The place I am from is far away, the land is wide and flat and brown. When you look at a map, it’s right at the bottom, just look a bit further down.
I always feel connected to this place deep within, that’s the thing, it gets under your skin. So, when the time had come to go and see the world, I knew it would not be replaced, and I would still call it home.
We expatriate Aussies are dreamers living far from home, we gather together for a sense of homecoming, and smile when people mimic us and quote ‘Crocodile Dundee’. We get asked about snakes, spiders, and sharks and we are told that our interlocutors could never live there, and that’s ok, because our beautiful place breeds us tough, and it is not for the faint-hearted.
Somehow, the random thought that never left my mind of living in London, has turned into two years living far from the place that holds my heart, and I reflect on what I have learnt and my home. My tie to this great land is as strong as it was the day that I left.
Regardless of how far away I am, I will always check out ‘Triple Js Hottest 100’, I will listen to Paul Kelly teach us ‘How to Make Gravy’ four days before Christmas. The boy from Australia sang, “But no matter how far, or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.” He was right, no matter how far away, Australia will always be home.
While we won’t win the 6 Nations, we will be knocked out in the first round of The World Cup, the number of high-profile actors is not as high as in other countries, we have something no one else has. That is the knowledge that we get to call a paradise surrounded by blue skies, sun and sand, home.
Visits home, are always a hard one, stepping off of the plane into the airport terminal you instantly get the feeling this is where I belong, this is my home.
At times, you will feel especially far from home, as you watch the news and the see the skies you love no longer blue, but covered in an orange haze of smoke, and you watch Australia burn.
You watch, knowing that it is not right, that’s not the place you remember. You remember hot dry summers, on the farm running through long grass, running down to the stream for a swim, climbing trees, and hiding in the gum trees as if you were a koala, as you watched your cousins look for you below. Summers, and winters you walk for hours through rugged bushland to come out at the bottom of a waterfall or swimming hole. Summer days were spent with family, at the national park, paddle boarding, swimming and jumping off of rocks into the depths, that is the place you remember and love.
Now as you watch, you see miles of wire filled with blackened charred animals, fires starting in September knowing that it was a lot earlier than you remembered, and you watch the place you love the most.
While you will still call Australia home, and feel far from it at times, the transformation that comes from living overseas is monumental. I have seen wallflowers turn into extroverts as they flourish and find themselves.
For me though the change was subtle, I still sound Australian, I act Australian, but I grew. I learnt and was surrounded by diversity and culture, as I met people from all over the world. Yes, I experienced diversity in Australia, it is what constitutes my softer Australian accent, even the diversity within my own family, but the diversity of culture, religion, and people became larger on a global scale due to meetings and interaction.
Returning to Australia, you forget on what side of the escalator to stand, you understand how to drive on narrow one lane streets and wish the rest of Australia would learn for the rare occasions when this will happen. You have little patience for people who take too long in queues, after learning to move and act fast living in London.
The most important thing I have learnt while living in London is not to fear the other, not to judge instantly, and to love easily. Making friends with people from all around the world even if I do still hang out with mostly Australians, has opened my mind to new experiences, new cultures, new adventures. It taught me to love other people’s different quirks, and talents.
I learnt that it’s ok to spend time with yourself. Previously I would not go out without someone to accompany me. If there was a film, a concert, a holiday I wanted to go on, I would not go unless I had someone to go with. I learnt it is ok to do things on my own and I enjoy my own company. Do not let opportunities pass you by.
I have learnt more about cultural celebrations as being in London surrounded by other cultures, and beliefs, creates open dialogue that is not found in Australia which is still a little less progressive and not as rich in different cultures.That is a result of isolation in a country so large and so far from others.
Most important, was the sense of family and learning I gained, I learnt who I am, I learnt about my relatives in Scotland, I grew closer to people I would never have met, I understand who I am.
While you crave and love the adventure that is life as an expat, you still feel a call, a pull no matter how long you stay away, for the place that you call home. A place where life is a little slower, where the trains have two levels with reversible seats, so you are always facing the direction the train is going. You will miss the Aussie humour and sarcasm, as you quickly become one of the few cynical and sarcastic people around, you will miss the backyard BBQs and terrible cricket games. You will miss the old man sitting on his veranda saying “Morning”, as you rush past his house on the way to the train station, and your heart will break when your country burns.
And while your heart will hurt for the place you call home, especially after you just left it, you would not give up the learning experiences for anything else. Because you know that no matter how far, or how wide you roam you will still call Australia home, and you will be proud as you watch the nation rally around to help those affected by the fire.