Homesick

A couple of weeks ago, just past midnight on July 5th, I took off out of Hong Kong, flew across the Pacific Ocean, crossed the International date line and arrived in Los Angeles at 10pm on July 4th.

There are few approaches during my ten year career I can think as memorable as that one. It was like descending into a war zone. Thousands upon thousands of fireworks going off as far as the eye could see. A lurid display, the likes of which I’ve never seen. We descended right over the city with fireworks going off either side as we came into land. What an entrance it was!

What you Americans were celebrating, of course, was your independence. You were celebrating what that independence stands for: freedom. As I reflected on this, while forced to quarantine in an airport hotel room for the next 48 hours, I started to feel homesick. It’s a feeling I’ve been having a great deal recently. Which is strange, given Hong Kong is the place I call home. Given “home” is the one place I’ve actually been able to spend time in. So what’s going on? Why, exactly, have I been feeling homesick?

Part of the reason is I’ve felt imprisoned at home in Hong Kong. While I get to be with my wife and kids (something I’m extremely grateful for), I’ve never felt further from the rest of my family in the UK and elsewhere. This is because Hong Kong’s strict quarantine restrictions, although successful in keeping the place safe, have made it nigh-on impossible to see them. I’m also someone who has always felt “at home” while travelling. I like to think of the world as my home. I love nothing more than exploring it. The inability to do that has, well, hit home for me.

With that aside, the main reason I’ve been feeling so homesick is because I’m heartbroken. When I think about the changes that Hong Kong has undergone politically – this past year especially – the place that I have long called home simply isn’t the same. Freedom of speech has been stifled and many are living in fear. Many have fled as a result. Many others are planning to. You can feel it too. They have taken a stick to Hong Kong. Just like beating a child, its spirit has been crushed. 

One of the main reasons I write under a pseudonym is because of what’s going on here. Whether my paranoia is justified or not I don’t know, but the fear is real. Many people have been arrested for speaking out. Colleagues of mine have been let go because of comments made on social media. One of Hong Kong’s biggest Independent papers was shut down just a few weeks ago. The nails being hammered into the coffin keep coming. Make no mistake about it, 2047 has come early. Hong Kong’s special position as a bridge between East and West – a place that once reflected the best of both – has been broken. 

Sometimes I still feel like a local Hong Konger. I’ve spent most of my life here after all. There is no place on this planet I know more intimately. A place that has given me so much. Hong Kong will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. Yet, nowadays, I feel increasingly removed from it.

Of course I have always been, and remain, an expatriate. Never a “true-blue” local. The plus side to that is I have options. I don’t have to stay here in Hong Kong. I can leave if I want to. It’s this question in particular – whether or not I should – that has really been plaguing my mind.

I liken it to being stuck in that hotel room on July 4th. There was nothing stopping me form walking out that door. The only reason I didn’t was because of what my head was telling me. That I could get fired or contract COVID… My head was telling me that it’s best to be safe. It’s best to stay put. My heart, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to say, “fuck this”, and walk straight out of that hotel room door and join the celebrations. 

I’m homesick because I don’t feel at home in Hong Kong anymore. My values have diverged from the place. Yet my head is telling me to stay put. Not to leave the security of my job, my pay check, etc. However my heart is longing for somewhere (and something) else. They say that home is where the heart is. I get it now. Home is where your heart feels it belongs. My sense of belonging here has been eroded. I don’t believe it will be long before I gather my belongings and head straight out the door for good.

Freedom, is calling me home.


(Thanks for reading everyone. This post got me thinking about the meaning of home. Let me ask, what does home mean to you? For someone who has always felt “at home” on the road the pandemic has, paradoxically, left me feeling homesick. I’m curious if many of you have felt the same way? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.)

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You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com


58 thoughts on “Homesick

  1. Lovely piece. Certainly made me think. I’ve spent most of my childhood and young adult life moving from state to state. Now settled in a house with a spouse, I realize I make home where I am. It’s easy for me to pick up and move to a new home, not so for many friends who have at most moved once in their lifetimes.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Acceptance is an ideal I strive to live by. But it’s hard when you see the place you call home irrevocably changed. I don’t have trouble moving around. I always have been. Historically one of the reasons I’ve loved living in Hong Kong is the ease of getting around. It used to be a great launching pad to the rest of the world. Not the case anymore. I think I struggle most with the feeling of being trapped here. I’m not so worried about giving up my job and moving elsewhere for myself, but for my family… It’s a bigger ask. I would be taking a risk. Is that fair on my children? Should I choose security for them over my hearts desire? Or is it in their best interest I move on for my own state of mind? That’s really at the crux of my dilemma. Thank you for taking the time to reading and commenting 🙏

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Home is where the heart is. Could be a person or place. It’s all about feeling comfort. Sometimes, we have to override such feelings because logic tells us that in the long run it will be better. Security plays an important part of a person’s life, and keeping it in intact can require a few sacrifices. But yes, when finally pushed to edge, it seems better to rebel and just let the heart guide you.
    Freedom is such a beautiful word.
    It means different things to different people. But the essence is liberating.
    One has to play one’s cards right. After all, life is a gamble. But living it meaningfully and happily is the best mantra. So, follow your instincts. Living in fear and despair will just kill you.
    Thanks for sharing this. Good luck to you. Hope you find your true path. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Terveen. Wise words as always. We are making our plans carefully. Not acting recklessly but have made up our minds that we will leave Hong Kong at some point – perhaps within the next couple of years. You can only ignore your heart for so long before you start to crash your own spirit. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, AP, you’ve had quite a year. You do have the pressure supporting a family, but you’re also under pressure to protect them. Can your wife and kids come back with you to the UK? I would thinl so, but nothing is normal now, so I don’t know. Then she’d be homesick for her family too. Tough choices! I wonder if there would be some sort of job as a Hong Kong liason in the UK? Something where you could help people in a similar situation? Clearly you need the connection there somehow, so I wonder if the compromises you’ll have to make could perhaps be more gentle than you fear?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s certainly been a dramatic few years for me. A period of great change both internally and externally. Yes, the pressure of supporting my family is the main reason we haven’t left yet. Once we have our finances in order/a good plan in place we will pull the plug here. I suspect it will be a year or two yet thinking realistically. My wife and I will explore different job opportunities/ideas. I could still apply for a job as a pilot of course provided I convert my license. That just means sitting a bunch of exams. I’d not thought of the idea of being a liaison. Might be a good idea for my wife who can speak both languages. I’ll run it by her and see what she things. Thank you for it.

      Hong Kong is safe provided you keep your head down. The (violent) protests are long over. People are too scared to get involved in them anymore. The longer term reasons for leaving has a lot to do with the environment we want to raise our children in. Of course there is no perfect solution. We give up family and friends here and gain them back in the UK or elsewhere. We will, of course, always come back to Hong Kong to visit.

      Thank you again for lending your thoughts and ideas. I really appreciate it. Wishing you well KJ. And don’t worry about typos. I’m the king of typos! Take it easy 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a strange thing it must be, to be living in such a significant and historical moment. Dire and dark, but globally relevant. It’s easy to forget, I think, that the people we see and read about are real, living people just like us. I’m sorry your home is disappearing and being altered in such a fundamental way. I think probably you and your family should leave: one wants to “stay and fight the good fight,” but one also wants to survive. I hope you find a new heart.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I often wonder what the good fight really is? Perhaps leaving is exactly how I should fight? Perhaps I should exercise that freedom of mine and then leverage my voice back in the UK or elsewhere in a way that I can’t do at the moment here in Hong Kong? The truth is the Hong Kong I knew will never be the same. And no one is coming to its rescue. I think I might be better off fighting for freedom and democracy back home where I can have a greater influence. Thank you Em. My heart is alive and well. It at least has a much clearer idea of who it is and what it stands for. I can be thankful that the events here have given me that. 🙏

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Fighting the good fight in Hong Kong is now going to end in one way. I’m sorry. I wish the world was doing this differently. I wish money wasn’t talking. China will take over early, it’s going to be ugly, and the world will posture and do nothing. If you can collect you and yours and go, I probably would, though what a wrench it is to have to leave a life behind. Again, I’m so sorry.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you Em. I do appreciate your comments. Such is life. We are formulating our plans. When the time is right we will move and make home elsewhere. It will be difficult. But not moving on will only be harder in the long run. Wishing you well 🙏

        Liked by 2 people

  5. You have my prayers for His wisdom in making your ‘home’ decision brother. I’m faced with a somewhat similar decision and draw solace in knowing that, while this world’s chaos is ever increasing, we have a forever home awaiting Jesus has promised for all who trust Him as their Savior.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, sadly Winnie the Pooh is a megalomaniac. He has been acting aggressively in the South China Sea for some time now. Claiming islands and water that belong to Japan, Philippines, Vietnam… Not to mention Taiwan itself. Hong Kong was always a sitting duck. Will it prove to be the same for Taiwan? I still fear turbulent times ahead.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Taiwan will not go gentle into the night. If the US backs them militarily, the bloodbath will be epic and the little Emperor could lose.

        China has managed to piss off every major power in the region except the Russians. India, Japan, and Australia are not to be sneezed at. The Philipines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, S. Korea are not amused either.

        Japan has even stated that due to Chinese claims on a Japanese Island, they would consider an invasion of Taiwan an issue of national preservation. I don’t see the Russians helping China, more just not wanting to be involved.

        But a war in the South Chine Sea would be a cataclysm for China, Everyone loses. I don’t see them doing anything but big talk here and there and a continuation of the salami slicing strategy they’ve almost perfected.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think that would be the gamble. If they decided to annex Taiwan would other powers step in? It would be a massive gamble from China and I think you’re right – probably not one they would actually go through with. If they did, yes, we would all lose.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Nicolette. Times are always changing. The tricky part is navigating the waters when you lose sight of home. I believe if we have a firm sense of who we are and what we stand for, this can help. I wish you well, AP2 🙏

      Liked by 5 people

  6. “Home is where your heart feels it belongs.” These words resonated with me! I loved reading this piece. It was well written, well thought through and not just thought provoking but heart provoking.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I’m struggling with the concept of home right now, as many of us may be given the state of the world and a lot of uncertainty. I don’t have an answer, but “Home is where your heart feels it belongs” really resonates. I enjoyed your thoughts. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for adding yours. It’s a difficult concept. Feeling at home with oneself probably has a lot to do with it too. Working out where we fit into this world and who we truly are. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 3 people

  8. A thoughtful and moving piece, thank you. I have an English friend who lives part-time in Hong Kong with his Chinese partner (from Beijing) and who i think feels pretty much the same as you do. I myself live mainly in Sri Lanka but a lot in UK too. I’m a true-born Englishman, so to speak, and England will always be home but on the whole I prefer life in Sri Lanka. That said, and although it doesn’t compare with the reprfession in HK, the direction Sri Lankan politics has been taking recently does not feel good.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The political movement globally has been heading in the wrong direction for a while now. One thing you can guarantee people will die for is freedom. It is the very thing being attacked. I fear we still have some very turbulent waters to navigate ahead.

      Sri Lanka is a beautiful island. I can see the appeal. Perhaps retiring to some tropical island, going off grid and living off the land is the way forward? Completely disconnect. Is that even possible? I could live here in wilful ignorance of course, however something doesn’t feel right about doing that.

      I hope things remain stable for you a d live in Sri Lanka. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. 🙏

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Those who are in service sector can feel your feelings of homesick. Celebrating important days with family is what makes you feel externally happy.

    Ive heard about what’s going on in Hong kong from past years. These political warzones are snatching freedom of its citizens.
    Hope for the better days.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Ritish. Concentrating on my family life has helped a great deal through these times. They have given the motivation needed to make what’s best for them happen. Even if that means leaving Hong Kong. Best wishes to you and yours too 🙏

      Liked by 3 people

    1. My experience tells me this is true, but perhaps the opposite is? Perhaps you can have peace wherever you are in whatever circumstances? Perhaps feeling at home is merely a state of mind? I wonder if that is what they call enlightenment? Either way I’m a long way, from reaching that kind of state of mind. Thank you for adding your thoughts 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very lucky to be able to afford to travel. You’re right. I’m also lucky that I have options around the world. It’s important to recognise that. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I truly enjoy your writing. You have a way of presenting your vision to the point where I’m feeling the same vision while reading. It is rare that I find someone who can open my mind to the work of another. Thank you so much. As far as your question about your home, I believe your home is well within not only your family but within your own mind. We must be settled in mind to truly feel at home. This mind state is different within each and everyone of us. This is why home is different for each individual.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for leaving such a kind and thoughtful compliment. I really appreciate it.

      I agree with you. Feeling at home is very much a state of mind. With training I believe we can feel at home most places. Conversely we can not feel at home even in our own.

      Thanks again. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 2 people

  11. g who you are and who your soul really wants to be. There is no strain with that. The strain and tension come when we’re not being who our soul wants to be and we’re someplace where our soul doesn’t feel at home.” – Melody Beattie

    Liked by 3 people

  12. (Thanks for reading everyone. This post got me thinking about the meaning of home. Let me ask, what does home mean to you? For someone who has always felt “at home” on the road the pandemic has, paradoxically, left me feeling homesick. I’m curious if many of you have felt the same way? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.)
    I have never thought about “home” as anything else than a house, a place to live. My husband (ex military) considers home “anyplace you put your pillow”. In my early 20es I have changed many ideas I might have had about “home”, “safe”, good and bad… The civil war has changed everything for me, and I have moved a couple of times since, lived in different countries, have multiple passports. My parents (and siblings) also have moved more than once. Now I have friends that I know from high school and those I have met during my adult life, scattered all over the world. Now that I am an adult, with a family on my own, I can say that home is a place where I can be myself, preferably where I can close the door or fence behind me and be in my private world. I have learned that sometimes it might just be a private and secluded internal place, not necessarily a physical or geographical one…
    The current political situation has contributed to readjusting my priorities and examining life more closely…. but this is another subject 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hopefully you come to the right decision. The best choice is for you and your family. It is stories like yours that gets me to think, am I taking my personal freedoms for granted. Regardless of peoples beliefs, the freedom of speech tends to be the biggest problem in allot of countries. Again my condolences and my thoughts go out to you and your family in your time of need.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. It’s easy to take for granted what we have abs concentrate on what we don’t. It only becomes painfully apparent when that thing gets taken away. I appreciate your sentiments. Thank you 🙏

      Liked by 2 people

  14. You aren’t alone in that homesick feeling. I sometimes want to run away to somewhere safe where everything is ‘normal’. I sit and think about where that would be and I don’t think it’s a place. I think its a fleeting feeling you can get when you’re with the right people. Even if the world is scary, maybe we can have each other?

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    1. They certainly echo one another, although enough time in isolation will affect most people. Perhaps though it amplifies those feelings? I’m not sure. Certainly the pandemic has made me feel more imprisoned generally. Kept telling myself that it’s all in the mind… Thanks for leaving such a thought provoking question

      Like

  15. I have been talking about this a lot with my girlfriend recently. I had a stable upbringing with my parents and siblings around and present and helping me out. We moved three times while I was at school, which is several but not as many as some would have moved while living with their parents, and my formative years were spent all in the same region at the same high school.

    Even so, no particular place has felt like home for over fifteen years. This can partly be attributed to only once living in the same house for over a year in that time, partly due to struggling to feel I belong while managing some severe bouts of depression, and partly because of the people I was living with (including the different versions of myself).

    Since my girlfriend and I began spending time together (it is a very new thing, just a few months now) I have found myself feeling that time spent with her is home. It doesn’t matter what we are doing as long as we are together, being present with each other.

    Kia kaha (stay strong) my friend, and I hope the path forward becomes clear for you as you put one foot in front of the other along it. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hamish. I think, for me, its not about the path being clear – so much as having faith about which one is right. I belive I do and I’m wokring hard to make that path a reality. Thank it easy brother 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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