HOME: a concept that commonly refers to one’s place of origin, a place of familiarity and comfort, one that you can call your own. Each month, we explore the stories of nomads around the world as they share their definitions of what home means to them. Today, we share the story of Baltimore native Kamey Butler whose spirit pulled her to South Africa and she hasn’t looked back.
I grew up in Baltimore, where my parents were also born and raised. They lived their lives within state lines, except for the occasional trips to visit my grandparents’ house, Disney World or when my dad traveled across our state for frequent business trips. I was always elated to run down the terminal gate to meet him when he returned so that I could hear all about his adventures. The flight attendants all knew him and he flew enough to know the pilots by name. In those moments, I knew I wanted to live a life that afforded me the ability to travel.
At 16 years old, I left home for college in Miami and spent five years surrounding myself with Caribbean and Latin culture. Then after graduation, I moved to New York, the perfect anecdote for cultural curiosity, where I spent 10 years. Living in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I found an epicenter of multi-race relations, religion and global creativity. However after a succession of events in 2012, my soul needed something else. In September 2012 I quit my job, rented out my apartment and headed to South Africa for a spiritual journey. Having visited twice prior to coming, I knew the country would satisfy my need for tranquility. I needed somewhere that offered access to an ocean and mountains, but also a place where English was a prominent language. On arrival I knew only one person, a longtime mate from New York. Other than that everyone I met was new, every place created a fresh memory, and the naivety of being a foreigner was welcomed.
So after traveling all over South Africa for five months, gallivanting in the Stellenbosch wine farms, watching whales in Hermanus, dipping in hot springs, kayaking down rivers in Calitzdorp and looking out over Seapoint from Signal Hill, I decided to stay for awhile, and last month, I celebrated my one-year anniversary in Mandela’s home.
For me, home means where I can be my most authentic self. My soul is at home here in South Africa. There is a sense of peace that is welcoming and allows me to explore all of my ideas. For now, while still on this journey, this is home. When I’ve found myself in the States for short stints over the past year, I’m usually ready to leave after just one week. I hate questioning why everyone is obsessed with TV, labels, quick fixes and a limited sense of gratitude. Oddly enough when I am home, people question where I’m from because I talk and dress a little differently now. Being a global nomad has actually made me into the person I’d always wanted to become, just a little different.
Here’s a funny story, when I was in New York City earlier this year I was out with friends at a gallery opening for a well known South African artist I know. I was stopped by several people asking me what country I was from, and adding that I looked like I was from Africa and that I spoke differently. One woman said, “You’re not from here are you? You have this thing about you.” I just laughed because what has really happened is now I speak a bit slower, I am genuinely engaged and I’m no longer trying to figure out how I fit in. Also, being super tanned in the dead of winter helped a little too!
As a citizen of the world, I like who I am learning to be in South Africa and I plan to stay for as long as I have this feeling. The idea of going back to the States pops up when I miss my family and friends, but the lifestyle Africa affords me is priceless. When I move on from this continent, I think Spain is my next stop. I’m in love with the architecture and the romance the city exudes. I’ve fallen in love with nature and have come to know wherever I lay my head for more than year must be within open spaces.
And though I love a new adventure, I do maintain my sanity by keeping treasures that remind me of where I’ve been. I carry pictures of my family to remind me of Baltimore, an external hard drive of good house music to remind me of Brooklyn, and essential oils and my yoga mat to remind me to be in the moment. I have also been taking salsa lessons—yes, in Africa!—which helps me embrace the woman I am becoming (and I think it’ll be handy in Spain). For now those things keep me happy and have molded me into a very interesting person. I’ve learned I never identify too much with one group of people but find bits and pieces of myself in new people all the time. Living abroad makes you open in a way that allows you to see the world through the eyes of someone else with unrehearsed moments of nostalgia.
A good friend once told me, ‘Be willing to get lost’ and now I finally know what that means.
We’d love for you to be a part of the conversation! Are you a nomad who has created your own definition of “home”? We would like to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com and share your story.
Last 5 posts by Sherry J. Bitting
- In Africa, Black Americans Behaving Badly - June 17th, 2014
- Home: Redefined—Meet Lola Pedro - January 29th, 2014
- Home: Redefined--Meet Micheline Ntiru - December 5th, 2013
- Home: Redefined–Meet Nomad Peggy Jean-Louis - August 9th, 2013
- Home: Redefined—A New Perspective Told by Nomads Around the World - July 10th, 2013