Hiraeth for Home


This might be the best way to describe how I feel much of the time, a feeling for which I have yet to find a word to describe satisfactorily in English. A constant feeling that something is missing, that something has been lost, something that perhaps never existed or I have never known.

To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognise it as familiar.
– Pamela Petro, Dreaming in Welsh

As humans, it is perhaps unavoidable that we crave a sense of belonging, some sort of rootedness, an identification with a place to call home, a place to come back to and rest our weary bodies in the comfort of the knowledge this, this and everything it represents, is you. Yet, despite having been born in Singapore and having lived here almost all my life, I don’t quite feel that way towards this place.

When I travel, there is always the excitement of going somewhere new, of seeing something new, of creating new memories and of forging new relationships. As much as I relish the prospect of all these novel experiences and find them intoxicating, there is always this unspoken hope that perhaps, this time, I will be going home.

People who find out that I’m just about to embark on this strange travel-journey-hiatus-exploration-adventure thing almost inevitably ask Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you going away? Sometimes, it is phrased as What do you hope to achieve? or even What are you doing?, often in a tone of mild admiration tinged with a surprise which barely masks a whole lot of bemused incredulity. But ultimately, what everyone seems to want to know is the reason for undertaking such a seemingly pointless activity. And while I may give a myriad of answers to these questions, perhaps the real answer is because i have this hiareth on me, a hiraeth for home. I suppose then, only finding home, whatever or wherever that may be, will finally let me rest my weary body somewhere that is me, with all my imperfections and oddities.

Wrocław, Poland, July 2011

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