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”.

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.

The Present Moment

Today I was thinking: why do I love travelling?

Aside from the obvious – discoveries of new places, people and culture – I think it is because travelling makes you live in the present moment. It allows you to appreciate the feeling of existing for no serious reason other than to exist.

You don’t have to worry about responsibilities or obligations, yet you can feel safe in the knowledge that you have a purpose – and that purpose is to exist and to experience. To simply soak up your surroundings and embrace the fact that you are here, and if you start to feel like you are wasting time, you can move on.

Travelling has challenged me in numerous ways, causing me to achieve things I had doubted I was capable of. It has made me try things that I consequently loved, but was initially almost too scared to even contemplate.

These moments are clearly pivotal and a crucial part of my travelling experience, but whilst I am quickly approaching a time when my return to the daily grind looms and I think to myself ‘why do I love travelling?’, I am still reminded of that incomparable feeling of simply existing.

Deciphering Home

Over the past few days, I went to visit a friend from back home, who is currently living here in Australia. I have known this person for many years and we share a lot of the same friends and memories. Apart from the now unusual experience of staying in a house and sleeping in an individual bedroom, with my own double bed, I was also struck by the familiar feeling of spending time with an old acquaintance.

As my friend drove us along, as she had so many times in the UK, I thought how strange it was to feel almost as though nothing had changed. The feeling of familiarity could almost trick me into believing I was at home again, but one look out of the window, even one look inside at the car, clearly showed that everything was different. The only thing that was familiar was the two of us.

At another time, during my stay in Sydney, I felt most at home after meeting a new friend. The hostel we were staying at actually had an oven and a freezer, along with a large cosy TV room and set of DVD’s. Baking banana bread, watching films and drinking a large amount of tea definitely helped to add to this feeling, but mostly it was the cosy and comfortable familiarity of having a friend I naturally clicked with that made me feel so settled and at home again. Yet there were still times that I missed the UK and this feeling of familiarity also reminded me of my own family that I was missing. Similarly, talking to my friend from the UK about people from back home made me wish that I could see them again.

This has made me wonder, how much feeling ‘at home’ relies on our surroundings and how much is transferable through the people we know and the feelings that they evoke? If we travelled half way across the world with all of our friends and family in tow, how homesick would we be?

Yet many people relocate, sometimes with friends and partners or starting a new family of their own, but sometimes people make this move completely alone. What makes us so drawn to a place that we feel this urge to completely relocate our lives? Undoubtedly people change and develop over time, often feeling that they have ‘outgrown’ a place and feeling the need for new challenges and change, but how do we deal with missing the people that we leave behind?

When I left the UK last November, I was well overdue a change and I had long been craving the excitement and challenges of living in a new place. In no way do I regret my decision and I have no doubt that I did the right thing by making this move, but I frequently miss home and the familiarity of the UK and more than anything, I miss the people I am so used to seeing on a regular basis.

I do not doubt that the places we live in can play a strong part in making us feel at home; the feelings and memories evoked by returning to a specific place can be immense! However, it is the people we associate with that bring these places to life. Is it possible that by sharing our experiences in these places, we attach emotions to them, making us feel bonded not only to the person but also to the place? Or can our love for a place stand alone despite our relationships? How do you decide when to call a new place home?

A Taste of Melbourne

A few weeks before Christmas I decided to visit Melbourne. I had been in Sydney just too long to still comfortably feel like I was on holiday, but it also did not feel like the right time to start job hunting. I needed to expand my horizons slightly before returning to Sydney for Christmas and New Year’s.

One of the things I love about Melbourne is the sheer volume of Art that is on offer and with much of it being for free, this is perfect for backpacking on a budget.

Melbourne is renowned for its Graffiti Art and after a walk down to Hosier and Rutledge Lane, it became clear why. I was quickly drawn in to this varied and colourful street, absorbing as much detail as I possibly could.

Hosier and Rutledge Lane

Just across the road, on Federation Square, is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. The ACMI was hosting the permanent exhibition Screen Worlds, plus a few other temporary exhibitions. Screen worlds presents a varied and eclectic depiction of the moving image. The exhibition is interactive and even offers the opportunity to create your own ‘Matrix video’.

One of the temporary exhibitions that I visited was Gaps by David Rosetzky. Much to my pleasure and comfort, the video installation Gaps featured movement and contemporary dance, along with spoken word and an uplifting composition. This installation deals with the theme of identity and I really appreciated the multi-disciplinary approach and the way the performers interacted with each other. Reminded of my own experience of contemporary dance, I let myself indulge in hints of the familiar with several twists of the unforeseen.

The National Gallery of Victoria hosts an extensive collection of exhibitions, covering art from all over the world and from different periods. I managed to view several different exhibitions during my visit; my favourite was the contemporary exhibition by Alex Prager, featuring the short film Face in the crowd.

I find the characters and style of the artwork compelling and the film delves into the characters’ minds, revealing glimpses of their thoughts and experiences.

There are other things I enjoyed about Melbourne: the bars, the dining, the Yarra River, The Astor Theatre, the Tram making its sleepy journey through the sunny streets, H&M! Over everything there was this sense of cultural togetherness and I quickly found myself comfortably drawn into the exploration of this city.

If I get the opportunity to return, I hope to discover some more of Melbourne’s layers, burrowing a little deeper into this colourful and diverse city.

Arriving in Australia – my first week in Oz!

On 26th September 2014, I finally took the plunge and booked my flights.

After toying with the idea for a few months and later realising that I wouldn’t be able to start volunteering abroad until the following year, I decided that I couldn’t bear to spend yet another winter in the cold. My friend Jess had suggested Australia and I had always liked the idea, plus my friend Emma was already out here and I only had a few years left to apply for the Working Holiday Visa.

I felt a rush of positivity and a surreal ‘out of body’ type experience after first booking – a moment of ‘I know I have done the right thing’… and then, I started to worry. It was my first long distance flight and my first venture into the experience of long term travel; I had gone from brief holidays in Spain and Portugal to a potential year across the other side of the world. Over the next coming weeks my thoughts and emotions were constantly dipping and rising between these two states, but the upside to making a relatively spur of the moment decision, was that I only had this suspense for 7 weeks – and they went quickly!

We landed in Sydney on 16th November to a slightly bleak looking sky and humid temperature. By the time we had made it out of the airport, it was raining! I had felt slightly ridiculous packing my umbrella, but I have come to learn that an umbrella is just as necessary here as it is back home in the UK! Luckily for us, the weather cleared up and the sun came out.

Determined to fight through the jetlag, we went for a wander down to Darling Harbour.

Jacarandas

Blue sky

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour skies

After almost falling asleep in an internet café around 5pm, I decided it was time to give in. I bought some instant noodles for dinner on the way back to the hostel and eventually I found myself ready for bed. I slept straight through for twelve hours, until 8am the next morning. It was perfection.

The next day I awoke feeling completely refreshed; it seems that sleep was all I needed to completely re-raise my spirits!

We had a week of activities and accommodation booked through OzIntro. This meant that we immediately met a new group of people and had some awesome trips and tours all planned out for us. This was out of the ordinary for me as I am usually very wary of guided tours and package holidays, preferring to just book things myself and see what happens, but I had decided to give this a go.

Here are some of the highlights of the week for me:

Jet Boating

This sounds quite simple, and I guess it is, but it was so much more fun than I was expecting and the views from Sydney Harbour were stunning! As we headed away from the harbour’s edge, music blasting and the sun beating down, I felt so happy that I had taken this step and made these changes.

The man driving the boat seemed to enjoy himself as much as we did. His favourite trick was spinning the boat around whilst coming to a kind of ’emergency stop’. He also liked driving directly towards the markers and swerving out of the way at the last possible moment and he made sure that by the end of the ride, everyone had gotten absolutely drenched.

Surfing

Wow. Once again, I had no idea what to expect but I did not imagine quite how invigorating this would be. This was my first time and everything about it felt like an awkward novelty. Struggling to carry my surf board down to the ocean, first dragging it and then paddling it out to sea, before clambering onto it, slightly panicked and looking behind me, desperately trying to get the timing right to catch a wave, so that maybe, this time, I could actually make it standing! I felt like a child again, learning something completely new.

I lost count of the amount of times that I lost balance and fell smack into the water, swallowing salty sea and feeling a bit stupid. This really didn’t stop me though, nor anyone else. There is something about the feeling of being lifted and carried along by a force outside of your control, and not just by any force, but a force of nature. It is so unique, so uplifting, I guess this is what makes it so addictive.

By the time we had finished for the day, I was completely exhausted and ever so slightly downtrodden – I’d only managed to stay standing a couple of times and then returned to falling – but I felt as though I’d been cleansed from the inside out. It was like the feeling you get when you listen to live music; it just takes over your whole being, grabs hold of your guts and drives you somewhere else. I’d definitely like to try surfing again.

Coastal Walk

We were lucky that despite the initial rain at the airport, the rest of the week was more like the weather that you’d imagine: opulent blue skies and powerful sunshine. This suited our coastal walk from Bondi beach perfectly. It was so beautiful, pure and magnificent; it just seemed to effortlessly fulfil all of my expectations.

Coastal Walk from Bondi

View

Open Sea

Walking

Blue Mountains

This was the day I had been most excited about: hiking amongst the beautiful nature of the Blue Mountains.

Our Australian guide struck a balance between being relaxed and enthusiastic, so I immediately took a liking to him and felt at ease. Throughout the day, he liked to point out when we might see kangaroos, spiders and the elusive Lyrebird. We didn’t manage to see any on this trip but we did hear a recording of these unusual birds. You might have heard this before, but if you haven’t, you should give it a listen. It never fails to astound me.

Blue Mountains

Three Sisters

Blue Mountains

The weekend brought a bit of time to ourselves and then a night out and a meal in the Sydney Tower.

View from Sydney Tower

Overall, I would say I am happy that I chose to book this. Apart from helping with practical tasks, such as setting up an Australian bank account, it also encouraged me to try activities like surfing, which I might never have done otherwise – or at least not in my first week anyway!

However, it is good to remain switched on and to remember that some things are best organised by yourself. If you are thinking of booking something like this, I would advise looking at all of the possibilities and costs. If you can’t afford to book through a company or just fancy ‘going it alone’, there are plenty of hostels who offer free tours and events and you are always going to meet lots of new people in hostels anyway!

I still think this was a pretty fun way to spend my first week though.

Surfing

Surf photo taken by Jess Pobjoy