I’m struggling to figure out if I’m readjusting to life in Australia or not. On one hand, it still feels like I should be in Germany, planning my next little excursion to some nearby country and greeting people with “Hallo”. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve never even left Adelaide. Skills I thought I might have lost, like driving a massive car or painting tiny soldiers or even small-talking to shop owners in English seem to still be there, totally in tact. I feel like what should have changed hasn’t and what shouldn’t have changed has.
The European adventure of 2015/2016 has, I think, pretty much come to it’s inevitable end with the healing of my blisters, the trimming of my traveller’s beard and the displaying up of all my souvenirs. I should be wrapping up this blog, or at least changing it’s direction less subtly, but I still find myself tied to it, drawn to the practice of spilling my heart over the keyboard. The return and the readjustment are part of the travel experience, of course, and I want to give you the whole, unadulterated picture of what going on exchange is really like.
And travel doesn’t end just because one trip has. Next week I’m hoping to hop to Melbourne, one of my favourite quirky cities, for my birthday, and in the meantime I’ve been dawdling all through my neck of the woods looking at things with a tourist’s eyes and a camera now itching to snap, snap, snap and devour the pretty landscapes I’ve always taken for granted.
The first house I can remember living in was a shoddy and rusted little farm property in Scott’s Creek, a rather wild country area just south-west of Adelaide proper. I’ve never really seen my home-land as a woolly and dangerous place, but heading back, to drive 100km an hour through tree-lined, blind-spot, hair-pin turn, kangaroo-infested country roads, knowing that in any moment you could be lost and on your way to donde cristo perdió los clavos is a hell of a wild ride. Knowing that any second you take your mind of your task you could be skidding in the road-side mulch and on your way to being wrapped around a tree… well, you begin to realise that you’re pretty lucky to have made it this far alive. Country Australia, not even going into the whole Outback deal, can be a scary and dangerous place, but it is also an incredible landscape that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The Adelaide Hills in particular are more mountainous than you’d think, with deep, green valleys that dive into hidden dirt tracks, and sharp rocky hills constantly threatening to pour boulders on your head.
The other night, I journeyed out again to this area with a group of true-blue Aussie mates, the “tradie” type who love nothing more than kicking it about the scrub with a joint and a beer after work, to explore one of two abandoned mineshafts in the area. I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t have to work myself up to crawl through the tight, hellish entrance, but I’m proud to say I did conquer my fear of caves and venture forward into the musty dark.
Exploring these dangerous, semi-collapsed tunnels into history, you really get a sense of where Colonial Australia came from. It’s a history full of dirty people, dangerous jobs and nightmarish conditions. But being out in the countryside you also get a picture of what pre-Colonial Australia was like, with roving tribes going walk-about through the dense scrub, making homes and being, at least more-so than us, part of nature.
It’s incredible to think that all my life I’ve been sitting on a completely breath-taking land and not fully realising it. For all the amazing cities and artworks I’ve now seen, and all the long train-rides through valleys and fields I’ve taken, to be at home among the gum-trees makes me feel like something special. Maybe that’s another side-effect of travel, making you realise that adventure is right around the corner.
Of course, there are heaps of problems with Australia, ranging from political turmoil and corruption, a fair dash of racism and hidden inequalities, so I’m not going to praise it too highly. That’s another side-effect of travel to note; you see all the countries you visit in a golden light, but know enough about your own to see the dark side.
The Beach, The Art, The Dance
To take my mind off of the negative though, I’ve been fully embracing Adelaide’s greatest attraction, the Fringe Festival. Rivalling Edinburgh’s own Fringe period, these next two months are going to be bustling and colourful, full of all manner of visitors, street-performances, serious theatre pieces, art and more. It’s a time when this little city comes out to play.
Yesterday I did a bit of a loop through the painfully slow-going major roads around Adelaide to see two sea themed Fringe pieces, one an art exhibition of Victorian-inspired carnival attractions, the other a song and dance number onboard a replica sailing boat (more on this later!)
It’s the second time I’ve been to Port Adelaide since I arrived, which is odd for me. Normally I steer fairly clear of the industrialised river, ringed by pubs and dive bars, but walking around this area at sunset, ready to see a show and already full of sunshine, I realised that life here is good. It’s quiet, yet full of excitement if you look in the right nooks and crannies. Glenelg beach, one of the most postcard-worthy in Australia, is a great place to try out your sunbathing skills and dip your toes in the water. I only had to see a washed up jellyfish, it’s pink guts splayed open to the world, to remind me that Australia is a wild and interesting world.
After my first day of tanning since God-knows-when I boogied on down into Adelaide proper to find every human being in the city crammed inside one of our Fringe gardens for a rather disappointing DJ set. And that’s when the disappointment kicked in.
With waves and waves of clones and suits walking around, you begin to feel a bit lost out at sea. With beers costing $9 a pop as compared to $1, you begin to feel a little cheated. With the crowds and security and lines as heavy as they are, you begin to feel a little sheepish. Though it’s absolutely fantastic to run into old friends, see the city come alive and appear bustling and important, it’s definitely not as idyllic of a night out as wandering through gothic shambles in York or having dinner and beers with new friends at a hostel in Barcelona. It just seems a bit routine after months of spontaneous travel.
Working in the media, specifically the arts field, is definitely a dream job though, so I’m not going to complain! I’ll bear the slings and arrows of an overcrowded field if it means I can see and write about some of the world’s best performing arts. Just don’t expect me to buy heaps of $9 beers.
Home is Where You Don’t Have to Spend That Much Money
I’ll admit, it’s nice to not have to ride off your slowly dwindling bank-account every night. With all the amenities of home and support close by it’s quite comfortable to live. You realise how much you take your life at home for granted after you leave it… But also how much more exciting and fulfilling living for yourself is.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, freedom and constant change are incredibly important aspects of life but, unfortunately, two things that are hard to attain in this modern world without being left behind by it. It’s a constant struggle to balance life, to find fulfilment in things that also fulfil your bank account.
Of course I worry about the future, at least in the way that everyone does. Am I going to be able to travel again? Am I going to find this fulfilment that I need? Are things going to change anytime soon? Am I prepared for it?
I guess the only thing that can be done is to practice being present. It sounds simpler than it is, but just living in the moment, living for the next hour or the next day or even the next week is so much more helpful, spirituality and mentally at least, than planning for the next year. That’s not to say you can’t make some head starts here or there and start thinking about where you want to be in that years time, but your life is now. The future is too mutable to plan every detail. I can attest to that. So much changed for me on my exchange, and for the better I think. So much was revealed to me and so much of my heart opened that I don’t think life will ever be the same. Positivity is now an attainable trait and one I can live with comfortably. The world is now a lot smaller, but also a lot larger in many ways. The future, even if I’m not trying to worry about it too much at this stage, is now brighter than ever.
But Australia has also given me so much. It’s given me and my family a beautiful home, a unique outlook on the relationship between city and nature, a prosperous life that is so relatively rare in the world. I hope the future gives me chance to give back to the world and the people that have given me so much.
Most of all (as I’m in the spirit of living in the moment here), I hope Electric Holy Road has given you something. I hope these last six months, these sixty or so blog posts, these tens of thousands of words and pictures have helped somehow. I hope they’ve inspired you, taught you or otherwise just entertained you. Because right now, as I wrap up one major chapter of my life and move forward into the next one, the things I care about most are happiness and fulfilment, two goals of life that art, story-telling and, of course, travel can definitely bring about.
So let’s hope it’s not a return to normal just yet, but a return to the good life, a return to constant excitement.