When I was bit younger I used to hold onto any chance of traveling outside home and enjoyed every trip I ever had. Travel was a routine with family and later friends that I have become addicted to over time. Who wouldn’t treasure a week or more away from the traffic nightmare, pollution and the barely-a-tree-in-sight of Cairo? I used to feel great the moment I land in any place and tried to get the most out of every city that I visited as much as I could. But, as the captain announces we are almost landing at the Cairo International Airport, and see the bare, sandy city from the windows, I can hear myself saying “and here we go again! Back to reality. I always wished my trips would last longer as much as possible. Maybe it’s because you are likely to enjoy Paris or Vegas more than Cairo that you feel you want to live there forever or you just believe, at that moment, that your parents mistakenly brought you up in Cairo when you belong in Rome! So bottom line, I never felt I wanted to go back home from my trips and I was totally fine with it.
Now that I am away from Cairo, where I was raised and had a beautiful life, I long for every little detail of it. The people, the bumper to bumper traffic, the curse of The 6th of October Bridge, the packed coffee shops where shisha clouds frame the entire neighborhood and even the 24/7 noise. You name it and I definitely miss it! It’s something about this city that gives it a charm of its own and that makes its people, as well as visitors, want to come back to it. It’s simply “home”.
I know a couple of people who just do not like traveling at all even if they can afford it and know for sure that they would definitely enjoy it. Who wouldn’t enjoy a trip to Barcelona, for example? These people just can’t get out of their convenient Cairococoon. A friend of mine once mentioned that she always feels home sick, even on her short business trips away from Cairo. I think she might be a bit of a drama queen on that matter but she might have a point there. She always has this feeling inside that she’s away from home and that doesn’t make her feel comfortable for the entire trip. Is it the bed? The language? The people? Or maybe the food? (Actually Malaysian food made me miss Shabrawy’s foul and falafel big time!) Maybe all those factors together help develop a feeling of uneasiness and intensify the feeling of homesickness for some people.
Aside from this type of people there come the non-homesickness people. These are people who can stay away from home for so long and do not feel these deep pressing emotions towards their home countries. They miss their families, friends and all but they do not feel that going back is a good idea.
Women tend to be more emotional by nature and this agitates the feeling of longing for home when away from it long enough. Many men who happen to live away from home or often go on business trips say that it’s because they find more convenience in that other place than at home that they have no problem creating a new home for themselves. This comfort in turn, slowly or sometimes surprisingly quickly, curbs the homesickness emotions inside them and makes them feel at ease even if they are away from what they once called home. Unlike women, men can separate between what they have to do and what they would rather do if they had the choice. We tend to follow our passion and want to live around our families, friends and familiar faces.
For instance, Rasha, 30 and a mother of two, has been living in the US for over six years but still feels homesick and would never hesitate to go back home if she could. She is already settled here with her husband and kids, has a full time job and made friends over the years but still longs for home and wishes they can move back one day (You can feel it when she starts craving for Egyptian seafood, Cook Door sandwiches and the infamous Wael’s feteer!) Nonetheless, Reham, 30, who is married for 3 years and has been living in the US for a few years also, does not seem to have the same yearning for home. They both became attached to their new society but you can tell the difference in their perspectives towards this issue. To my surprise also, I know a lady who lived abroad for over 30 years and still feels homesick and would rather go back home. She might be an extreme on that matter but she just feels home when she goes back to Egypt every summer. Even if these women have different levels of homesickness, they surely have a weak spot for Egypt at some point. On the other hand, their husbands are definitely in a completely different level on this matter. None of the men experience these mixed emotions about home and they definitely would never consider going back home in the near future. These men have been living abroad between 5-10 years and they seem to be fine with the idea that home is where you create and accept it.
People have reasons that drive them to leave the place where they can relate to other people, things and places and look for another home. It could be financial, business-related, religious, marriage or for whatever other reason people leave for. I understand that life is getting more complicated now and people are forced to look for a better living wherever possible, still there will always be one place they can call “home” whether they accept it or not. I have seen many people who leave their countries in search for a more decent life and they think that to do that, they have to completely forget about their identities and turn into new persons with new IDs. It’s then that they lose their emotional connection with their homes and do not feel homesick afterwards. This is not only about Egyptians abroad, by the way. I have seen it with Africans, Lebanese, Hispanics and surprisingly, Europeans. These people stop identifying themselves as whatever they are originally and become part of their new societies.
It’s the latter type of people who I believe will suffer less from being away from home as they are still connected to their roots and just mingle wisely in their new place for social survival. They do not see full change as the means to live better in the new society they move to. I get disappointed in Mohamed who becomes “Mo” or Abdallah who becomes “Aby” and dresses in funky western style believing this is the way to feel part of the new home. I also admire how Indian women emphasize their culture by wearing their beautiful Saris everywhere. These people carry their culture along with them wherever they are to feel they haven’t entirely abandoned home.
So whether you are at home or away from it and whether you feel proud of or resentful to it, it will always be ‘home’ for you. We all have our complaints about a lot of things in our countries, but at the end of the day, we still miss home whenever we stay away from it long enough. I used to be indifferent about missing home when I was young and I might see other countries as much more convenient to live in than Egypt but I can never erase “Egyptian “ from my ID. That’s my homeland and that’s how it will always be. I am sure many of you who live outside their home countries will agree with me that only when you are back home even for a short visit and see those familiar faces, that you can say “Now I feel at home!”.