Growing up, like most people, I thought heartbreaks, failed fitness goals, etc were enough to get me down in the dumps! Then I lost my dad to a stroke out of the blue. He was also my best friend, confidant and the one who taught me to live life on my own terms, and give back to society in any way I could.

He was a doctor and the healthiest person I knew and, just like that, he was gone. That is when I knew what it felt like to be low. To feel physically maimed. To have my heart wrung out of my body! I thought it would get better. It did not.

For six months I didn’t leave my apartment or talk to anyone. For three years after that, I couldn’t get myself to tell anyone or even talk about it, except a handful of people closest to me. In fact, if I didn’t have the best friends and family to pull me out of that phase, I fear I would’ve descended deeper and deeper into that darkness.

It’s been eight years now. They say time heals but they lie. You crumble every single day and just learn to live with wounds that deep! Every time I see the crashing waves, Northern Lights or carpets of stars, I can actually feel my dad egging me on to new adventures and telling me not to cry because he’s right there with me.

“Dad it’s happening, I’m going on lots of new adventures,” I tell him. ‘Thank you for equipping me with the will to rebel and fight stereotypes.”

Then I cry – every single time! I could never obey him a 100 per cent. Love doesn’t always have a happy ending and grief is so hard to accept. It paralyses you and hurts every single day. But I’ve learnt to hang in there. And you might not be better off for it, but you’ll be stronger. Let the grief empower you in little ways. And empower it does.

Every time I would visit Delhi between travels, I would feel guilty for complaining about the sensory overload that awaited me the second I stepped off the plane. You could call it a ritual. Upon exiting the airport, we would wrestle our way to the pre-paid taxi booth.

There we would spy officials conning customers with a sleight of hand if they looked at their phone or their companions even for a split second – they would throw the Rs 500 note handed to them on the floor and replace it with a Rs 100 note and ask you for the remaining fare amount with a straight face. The big-city circus. Well-warned, we would hold on tight to the currency in our hands and wait for our turn.

Minutes later, as we elbow our way to a queue of distinctive yellow and black cabs, I would find myself wishing to escape the sights and sounds. I would want to hop on a bus and head to the little villages of the Himalayas. This need to escape the city for a slower rhythm of life relentlessly nags us. But we question ourselves. We grew up here, we can handle it.

I feel guilty about complaining because nobody understands. I feel so guilty that I would rather overdose on my asthma medications and pretend to be fine than admit Delhi’s pollution was bothering me. It is no secret. When you’ve heard something repeatedly while growing up, it acquires the status of a “fact”. Perhaps endless iterations by parents, teachers, society and friends had ensured the idea of home as a place was lodged somewhere at the back of my mind?

This went on for years. The guilt. But soon after my dad passed away something changed. I remember going on a long drive in Delhi and staring glassy-eyed at familiar landmarks – India Gate, Rajpath, Connaught Place. I had so many memories at each of these places –looking forward to Sundays because it meant driving to India Gate to get ice creams from the dozens of colourful carts lining the roundabout. Bargaining for clothes and jewellery with college friends at Janpath. Skipping breakfast to have pastries and kebabs at Wengers. Making an occasion out of going to see Rashtrapati Bhavan, all lit up on Republic Day.

But for a few years now, all I see are hospital wards. “You can say your goodbyes,” they told us. I clutched onto his hand till all the warmth left his body, stroking his arm till it started to turned cold and stiff.

“Don’t go, don’t go, please don’t go – we still need to go to Brazil together,” I whispered urgently, reminding him of his unfulfilled dream, even though I knew he couldn’t hear a thing in his coma.

It was something I’d heard him say since I was a little girl – he had watched a documentary on a video-tape in the eighties and decided he’d visit Rio once in his life. We heard that story many times but he never made it there. Let’s just say life got in the way. He worked seven days a week for his entire life till we grew up and forced him to go on little holidays.

Even so, he didn’t have much by way of savings because he put his entire life’s earnings into buying a modest house for all of us. A family home that means nothing now! Because I want him, not the house! Bricks and mortar, more meaningless now than ever. We’re driving in Delhi. But since his passing, all I can see are visions of my dad, fading in and out. Everywhere I look.

Perhaps it was at a moment like this that the guilt vanished. It was replaced by a strange sense of calm acceptance. These landmarks, which defined my childhood, did not define me anymore. I would love to have a little nest in Delhi to stay close to my family between travels. I would also love to have little homes in my favourite cities like Bali and London someday (a girl can dream!).

But I would never look at the concept of home the same way again. I realised the idea of home that had been fed to us did not mean anything to me. Because I could not let a building be the focal point of our achievements or attachments. It would never be the be-all and end-all of our existence. Both of us could accord such importance only to people or experiences in our lives.

The city where I grew up in is often not the place I crave for. I crave the palms, I crave a cottage in the snow, I crave walks by the beach, I crave fiery sunsets. I crave the slow rhythm of places. I had known that for a long time. But suddenly that was okay. Sometimes it takes a monumental loss to come to a point where you are finally ready to cut the umbilical cord. That night I came to terms with my definition of home, one that wasn’t handed down to me. One that I had chosen for myself.

With pieces of my heart in Delhi, London and Bali, with nowhere to call home now, I felt at home in the world.

New places invigorate me. Meeting people and exchanging tales excite me. It’s an inexplicable rush and one thing’s for sure – unlike the outliers I met as a kid, I’m not going to grow out of it!

I’ve come to accept I will never associate buildings or cities with “foreve”’ but some things will always be home – friends’ hugs, mom’s food, coming back to Vid’s familiar kisses at the end of a long day, a starlit sky. That’s home. Home for me is not a place but a feeling. People. Sensations. Moments. The road. Home is amorphous. But always, deeply comforting.

Travelling has taught me to think of home as a fluid concept. To some people it means saving up to buy a bungalow. To others, it means stability attached to a piece of land. But to us, it is simply the feeling of belonging in many different places across the globe. Living a peaceful life and, more importantly, a truly happy life in corners of the Earth that feel like a warm embrace.

Corners where we’ve left parts of our soul. That school in Rajasthan, where we taught little kids. That cafe in Cusco where we met a musician with the most spell-binding voice ever. The balcony in Bali. That cottage in Iceland. The shack by the beach in Vietnam. These are the homes that make us feel truly rich! Like we had aced the checklist of life. In a way entirely our own.

Excerpted with permission from Bruised Passports: Travelling the World as Digital Nomads, Savi and Vid, HarperCollins India.