amel derragui

Throughout my nomadic life, there have been two questions people asked me in every country I moved to that made me feel quite uneasy: “What is your mother tongue?” and “where is home for you?”

I still don’t know how to answer these questions honestly without going through a whole explanation of my life history and current situation. Even then, it is still confusing to really define where is home for me and what is the language I relate to most. Sometimes, when I don’t have the time to explain, I just say my home is Algeria and my mother tongue is Arabic, although I have only lived four years as a child in my country of origin, my “passport-country”, and I am not quite as fluent in Arabic as I am in English or in French.

Before going any further, I guess I should now clarify the situation and tell you about my background. For once, let me try to truly answer these questions without going through every single chronological event of my life, and let’s see where it takes us.

Hmm, tough exercise…

Here is the thing, I don’t have a home. It is as simple as that; I am homeless. I am a serial migrant, a global nomad. I do not have one place that I fully relate to. For me, home is a moving concept, which is probably a contradiction in terms… I often say that home is where I am at present, but the truth is it is not. It really becomes home only once I’ve adjusted to the new country, city, environment, culture and its people. By then, I usually have to leave and restart all over again.

For many years, I have deeply struggled from this lack of stability in my life. In fact, I do associate home with the notion of stability but also familiarity.

Therefore, once I reached my mid 20’s, I needed to build this stability and familiarity. Therefore, I tried to settle down in one country where I had built strong ties and friendships, but also a career. One of the measures I took to do so was to search for an apartment to buy. As I never had a childhood room, I needed some walls to own, walls that would represent my own borders; borders that wouldn’t be directly related to residence permits or visa requirements.

Visa, the word that hunted me all my life… I sometimes feel vulnerable as my presence in each country has to be thoroughly documented, has an expiration date, and is conditioned to factors that are not only in my own hands. It feels to me that my whole existence has to be constantly justified. In these circumstances it is difficult to feel totally secure in every country that becomes part of my life.

So what happened with my decision to settle down in the country that I had chosen because of my friendships and career?  Well, I met with Love, another nomad, the exact opposite of what I was looking for. Sometimes the universe seems to know what is good for us better than we do.

I met the man of my life, and in no time he became my Home. With him, I feel in security, stable and in a sort of familiar place as we explore together each country we move to.

When people ask us how we met (and now, you might finally have a slightly better hint of my background) he says, “It is the story of an Algerian girl, born in India, raised in Serbia and Uganda, living in France who meets an Austrian guy in Iran at a Turkish Party”.

Having found this place in his heart and having made space for him to settle in mine, I can finally fully appreciate all the other homes I have, even if each one of them represents only one portion of my whole identity. Algeria is where my big and loving family lives. All over the world is where the other most important people of my life are, my parents and brother, who keep traveling the world. The USA (Utah, California and Arizona) is where I started my early adult life, developed my sense of entrepreneurship and made unforgettable human encounters. France is where most of my long time dear friends come from and where I have built some of my beliefs. Austria is where my hubby and his parents come from and where we fully furnished an apartment together. New York is where we currently live, making it a new home.

Now I know that home for me is the place I identify with, and I do identify with more than just one. Each one of these homes completes my identity and makes it so rich.  I am homefull and I feel so blessed.

For more from Amel, check out her wonderful website and podcasts: tandemnomads. And follow her on facebook and twitter.



  • January 6, 2016 Reply


    Thank you Amel for your lovely and thoughful post. It made me smile. I love the term homefull! Besotes Jessica

  • January 6, 2016 Reply


    Thank you Jessica! The pleasure is all mine. It is so nice knowing you and your beautiful story. Wishing you long success to Picaflor and all your future books!!

  • January 30, 2016 Reply


    Thank you for sharing your story Amel. It is beautifully written and evocative. I also love the idea of homeful as a Zimbabwean living in Portugal wondering ‘where to’ next!

  • February 2, 2016 Reply

    Annika Milisic-Stanley

    Hi there,
    As a fellow global nomad I can relate to this article. I do, however feel that for some, it is important to find your own sense of home and identity, beyond your partner’s arms, as romantic as that might be. I just published a novel about an expatriate who lets herself become vulnerable and rootless but it does not suit her and she struggles, adrift and unanchored.
    I enjoyed this post though, thank you.

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