There’s No Place Like Home…Melbourne, Fall 2011

Dorothy, a young, Midwestern, redhead simply clicked her heels and left the land of Oz. And I, a young, Midwestern, redhead will be doing the same thing very soon – though leaving won’t be quite as simple as clicking my heels three times.

My family is currently sitting in a San Francisco airport waiting to board a plane to Sydney, and I know that my time here will come to a close when I pick them up tomorrow from the Melbourne airport. Not that I’m not excited for them to be here, I’m absolutely ecstatic, but things just won’t be the same. My old life and my new one will finally collide and I’ve got to figure out they will be able to coincide. I’ll be visiting all of my favorite places for one last time, this time as a tour guide instead of a simple admirer. All of my favorite meals at my favorite last restaurants will be bittersweet, since they’ll be my last. This next week, all of my experiences with my family will have a bitter twinge to them. A sad little reminder that I don’t know when I’ll get to eat, drink, or experience these things again.

Ever since finals have been over and my brain has been able to do things other than draw conclusions from postmodern theories, I’ve been able to reflect on my time here. I’ve relived all the great memories, even the not-so-great, the amazing moments that took my breath away, the moments when I felt most comfortable, the moments when I felt most uncomfortable. And how I’ve changed. And things I’ve learned – the things I’ll be bringing home, but not in my bags. Here’s some advice I’ve gathered over the months:

Say “yes.”
I made a post about this one not too long ago, but one of the most important things I’ve learned over the past five months is to say “yes.” In most cases, it’s not the most comfortable thing to say. But what I’ve come to realize is that every time I’ve said “yes,” it’s always ended in one of my most beloved memories here. It’s such a simple thing to do, but sometimes it’s the hardest. Saying “yes” will get you out of your comfort zone. You’re agreeing to something someone else thought of, something that’s out of your control. And though that loss of control may be the unsettling part, it is also the most fun. Allow yourself to give up control for an afternoon, a night, even a week. In my opinion, it’s better to regret something you said “yes” to, than “no.”

Don’t take pictures.
This may seem a little hypocritical, since I’ve taken (literally) over 1,000 photos since I’ve been here.  But there are points in life that shouldn’t be photographed. When I saw the Twelve Apostles for the first time, when I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, when I saw Sarah Jessica Parker at the races, I wanted to experience those things through my own senses. I didn’t want to have to worry about getting the perfect shot, only to be later disappointed when that moment wasn’t captured perfectly. And when I think back to those poignant moments in my time here, I remember them so vividly, that I don’t even need a photo to remind me. Experience those moments with your own eyes, instead of through a lens. You’ll be grateful later you got to experience it rather than fumble with your camera.

Humans are humans
As silly and obvious as this sounds, it’s something important I’ve learned between traveling to Honduras as well as Australia. Humans are humans – no matter where you are. Just as I have insecurities and am self critical; just as I want to make friends and also spend time alone – so does everyone else on this planet. Here in Australia, I’ve met people from all over the world – Scotland, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Germany – and they are just like all the people I love and know back home. They want to have fun. They want to laugh. They get hurt by the same words and actions. They are disappointed by the same things. They find value in the same words. Humans are humans. And I’ve learned that all of those people, from all of those different places, deserve the same amount of respect as everyone I know back home. The thing is, all of them already knew that. I have never been treated with more respect or hospitality in my life. I can only hope that, as I become a more involved citizen of this world, and the more I travel, that I can remember that we are all the same. And that everyone deserves as much love and respect as the next person.

And as for me, I’ve learned many things about myself as well. For one, I’ve gained a lot more respect for myself. I never realized just how strong I was until I stepped on that plane headed for Sydney. I was able to meet people and make friends from all over the globe. I was able to find my way around a large city without getting lost or hurt. I was able to settle in. I was able to cook my own meals, pay for my own laundry, schedule outings and throw parties with friends. I accomplished lots of things that I didn’t even know I was capable of doing. And with that self respect came self love – something that, as cheesy as it sounds, I didn’t have a whole lot of before I left. I settled back home, because I didn’t expect much out of myself or respect myself enough to ask for more. I was too lazy to change things for myself, as unhappy as I was. But not anymore. I have the strength to change my life, myself, and the relationships around me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have this opportunity to see my life back home from a whole different perspective. I’ve been able to look at my life and see exactly where I’m unhappy. I’ve been able to see the relationships where I know I haven’t been treated all that great. I see unhealthy habits I adopted – both physically and mentally. But now I love and respect myself enough to change all of those things when I return home. I deserve to be the happiest person I can be – because that exactly who I’ve been since July.

Going into this experience, I did want to change. But I guess I underestimated just where that change would occur, and to what extent. The only fears I have about going home – besides everyone getting sick and annoyed by me talking about Australia – is that I will forget about all the things I’ve learned here in Oz. I worry I will go back to my old ways, get in the same habits, and lose all the progress I’ve made. Luckily, I have plenty of friends, pictures, and blog posts to remind me of the person I have become here Down Under. And they won’t let me forget.

Tomorrow morning will be one of the most bittersweet moments of this trip – seeing my family for the first time since July. We’ll travel for a few weeks, I’ll say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made, and then I will finally step on a plane in Sydney that will bring me back home to my old life in America. I’m not sure what the future will hold for me, but at least I can say that I survived here. I had the best five months of my life. I did things I would never do, I took risks, I challenged myself, and I was able to make space in my life to allow myself to grow. I hope to step off that plane in Kansas City a different person than I was when I left – I would be worried if I didn’t.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

 

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1 Comment

  1. This is a great post. I remember having many of the same feeling that you may be going through as I finally came to the conclusion of my study abroad experience. It was bitter yet sweet at the same time. But well worth every struggle that I went through. I hope the remainder of your travels are enjoyable and you can grow even more as a person. Remember to take sometime for yourself when you get back and and don’t be afraid to open up. It will help during the reverse culture shock stage.

    Best regards and great post,

    Ashlin Dz W.

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