👋 Hi, I'm James.

  • James von der Lieth

My Definition of Home is Different Than Most People

Updated: Feb 27

I don't have a traditional home anymore.

The house I grew up in was sold a year after my Mom passed away. A neighbor bought it so he could combine the properties and rip down our house to build a condo development. Does it bother me? Not really. I was relieved my Dad was able to painlessly sell the house and move on with his life. I'm sure one day it will bother me when I'm taking my kids through my hometown and the colonial house I grew up in isn't there to show them. For now, it just makes me laugh that even though the house is vacant and in disrepair, the screen door is still left open. My Dad would always scream "Shut the door!" every time someone entered or left the house because the screen door always stuck open a jar. My Mom would joke, "Tom, that's what everyone's gunna say at your funeral!"

My Childhood Home

I go back to my hometown once a year for a 5k charity event in my Mom's memory. That day feels like home, just because of the people who are there in one place. I usually stay at a hotel or a friend's house for that weekend because it kills my energy to stay on the pull out couch in my Dad's apartment. It's not his fault his apartment isn't home to me, it's just the way it is.

Most of my childhood friends have also moved on from Natick, MA. Outside of that 5k weekend, Natick doesn't feel like home anymore. I can't even relate to the person I was growing up in that town 10-20 years ago anymore. It feels like a different lifetime.

Since our house was sold, we typically spend Holidays at hotels or Airbnbs in Connecticut or Austin, before going over to a family member's home to celebrate. The last two years I spent Christmas at my now ex-girlfriend's house, and that sort of felt like home for the week.

When people ask me where I'm from, I just tell them Charleston, SC. It's just easier. Why tell someone 'home' is a place I only go a couple days a year? I've mostly lived there the last 10 years, and it feels more like home than my hometown at this point. If they dig deeper, I tell them I grew up in a suburb of Boston, and try to turn the conversation on them.

Home isn't where my material possessions are

I'm a minimalist, I don't have emotional attachments to any material possessions. Everything is replaceable, except people and time. I own a home, but I've turned it into a full home Airbnb so I can travel the world when I'm not there. I have all my possessions that aren't with me locked in a walk-in closet. I could get rid of all that stuff tomorrow and be perfectly fine.

Unless I have friends and family staying with me at my Charleston house or throwing a NYE party there, it doesn't feel much like a home.

I don't really identify with being 'from' a country


I didn't choose to be born in America. I was born in America as an accident of birth.

As I travel, I find that I often relate more with individual people from around the world than most Americans.

We are all human beings, and our nationality is simply an accident of birth. - Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO

Don't get me wrong, America's ability to maintain peace through strength since saving the day in WW2 has allowed more prosperity in the history of the world. Free speech, democracy, liberty, individualism are all things I value, irregardless of nationality. However, if you dig digger, America isn't perfect. The unsustainable national debt, unfunded liabilities like social security and medicare, the 40% obesity rate, some of the worst quality processed food in the world, and rampant substance abuse threaten the viability and sovereignty of the country.

On paper, the principles of American freedom are great, but in this day and age how much freedom do Americans really have compared to the spirit of the Constitution? Freedom to be taxed half of my income between all the local, state and federal taxes? Freedom for a schizo to walk in to a gun show and buy an automatic military-grade weapon? Freedom to be spied on by the government? Awesome.

American colonists escaped the rule of England to stop paying taxes and gain more 'freedom' and smaller central government, but look at it now, objectively. Unlike almost every other country in the world, the United States requires its citizens to file and pay taxes, even if they don’t live in the United States. Half of our income goes to taxes, yet we still manage to have a deficit every year and are enslaved by the national, state, and local debt.

Greedy politicians, lobbyists, military-industrial complex beneficiaries, drug companies, big agriculture, and other soul-sucking corporations game the American political system to leach off the hard working entrepreneurs, small business owners, engineers, working class, teachers, doctors, and others adding value to the world. The largest corporations have gained control of the political system and lobby to write the laws in their favor create government-sponsored monopolies. Yes many of the Americans who actually recognize these issues, think SOCIALISM, and not less federal government power, is the answer. 🤦🤦🤦 Sorry, little rant.

The bottom line is I love what America stands for, but only time will tell if we go the way of all the Empires before us that have failed, due to similar issues.

My Future Home

I'm not sure. One day, when I have kids I'll make a more stable feeling of home.

When will that be? I have no idea. Whenever it feels right in my gut, but probably not for at least a few years. I'm not in any sort of rush.

Where will that be? I have some ideas, but I'm not exactly sure yet. I do know that home will be a place where we are surrounded by people with similar values. Maybe that is a place in America, maybe that's a different place all together. Only time will tell.

For now home is...

A feeling. Being around friends and family in their homes. The ocean. Sweating in a gym or on a long run exploring a new city. In front of my Macbook in a random coffee shop or co-working space. In a cold plunge. Walking into a room with enlightened people who I don't have to drink alcohol to connect with. House and dog sitting with my sister for a week. FaceTiming my Dad or my best friend since 5 years old. Being in Charleston and running into people I've known for years. At our family's summer White Party where you can feel my Mom's spirit come alive. A college buddy's wedding. Renting a beach house with my cousins. A New Years Eve Airbnb with friends. Meeting a friend in Cambodia for a few days or trekking in Nepal with another friend for 10 days. Hosting friends or family at my house in Charleston. The familiar feeling of being on an airplane going somewhere. Anywhere that reminds me of what it was like in my traditional home around family celebrations. To be written.

You see, home is not one place, it's everywhere. The feeling of home is a fleeting when it comes which makes it even more cherished.

The irony is I got most home sick in college when I had a traditional home to miss. Now that there's no one physical 'home' to miss I don't get home sick. There's no point in missing some place I can't go. My Mom taught by example that the best path forward to dealing with loss is to stay optimistic and appreciate what you do have. I don't get home sick, I just get home gratitude when the feeling comes. When the feeling of home comes, I don't try to hang on to it. It will come again.

If home is where the heart is, my heart is in infinite places at once.

I'm an entrepreneur, consultant for tech startups and VRM's, investor, STR owner, writer, and a digital nomad.

I blog about the lessons I'm learning on my journey to live a financially free 💸, healthy 🏃 and location independent life ✈️

Subscribe to New Blog Posts
Recent Posts