Defining “home” in a global world

If you’ve ever lived or travelled abroad, you are familiar with the question that comes up within 60 seconds of any conversation with a stranger: “Where are you from?”

Such a classic question may garner a standard response from some people but as we live in an increasingly globally mobile world, the answers tend to translate into mesmerizing stories these days.

For me, with my tanned skin, black curly hair and brown eyes- most people guess that I am from India and seem almost dissatisfied when I say I’m Canadian. I usually get follow up questions like ” ok, but where are you really from?” or ” where were you born?”.  Again, the answer is Canada. At this point, I usually smile and enjoy their confusion or launch into a short story on the difference between ancestry and being “from” a country.  Here’s the highlight reel:

” Yes, I realize that I look kind of Indian. That’s because both my parents are from Goa, a former Portuguese colony in India.  I was born and raised in Canada. Honestly, I have lived longer in China, Spain and Switzerland than I ever have in India so although I look Indian, I can probably tell you more about culture and life in Zurich or Toronto than I can Goa.”  It sounds like I’m trying to justify my Canadian existence and that I’ve blown away someone’s stereotypical 30 second analysis of me. But situations like this always get me thinking about the nature of where we come from and how we define ourselves.

THEN I came across an incredible TEDtalk by Pico Iyer. He is a travel novelist and author of more than 10 books. He’s a global spirit with a fascinating view on where “home” really is. Here are my key takeaways from his talk:


WHAT he said:

“My home would have to be whatever I carried around inside me.” (3:59)

Have you ever asked yourself this question: if your house was on fire, what would you grab as you ran out?

I have. I would grab my family (obviously). The only possession I’d attempt to rescue would be my passport (if it was accessible) and that’s it. Not that a passport can’t be easily replaced but the stamps in the passport are visual memory hooks for my journeys and this little blue book is a physical representation of my passion for travel, freedom and adventure. Pico shares the personal story of when his house actually did burn down, which prompted him to ponder the definition of home.

 [Tweet “”Home is the place where you become yourself.'”#PicoIyer @tedtalks”]

Pico shares enlightening stats on global mobility these days:

220 million people are living in countries not their own, representing the 5th largest nation on earth.’

The average resident in Toronto, Canada is a foreigner (someone born in another country).

These stats blow my mind and reassure me that I’m not the only one crazy about living abroad. Suddenly, the expat and immigrant community feels bigger, more expansive and accessible. Opportunities to connect with people who have truly incredible culturally-mixed stories are everywhere.

[Tweet ” ” Where you come from now is much less important than where you’re going.” #picoiyer @tedtalks”]

“Silence wasn’t the absence of noise, it was really presence of a kind of energy”(10:15)

So true! Silence has presence. Silence has richness. Silence actually brings a lot of movement on the inside.

[Tweet “”Home is not just the place where you sleep, its the place where you stand.” #PicoIyer @tedtalks”]


HOW he said it:

Pico’s style was calm, nurturing and engaging. His introduction answering the question where do you come from captivated us and instantly pulled us into the subject matter.  He is a great storyteller.

He sprinkled a few key statistics amongst his own personal stories to add depth and perspective. Statistics are a powerful when to communicate messages and they were short and not overwhelming.

Overall, this is one of my favourite TEDtalks not only because of the subject but also due to his authentic presentation style and stories.


Wherever you are from and wherever you are sitting today, I hope you enjoy this TEDtalk (share your comments below and forward this article to a globally mobile friend!)


Sign up below to join a community of globally mobile professionals.

Be Seen. Be Heard.



Our most in-demand trainings are now VIRTUAL so you can keep teams & ERGs inspired, engaged & learning during covid-19. Click here for details