“I can’t wait to go home,” said my new friend. “But it makes me feel better that we can all see the same sky at night.”
We were sitting on a sand dune in the Sahara Desert around midnight (I know, it’s borderline unbelievable to me too), talking about the remarkable sky that our eyes beheld. I kept thinking, “How did we even get here?” That two hour camel ride was a surreal blur that my body couldn’t hold on to long enough for my brain to process.
Laying on a pile of sand wasn’t new for me, but seeing a perfectly clear, breathtaking, and surely the best night sky I will ever see in this lifetime, was a moment I’ve always longed for. You know when you have dreams and visionary flashes where you put yourself in an Instagram picture? An Australian beach or maybe a picturesque side street in Greece? For me, it was the middle of a desert in Morocco. Believe it or not, a pollution-less sky is hard to find when you live half an hour away from New York City. It’s funny—I thought I missed the lights of the NYC skyline. And then I learned that life hits you harder in the middle of the desert, with the moon full and the universe closer than you thought.
Life was in full force in that moment. I couldn’t take my eyes off the Saharan sky while we shared stories about our travels from the last few months. I told her how I wish I could stay longer while she told me that she switched her flight home to an earlier one. I could see it in her face that it hurt to be so far away from home. And me? Well, I would switch my flight to a later one if I could. I’d stay as long as this continent would have me, and I’d walk every inch of it if time and life permitted.
“How do you not miss home?” she asked.
I didn’t know how to answer because I do miss home. But home is an easy word for me to redefine.
My first home was a small village in the Philippines. That was home for ten years, but there are moments where I still call it home.
My second home is in New Jersey, where I have a house and a room and a family. When I talk about it here in Spain, I say “home home” so that fellow Americans know I’m talking about America.
My third home is at my university in New York. I spend more time there during the year than I do at “home home”, so it is just as much “home” as the other two are.
Right now, home is in a little barrio in Sevilla called Los Remedios. When I say, “I’ll see you at home” to my roommate, I’m not talking about New Jersey, or the Philippines, or New York. I’m talking about the apartment where I sleep every night, even though it’s only for a season.
And maybe I only felt it for a few hours, but the Sahara was home for me that night. It was just a big room where the ceiling happened to be the sky and the carpet was made of sand. I was so far away from anywhere or anything familiar. I felt like one single grain of sand in a 3.6 square-mile desert, and I kind of liked it. Maybe being under the sky means home can’t be too far away. And maybe seeing the same universe and sky above me every night is home enough for me.