A Home's Location: Where the Heart Is

A Home's Location: Where the Heart Is

Exploring how location deeply influences what we call 'home' and our identities.


This week we took to the street to interview people about their relationship with their homes, their styles, and their furniture. What we heard surprised me.

When we asked folks how they might define their home’s style, we got a variety of answers. It’s hard to define style. Style is a visual language and discovering and articulating style is hard.

Yet when we asked folks “what is your favorite thing about your home?” the theme was clear. Many folks told us that their favorite thing about their home was its location.

I thought we’d hear about a favorite room or a favorite piece of furniture. Instead, people said “it’s close to the woods” or “I’m close to the beach”. Others said “it’s close to everything I need.”

Identity is Where the Home Is

The more I thought about this, the more it made sense. Our homes are more than just shelters; they are extensions of our identities, embedding us in the communities we choose and the life we make.

A well-styled home has many virtues, but a well-situated home grants access to that which makes life worth living – the outdoors, vibrant streets, friends and family – effectively enlarging our living environment and enriching our day-to-day life.

There is a mantra in professional Real Estate that the 3 most important considerations are “Location, location, location.” It’s hyperbole. Yet the point is that location simply cannot be underemphasized as the driving factor in property values. Homes can be renovated or rebuilt. Location is forever.

And indeed the things that contribute to property value – scenic views, access to nature, public transportation, public schools, interesting markets, access to jobs – also define our lives and our relationship with our homes.

When Location Precedes Home

I have a friend who feels alienated, not by their life as much as by their location. I’m not a Texas person, they might say. I want to find out if I’m a California person. And so, they uprooted their life to find out.

It makes sense why the sense of being in the wrong place can be so alienating. As Paul Graham points out, different cities have different values that animate them, their ways of life, and what people aspire for within them.

So choosing a place to live is a kind of question of values. This is not only true for where a home is in a given City, but is also true for the City itself. Go to Los Angeles to pursue fame. Go to New York to pursue wealth. Go to San Francisco to disrupt the status quo. Go to Albuquerque for…?

Great minds may disagree on what values animate a City, though it seems clear to me that different values find life in different cities. The dinner party conversations are a great clue.

Where Am I at Home?

I am a child of the Southwest. Personally, I have the experience of feeling at home in many locations – Oakland, Austin, Albuquerque. Each reflects a dimension of me – usually a time in my life.

I also have the experience, as I age, of increasingly wanting to call one place home, and to really make it my own. My father became a Mayor of our small town later in life, and I increasingly understand this impulse.

Home is not the location per se, but the sum of the relationships that make up my life. If everyone I loved were in one place, that place would be “home,” even if I didn’t recognize the location.

Of course, there are very few moments – weddings, funerals, and major birthdays – where it so happens that all the people you love are outside of their normal context. 

Much of life is more mundane and practical – going to the grocery store, meeting a friend at a park – and so it makes sense that the location of a home, and all that it entails, seems to be such a determinant factor in our wellbeing.

I already knew that making a home was hard. What I didn’t understand is that deciding where to make the home is equally as hard. Perhaps more so now than ever, in a world with so much mobility.

So, where is home? Perhaps home is simply where the heart feels most alive, where we are most nurtured by the environment and community around us – where we find peace in being authentically ourselves, surrounded by the love and life that give us purpose.


Geoff Abraham

Co-founder & President of Spoken

Geoff is the co-founder and President of Spoken. He is a Dad. He holds a BA from UT Austin (Plan II) and an MBA from Stanford. Geoff has built several successful businesses, including a bicycle taxi business in San Francisco which he ran for 10 years with his wife, Mimosa. He is an executive coach, and he actively invests in seed-stage startups via The Explorer Fund.

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