The Places I’ve Called Home

2010 October 4
by Grace Boyle

I write about it a lottraveling, my relocating and hopping around.

Did you know the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime?

On August 1st, when leasing season rolled around this year, I felt so incredibly good that I was staying put. That I didn’t have to: scour for boxes to pack my life away in, get all emotional going through drawers of all my things, throwing out letters, notes and odd receipts over the last however-long, heavy lifting, exhaustion, feeling unsettled, not having Internet because Comcast dude hasn’t come yet, rearranging bills, updating addresses, etc.

Me, in Italy, one of the many places I call(ed) home

A timely topic, Doni wrote a response to this post and this post about all the places she’s lived. It’s fascinating to see where we’ve lived (even the multiple apartments/homes within one city). Each place speaks to us, taught us something. These places have seen us cry, wallow, laugh, scream, love and grow.

Time to reflect:

  • Fairfield, Iowa: My small, unique, cultured (yes, it’s true, this is why) hometown of 18 years. We had two houses, one on Madison street, the other where my “home” still is on Wonder Way. Iowa is simple; it’s beauty, the people, the calm, and the quiet. I appreciate having lived in the same place growing up. It grounded me, gave me stability and a foundation.
  • Ostional, Costa Rica: For one summer, I lived in a shack on the beach working with sea turtles on a refuge. There was only a metal sheet over the roof and our shower was outside. The village, Ostional, was small. Very small. I think I was one of the few who spoke English. Incredible, soul-shaking summer. Where ‘silence’ was my friend, and as I like to say, “It put hair on my chest.”
  • Burlington, Vermont: Oh hello, college thousands of miles from home where I knew no one and was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 18-year old. I lived in a dorm, a house for one summer, on-campus suites and finally, my favorite apartment my senior year (moved every year of college).
  • Florence, Italy: Study abroad. One of the best decisions and experiences of my life, to-date. Just one, adorable apartment in downtown Firenze near the Mercato Centrale. Again, thousands of miles from home, I knew no one and found solace in my roommates, six other girls from around the United States. Red wine, vineyards, enough pizza and spaghetti for a lifetime, fresh-pressed olive oil, passion, art, divinity and trouncing around Europe like any other 21-year-old saucy Italiana girl would do!

Interim–>Graduation–>Lots of couches–>Home for a minute–>Pack my car and head West, because I just gotta:

  • Boulder, Colorado: Here I am. I really love this place, this community, this home. I’ve been here two years, and have lived in one beautiful house and now, one cute, small apartment downtown.

When I look back, I’ve had over 20 roommates and lived in 10 homes/apartments. Since I was 18, I have moved every year (but this year).

No regrets.

Now, although I generate every-day risks in my life, I don’t need to nomamdically hop around the world (at this time). I crave relationships of length, a place to call my own, a barrista that knows my name and that feeling when you’re flying in from wherever you’ve been and you say, “Ah, I’m home…”

So what about you? Where have you lived? Create your own list!

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  • Suburban Sweetheart

    Ohio, a lot – the home I lived in as a baby, the home I grew up in, two dorms & one sorority house, back home, an Ohio apartment, a Maryland apartment, three DC apartments, and now, back home. WHEW. I'm exhausted just thinking about it…

  • Stacy

    Oh my gosh, I wish I could study abroad to Italy! I'm almost finished with college, and just couldn't afford it :(

    Moving in many different places is a life goal of mine. I would love to try different cities/towns. But I feel like a person needs money for that, which I'm lacking. All well, one day. :)

  • Clare Bear

    FLORENCE? Serious jealousy.

  • becca wikler

    I have loved reading about people's homes, and what they meant to our lives. Incredible look back. <3

  • Grace Boyle

    I know, it IS exhausting, right?

    Kind of interesting to look back and reflect though. I had never really truly counted. Thanks for popping by and sharing :)

  • Grace Boyle

    Stacy-many cases studying abroad is actually cheaper than your own college (places like Costa Rica, etc.) and I also had my financial aid completely transferred over to Italy. So the loans you're already getting for college, transfer to studying abroad so it was able to work out. It does take a lot of time and effort to prepare, but it was the best experience! Maybe you could even do a summer program, that is cheaper but also shorter.

    It is hard to relocate, that does require money. I suppose we all choose to spend our money in other places…to me, moving is where I prefer to do so. I also saved up and actually, didn't have that big of a cushion in my Boulder move. However, I knew it was a risk and one worth taking to learn and make it happen! Thanks for sharing and good luck finishing college :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Clare Have you been? Ah, I loved it! I know, I worked and pushed to get there but it was worth all that work :)

  • Grace Boyle

    Me too! It gives you insight into them that you never had.

    I loved your post too :)

  • Clare Bear

    I was there for two days/nights in fall of 2008 to see Boticelli up close. It was surreal.

    (and best gelato I've ever tasted.)

  • Grace Boyle

    Ahh, yes, the Boticelli incredible.

    Um, I had gelato everyday. No big deal. Oops!

  • Flowertracey

    Love your list. I grew up in Michigan, went to college in Michigan, then moved to Vail, Colorado five and a half years ago so not too much moving to new places but since I've been here I've moved (to and from various apartments) 7 times! At the moment I've been in the same place for about a year and I must say there certainly is something to be said for staying put!

  • Leslie Forman

    My list is long like yours!

    0-5 San Francisco, California. In the city, in a Victorian, near a park that had big scary swans.

    5-18 Menlo Park, California. Suburbia, Silicon Valley, lots of activities for kids like me.

    18-22 Berkeley, California. College. Lived in a dorm, sorority, quasi-cooperative.

    21 Santiago de Chile. Lived with a family for two months then with two wonderful Chilean girls. I think this was the best year of all, for so many reasons.

    22-23 Jiaxing, China. Lived in an on-campus apartment that my students thought was huge compared with their shared dorm rooms. Eye-opening, convenient, and fun!

    23 Shanghai, China. Lived in a hostel, tiny studio, then a lovely duplex. Learned about corporate social responsibility. Strolled through the French Concession.

    24 Suburbia then San Francisco. Experienced intense reverse culture shock until I moved into a new place, a Victorian flat in the city with four new friends.

    25-26 Beijing. Spent a full year living in a place that I describe as “The Real World: Beijing.” I lived with a belly dancer from Kazakhstan, Swedish male models, an American journalist / big sister I never had, a French engineer who inspired me with her globetrotting green-ness, a fur designer from Moscow, a Ukrainian fur trader who came with his mom to buy wares, and many more people. Revolving door. Then I moved in with an ambitious Aussie. Recently he moved out and I stayed put. It felt great to sign the same lease, and not move my stuff! I have a wonderful new roommate, in my comfortable, convenient, 2-bedroom.

    This column is more like a post in itself!

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect on this :)

  • Grace Boyle

    Thanks, Tracey! That is a lot of times to move in 5 years, averaging more than once a year. Vail is beautiful, I love it out there.

    You can even write your own list on your blog :) It's fun to look at!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Leslie this is great! You should re-purpose this into your blog post! It shows so much about you and I'm sure your readers would love it.

    I'm happy you reflected and I love seeing people who have also lived around the world. Such great experience. Thanks for sharing and stopping by!

  • Leslie Forman

    Hi Grace, I followed your advice and turned this into a blog post, complete with photos. Here is the link:

    I think it is funny that the most recent photo seems like the most domestic and homebody-ish of all!

    Thanks again for inspiring me.

  • Flowertracey

    Good idea, I think I'll do just that in an upcoming post.