One of the strangest things about going away is the difference between what you remember a place to be like, everything from the smells to a friend’s job, and the reality of what you encounter when you return. It’s even more interesting to realise what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. But perhaps the most revealing is what’s changed about you, in the ways you interact with the world around you. Travel opens you up in ways quite unexpected and freeing.
I expected to dislike the messy streetscapes of Sydney’s west, and to remain unmoved by the glittering showiness of the Harbour. I thought I’d find talk of the future depressing, expecting everyone to be so much more together than I am. I wanted to be somewhere new, make a new life in Australia as far removed from my old one as possible. Mostly, I thought I’d find it difficult to adjust to being so isolated again, so far away.
I was pretty much wrong on all counts. I walk the streets of Marrickville, Leichhardt, Petersham and the lack of tidy German streets doesn’t get to me. I know there is no beauty in the cracked pavements, dirty awnings and traffic jams but I see it elsewhere; in the lorakeets on the bottebrush trees, the sunsets, the sunlight. I love housesitting for Mum and walking home under the eye of the Harbour Bridge, sitting on top of every hill on it’s bed of sparkling blue. I love the views of the cars sitting on the docks and glinting in the sun as I slowly climb the hill of the Anzac Bridge on my bike. I talk easily of the future, certain of finding a good job, a nice flat, a great life. Reconnecting with friends is surprisingly easy, over beer or dinner jokes are made, histories are told. I’m doing a few weeks of relief teaching at my old work, where the students seem the same, the colleagues are all new and my old colleagues are now somewhere else or running the place. I feel optimistic about finding new ways to make my old life interesting. Perhaps its just the summer never seems to end. Or maybe it’s the knowledge I brought back with me about the importance of being at home with yourself to feeling at home where you are. Whatever it is, I’m finding it surprisingly, marvellously, easy to fit back in to life here. Who knew I was carrying the capacity for joy with me all along.