“There’s no place like home.”
“You can never go home again.”
Each of these sayings is true. I’ve spent the last 6 years living abroad in the Philippines, and now I am embarking on a slow-tour of Southeast Asia in a few weeks. But right now I am visiting my parent’s home in California, USA for the holidays.
In one sense, this 2-acre property is a special place, for me, unlike any other 2 acres on the planet. Lots of memories for me here from my high school years. My Mom has long since made this place a welcoming home, a comfortable place to relax and always enjoy a fantastic meal or enjoy one of the patios on the property. She has her antiques, her doll collection and porcelain gifts from all over the world. This place is full of memories for her spanning over the last 40+ years.
So, in that sense, I “can” go home again. It’s improved over the years but the same comforting, peaceful vibe is there. But in other ways, it’s not ‘my’ home. My home is wherever I lay my head to rest somewhere in the Philippines. Six months on the island of Mactan. A few weeks in Moalboal. A year in Dumaguete, then Bacong, then Lahug, then uptown Cebu and places in-between the last 6 years. My concept of ‘home’ travels with me as I travel.
I mentioned that some things have changed. A few things for the better, a few things have gotten worse.
In the last two weeks, I’ve made four purchases online. I rarely did online purchases in the Philippines. Delivery was a bit hit-and-miss each time. While the service from Amazon and other shippers has been great, it’s the issue of local thefts of packages that put a damper on the whole thing. As I track my package online, when the day of delivery arrives, I find myself constantly checking for my package, not wanting some predatory passer-by to steal it while it waits unattended. There have always been thieves throughout history, but the very concept of theft really irritates me to no end. So, I have to be vigilant if I want to take hold of my delivered packages.
Another thing that changes as I return to visit for the holidays in the USA are the prices of everyday things. What is known as ‘sticker-shock’. Despite expecting this, mentally, before arriving it still surprises me after a year of living overseas where the dollar goes further. When I left the Philippines recently the exchange was 53.50 pesos to the 1 US dollar. I could go to the movies there for about $6usd. Eat lunch for about $5. Get a haircut for less than 1 dollar. Get two bags of groceries for about $25.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I stopped in for a few things totaling just 3 bags and it came to just over $90. Welcome back, indeed. The movie theater will be $12.50 and some decent lunch will run about $14 unless I opt for fast-food and grab a bite to eat for $7.50+.
I have maybe one high school friend who still lives in California. All the rest have long since had their fill of the politics, cost of living, high-taxes and moved to either Nevada, Arizona, Idaho or Texas. Which makes me appreciate the few expat friends and family I do still have in California all the more.
Each year I visit ‘home’ I have the same itinerary in mind. To spend quality time with my Mom, my kids and meet what friends I can nearby. I enjoy the foods and franchises I can’t avail of overseas. There’s just nothing like a real, south-western Mexican Breakfast Burrito for me. And a chili-bar with salsas and spicy-pickled carrots and chilis on the side.
I don’t waste time going to the usual California tourist attractions. I’ve had my fill of that over my first 49 years living here. I’ll still visit the beach to hang out with a good friend or visit the mall for some food and people-watching. I do enjoy driving around with some great music on the radio, a nice California sunset outside my window. Until I notice a highway patrol car nearby. Then the groove is gone since it doesn’t take much to get a ticket in these parts.
I go to the stores but because I know I will be packing soon I am very selective about buying anything for myself. ‘Stuff’ is dead-weight when you’re mobile and traveling around. I prefer just one medium-sized piece of luggage and a backpack for living from place to place. So if I buy something I plan on either leaving it behind, gifting it or I don’t bother to get it. I’d rather spend my money getting groceries to do some cooking or enjoy dining out with my family and friends.
I like knowing this place exists for me to return to. I feel fortunate to have my Mother still alive that I can visit with. And she has long ago accepted that I find my bliss far from the ‘nest’, exploring new places and experiences. She enjoys the photos I send for her to pick up locally. She’s not a tech person by any definition, so I have the photos printed out on paper for her.
In my case, this physical place in California is a version of ‘home’ for me. But as I stated in a video I did a while ago, for me ‘home’ is somewhere in my future. Maybe in the Philippines. Maybe Thailand, Vietnam or some other place I wander into over the next few years.
And therein lies the adventure. Finding ‘home’.
Author: Reekay V.
Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.
Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.