Home: Before and After the Summer

What is home?
A place where you can feel comfortable and at ease.
Feel safe
Feel supported, feel close to people.
Be part of a community
Feel challenged, entertained, engaged

Where is home?

No home?

It’s where you make it?

 

When I came back to my hometown after being away for a year, it was pretty much how I knew it was going to be. I had anticipated it would be a struggle: I was returning in the winter, I had nowhere to live so was staying in my mum’s living room, I no longer had a car and I needed to find a new job. All of this, I found, was bearable though. What I had not anticipated was the immeasurable distance that I would feel.

I had not been happy about leaving Australia and while I did want to see my family, I did not really want to be coming back to the same place. It was the easiest and most sensible option, I told myself. I can save some money, spend time with my family and plan my next moves for the future.

When people describe returning home after travelling, they often say things like “everything else is still exactly the same but you feel completely different”. This suggested to me that relationships would not change – at least not in the sense of the way others behaved towards me. Alternatively, I have heard people say that – with varying degrees of ease – they managed to just slip back into old routines when they returned home. Some people seem to find this takes a number of months, whereas other people say that for the first few weeks it’s fine but after that, they begin to get restless.

Personally, I found that I experienced neither of these. I returned home and things did feel different. Maybe this was because I had changed and therefore felt different but I honestly did feel like things had changed. I could now see the lives that people had lead without me – I still can – and this lead me to feel as if they were far away, or maybe I was the one who felt far away but which ever way I looked at it, I felt distance. Yet I was the one who had chosen to go away and was reluctant to return to the place I had called ‘home’. I am the person who still feels the need to leave, to find new places, meet new people – I suppose to build a new home?

To some extent I still feel this distance now. I guess long term travel is a test of any relationship but I have learned that I can still reach out and those people who still want to, will reciprocate. This has helped me to get through my time being back here and has also shown me that although you may return to a place for the people, their lives will inevitably continue without you.

 

Yet I still feel that I am wrenching myself away…

I am now in a position where I have been back for almost a year. I have transitioned through many emotional phases since returning but ultimately I have stuck to my original plan and in a few weeks I will be travelling again. I should probably feel excited but I have so many mixed emotions and thoughts going through my mind. I am going to miss my family so much and honestly, I don’t really want to leave them again. Flying off by myself to other countries can feel intimidating, even if I have done this once before. I have now had time to feel stability again, security and familiarity. I have climbed back into my old-new cocoon and I can’t deny that in a way it feels good and safe.

I question myself – I know too well that once an end is in sight, it is so easy to begin to ignore the negatives that drove you to make this change in the first place. In a way, it feels that it has taken me this long to begin to feel at home again but maybe I feel truly at home because I am following the path I have set out for myself.

Yet I can’t help but feel emotional, thinking about what I am leaving and apprehensive about the uncertainty of the future. I remind myself that change is good, that stretching myself is necessary and I hope that time proves that this journey is worth the “risk”.

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I write because…

I write because it is a way of sharing my experiences, of preserving them in some way so that they are never lost?

I write because it is a way of expressing myself, particularly those feelings that completely overcome me, that make me feel alive or are completely new. Those feelings that I can’t and don’t want to forget or maybe that I wish I could but yet I just can’t seem to let them go.

At times I have worried that by writing about and sharing these experiences I am somehow ‘exorcising’ them and that this means they may be lost forever – the feelings I experienced gone and banished from my emotional memory. While this may be a healthy process for moving on from negative experiences, there are some times that I enjoy remembering and as the feelings rush back, it makes me feel alive again and it’s almost as if I am there.

I write because it helps me to make sense of my experiences but in this process are my memories lost to the page? There are some experiences that I had such a strong urge to share and I carried them with me until I found the motivation to set up my blog. Once I had poured my encounters into my words, I found that I struggled to recollect them in the same way. I could no longer be transported back to the streets of Paris, I had forfeited my emotional memory in my bid to share my experiences.

I write because it helps me to make sense of my experiences but are some feelings better left a mystery? By writing I am choosing to clarify the situation, I must decide on the words to express my meaning but by doing this I run the risk of choosing the wrong word. Could this skew my memory and manipulate my experience into something that it was not? Are some experiences better left free to survive with their blurry edges, without being pinned down by words and redefined by the clarity of our current perception of our memory? Do we risk turning our experience into something different by attaching words that don’t belong? How much is the way we present our experiences influenced by what we believe will sound better to our audience?

I want to share my experiences but I don’t want to lose the feelings that these experiences gave me. I seek clarity and definition yet I don’t want to sacrifice the raw emotion or initial experience. This has made me slightly wary and has made me question what to share and what to nurture. Yet I had the desire to share and I do not doubt that I will feel this again. I really hope that my emotional memories survive regardless of this. I also hope that the two can exist synonymously.


 

This morning I went back and read my piece about Paris. I found myself reminded of so many aspects of the trip that I had ‘forgotten’ and now with a little effort, my emotional memory can also manage to muster up the feelings evoked while I was there.

Reading my first attempt at explaining why I write makes me realise that I have focussed quite heavily on the negative. I write because I want to share my experiences and thoughts – I do not see this as a bad thing – quite the opposite.

There is still a slight fear of ‘losing’ something to the page but when I think about it, I know that as time moves on and our lives continue, we can often lose sight of ideas that were once so clear. Memories can be misplaced, regardless of whether we have recorded them or not and in this sense, the writing can be a reminder.

I carried those memories so close to me, partly because I needed to and partly because I was waiting to share them. I have described them with as much loyalty to my perception as I could and looking back, I think this acts as a happy reminder.

Life in Brisbane

West End
A hostel with no reception
The vegan cafe round the corner
Some Rooms, community
Jacaranda right across from the front door, so much purple
Balcony doors, washing on the line, possums on the balcony
Hot days, Balmy nights
Possums in the room… eating bananas!
Storms, walking home in the rain
Balcony doors open, thunder and lightning
Heat, but so much rain, balcony doors closed.
So much sunshine! Blue skies, Beautiful sunsets
Two minute walk to the supermarket
People on the street corner
Shock at cold nights and short days in the Winter
Free live music every weekend
The Motor Room
Live jazz on a Monday!
Boundary Street Markets
All night buses
So much food, so many restaurants, so much choice
$5 Dominos
Room sharing, so many faces, new friends, different languages
The River…
South Bank: flowers, walkways, buskers, performers, live music, water, lights, markets, walking
Job hunting – and ‘failing’, almost giving up
Sitting on the bed, snacking, laptop, sleep
Volunteering then temping, saving money
Nights out, crazy dancing, visiting friends, forming bonds, finding support
Roots beginning to grow?
Salsa, Yoga, Italian ice-cream, more walking
Decisions.
Hasty goodbyes, the only way to leave

 

There are so many images and sensations from my time spent in Brisbane, so many experiences sandwiched into a short space of time. So many relationships, however fleeting, that I struggle to place my feelings into words. Maybe it is not right to place the feelings into words, or maybe I am not ready. Maybe I am still continuing this journey, still deciding. Still experiencing and still holding something tangible that lives on to me.


 

I’m not sure if it comes across in my enthusiasm for all the memories, but the first thing that attracted me to Brisbane and West End was the chilled out and friendly vibe. West End has a liveliness and buzz, whilst being relaxed and laid back.

From then to now

Ten months ago I was aware that I hadn’t been on holiday for almost three years. Now in the grand scheme of things that really doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in my mind, there were so many places that I hadn’t seen and since the age of about 14 I had known that I wanted to travel. What had I been doing all this time? I’m sure it was some kind of bordering 30 crisis but I started to get this creeping feeling that time was running out!

Sounds dramatic, but I think this was the added push that I needed as I then began to get the distinct feeling that it was ‘now or never’. This was enforced by the fact that many ‘working holiday’ experiences and visas are allocated to 18-30 year olds only, so in this sense, it really was now or never!

I decided to re-apply for European Voluntary Service, which I had looked at doing previously but had managed to hold myself back from. This is a really positive scheme, whereby 90% of your travel costs and all of your accommodation, food and basic ‘pocket money’ are covered, in return for you offering to work voluntarily with a participating organisation. The work can cover many areas, including Conservation, Arts, Health and Social Work. For anyone who is interested in doing this, you will need to find a sending organisation, who will assist you. I registered with Concordia and it is completely free of cost.

It was also around this time that my friend Jess came back from Canada. Jess had been in Canada for a year and the desire to travel had definitely been confirmed for her. We happily started planning a trip to Paris and for me this marked the beginning of a new chapter: one where I began to turn thoughts into actions, and one in which I now find myself on the other side of the world.