This marks our third week living in Australia. Typically after two weeks on a travel adventure, it’s time to go home and get back to work. I have to get used to the fact that this extended “vacation” is my life. Yesterday I was out exploring parks and neighborhoods and I was surprised by the number of people speaking with Australian accents. Then I remembered, I am in Australia. I guess that’s a good sign that this is already feeling like home.
A friend here told me that living is pretty easy in Australia. The weather is nice, work life balance is a priority, people are polite & pleasant, parks are plentiful and violence is low. There was a national news story this week about a Quantas airline pilot retiring after flying for 50 years. They recognized him and showed he and his wife happy to sail off into retirement. Cute. There was also a story about a king brown snake crawling up into a couple’s car engine. Terrifying. Point being, these are not national news stories I am accustomed to hearing. But don’t worry, there is no shortage of coverage on the U.S. election. Bizarre.
I’ve been getting to know Melbourne by putting in a lot of miles (or rather, kilometers) on foot. A suburb here is what we’d call a neighborhood back home. Each one has a unique vibe. By wandering around the burbs I can quickly tell if it’s a place I want to live. I’d be happy living in many of them, but so far South Melbourne has my heart because I found an “Op Shop,” or thrift store. After window shopping for several days and being sticker shocked by nearly everything, I rounded up a bag full of treasures for $52 USD at the Op Shop.
On a jog through another burb, I passed a friendly road worker standing outside his truck. I caught a familiar tune playing from his vehicle. My Happiness, by Australian band Powderfinger, is a song I discovered 15 years ago when I studied in Australia. I’ve listened to the song a million times, so it’s carved in my memory. The lyrics bring new meaning to me now. They sing, “If it ever starts sinking in, must be when you pack up and go.” Our life was awesome in Minneapolis, but our sense of adventure got the best of us. Our comfort and familiarity with everything started sinking in, so we knew it was time to pack up and go chase new experiences. Now that we’re here, that excitement is back. I’ll ride this out until it starts sinking in, and then see what’s next.
Another lyric brings emotion: “How can I do this to you right now? You’re over there when I need you here.” While most aspects of this move have been positive, one part breaks my heart. One week after we left Minnesota my friend’s dad died. I didn’t get to go to the funeral, hug her and show her that I care. I’ll never forget the phone call I received from her after my dad died, yet I’m absent in her time of sadness. I knew these things were bound to happen, but I really didn’t expect a tragedy to happen so soon.
I have chosen a life I love, but hate it when that choice feels selfish. Another dear friend was in the middle of cancer treatments when I left. I wish I could visit her and bring her soup and goodies. She was one of our rocks when my dad was fighting cancer, but now I don’t get to return that favor. I just sit here on the other side of the world, hoping she can feel my love from afar.
I feel sad for my friends, and selfish for not being there. Then I focus on how I formed my life choices and am reassured in the decision I made. The pure fact that I don’t know what’s coming up ahead is reason enough to be here. If I live as long as my dad did, I’m already 2/3 of the way through my life. I better get my living in.
I need to keep that focus, and remember why I am here. Every now and then, when I hesitate to venture outside because it’s whipping wind and raining, I let loneliness take over. I think about my mom, family, the solid network of friends that became our family, my job, the great people I worked with and the sweet city we lived in. I’ll devolve into a pity party (even though my mom always told me that no one wants to come to my pity party). Fortunately I don’t get too far down, because Will comes home and tells me to “Smarten Up.” I think he’s grown tired of telling me this, since he’s asked me to tattoo it on my arm.
So I venture out. Somehow going on a walk, even in the dark, wind and rain, is a perfect way to clear the mind and feel grateful. The air is fresh, the crows sing a different tune here, the sights are new, and I have legs that will carry me wherever I want to go. It seems like the more I walk, the happier I become…as long as I look the right way before crossing the road, and bring a plastic bag to protect my phone when it starts to rain.
Well friends, thanks for dropping by to read about life in Oz. Here are some pictures of places I discovered this week.