When Does a Traveler Become a Resident? . . . The Search for a Place Called Home

"Art & About" Festival on the streets of Sydney

As with my post on my first six months abroad, I have been both planning on (read: procrastinating) & dreading (yep, *more* procrastinating) writing this post for quite some time now.  As my days in Oz quickly draw to a close, I can’t even begin to come to terms with the mixed emotions I’m currently feeling.  I apologize in advance if this post is not as cohesive as it could be, but perhaps this stream of consciousness style best mirrors my current frame of mind . . .

Below is a letter I wrote to my parents some time ago:

Dear Mom & Dad,

I want to come home.  I wish I could.  Today is Monday.  Everyone in my tent is homesick.  We haven’t been doing much.  Remember you said Kelly’s mom might pick up me & Kelly, well I want you guys to come too.  I hate the songs we sing.  Last night it rained & today it rained too.  I hope the days go faster because it’s getting more & more boring.  Please right back soon. (Editor’s Note: This is not a typo, that’s just how I spelled ‘write’ at the time – oops!)

Love, Niki

Home Sweet Home - in cold & snowy Buffalo, NY

OK, so hopefully you’ve figured out by now that this letter truly was sent *quite* some time ago – as in over 20 years ago!! 😉  I was away at summer camp with a friend & clearly I was having a hard time. 😦

Fortunately life in Oz has not been quite so miserable (far from it, in fact), but that’s not to say it’s always been easy.  While I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything, there were definitely periods when I wished I could take a sort of “time out,” for lack of a better word (a vacation from my vaction, perhaps?), to visit with loved ones & experience the familiarity of home (Take bananas, for example – do you have any idea how much it cost just to get a banana here after the Queensland floods?  Try $15/kilo (that’s almost $7/lb!)  Oh, how I longed for a banana!  Fortunately prices have recently come down & I can once again afford the delicious fruit. :))

But here’s the thing – as much as my blog might portray my experience abroad as a vacation, of course it’s much more than that.  I do in fact eat more than just dessert – heck, I even cook my own dinner once in a while! (despite the lack of culinary skill I displayed in my Thanksgiving post, I do alright for myself ;)).

Nanie's Homemade Soup - Made by Moi!

I go grocery shopping.  I do laundry.  I vacuum & do dishes & rake leaves.  And although I know it was only part-time for six months, I worked in order to support myself.  And at some point along the way I stopped feeling like a traveler.  In fact, I think I almost stopped identifying as a foreigner (besides the accent – gives me away every time ;)).  But in all seriousness, in some ways, I started to feel more like a local.

I don’t think I can pinpoint the first time it happened, but I can give you some recent examples.  Like on my bus tour to nearby Hunter Valley – everyone else on the tour (besides my flatmate Mia) was truly a non-resident of Sydney (including the Melbournian on the trip) – visiting the city only briefly & staying with friends or in a hostel or hotel.  When the bus dropped us off back in Sydney at the end of the day, one of the girls from the tour asked Mia & I where we were going.  “Home,” she replied.  And then there’s the guy from Melbourne who asked me for directions just the other day . . . & I actually knew where to send him! (which, if you know me at all, is a pretty big feat since even in my own hometown my navigational skills are pretty hit or miss 0:-)).

Home Away from Home - My Flat in Sydney

So maybe you can understand why, although I’ll be going home next month, it also feels a bit like I’ll be *leaving* home.  I’ve become accustomed to the cars driving on the other side of the road, seeing (& tasting) every macaron flavor known to man each time I walk into one of Adriano Zumbo’s patisseries, hearing phrases like “how ya goin?” & “good on ya!” on a regular basis . . . I’m going to miss that . . .

Macaron Day 2011 Window Display

I thought I would have a clearer picture by now, but I still can’t fathom how this experience might shape the way I make decisions moving forward: What will I do next in my life because of the time I spent abroad?  I can’t imagine a future which doesn’t include more travel – there are so many places I still want to see.  But I also know that, for me at least, long-term solo travel can take its toll.  After months away from friends & family, I am aching to return home & hug my loved ones.  So I am torn.  Drawn to both adventure & comfort in equal measure.  Away for too long & I start to feel homesick; Stay in one place & I become restless.

As I once again ponder my next steps in life, I feel it’s appropriate to remind my readers (& myself) of the travel/life philosophy I wrote at the beginning of this journey:

Live in the Moment

Step Outside My Comfort Zone

Let My Heart Lead & My Mind be the Accompanist

Seek Passion in all its Forms

Although I don’t think it will ever be easy for me, I’m beginning to understand (on an intellectual level, at least) that it’s OK not to know.  That what comes next cannot always be neatly laid out like tomorrow’s clothes.  Sometimes it’s nice just to wake up in the morning & ask yourself, “What would I like to do today?”

Now before you scoff at how naive that may sound, let me clarify that I don’t intend for that statement to be taken literally.  What I mean is this – who we are & what we desire is constantly evolving.  Throughout our lives we continuously meet new people, develop new interests, learn new skills.

Lauren & I at Bar 99 in Glebe

I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to sit with the not knowing – it’s not.  But maybe it’s not so important for us to be able to answer all of life’s questions; perhaps it’s enough simply that we are not afraid to ask them.

All I can really say for certain at this stage of my life is that I will continue to ask questions – of myself, of others, of the world around me.  I think that’s the best way to stay true to each of the ideals I’ve been striving towards throughout the past year.

So . . . What would I like to do today?  Today I think I’ll hop a flight to Queensland – Christmas on the beach sounds rather nice . . . 😉

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Auntie Marilyn
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 03:19:37

    What an awesome post Niki – you really should be a writer – glad to know that we will see you soon – hope you stay home for a while. On the positive side – no snow in Buffalo – today it’s raining and in the 50s. Love you honey!

    Reply

  2. Mindy
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 09:34:47

    Niki, first of all, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I loved this post……so much that I can’t think of any thing funny to say. Your insights are those of a much older and wiser person. One of my favorite things in the morning is to have nothing planned so I can do whatever I want. It’s so liberating. You are so lucky to have had this opportunity to spend a year in OZ, and I’d bet the ranch you’ll be on the road again soon. It suits you. Happy trails to you in Qweensland, and New Zealand.

    Reply

  3. Aunt Penny
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 14:26:16

    Niki, I can imagine the mixed emotions you’re feeling right now. Just think about all you have to look forward to… seeing us (and your Mom if she doesn’t get lost in Chicago)… going home to the rest of your loved ones… moving back into your house. Have a wonderful Christmas on the beach and look forward to a New Year that I know will be bright because you will follow your passions, listen to your heart and stay out of those ruts! Love you and see you soon.

    Reply

  4. Camille
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 15:01:24

    Oh how I remember that letter from camp and how homesick you were. I also remember how I wanted to jump in the car and bring you HOME that very day.

    Another beautiful post straight from the heart that brought tears to my eyes once again.

    Merry Christmas to our beautiful, warm and wonderful daughter. We can’t wait for the hugs either.

    Love and miss you – MOM & DAD xoxo

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Dec 18, 2011 @ 19:50:14

      Haha – when you emailed me that letter from summer camp I just knew I’d have to find a way to include it in a blog post! I know my being so far away from home is hard for you (both then & now!) & I’m so grateful to have your love & support in everything I do. Won’t be long until I see you both! :o*

      Reply

  5. Barb Beall
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 01:32:04

    You really do have a gift. It’s so interesting reading your blogs. Looking forward to hear about your adventures in person. Christmas on the beach sounds awesome! Have a wonderful holiday, can’t wait to see you, love always, Aunt Barb, Uncle Tom, Tommy and Jenna

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Dec 18, 2011 @ 19:57:19

      Thanks! Christmas has such a different feel here – warm, of course (but with lots of rain – ugh) . . . at least there’s no snow! That’s one thing I really can’t say that I miss about Buffalo. Stay warm & have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 🙂

      Reply

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