Is Home a Place or a Sense of Belonging? Can it Be Both?

A friend recently posed a question on Facebook.
"Without mentioning a specific place, what does home mean to you?"
And at first, I figured the answer was simple. Home is, clearly, wherever Matt and I are together.  And, ultimately, that is a true statement. We've lived a lot of places and we've always been reasonably happy and engaged with our lives. We like exploring new things together.

But it wasn't until we discovered Asheville, tucked into the Appalachian Mountains, that we truly felt a sense of belonging.

I realized this intimately on a recent drive back home from a quick trip to Michigan. We visited my sister and her family in Kalamazoo, a place where Matt and I both lived for a time. We met in that city. We held a commitment ceremony in that city when we were just barely in our 20s. It has a lot of wonderful memories, good people, and fun things to do. But is it home? No, it hasn't been for a while.

On the drive back we stopped about half way in Kentucky for the night. When we started out again for the last remaining hours of the drive, I took the wheel. And for a short while I felt like I had made a huge mistake. I was tired. Drained. Lethargic. I felt like I might fall asleep. And then, as if by magic, Tennessee appeared and brought with it the majestic mountains that I love so much. A weight was lifted from my chest. I felt alive and vibrant again. My eyes were no longer heavy and I was just excited to be almost home.

It was this sense of belonging that led us to build the tiny house. We knew we wanted to be in the Asheville area. We knew with all of our hearts that this was where we belonged. Once the tiny house was completed, we also realized that the tiny house wasn't the finish line. It was just a step along the way. A way to get us closer to a town that we loved and launch ourselves into the kind of unconventional thinking that makes it possible to live in Asheville. That was why, after living in the tiny house for some time, we found ourselves buying a small home just north of downtown. This gave us access to the city. Just one mile away, rather than eighteen. And a neighborhood with neighbors. And places we can walk.

For me, home is intrinsically tied to Asheville, North Carolina. That's why, even with state politics that I don't agree with, I am far more interested in sticking around and making it a better place rather than leaving it behind. We can make a difference in our communities, but only if we feel like we truly belong.

Things will be changing for us again within the next year. In fact, there is a good chance that we'll need to be away from Asheville for several years. But we have never considered the idea that we might not be back. This city is in my blood. I can't breathe without the mountains.

Home for me cannot be separated between place and emotion. This is home. This is where I belong.


  1. I was born and raised in Asheville so I completely understand why you would want to be there. I live in Georgia for now but hope to make my way back home eventually...there is nothing like it!


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