The Essence of Home

You know that wonderful feeling of coming home – the scent, the touch, the sounds? Yet if you had to describe the sensation to someone else, you might have difficulty putting your finger on just what it is that feels so special about being home. How do you capture the essence of home?

That was our dilemma. We wanted to downsize our belongings, but before we could decide what to keep, we needed to figure out what made a place feel like home to us. What were the crucial elements for the simple life we wanted to live?

After much reflection, we realized that the essence of our home came down to a few key ingredients: fresh flowers, flickering candles, and simple furnishings. Add to that our family and friends along with great music, books, food and art, and we were totally content. Pure and simple.

We call our home the “The Global Cottage.” No matter where we live in the world, we combine simple, neutral furniture with unique art and objects from our travels. It’s become our signature. Anywhere we choose to live always feels like home, and everyone comments, “It looks like you!”

You’re probably wondering how that translates into life on the road. No problem.

We always take candles with us, light them every night, and replenish our supply along the way. (James has calculated the best price for a votive candle – to the penny! It pays to marry a geek.) Every chance we get we’ll acquire fresh flowers, then pass them along to our hosts when we leave. Our iPad and iTouch will provide us with photos, music, entertainment, and reading material. We’ll stay in touch with family and friends as we travel, and the new scenery will become our art. We will be “at home on the globe.” Can you say contentment?

This all goes to prove that you can feel at home no matter where you are.

So now I think I’ll grab a glass of wine and read about our first stop, Reykjavik, Iceland. Can’t wait to see the Blue Lagoon. Good night all!


P.S. You know that the easy answer to the question “What makes a place feel like home?” is … each other! We are the heart and soul of our home. So, technically speaking, no matter where we are, if we’re together, we’re home.


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

18 thoughts

  1. Nothing says we’re home like the comfort of clean sheets on that familiar bed! You always need something to come home to, otherwise, why would we ever bother 😉

    1. Chris, no one would know that better than you guys after your adventure! James and I always say that sleeping in our own bed – with our own pillows – always seems like the height of luxury. 🙂 ~Terri

  2. OK. I think I’m confused. When the heading for this post appeared in my email, I thought it was the start of a new series. Now, I see that you wrote this in 2011. Not a problem. I’d love to read about Iceland anyway, because, who knows, I may never get the opportunity to cruise again!!! Thanks for always posting what we want to read. You must be kindred spirits!

    1. So sorry for the confusion, Rusha. During our blog re-vamp I had pulled this post out to fix some broken links. I put it back in its place this morning – but had no idea you would be sent an email. Live and learn, right?

      We loved our first trip to Iceland, and hope to return to rent a campervan to explore farther afield. But who knows when that will be possible. So maybe there WILL be another Iceland Series. 🙂 I sure hope so. ~Terri

    1. Thanks so much. I keep learning that it just takes the simple, little things to make me happy. It just took me a while to figure out what those things are. 🙂 ~Terri

  3. After a long day of sightseeing, etc. I recall saying “let’s go home” meaning, let’s go back to our RV; it was our “home” for those weeks.
    Coincidentally, I am reading your blog soon after arriving home in Florida having been to Ohio to inspect what will be our new home in Ohio. We are not minimalists, but fortunately, like you and James, we are compatible and have similar ideas about what we need and what is important.

    1. Ray, like you we have had many homes – sometimes it’s been a house or apartment, but other times it was a hotel room or tent. It just felt good to say, “Let’s go home” no matter where or what it was.

      I didn’t realize you were moving to Ohio! I lived there as a teenager and loved the changing of the seasons. We too lived in Florida, but moved to Kentucky and enjoy the changing weather.

      It’s wonderful that you and Alie are so compatible – always the key to a great move. Wishing you all the best on a smooth transition. When is the big move? ~Terri

  4. Agreed, Terri! As long as I have my husband and our dog with me, which is 24/7, I somewhat feel at home. We’re digital nomads, as you know, and live a simple, minimalistic, and frugal life on the road (or the water). My list doesn’t include candles or fresh flowers, but a few personal belongings (laptop, camera, and iPad) and an ever-changing view through the window. I have to add to your post: comfort. We have come to realize that we don’t feel at home when we are uncomfortable. Something for us to work on in the future!

    1. Liesbet, that’s a great point about comfort. We feel the same way. We have learned that if the bed is too short for James (he’s a tall guy), he’s going to be miserable all night. I also like that you crave “an ever-changing view through the window.” You are truly a wanderer at heart. I’ve noticed that a lot of the recent converts to VanLIfe prefer to have no windows! I don’t think that would work for me. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. No windows wouldn’t work for us either, Terri. I think the main reason vanlifers opt out of the windows in their converted vans is to be “stealth campers” in cities and other places where boondocking is prohibited. A utility van draws less attention from neighbors and police. To us, it’s not worth the darkness or “less of an RV look” – we just move on and search for another camping spot. 🙂

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