We all know what home feels like, but what is home really? It’s not the same thing as a house, which is just a building. Rather, home seems to evoke feelings most strongly associated with those we share our home with. Home is companionship, support, laughter, tears – it is the sharing of the human experience and has little to do with walls and a roof. While this is something we all seem to understand, I’d like to share one experience that really emphasized this fact for me.
A few years back, I went on a trip to Thailand for a friend’s wedding. A large group of us were staying at a remote beach resort that required several hours journey from the city. As the bus left the city towards the resort, we noticed that the houses we passed by became increasingly run-down and dilapidated. When we arrived at the resort, we were surprised to discover that our accommodations had no hot water and that parts of the building had no ceiling! Of course, that meant that we were sleeping with geckos and crickets. What a disaster, we all thought. We were miserable.
A few days into our stay, there was a sudden rainstorm that had us stuck at the resort having lunch with the family who ran the place. Our sour mood was was quickly turned around by the amazing food that the family prepared. What a feast! They had cooked fish that was caught earlier that day, along with a variety of fresh Thai dishes made from local ingredients. And while the food was delicious, what was truly amazing was the atmosphere around the table. There were grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children all eating and laughing together. The smallest kids were running around playing soccer. I couldn’t believe this was a normal weekday lunch for this family! Seeing all the smiles and hearing all the laughter made me feel like I was truly at home, despite the fact that I was in a foreign country, didn’t speak a lick of Thai, and had no hot water.
At that moment, I also felt a sense of sadness about how most of us live in North America. When’s the last time you remember having a big family meal during the work week? I don’t think it ever happens. Families are usually separated from Monday to Friday, with parents at work, children at school, and extended family living apart. What’s worse, there seems to be an undeniable trend towards isolation. 28% of all households in Canada are one-person households. A third of seniors live alone. Most young people are choosing to delay marriage or not marry at all. Are we in danger of becoming a society of loners?
I started Happipad because I feel that isolation is an epidemic in North America that is completely solvable. It is well known that isolation has terrible health effects, causing premature death and reducing quality of living. Happipad offers one way to prevent isolation, by making it possible for individuals to share their home with others who are compatible with them. I’ve witnessed the remarkable effect that home-sharing can have on people. They become kinder and more empathetic. Perhaps, they might even feel a little more at home.