Living abroad, the prospect of heading home for a sabbatical is joyous. Yet, when you live on the other side of the world from your hometown there’s something quite anxiety-ridden about journeying back for a once-a-year trip (for that’s what money and time can only afford).
Existing and prospering away from your home is unnatural. It’s not normal to suddenly blossom away from your kin. Even those from dysfunctional, irrational or debilitated backgrounds still retain an intrinsic relationship with their physical environment.
Growing up in the heart of coastal suburban 90s Australia I had an innate longing for escapism. The gruelling, pulsating, saturating, engorging colours and conversation both grated and exhausted me. The beach was wonderful and a place to free your shackles and be utterly primitive, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted a city, big smoke, cocktails (there were no bars nor clubs where I grew up), animation and diversity. I wanted to immerse myself culturally, emotionally and physically in a well-formed zeitgeist.
Australia prides itself on ‘newness’, but it’s also a country that’s shackled to its past and is more conservative than one may have previously imagined. And nowhere is this conservativism greater epitomised that in the ‘burbs’. There’s no such thing as museums, libraries, theatres or town halls where I’m from. The only subculture we have are surfies and the beach is not only our refuge but is the backbone to our entire coastal society.
At eighteen I was off and away, salivating for an all-consuming milieu of nostalgia – I had an appetite for idiosyncrasies of a bygone past, an appetite that wasn’t being fed in my hometown.
Yet, with nearly a decade looming of living out of home I now (rather paradoxically) consider myself unequivocally Australian. I am rooted to my former physical environment; the beach, the remorseless sea, the golden sand, tropical rainforests, dense scrubland and burnt embers. Living in a city of 8 million people will sure to evoke a heightened homesick emotion for your home of 3,000.
We are shackled both intrinsically and psychically to our original home. No matter how far we distance ourselves, we are always defined by our former abodes.
So, bon voyage as I journey forth this Christmas. It’s a mere three weeks, but it’s a chance to immerse myself in my suburban past once more.