Do you know where you belong? Where you feel most at home?
I don’t. Not really.
That can make me feel rootless and confused, sometimes even a bit lonely. Not knowing how to answer that question. Home?
It could be where I grew up: Copenhagen, Denmark. The city where I went to kindergarten, school, high school and part of university. It could also be where most of my family is from, and where they still live: Brazil. The food, the music, the language of my childhood home – and of my blood. Perhaps it’s in New York, where I spent most of my 20s, where I learned to be independent, where I became an adult. Or maybe it’s where I am now, in Tel Aviv. With my partner, with my job. Trying to write the next pages of my life with whatever this adventure brings.
In reality it’s all of them, and it’s none of them. That’s the beauty and the pain of being a global citizen. When you belong to many places, when you keep moving, you end up not entirely belonging anywhere.
But maybe that’s ok. This intersection between the unknown and the familiar, this is where home is. Constantly developing. Each place was home at some point, and then it changed, grew to something new.
The Germans called it Wanderlust. An impulse to travel and explore the world. To learn new languages and cultures, to build your idea of “self”, your identity, on as rich and diverse a base as possible. Similar to the Wanderbird, seeking unity with nature, Wanderlust is about seeking unity in a fragmented world. A community built on different cultures.
But within that lies a responsibility. Your actions matter. As human beings, our primal impulse is to be tribal. We naturally form groups, identify with those like us and define those who are not. We can’t run away from that. But we can challenge it. Technological advancements have made it easier to travel – physically, of course, but also mentally and emotionally through our screens. It should be bringing us closer to each other. And yet we’re seeing a rise in nationalism and protectionism. In a fear that some of the major problems brought on by globalization and technology – unemployment and job-displacement, issues with migration, exploitation of labor, challenges to national identities – will overshadow the benefits. They won’t. But it’s going to take effort and leadership to face this task. It’s not easy to convince someone that what makes them “them”, isn’t one place or one group. That their identity isn’t defined by who they are not, but by who they can be.
You might have come across this sentence before: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. It’s so often quoted because it’s so deeply true. Think about it.
Embedded in your language is your culture, your value system, the glasses with which you see the world. Your language is what you use to describe, decipher and understand your world. The more languages you know, the more you are able to put on other glasses, to see other colors and other points of view – even to look back on your own culture and observe it. Sort of at a distance. Language is communication, a tool to promote understanding. To build bridges, and walk them. And who better to do that than you? A person who’s been on at least both sides of those bridges and knows how to connect them.
So make sure to talk with and listen to the people you meet on your way. Make sure you don’t stop exploring and travelling and sharing your experiences.
Israel is the fifth country I’ve lived in. It’s my “right now”-home, like Denmark or New York once were. I’m not sure if it will still be home in three years, or thirty, but it might be. Either way, as global citizen, I’m responsible for something bigger than my “now”. And I’ll continue to try to connect, to learn more, and to leave what hopefully is a positive trace of all the cultures that form my identity, wherever I go.
You might also enjoy: Connecting Creatively: How to Meet New People in Israel
About the Author
Bianca Zanini is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. She works primarily as an independent video journalist, producing and hosting pieces for various international media. Bianca is Danish-Brazilian and has spent the last decade between Copenhagen, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. In a culmination of a series of personal and professional developments, she is looking forward to covering stories from Tel Aviv, Israel, as well.