Our homes are incredibly important to us – over our lifetime, whether we buy, rent or build, there’s a fair chance that our abode will be the one thing upon which we expend the most energy, cash and effort. Everyone has their own idea of what makes anywhere a home, and most of us do what we can to make it as welcoming, safe and personal to us as we can. Yet, many of us – no matter how happy we may be where we are, and with what we have – would hesitate to say that it’s perfect. Almost everyone has their ‘dream home’, and much of the time it bears little relation to the practical reality of where we live.
The proliferation of shows on TV focussed on moving, improving, upgrading and titivating our homes is testament to that feeling that what we have is not quite there yet and the wealth of magazines and programmes devoted to finding that special place in the ideal location – generally featuring those far more fortunate and well off than ourselves – speaks volumes about how far removed from where we’d like to be most of us are. There’s nothing wrong in aspiring to something bigger, better and brighter than what we’ve been blessed with, but when it comes to dream homes, the emphasis is almost always on the ‘dreaming’.
However, the story in SL is very different: Whilst we may never find or be in a position to acquire that perfect property we dream of in RL, it’s something that’s far more readily attainable within the virtual world. And here at least none of the constraints and pitfalls of home-making in the real world stand in our way… indeed, if ever there was a place where our dreams can come to fruition, no matter how outlandish, far-fetched or unlikely, it’s in SL. Whether it’s a castle on a cloud, an elven tree house, or an homage to 1960’s chic, there’s little standing in our way in SL to stop us turning our dreams into virtual reality, and a great many of us relish the prospect of doing just that.
However, when it comes to a virtual place to live, that freedom to throw away the design guide can have some unexpected results:
My real world dream house, if money, time and resources were no object, would be a little stone-built country cottage with a thatched roof, roses around the porch and a cottage garden full of lupins, forget-me-nots and wild flowers. I’d have a huge kitchen, full of burnished copper, a Belfast sink, quarry tiles on the floor and an Aga taking pride of place. A well-stocked kitchen and herb garden would complete the scene and to the rear, a sun-dappled private forest of oak, elm and birch would provide pleasant walks on long Summer evenings. My views to the front would take in a small, private, sandy cove and the twinkling sea beyond. Just perfect.
That’s my dream home… but it’s not what I’ve chosen in SL.
Inworld, my home is a cave! Yes, a cave.
It’s a fairly well-appointed cave, in lovely surroundings and just a stone’s throw from the beach, but it is nevertheless, a cave. The walls are mossy, rough and unforgiving, the facilities are rudimentary, there’s no front door (although there is a doorbell), and the only running water is from the spring that cascades down from the roof into the plunge pool below. Although I haven’t investigated too closely, I imagine there are a whole host of spiders and creepy crawlies who are also more than happy to call it home. When it rains outside, it tends to rain inside too… even so, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is home, sweet home.
There’s no way I’d choose to live, even for a short time, in a similar – or any – cave in RL. What might feel like a romantic and quirky hideaway in SL would freak me out completely if I had to live in the real world equivalent, yet I can’t for the life of me explain why I feel so at home there, even though it bears little relation to my RL ideal. However, I can take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who falls into this pattern.
I have inworld friends who live in boats, motel rooms, in the open air, hobo shacks, tree houses and on the surface of the moon, and I imagine if you were to ask any one of them to describe their dream home, it would bear little relation to where they choose to lay their hat in SL. It seems that faced with the potential to live out those dreams in virtual reality, there’s a deeper instinct that knows what’s good for us which takes over and guides us to a happy place.
Whatever the reason, it works for me. So what if I live in a cave? I like it, and if you ever fancy paying me a visit, I’m pretty sure that you’d like it too!
Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home
I’m telling you that’s my home
Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat