Expatriate, n. & v. 1. To banish; to drive or force (a person) from his own country; to make an exile of. 2. Reflexively, as to expatriate one's self: To withdraw from one's native country; to renounce the rights and liabilities of citizenship where one is born, and become a citizen of another country.

I've been stuck between two continents for several years now, needing to leave home in order to find a deep sense of home again. Thoughts of my current life in Northern California are still fresh while I transit the ocean every year, in search of the expatriate life I so desperately want. I still live in the US, but I have one foot out the door. I experience cultural familiarity and cultural alienation in both countries, simultaneously. It's as if I don't fully belong in either place at this point.

This upheaval and desire to find my place has caused me to consider: what is home, what is it about a place that makes you feel like you're home? How do you explain the pull a place can have on you? The visual memories are seared in your mind — seemingly incongruous and unconnected bits that somehow all mesh into a world that seems so familiar and desirable. I found images that now represent deep memories: endless walls of graffiti in East Oakland and San Francisco; a teepee in the middle of a baroque Czech town square discovered on 9/11; wreaths placed in the center of Amsterdam for the Liberation Day ceremony; distinctly Californian scenes of very personal iconography.

As I take steps to become an expatriate, I think about what I leave behind and what I'm going towards. I will leave my family, a house, an ex-husband in his grave and many old friends. I go towards newer acquaintances, a land of bicycles, trains & trams, 300-year-old architectural treasures and pragmatic thinking. My friends are expatriates and ex-expatriates, their life experiences fall somewhere between America and the other side of the world. We share this in common.

In the true sense one's native land, with its background of tradition, early impressions, reminiscences and other things dear to one, is not enough to make sensitive human beings feel at home.
— Emma Goldman (1869-1940)