look for the “Rough As F**** Guide” for that one.

      It’s a new series entirely dominated by east coast English towns.

  • “familiarity makes the world disappear”… I have to tape that to my fridge!

    Such a lovely post, Mike. There is a bed and breakfast down the road that I’ve been meaning to try. You’ve inspired me. :)

    • :) Nice words indeed. Thank you for them.

      Does this mean I’ll be seeing the review of it on your blog? ;)

  • Reading these notes makes me realize that I live in a place that might seem exotic–or at any rate quite different–to your commenters, Mike. I live on the edge of the Sonoran desert in Tucson, Arizona, which is ringed by mountains and celebrates its Spanish roots since it was part of Spain nearly longer than it has been part of the United States.

    I love your essay, and would add a fifth point–an enlargement on 4, perhaps–photograph it. My cousin, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, photographed the beautiful seaside where he walks each day, and I took my turn by photographing the foothills where I walk. Concentrating on a photograph can make you look at your home in a different way. (And I wish you had identified those gorgeous photos you used here.)

    • Good point 5). Thanks!

      Although with the caveat that all photographs are taken only to back up a mental image or freshly-made memory – not to replace it. I’ve found that when I’ve been snap-happy, I’ve been so focussed on taking the photo that I only look at the results in depth when I’ve got home and they’re up to screen – at which point it’s way too late. And I think that’s my main gripe with camcorders. When you capture it all on film, you’ve captured none of it firsthand.

      …but yes, taking a photo forces a perspective. You *have* to see it for what it is. And that’s startling and nice when it’s your own home. :)

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  • pam

    Luckily, I am bat sh*t crazy about where I live. And I do love to get away, I really do, but I love my house and my city and well, everything about it. So when I get home and do that too much coffee thing (are you spying on me?), that’s one of my favorite things to do, mental places to be. And often, when I get bummed out on where I live, which happens usually in February when the weather is relentless, then, if I have my sense about me, I go downtown and do Really Touristy Things. We have Pike Place Market, for the love of god, and it is really hard to be down on Seattle then.

    Or, you know, yeah, good advice. Though I’ve never read the Rough Guide to Seattle. Every time I read tourist advice about my city, I just laugh.

    • I think I’d like Seattle. Through your eyes, it sounds fun.

      (Yes, I’m completely angling for a personal tour, here).

      So what type of commonly-proffered advice about Seattle do you find risible enough to giggle at?

  • Very good points Mike, and what an amazing first photo of the looking glass book view! (stumbled it btw)

    I agree that staying in a hotel in your city of residence can be a good idea. Had to do that a few years ago when our toilet broke one night and our feckless landlord could not get a plumber. We stayed in the Bonham, a rather fancy townhouse conversion 5* in Edinburgh’s New Town, found on lastminute for about £70. And absorbing a bit of local history, whether through travel guides, TV, libraries, whatever, can be a great way to entertain visiting friends and relatives in style when they come.

    Which in my case is hardly ever, honestly, you’d think London to Edinburgh is on the bleedin’ Trans Siberian route instead of a mere 5 hrs by Nat Express, but that’s another post for another day!

    • A 5-star in Edinburgh would be an experience indeed. I always get a crick in my neck looking up at the stunning architecture. (Or wincing at the bloody awful Scottish Parliament building. What were they thinking?).

      There are so many ways to get about Britain these days (I’m a recent convert to the laughably inexpensive joys of Megabus/Megatrain) that there’s no excuse. That’s my argument aimed at myself, to get myself out and about – and I reckon it applies generally as well. There’s a lot of options to exhaust before it becomes impractical for one reason or another….and if you’re stuck with the standard train services, there’s always ways to whittle the price down if you plan ahead (http://www.mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings/5-ways-to-make-national-rail-work)….

      But I’ve read your blog. You’re way ahead of me on that one. ;)

      • Yeah, we are spoilt for vertical views here it’s true. Know what you mean about Holyrood, but like the TARDIS, it’s much more impressive on the inside than out.

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  • Natalie T.

    I hear you Mike. But you’re right. It does feel refreshing to have perspective on your hometown after being away from it, even for a little while. I try to do this (because I’m not going anywhere right now!).

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