Someone once told me that home isn’t a place, but more of an idea within us. You can feel at home anywhere if you want to.
For me, home is now a bit of a scattered concept. Sure, I’ve got my life, my savings and my library here in Adelaide, but I have a piece of my still thumping ticker in the damp and flooded north of Britain, the sun-bleached south-east of Spain, the industrial yet verdant heart of Germany and many other places around the world in which I hung my hat.
It’s been three nights since I returned to Adelaide and three very busy days full of re-organising my life, or at least what I’ve come to think of as my life. In that time there hasn’t been much room to sit and reflect, to touch down deep into my true feelings about returning. I mean, I doubt I’d even be able to discover them at this stage anyway, with so many different mental beasties and angels floating around my head. My mental state is a bit of a chaotic Boschian triptych of emotion at the moment, for obvious reasons. I haven’t yet felt the full force of “post-travel blues”, but I have felt heartache and a certain sense of loss. But at the same time, I’m also feeling incredibly happy. I’m smiling because it happened and I have abundant proof of that. The overwhelming feeling, though, is one of surreality; a pervading sense that somehow the last six months haven’t even happened, that I only left Adelaide last week.
I suppose that’s normal though, right? After a good twenty years of living a specific lifestyle in (for the most part) a single city, the thought that somehow I’d spent six months travelling Europe, meeting amazing people, seeing incredible artworks and buildings and sights, just seems a bit far-fetched. But I did it. I have this whole blog to go back through and read, a phone full of photos to share and enough souvenirs to sink a battleship.
But jetlag and reunions are a potent mix.
My city is not a big one, not by a long shot. From the air it looks like a sparkling grey puddle, splashed onto a hard veneer floor. The plains, scrubs and farmlands stretch all around for thousands or kilometres, over the horizon a hundred times over, but flat as anything. The Yorke Peninsula (the little jagged arm shooting out from South Australia’s belly) looks like it’s been painted straight onto the sea, it’s edges blurring slightly as the brown mixes with the blue. It is a desolate country from above, but below, you get a different idea of the place.
The first thing to strike me on the way home is that the sun was still there. At 8:40pm when my plane touched down it was only just turning to dusk, and as I’m writing now at 8:04pm the frogs and crickets are only just coming out to sing. It’s hard to believe this is the same world after coming from Frankfurt, where night fell like a heavy curtain, swift and brutal at 5pm.
The other thing that’s immediately noticeable is the green. Adelaide is green as hell if they got a good landscaper in for once. Perhaps I was looking at it with a tourist’s eyes for the first time in my life, but the quick drives through the city centre and up into the Hills revealed to me a city that is really connected to and intertwined with nature. You just don’t get that in the centre of Prague, Berlin or even Barcelona. It really is beautiful.
And Adelaide has it’s fair share of beautiful buildings. Adelaide Arcade is a wonder of 19th century architecture, and our riverbank district is actually one of the most beautiful modern urban settings I’ve seen (if you don’t pay too close attention to the poison algae blooms).
Of course, there are some shocking parts of Adelaide, including the monstrous Law Court building and infamous Hindley Street, but overall I think it’s a beautiful little city. Not too big. Not too small. Taking into account towns in the hills like Hahndorf and Stirling, you can begin to see how many people view Australia as an idyllic place to love. I even began to remember why I was hesitant to leave in the first place.
But god damn. To hell with Australia’s largely-still-copper-wire-based internet infrastructure. Even on student dorm connection in Germany I was getting better connection than this. Oh well, no place can be perfect, can it?
One final point I’ve noticed is the general air of relaxation and “she’ll-be-right-ness” floating about Australia. I never believed it until I saw it with fresh eyes, but the Aussie people really are a care-free bunch. I was waved through customs with minimal fuss and a few jokes, whereas I was greeted with stone-cold scrutiny on arrival in Frankfurt. I was also witness to a bunch of true-blue locals chatting up and laughing with coppers on the beat. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen in a major European city, where a lot of the police are now on guard carrying automatic weapons. People feel safe and loose here, at least a lot more so than in Germany.
Leaving Europe behind for a more homely life definitely has it’s drawbacks though. Hell, returning to the family house has been a lot harder than I expected it to be. After a good taste of independence and near absolute freedom to go and do whatever the hell I wanted, to be back home with a certain schedule to stick to, certain expectations from family to adhere to and the prospect of an upcoming job-hunt is a really bitter pill to swallow. I don’t want to start feeling negative again, but it feels like a door has been closed behind me and I’ll have to grope around in the dark for the next one to open. I know it’s there, and that there’s another brilliant light behind, it’s just a matter of getting through the blindness and confusion first.
Silence and positive isolation, two things I grew rather addicted to in the quiet times back in Mannheim, are things now missing. In between loud television and curious parental questioning I haven’t had much breathing room. It’s important to be around people in volatile times because they can get you through them, but it’s also important to have your own time and space to work things out and plan ways to move forward.
It’s probably a mistake of mine, but I also expected things to have changed far more in the space of six months. I know, in the grand scheme of things, that this is not a long time at all, but on my return I was really hoping for some things to have turned around, become more positive or otherwise just mutated to break the monotony. Things like our beyond-stuffed political system, depression and desperation among South Australian job seekers and, of course, the internet, definitely need a shake-up. Even things like new stores or clubs opening up is exciting.
I’ve come to realise I thrive on change. Constant evolution, learning and movement forward is the way to live life to the fullest, not sitting around moping or waddling around an office space. In a “modern” and comfortable setting it is all to easy to loose yourself to stagnation, something I was sinking into before I left for Europe, and now that I’ve returned I’m desperate to not enter those waters again. I’ve seen what it can do to too many people.
So I won’t let it. I may not feel it at the moment, may be feeling a bit stressed and air-headed, but I’m entering a really positive and interesting year, me thinks. Having some time to see the world outside, discover what I love doing and find out what really drives me crazy has put me on the right track towards the ever-escaping “forward”. With big plans to work on my writing as a career, travel more if at all possible and look for new and fascinating avenue to follow after my last semesters of my undergraduate degrees, I can see it being a really a year of growth, perhaps even more so than the last.
But, eh, we’ll see. Let’s just get over the jetlag first.
I’d love to hear other people’s experiences about dealing with “post-travel blues”! If you got it, flaunt it in the comments section.