When you step off the plane and love the smell of the air. When every bite is delicious whether it’s at a high end restaurant or a makeshift street vendor. When the locals make you feel like you’ve lived there your whole life. This place is far away. It’s not your real home but it feels like it. And you LONG for it.
In Spanish, the musical word describing this metaphysical concept is: querencia.
Querencia refers to that place you feel your most authentic self or the most at home. It also refers to the spot a bull returns to when he feels his safest in the bullfighting ring. It’s a concept Hemmingway described in Death in the Afternoon and it’s a feeling I’ve felt in three different but equally magnetic spots on the globe.
Besides my middle-of-British-Columbia-nowhere hometown, I’ve experienced querencia in three other places: Mexico City (Mexico), Grahamstown (South Africa) and the Comox Valley (Canada). Perhaps it’s frequency of travel to these destinations – I’ve been all of these places numerous times. Perhaps it’s the other endearing qualities: they all are home to people I adore. But these two are where the similarity ends.
Mexico City is one of the world’s largest and busiest; a sprawling metropolis with a frenetic pulse, chock full of chic restos, gigantic museums, ancient conflict. Nestled into the rolling hills of South Africa’s dry, aloe-filled Eastern Cape, Grahamstown is a small town whose vibe resembles that of a leisurely Sunday afternoon nap or at it’s most exciting – a boozey game of cribbage. The Comox Valley, meanwhile, is a emerald green outpost with the sacred Westcoast mix of small town must-haves: vibrant communities filled with mom’n’pop businesses, forested mountains, a river and ocean.
I love each of these municipalities as though I was born there. And I cannot wait to return to each, explore their nooks, hug their people and admire all that their geographies have to offer. And now I know what to call this notion, this nostalgia: querencia.
Where is your long lost home? Where do you feel querencia? Share your favourite global/local spots in the comments below.
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