As long as I can remember I have never felt at home in the country where I spent most of my childhood. I never understood why until I recently went back to my country of birth.
I didn’t intend to visit Luxembourg so soon. I say soon, but you cannot call 30 years after your last visit, soon. But I had for some time been thinking it was time to pay a visit to the country where I spent the first three years of my life. And somehow, it all fell into place beautifully all by itself. I had booked a trip to Egypt via Frankfurt, and when my friend couldn’t join me on a Nile trip, I decided to use the ticket and get off in Frankfurt and visit a close friend in Munich and do some yoga instead. And that’s when I realised I could pop into Luxembourg on my way.
As I boarded the train from Frankfurt to Luxembourg via Koblenz, it wasn’t long until memories started pouring in. I had no recollection of spending much time in Frankfurt as a child, but we did drive on the German autobahn a fair bit, and the sensation of being in familiar territory came almost immediately. Memories started continued pouring in as I changed trains in Koblenz.
Soon after, tears started pouring down my cheeks to my surprise.
It was a strange experience to witness the tears and wondering what was happening. I looked out and saw beautiful grand green trees, wine ranks, the river Mosel, German street signs, and at the same time hearing French and German – and I felt this strange sense of being at home.
This scenery, the landscape and the people were in my veins in a way Norway never has been and never will be.
I was amazed at the experience, as I’ve never before recalled having such a deep sense of belonging somewhere, and at that same moment I knew that this was something I had been missing most of my life and something I had longed for.
The closer I got to Luxembourg, the more tears came, and that’s when I realised they were tears of joy. Joy of finally being at home. And I remembered how happy I was as a child when we visited Luxembourg in our summer holidays. Somehow, we stopped visiting when I was eight years old, and at some point I must have forgotten the importance this beautiful part of the world has in my life.
As I had lunch in a cafe and saw the staff chatting, I suddenly realised I understood the cultural codes to my fingertips, even though I hadn’t visited the country in over 30 years. This made me cry of joy.
This feeling of understanding the culture 100 per cent was truly amazing. Despite having spent most of my life in Norway, I have never understood the cultural codes fully: somehow I always felt different and had the feeling of not belonging entirely. My sense of humour just was a bit different. And now I knew why.
Deep inside my veins, in my subconscious there was a Luxembourgish girl.
It helped me understood why I have always been drawn to international environments and studied in international hubs like London and Melbourne.
As I saw the house I spent my first three years of my life, when a big chunk of my subconscious was shaped, I understood why I love trees and birds so much. There were some beautiful trees in the surrounding park and it was really peaceful. As I stood outside the entrance to the building, tears came and I knew my body remembered the area. Again, memories came flashing by, and I stood there, amazed at how the body stores memories and hides it from the mind, or rather how the mind forgets and then they resurface at the right moment.
It was such a beautiful experience to return to my country of birth to understand myself better. Speaking French one moment, being answered in German and adding a word in English being the norm, gave me an aha-moment as to why I have never learnt to speak neither French nor German fluently, but love switching languages.
I finally understood myself better in so many ways that is difficult to describe.
I understood why I have always been drawn to the international cuisine: the supermarkets and restaurants in Luxembourg just felt so much more down my alley than the somewhat dull Norwegian cuisine. I understood why I love the English countryside so much and had been drawn to it: there were so many similarities between Kent and the countryside in Luxembourg. Both are rather green, lush with majestic trees standing out in a flat landscape.
As I travelled an hour to German Trier, I discovered to my surprise that my German had gotten amazingly good. This dialect was stored somewhere in my veins too, and my mother told me when I got home that I had been watching German children’s TV which was news to me.
Most of all I understood I am not just a Norwegian citizen. I am a Luxembourger too. Even though I have not spent much time in this country for many, many years, it has shaped me in so many ways. And going back to the places I spent time as a child helped me understand myself better. It helped me understand most of all why I never felt at home in Norway. It was because I already had a home. There was already a flat international landscape with beautiful trees, people and languages in my veins. This knowledge has helped me accept why I may never feel 100 per cent Norwegian and has helped me feel more at home in my self and thus in my home town.
So I am grateful that my soul was lead to return to my country of birth so that I can move forward with a deeper understanding of myself, being more grounded in myself. I can’t help but quote Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
So do not hesitate to go back when you feel it is right. It may just be what you need to go forwards.