Around the world there are some 250 million people living outside the country they were born in. That’s the combined populations of Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

aerial.jpg

If those 250 million people were a country it would be the 5th largest in the world. Call it what you like - Expatria, Immigrantis, The United States of Elsewhere - it would also be one of the fastest growing places on earth.

Standing Places is a travel guide for this virtual country peopled by Silicon Valley billionaires, shivering refugees and every shade of comfortable, secure and accepted in between; people for whom the idea of 'home' may be a journey more than a destination, a question more than an answer, or just a work in progress.

But you don't have to be living far away from your place of origin these days to feel restless and at sea. Everyone it seems is now talking about identity, belonging and the places they call home.

That includes people who may not consider themselves cosmopolitan global villagers or rootless world travellers; like the 60 per cent of white Brits who live within twenty miles of where they lived when they were fourteen; or the 60 per cent of Americans who don't own a passport; or the 90-95 per cent of the world's population who have never stepped foot on an aeroplane. 

The news in those days was full of war and migrants and nativists, and it was full of fracturing too, of regions pulling away from nations, and cities pulling away from hinterlands, and it seemed that as everyone was coming together everyone was also moving apart.
— Mohsin Hamid, 'Exit West'

So, that 250 million? On a global scale it's actually a tiny minority. Most humans don't cross national borders very often, or complain about flight delays and jet lag.

Yet for all of us questions of place and identity go to the heart of who we are, and when our places start changing it can be unsettling.

So through interviews and stories Standing Places is also an attempt to better navigate conversations that can easily cause anxiety, division or even conflict. We'll be trying to make sense of the profound and unpredictable change we're all living through, finding common ground where we can, and asking what it all means for how we think about place and belonging in the 21st Century. 

Tūrangawaewae
— 1. (noun) domicile, standing, place where one has the right to stand, rights of residence and belonging through kinship and ancestry.

Standing Places is inspired by a word you'll only find at the uttermost edge of the earth. One of the most significant concepts in Te Reo Maori - the indigenous language of New Zealand - is encapsulated in the word ‘tūrangawaewae’.

On the one hand it refers to a place where we feel most connected. But it’s not just about us as individuals. It's also where we’re most accepted by others. Tūrangawaewae is as much about the land we stand on as it is the faces we’re welcomed by, the people we remember there and the shoulders we stand on. 

It's where our external world best reflects our inner one. And the best translation of 'tūrangawaewae'?

A standing place.