WHERE IS HOME?

Here is downtown Javilla, 8 minutes by car from our house. Javilla consists of this bus stop, the school behind it, a little church, the Pizza Tree (someone thought it would be a good idea to build a restaurant up in a tree), Elia's pulperia (a tiny general store), about fifteen little residences, and Hotel Laguna Mar, which stands out like a white high heel in a pile of dirty old sneakers. Our official address is: 2.5 kilometers north of the school in Javilla, Nandayure, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

There are people who live in the same house from the time they are born until the day they die. Wherever that house is, is for sure, their home. There are those who grow up in a tent in a refugee camp. Is that tent what they'd call home? Some people spend their whole lives moving all over the world. Would they consider Square One their home? What is home? Is it where you grew up? Is it where you lived the longest? Is it the place you loved the most? Or is it where you live now?

When you quit a life where everything is so familiar to live where nothing resembles anything you've ever known, life can be one big conundrum. Having lived in the jungle for seven years, we're not sure what to call it when we talk about going back to visit family in and around South Hadley, Massachusetts, where my husband and I grew up. By the age of 12, I began to realize I was one of the weirdest people in town. I dreamed of touring the world and then settling in a tree house in California.

As things worked out, Bill started building houses with his father, daughters began popping out, and we didn't get out of South Hadley until I was 43. It took some convincing, but I talked Bill into moving to Nantucket Island in 1996. I just couldn't see spending most of my days in a place I didn't feel passionate about, when anything to do with Nantucket gave me heart palpitations. We built a new house on the island, started a new construction business, and watched 3 out of 4 daughters graduate from Nantucket High School. We loved Nantucket. Then one day I realized that when our youngest finished high school I no longer needed to spend 300 days a year shivering. In the throes of menopausal madness at the time, I had such an intense craving for nature that nothing but living outside in the tropics made any sense to me.

I'm often asked how we decided on Costa Rica. I can't say. Some things you just know. We'd always been attracted to the pace of life in tropical countries. The first time we visited Costa Rica in 2003 we felt the magic in the air. Most likely if we had taken the time to research residency requirements, cost of living, health care, availability of necessities (eg., chocolate chips) and amenities, and all that other stuff people look into before they sell their houses and move to another country, we would have tossed another log into our fireplace and curled up with a good book about someone else doing exciting things. Instead we followed our hearts, took the plunge, and found ourselves living one helluvan adventure.

Now when we leave the house in which we live, where all of our stuff is, to fly to the U.S. to see family, we say we're going back to the U.S. Our oldest daughter lives in Northampton, MA, daughters #3 and #4 live in Nantucket, Bill's family lives in and around South Hadley, and my family is scattered around New England, except for my sister who lives in Florida. So where is home? For some people, the concept of home changes as fluidly as does everything else in life. I never could have imagined on the day I moved to Nantucket that I would ever consider leaving a place I love so much. You just never know where life will take you when you follow your heart.

I like to think that home for me is wherever I am.