In the last week I’ve been called a lot of ‘names’, weird/weirdo (numerous times) because I’ve moved from ‘sunny’ Australia to ‘horrible’ England, brave, amazing, crazy, inspiring, and weird again. Maybe any or all of those descriptions are true or accurate to some degree, I don’t know. I don’t think I’m brave, definitely not crazy, or at least not to my understanding of the word, and I’d hardly call myself inspiring.
When said individuals ask me why I did this, why I decided to take off to the other side of the world I’m really not sure what to tell them. Do I spin some random tale that would grow the worlds best roses? Do I make some pleasant response and encourage them onto another topic as quickly as possible? Or do I tell them the truth? But then, what is the truth? As a favourite movie of mine points out, the truth is completely subjective to both the listener and coming from the lips of the confessor. So what is my truth, and does it matter in the long run? That’s what I want to focus this blog post on, it might be a lofty ideal to think it worth discussing in this manner, but maybe by voicing these thoughts some clarity can be achieved.
I’m not “Australian’, or at least not compared to the dinky-die, true blue, sun tanned beach-going postcard image most non-Aussies subscribe to. I’m not, never have been, I’m fair with an English rose complexion which means too much of the Australian sun and I go from pale pink rose to baked lobster in a second. I’m also allergic to most native Australian flora, especially gums, wattles and tea-tree. Traditionally I’ve spent between 3-5 months of every year in a constant anxious state due to fear of bushfires, as a survivor of Ash Wednesday and with the all too real memory of what those fires looked like up close ‘summer’ for me has always been a period of horror, stress and loss, given I grew up down south I’d hate to think how things are further north – I only have faint memories of life in Sydney and next to none from my family in Queensland. I’m a southerner, I’m used to the cold/wet, where for on average 9 months of the year are spent in grey wet gloom, occasionally we’d get snow, but it would be gone before noon. So if I’d been applying for the position of Australian poster-child I’m pretty sure I’d fail in epic degrees.
But am I English? My ancestry is such, which certainly explains the pale/pasty colour that goes bright red once heat is applied. I can whinge with the best of them if I’m in the mood. I don’t have an issue with ‘warm’ or room temperature beer, probably because I prefer cider or wine. I’m a fan of stodgy food that warms the heart and fills the belly, and I like having 4 distinct seasons in my year. Whenever I’ve visited the UK in the past I’ve always acclimatised very quickly, within days my Australian accent is fading, I have no fear on the roads – unlike a lot of Aussies who have minor heart attacks when hurtling down the high-hedged country lanes with oncoming traffic – and quickly adapt to the small differences; like standing to the right on escalators not the left, and reminding myself of the regional language differences, sarnie/barm/buttie/sandwich for one.
Putting aside my personal quirks and genetics for a moment, why would someone move from one country to another? Work is a perfectly valid explanation, no one ever questions that too closely. School or university usually only gains a few head nods of approval before the conversation changes and moves on. But once you veer into the territory of ‘family’ or worse, ‘because I wanted to’ and it’s curious to see people’s expectations and judgements begin to take over. ‘Oh you’re mad, it’s terrible here’, or ‘why would you want to leave such a beautiful place as Australia?’ are but two of the regular reactions, the family deflection is usually pretty safe, almost everyone has someone in their family who now lives in or visited ‘Down Under’ with varying degrees of affection or humour of their impressions or adventures. No, it’s the latter reason that is the most startling and disturbing, because as an immigrant from the colonies it’s naturally assumed you’ve lost your mind, after all, it’s why your forebears left in the first place, right? Well, those not sent out as convicts to be punished anyway.
But to someone like me it’s a lot more complicated. I’ve never felt ‘at home’ in Australia, the sight of blue-grey gums don’t warm my heart, I don’t get sentimental about the muddy waters of the Murray River or the red earth that seems to be shown on all the usual postcards. I’m not a fan of kangaroos or koalas, though I will have a quiet word with anyone who calls them koala bears, and I’m absolutely terrified of snakes and red-back spiders etc. I like history, tangible and encompassing, I like being able to drive in any direction for half an hour and being on the doorstep of a battlefield, castle, standing stones or site of some other historic event. I love the social, and specifically food/cooking, regional differences, the ages old recipes and varieties that little the country from top to bottom, just how many ways can you make a meat pie, it’s one of the questions that burns in the back of my mind, it sure beats a four-n-twenty! The proximity to the continent and even more history and food to be discovered and sampled at will is extremely alluring and I can’t wait to get stuck into that! I’m a traveller, I like to see things, experience as much of life firsthand as possible, I’m happiest when I’m planning another adventure, whether near or far, and researching what that adventure could entail.
As someone who’s lived in another country, and spent time in several others, it amuses me that natural assumptions that natives make of their own, whether it’s the congested roads and drivers with uncontrollable rage, or the medical/public health systems, the unemployment or education situations, it doesn’t really matter, there will always be something that isn’t ideal, that could be improved, but that doesn’t mean that another country has the answer, or that those same said issues are better in another county. Moving overseas isn’t necessarily about things being ‘better’ or ‘worse’, it’s just about the difference it makes to the traveller’s life experience. The old adage of ‘fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly’ is actually painfully accurate in this instance. If I’ve learned nothing else to date it’s that you have to follow your own path, find your bliss, live your dream or any other cliched and trite ditty that works for you. It’s true though. If you’re not living your life authentically then you won’t be happy wherever you are now or wherever you think you might be in the future. For me part of that was following my dream of coming back to my family’s ancestral home, of being able to walk down the same streets they did, of looking out across the same fields or waters as them, albeit they’re a lot different now to fifty or a hundred years ago, but it’s still that sense of sharing time and space with the people who made me who I am, whose blood flows through my veins. Some have called me a romantic, pinned that on my being a writer and smiled with the all knowing sadness in the belief that I’m wrong, or that I’ll do this for a few weeks or months and then head back to warmer climes. If I do it’ll be because that’s where I’ll feel I need to be for the next leg of my journey, not because I’ve come to my senses.
For me home has always been about my inner sense of being, it’s not tied to a location, or a possession, it’s me. In that moment, in a place, maybe alone or in company. I’m a philosopher, a poet, a traveller on my own path, sometimes it’s a little patchy and hard to follow, but that only means I need to pay more attention in walking forwards. As for why I made the decision to move, or whether or not there’s a success/fail element, or an unanswered question of political allegiance, they’re all rather pointless thoughts to get bogged down in, because they don’t matter. That would be my advice to anyone else thinking about relocating, near or far, dont think of it as a better/worse scenario, there will always be pros and cons to each option, instead ask yourself why do you want to do it, if the answer is anything less than because it’s your truth, then keep thinking about it, your adventure will always be ready for you to embrace it, there is no such thing as a right or wrong time, it’s just time and opportunity. I can think of a lot of reasons to be called brave that have nothing to do with taking a chance on being yourself, there’s definitely crazier ideas and actions than being prepared to walk your path and have faith in it, and maybe that’s what makes me so weird, or a weirdo, because I have chosen to believe that I’m doing what’s right for me, to stop dreaming and start living, without expectation of anything other than staying true to me, and if that’s the case, then I’ll quite happily be the weird one, because at least I’ll be happy in my own skin and at home in my own mind wherever I happen to be.
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