Home Is Where My Stuff Is – And That’s in Three Countries on Two Continents

April 10, 2024
Home Is Where My Stuff Is - And That’s in Three Countries on Two Continents

In late November, around the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I am sitting in a corner café in Chicago that used to be my “coffice” when I first started my business. 

Before I open the laptop, I look around the space. 

Not much has changed in the past seven years – to the left, behind the triangular counter, I see the same off-white wallpaper with a blue-gray floral pattern. There’s a communal table in the far back and small reclaimed wood tables lined up against the long wall on the right, half of which is covered with floor-to-ceiling windows.

No, wait. The large table is different, its walnut finish looking new. There are some more square tables in the middle of the shop. And where did they move the condiment station? Ah, there it is by the baristas. Let me try the WiFi password. Nope, not the same anymore. 

“Medium latte!” I get up to pick up my order. Hearing these words, my mind flashes back to when the coffee shop first opened, when my move to Paris was far from a done deal. 

“It’s like I never left,” I think to myself as I sit back down. 

It’s like I never left.

It’s like I never left.

Someone opens the door and a whiff of arctic air sweeps in. I put a wrap on my shoulders and both hands on the mug to keep warm. I surely don’t miss Chicago winters. 

Despite the upgrades, the café still feels familiar. 

As does the neighborhood, where I spent 10 years of my life and where I knew every free parking spot and the best taquerias within a 3-mile radius. Walking here from the train station, I passed by a few old favorites, relieved to see them in business. 

As might be expected, there are new condos in every direction and restaurants I’ve never been to, some places didn’t survive the pandemic or a wave of gentrification, but this area still feels like home. With each visit, I get to ‘download’ its latest version.  

“Welcome home,” a few friends texted when I arrived in Chicago.

I look at the messages again as I sip my coffee. Home… The word that carries the feeling of comfort and safety, of being unapologetically yourself, of belonging to a tribe. 

Beautiful and confusing at the same time. Where do I belong? 

I feel at home in three places on two continents: Paris, Chicago, and the Krakow area in Poland where I was born. Whenever someone asks where I’m from, the answer may vary.

“I’m Polish-American living in France” is my go-to response. But it’s a mouthful and invites further questions that I don’t always want to answer. Sometimes because there’s no time, other times I hesitate to share my life’s story with strangers. 

“All over,” I once quipped to someone, hoping that my coy smile would take the edge off the words. On another occasion, I cheerfully said, “How much time do you have?…”

With my ‘stuff’ in three locations, I don’t belong 100% anywhere. I’m a sum of the places I’ve called home, as they all shaped me to varying degrees. Wherever I am, I’m a little different from others – even those closest to me – and I’ve come to realize that it’s OK. 

This is the life I chose and delight in, despite its practical and emotional challenges. 

I do wonder what life would be like had I not moved from Europe to America and back to Europe. I’ll never find out, but I know that I need all my homes in order to feel whole. 

If I don’t spend time in Chicago and Krakow at least once a year, something feels off, no matter how much I enjoy Paris. That’s why I decided to try living a bi-continental life.  

Where do I belong? 

Where do I belong? 

It’s been a desire since I left my hometown. For a long time, it didn’t seem attainable until last year, when I took the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship, a decision partially inspired by my article for Pink Pangea, Dare to Dream, Again. With location independence and business ventures on both sides of the Atlantic, I feel that I have a shot.

It’s risky, but I find comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, no matter how ‘uprooted’ I may feel, there’s a place just a flight away that I can always return to. A country house near Krakow where my roots run deep – the greatest gift I’ve received. 


I pack my laptop and head towards the nearest train station, two blocks from the coffee shop. Or is it three? The wind is getting stronger, so I tighten the scarf around my neck. 

As I take the stairs down to the platform, I recall a mural outside with the word “home” painted in white letters on a sky-blue background. I once took a selfie in front of it. It’s long gone, but otherwise the station looks exactly how I remember it. 

I’m from a different version of this place, but at least some things stay the same.

It’s almost time to fly from Chicago back to Paris, then to Poland for the holidays. What a peculiar feeling – you leave home, fly for eight hours, only to end up… at home. 


Photo credits by Pola Henderson and Unsplash. 

About Pola Henderson

Pola Henderson is a writer, speaker, and communication consultant based in Paris. She runs Jetting Around Media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *