A simple word, four letters. Probably one of the most used words in our dictionary. Very often we say it without actually realising what we mean. Sometimes we use it wrongly, to describe a dwelling with walls and a roof. And sometimes… sometimes we use it not to describe any specific place but a feeling. A feeling of warmth which starts somewhere inside you and spreads throughout, leaving the tips of your fingers tingling. That is home to me.
I’m writing this post after having spent 10 lovely days on my little island, after finally catching up with (almost) everyone who is exceptionally dear to me. Almost, because you would never believe how many people you’d want to see after having spent 5 months abroad. But 10 days are, well 10 days. Finite and insignificant really. I tried to make the most of them. From lunches to drinks, dinners and coffee, sober family gatherings and drunken eves with friends. I loved every single second of it. For most, it was the first time I was seeing them since I had left and although as one of my dear friends pointed out upon seeing me, “You’re still the Roberta we know”, I believe I must have looked at least a little bit different in their eyes. I believe I answered the questions “How are you doing?” and “How is your new life?” around 36 and 27 times, respectively and this is usually followed by the exclamation “You seem to be doing just fine!” to which I would nod and smile appreciatively. The thing is, if I stop to think for a while I’d realise that yes, I was doing what I had always wanted to do. I was travelling, seeing the world at a glance, making memories which would last me a life time. But what also dawned on me was how much I needed to go back home every once in a while. How much the people there do mean to me. It’s like, no matter how far I travel, how many things I see and how many people I meet, I still need to go home. Some people might not understand this and I might be writing all this in what is still an emotional upheaval but I swear to you, it is true.
A friend of mine sent me a message just a couple of days before I left. It was a picture of a map with a quote from Cloud Atlas, “Travel far enough. You meet yourself.” On this path I’m treading, and although I’m far from having visited all the corners of the world, I’ve met a girl who was bored with her life, who was confused and felt like she wanted things she could not have. So she left, forsaking everything not because she wanted to but because she felt she had to, if only for a while. On my few travels I saw this girl, still the same as ever, still clumsy, her nose buried in a book, still passionate about travelling. But she was changing slowly. Maybe she was growing up. Maybe she was letting go of her past. Or maybe, she was realising that the same things she was running away from were drawing her in again, pulling her closer. This is who I met these past 5 months. I found myself, the one I had lost somewhere last year. I took her with me to Malta and I do believe we’re good friends again.
I remember I was standing at the Cittadella in Gozo (yes, I went to have lunch in Gozo too. I couldn’t not visit our sister island). It was sunset and for some reason, everything had such an intense hue; I had never seen the rolling hills look so green before, or the sea so blue. My friends laughed themselves silly every time I exclaimed about it. Maybe I was seeing everything through a romantic lens which made everything appear all the more beautiful. Or maybe I just wanted to get drunk on all that was home. I was standing there and the words escaped me even before I could think them over. “Why did I ever leave this place?”Right then, I admit that if I could have had a choice, I don’t think I would have gotten on that plane back to Dubai. But that’s why they say not to take decisions when you’re at your happiest. I admit, I was happy home and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But then I stop to think. Home’s not going anywhere. It will still be waiting for me when I get back. The people who matter, who welcomed me back as if I had never left will still be there. And what I have learned from living abroad is that sometimes, separation is good for you. It gives you time to reflect and although it has been said a million times already, it gives you time and reason to appreciate what you have. The good thing is, it’s not too late. You haven’t lost anything. Actually, you have won, on more than one level. And the welcome back parties are always so much fun.
I wanted to dedicate some space to the people who made my stay a memorable one. From friends who whisked me off to the quiant and charming village of Marsaxlokk for lunch as soon as I set foot on the rock, to my large and loud group of eldest friends who organised a series of events so I could enjoy their company as much as possible. To friends who prepared a small party with Maltese food and Sangria, for lack of a better Maltese alternative, to my crossfit buddies who squeezed in an hour to come say hello before they had to attend another event elsewhere. To my ex-colleagues who found some time and took me to one of the most scenic places on the island, to my cousin and aunt who were waiting for me with a cappuccino in hand. To a new mummy and her little angel, and my Uni friends, thank you for making me feel like I’ve never truly left. To my gorgeous family, whom I cannot live without, to my sister who took me everywhere I needed, to mummy who cooked all the dishes I love most, to papa who made tea for me and who was always up for a hug and to my brother.. who, well, asked me to write up something for him before I left by way of a Chritsmas gift. His Christmas gift to me that is. They were right in all those ads. Some things never change. And I’m very glad they don’t. Thank you for making me feel so loved.
Malta. There will never be anything quite like it. I don’t want to bore you anymore with my ideals.I only have one tip to give to all those who simply yearn to leave. Yes, the world is a beautiful place. Yes, there are a million and one adventures to be had and I urge you to go, explore and find yourself. It is enriching and it empowers you with knowledge beyond anything that a class might give you. I know, I’ve been there. But don’t dream of travel at the expense of forgetting to live, at the expense of taking everything which surrounds you for granted. Live in the present, love without regrets and let the people know just how much they mean to you. Don’t miss out on opportunities, by all means. Go for it, dream with eyes wide open. But don’t severe the bonds which tie you to home. It is, after all, where the heart lies.