Home abroad, same but different
This Thursday morning, I flew back to Bali after spending a few days back in Germany wrapping things up, and as Alba and me watched the sunset over at Eccho Beach on Friday evening, it struck us: “Damn, we’re really living in Bali now.” It wasn’t the first aha moment of the sort since our arrival in the island four months ago, but it was the first time we thought of it without a place to go back to in Berlin, and that changes things. Because from now on, and until an indefinite point in time, home is this here: Bali.
Having moved around our fair share and done the living abroad ‘thing’ more than once in the recent past —particularly so in Alba’s case— we already knew how important it is to feel at home to be able to maintain a certain sense of Self regardless of where you may be; and for this, learning to do home (and of course practising yoga!) is essential. Learning to find your routine, ‘your places,’ ‘your people,’ your new habits, rhythm, and also a certain balance to it all is key to successfully doing home in a new place. But I must be honest: it has been a slow process. For the main part of the past few months —though we were quite content and happy with the way things were going— Bali wasn’t feeling yet like home. Not until now, that is.
A part of it probably had to do with the psychological component implicit in knowing that our life was happening in two different places at the same time; and so, while our bodies were already in the island, our minds —and with them most of our belongings, worries, furniture, and a myriad contracts and bills— were still back in Berlin, locked away inside an almost empty apartment, but one where we, somehow, still lived in. But there is also the cultural clash aspect to the whole experience of moving abroad that we must acknowledge; because, moving to Asia is not quite like moving to the US or any EU country. And yes, we’re well aware of how fashionable it is to say digital-nomad/ influencer phrases like “my home is the world” –as one can frequently hear say over here– and then go sleep at a nice western style accommodation after having had a western style meal in one of Bali’s many hipster restaurants… For us at least, home and a homelike-feeling are much more nuanced than that.
For us, home is a feeling and a practice, an emotionally loaded concept that’s both a place with and without physical underpinnings. So home is, for example, knowing your whereabouts in a new city so that when something breaks you know where to go to fix it; or knowing how much is a reasonable price to pay for a home-cooked meal in a local warung, for instance. Home is also a state of ‘mind’ in the full yogic sense of this word, where it basically amounts to a way of doing life and being in the world where the exercise of patience and equanimity is really important. So home is part idea, part reality, part something you ‘imagine,’ something you make, and something that just happens with the passing of each and every single day. So... yeah, getting this home-like feeling here in Bali has taken us both a bit longer than usual, which is ok!
In the meantime, we have had a lot of time to gain first-hand experience with ‘the same but different’ syndrome. Have you ever heard of it? It's that feeling you get of things being pretty much the same as they could be pretty much elsewhere, and yet, not quite the same. They’re different, slightly different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Different enough to make you notice the difference, yet not too much for you to be unable to adapt to it. So different in a good way, in a compare-and-contrast way, the kind of way that helps you learn a lot about the places you visit, the places you have already been to, and most of all about yourself. Never mind how open-minded and travel-savvy you become over the years, moving abroad always entails a certain amount of clash between ‘the new’ and ‘the familiar,’ ‘the known’ and ‘the unknown.’ Between the old habits and structures that resist change, and the part of you that’s always looking for growth. It also requires honesty, as in the honesty necessary to admit to this clash in the first place, and then learn to accept it particularly when you least want to, because that’s when you need to the most. It is precisely from this encounter with what’s different, or strange, or new and unfamiliar that one always grows the most; perhaps not in the directions you would have anticipated but, isn’t that part of the reason you decided to move abroad? Encountering difference however it may come always pushes our buttons a little, forcing us to rethink and maybe even redefine the limits of what we consider normal, reasonable, good, familiar –or, in our case, ‘home.’
So, since moving here to Bali, we’ve grown a bit more appreciative and thankful for everything we have going on in our lives at the moment here in our new home in Bali, and also back in Europe. Thankful for the great friends and the incredible family, for the support and the help of different people, old and new. Thankful for all the sameness also, and for all the difference, for the diversity and variety of it all. At home already in this little island, we rejoice in the opportunity for change that life here offers and for all the (spiritual) growth!