As a community of travelers, we know that “home” can be more than a place. It can be a person, a state of mind, or even a feeling. While we all enjoy traversing the globe, embarking on grand adventures and short getaways, the return journey is always a welcome part of the process. If we’re lucky, home is an accessible place that embraces us after such travels; if we’re not, it’s a longed-for destination that may never be found, or one that can seldom be reached. And if we build our lives across many different borders, it’s possible that all of the above ring true. In this case, we discover that when one is deeply rooted in various communities, it’s possible to have many different homes.

In 2016, Passion Passport launched The Passport Project, an initiative designed to award a winning recipient (and their guest) their first passport and a trip outside of their home country to a place they’ve never traveled before. Our inaugural journey highlighted Mohammed and Matthew, a foster-father-and-son duo who journeyed to Senegal to visit Mohammed’s ancestral home. When asked why this trip was important for Mohammed, Matthew said:

“I’d known for years how fervently Mohammed longed for a place that felt like home. I’d seen it years ago when I became his youth mentor. It stuck with me after we’d lost touch when he was moved to a new foster home. It came flooding back when we miraculously ran into each other on a southbound subway train and started exploring the possibility of me becoming his legal guardian. Even after he moved in and I did my best to make him feel at home, I still knew something was missing…

Even while planning the trip, it became clear that this foreign land across the ocean had been calling to him since the moment he was born. He’d heard scattered stories about his family abroad and eagerly clung onto any shred of Senegalese culture available to him. He’d already helped me make playlists, prepared me for the cuisine, and guided me through putting together an itinerary. By the time we’d arrived, it was obvious he was more prepared than I was.

‘My country is so beautiful.’

Every time I heard it, I was struck by two words: ‘My country.’ This wasn’t just sightseeing for Mohammed. For the first time in his life, he was surrounded by people who looked like him, who could pronounce his last name without a hitch. When we ambled through the outdoor markets, while I was snapping photos for Instagram, Mohammed was gazing at his heritage on display. When we stopped to play soccer with some friendly neighborhood kids, he was right at home.”

Though Mohammed had created a second home with Matthew in New York, he was still connected to his roots, and this program allowed him to explore that ancestral link further and renew contact with his family. In the end, it was this connection that enabled him to accept his multicultural identity and multifaceted understanding of “home.”

Our Community’s Conception of Home

We recently explored this concept further by partnering with Qatar Airways in our #PPJourneyHome Instagram Challenge. Through this initiative, we reached out to members of the community in hopes of learning what “home” means to them. The number of responses was overwhelming. We’ve included some of our favorites below:

“As an immigrant straddling … cultures and identities, the idea of home can be complicated. A simple ‘where are you from’ from strangers often has us doing a quick mental judo on how best to interpret and respond. Are they simply curious about my ethnicity? Do I answer with where I was born? Where I spent my childhood? Where I’ve lived the most? Or where I pay the rent? All [are] different in this case, and all I dearly consider home. I’m fortunate to feel loved and call many places home.” — Waquar A.

“As I’ve been maneuvering toward the next big move, the concept of “home” has been on my mind as of late. After spending at least half of my year on the road for the past four years, I’ve come to realize [that] sometimes it isn’t a matter of the walls you’re surrounded by, but the ones you surround yourself with.” — Christopher Wade Galli

“In the West, you don’t know who lives next door; in an Eastern culture, the entire village knows who you are, and where you live. I returned home to Nepal after 12 years of living in the U.S., and [found that] my village is still the same. Though I don’t recognize many of the people who grew up while I was gone, the people I know and the people who know me still stop me in the alleyways of the village and ask about my adventures.” — @NepalesePassport

“When I first visited Seoul in 2017, I felt like both a stranger and a native. Only once before had I been surrounded by so many people who looked like me. But I couldn’t speak the language, didn’t know the transport system, and generally felt like I was throwing myself into a completely unfamiliar culture. Home is a loaded concept. For many, it involves distance. I’ve heard from those who are first-generation, whose parents and grandparents recount stories about a place they can only see in their mind, from refugees who want to return to their homes and cannot, and from other adoptees who also wonder about “home” and what it may or may not mean to them.” — Emilee Pelletier

No matter the circumstance, “home” is a pivotal concept that informs where we travel, the people we are, those we become, and the communities we ultimately decide to join. At Passion Passport, we’re constantly observing how lives built across boundaries transcend expectations and bolster connections. Whether you’re in a familiar place or halfway around the globe from your loved ones, know that “home” is where you make it.

Qatar Airways is sending 10 lucky contest winners to visit their home countries, friends, and families to more deeply explore their cultural roots.