The Dreaded Question

By Jaci Alonso

Where are you from? This may be one of the most typical questions to ask someone you’ve just met. And one might think this question is easy to answer.

“Where are you from?”

“Oh! I’m from Orlando, Florida.”

The majority of people will have one answer to this question, a super simple and quick answer. I, however, have no super simple and quick way of answering this question, leaving me to stutter for about 2 minutes until I spin up something to say.

I present to you, what I call my Identity Crisis. Let me start at the beginning--of all time. Kidding. Just my time. I was born in a small beach town on the coast of Florida to two wonderful parents. My mom is American, and my dad is Canadian, making me, as my little sister likes to say, a Camerican. For nine years we lived in Florida, visiting our folks up in Canada every year. We lived a conventional, suburban life. Until we didn’t.

After about 3 weeks of contemplating (later realized as not long enough), my parents pulled us kids out of school and moved us onto a boat. We quickly became “boat-schoolers.” And for the past almost 7 years, we have been traveling around the world, living in lots of countries. I have lived in multiple houses, a camper van, many Airbnbs and on two different boats. You name it, I’ve lived in it. I could go on telling you how much I adore visiting new places for hours, but we need to stick to the subject. Two or three times a year we all go back to Canada for a few weeks to visit my dad’s parents. We now spend more time in Canada than in the place I once called home.

Before I even begin telling you why this question is so hard for me to answer (but you probably already have a clue), let me tell you what home is. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a home is a place of residence. Okay, residence. I am a resident in Florida and a resident in Portugal. But what does that say about my home? Personally, I think, home can be a place, people, or even a thing. My family is usually my home. However, currently, my sister is away at university, so my whole family is not together making them not my “home."

In situations like this, my boat, S.V. Wicked, is my home. It is a thing. Most people I talk to simply do not understand how my home can be a thing. To them, their home is the house they live in. I understand, traditionally, houses do not move. Then I attempt to explain that my house is exactly like their house, it just floats.

I try the best I can to simplify my life for people. Here is how I would respond to this (what I call horrible) question.

“Hi! I was born in Florida but have been living abroad for the past 7 years.”

Yes, it is an understatement, and yes, there are some key life pieces missing, but if someone wants to know more, they’ll ask. A big problem I have with answering this question is making sure I don’t come across as gloating. In the past, I would lay my whole life down on the person who asked. Most of the time, they would say, “oh cool…," somewhat smile, then walk away. I then proceeded to sit and ponder about what I had said, and why I got that response. Over time, I have realized that I can’t expect everyone to be interested in or get the experiences I have had. Not everyone loves to do the same thing. My parents are very openminded and outgoing. I am always very self-conscious when talking about my life because the last thing I want to do is brag in any way.

I have gone on multiple “solo” trips without my family. No matter how many times I am away from home for an extended period of time, I know I’ll get homesick. When I was away from home some time ago, someone said to me, “How can you be homesick? You don’t even have a physical home.” I then proceeded to explain that me being homesick is no different than them being homesick. I miss my family, my dog, my room, and my home.

This concept of my identity crisis is something that I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. I have learned the do’s and don’ts when it comes to talking about my life. Like me, most people you meet who have grown up moving around all find it hard to answer, “the question." Every once in awhile, you meet that person who genuinely wants to know about your life and hear your stories. Sometimes, you even get to exchange stories. And those are truly good times.

The S.V. Wicked