How to feel at home while traveling abroad

Traveler’s often get a bad rap—people say wandering means we’re lost, we’re without a home, we’re unsettled and untethered. And though for some of us those things sound more ideal than unfavorable, non-travelers don’t see it that way.

That’s also because some people are born with the wanderlust gene and others aren’t. But more on that here.

Home—which is one of those things doubters tend to think travelers don’t have a good grasp on—can often be a state of mind, a feeling of rightness, more so than a physical place. Cheesiness aside, maybe you are at home where your heart is, or where your family is, or wherever you feel most at home. When you’re traveling, let home be about how you feel.

If home is within you, a change in surroundings can’t throw that off balance. But if traveling is new for you or you still struggle feeling settled in different places, bring little things along that you like, like a favorite soap or your own pillow case or music that reminds you of good things. Sometimes, staying with locals or hitting up Airbnb Experiences to find residents hosting in-home dinner parties for travelers can help with the home-y feels too. Though travel should largely be about new experiences and experiencing life as it is where you are, discomfort won’t serve you on your journey, so finding little things to keep you set and ready to explore.

For me, no matter the places I’ve lived or traveled to, or for how many months out of the year I’m gone, the Caribbean, and Tobago more specifically, has always, always been home.

In helping a friend with his beautiful exhibition, Caribbean Majestic, a showcase of Caribbean art and life through it’s own beauty and the beauty of its people, here’s how I tried to put “home” into words.

Caribbean, No Matter the Distance

When the doors lift and you emerge from the airplane all tattered and tired, it hits you: the sweet, sweet smell of home.

And it’s not the literal smell of salt water mingling with sea breeze or mango trees or Miss Esme’s bake that I mean, but the smell of belonging. The one that washes over you, reminding you that you’re right where you came from. Right where you’re meant to be.

For a wandering soul, a traveler, an emigrant, finding home, or returning to it, is like that first step off the plane. It’s like that first bite of freshly-baked bread that granny made, butter melting into every crevice just like you like it. It’s that feeling of feeling just right no matter how long you’ve been displaced, or for how much longer you’ll continue to be.

That’s what the Caribbean will always be for me.

I wasn’t born there, my parents were. I’ve lived in three countries and traveled to 30 more. But an island isn’t only bestowed to you by birth, but by belonging. And belonging comes down to what your soul aligns with. Are you really at home when the cold of January in Brooklyn hits on your walk to the R train? Or when you’re taking your tea with crumpets instead of Crix in Croydon and speaking the Queen’s English, only in a lilt you don’t really recognize? Or is it that you’re home when parang fills the airwaves for Christmas and neighbors tote bags of pommecythere when they come to check you?

I’ve been away from my island all my life, really, save for the summers spent playing Brown Girl in the Ring and climbing trees for sour cherries. But my island and I have never been estranged. There’s never been that awkward silence of lovers reunited after too long apart. No. It’s more like the familiarity of old friends who haven’t laughed together in years but pick right back up where they left off. Home doesn’t forget you, even if you manage to forget it.

Sure, I’ve climbed into the Great Pyramids of Giza, watched the blazing sun set over the desert in Dubai and tried to wrap my mind around what went into making Machu Picchu. There’s so much beauty to be experienced in this world that it’s really nothing short of astounding.

But the Caribbean’s beauty is pure; it’s majestic. It’s like an Eden, lush and green and fruitful and giving. And though the islands have suffered at the hands of strife and things far from beauty, the Caribbean is still unspoilt. Still perfectly imperfect.

No matter the far-flung corners of the world this diaspora reaches, the Caribbean soul hardly strays far from the isle it belongs to. The islands have a way of calling you, embracing you with their warmth, bathing you in their seas, showing you beauty in doses you’ve yet to experience anywhere else in this life.

The Caribbean will always be home. No matter how far I fly from it.