Where is Home for You?

 Probably one of the most common questions I get which I never seem to give a satisfactory answer too it seems. Recently with my return to South Africa from Argentina, this question got a “new” twist on it, “How does it feel to be going home after 9 years in South America?

To give a little bit of background; I’ve been travelling constantly around 23 years now during which I spent probably a total of 18 months in South Africa. Already a few years ago after having been outside the country for about 4 years, I returned to South Africa and realised when queuing for immigration at the South African airport, it didn’t feel like I was returning to my home country.

This was a bit confusing, and I tangled with this for awhile and the thoughts about whether this meant that I was now a “traitor” of the country where I was born and raised. Eventually I sorted this in my head that not feeling that it was my home country wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, this was just a natural consequence of constantly living outside of South Africa.

Sao Paulo's Guarulhos Airport where I first arrived in South America in 2014

South America

Now, I was returning after 9 years in South America where I had spoken Spanish for the majority of the time with English pretty much a second language I used with other tourists from abroad. To top this off, I spent almost 4 years on the Island of Tierra del Fuego that is part Chilean and part Argentinian. During this time, I had visited both sides of the island and since the Covid lockdowns, remained in Ushuaia (the Argentinian part) for about 3 years.

During my stay on Tierra del Fuego, and more specifically in Ushuaia, this became the place where I’d stayed the longest period in pretty much of my life – 4 years! I felt happy and content and was surrounded by opportunities of new challenges in addition to it being like paradise in my eyes with mountains, forest, rivers and ocean all in one place…the people living there made it even more special for me…this was a place I felt comfortable calling “Home”!

View northwards from the Ushuaia airport on the day of my return flight to South Africa

But new challenges and the chances to realise more dreams called – an opportunity to try and walk the length of the Silk Road from Turkey to China. It was all very exciting but before I could get there, I’d have to go to South Africa to sort some personal documents, bank accounts etc. out. It was a long travel moment with it taking me around 50 hours from leaving the place I was staying in Ushuaia to arriving at the house where my sister them lived in South Africa.

That was the least of my concerns really, I was going to be faced with languages I hadn’t heard (even less speaking them) in 9 years, one of them being Afrikaans which I grew up with as a kid (we grew up with English, Afrikaans and Fanagalo in the house). A taste of how much I would remember already became clear when my brother-in-law sent me a video of an Afrikaans comedian and I had to re-watch it more than 3 times just understand snatches of it.

Arriving in South Africa - March 2023

Arriving at Johannesburg Airport in South Africa and seeing my sister them waiting for me was a surreal moment. Of course, I was happy to see them after having been away so long but my mind wasn’t doing all the kind of responses I think I expected to a degree…like a crazy happy or jubilant feeling…it wasn’t there even though I was happy to see my family as I said.

We sat down at a restaurant in the airport to have coffee and a snack and I totally felt as if I was in a foreign country that I had been before but not for a long time. English was being spoken with accents I hadn’t heard in a very long time, forcing me to concentrate hard on what was being said so I could understand. As for hearing people speaking Afrikaans (even my family speaking Afrikaans to other people), it went right over my head…they were speaking way too fast for me to even start comprehending the conversation, never mind catching the odd word here and there that I “should’ve” understood at least – it was a like a totally foreign language I was hearing, certainly not like a language I grew up with!

As I write this, I’m in my 5th week in South Africa – so do I feel at home?

Well, that’s something I don’t really know how to reply to – I feel more at ease now sitting with my family and chatting (in English) and now understand some more Afrikaans if people speak slower than their normal speed; it’s not like my family are not trying to make me feel at home.

Riverside shopping centre in South Africa

It doesn’t feel like I belong in this town, or the country, in the sense that I feel completely like a foreigner. I guess the knowledge that I’m leaving soon again adds to the feeling that I’m only “in transit” as it were. It’s a strange feeling to me – but it doesn’t stress me or occupy my thoughts all the time though. Maybe I’ve just learnt over the years of travel to process this feeling of being a foreigner/visitor as normal, not something easy to really put into words somehow.

What's next?

In about 5 weeks’ time I head off to the Caucasus for the pre-expedition period before I start the walk from Istanbul. This is probably going to be another 2 years or whatever moving, meeting new people, learning new languages, and seeing new and amazing places.

Will I find another place that I connect to as much as I did with Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia? I have no idea – never say never. But I shall continue to call home that place where I lay down my head at night – regardless of whether it’s my tent out in the mountains. To me that’s something that has kept me “sane” over the years – always being near or at my home, wherever I am.

Where is home for you?

I’d love to hear your opinions and comments on this.


  1. Congratulations on the life you chose. You are certainly a determined person, the only inconvenience is the fact that you NEVER feel at home, you will always feel like a foreigner, even in your own country.
    I also like to explore other countries and other landscapes, I've been to Ushuaia and almost all of Argentina. It's a beautiful country, with hospitable people.
    Keep on with your travels and your publications, because we travel on your journey.
    Carlos Correa

    1. Thanks Carlos! Very true - feeling like a foreigner in my own country is a reality. At first it was a bit disconcerting but I've learnt to accept that it's the way it is now...I have many "homes" as I now have adopted family all around the world. :)


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