Existential Migration

My friend Sree (a Malaysian/Australian writer I recently met in the Philippines) just forwarded a link to a book that seems to encapsulate what I’ve been struggling with for much of my adult life: existential migration. Here’s a snippet from the website of Greg Madison, author of The End of Belonging:

“Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration’ is conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.

This concept arose from interviews with voluntary migrants from around the world now living in London. The study generated impressively consistent themes such as the importance of trying to fulfil individual potentials, the importance of freedom and independence, openness to experiences of the mystery of life, and the valuing of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness and broadening perspectives.

Among this population there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign over the familiar or conventional. As well as the new concept of existential migration, the research proposes a novel definition of home as interaction; that the ‘feeling of home’ arises from specific interactions with our surroundings that could potentially occur anywhere, at any time. This is in contrast to the usual definition of home as geographical place.

The new concept also challenges our usual definitions of being at home, the foreign, belonging, and homelessness. The insights gained from this new concept elaborate our existing understanding of migration in exciting ways. Existential migration enables us to reformulate the psychological underpinnings of migration studies, cultural anthropology, tourism studies, cross-cultural training, refugee studies, and psychotherapy. The research presents its subject matter in a clear and evocative way, emphasising the poignancy of the topic. It culminates with a caution that there may be more profound psychological consequences from increasing world globalisation than is currently acknowledged. In fact we may be entering an age of global homelessness.”

Fascinating, no? Thanks so much for the forward, Sree. This will be an immense help as I delve into my next book project, about my native South Texas (and whether or not it is time to return).


  1. Stephanie Jaeger

    I agree and I should know something after a lifetime of wandering. I think this is the most accurate explanation of why people do this that I have ever read. I think I may look for his book. Good luck with your book, Stephanie.

  2. vclare

    Thanks for the tip, I will look for this book too. I just never could find the reasoning that describes wanderlust, itchy feet or whatever you want to call it.

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