There is something comforting about familiarity amidst the unknown, however much you don’t want to admit it.
Before we left England, I had this vision of our idyllic nomadic lifestyle, of moving from place to place with no attachents, relying not on ‘things’, on western privileges, but rather on our ability to adapt to new surroundings and to relish all that is different from what we have left behind at home. I don’t think I realised that this was proving a challenge until we reached Australia, and more specifically, Ben and Rachael’s house in Maitland, near Newcastle, a couple of hours from Sydney. James and Rachael grew up down the road from each other in Devon, and when we stayed with her it was like a homecoming experience – our little corner of home in the Hunter Valley: a comfy bed, our own space to relax, a proper cup of tea, cereals in the morning instead of green pancakes, driving on the left, talking of home and people we know back there… the relief and comfort of these (seemingly trivial) things was so enjoyable and relaxing that I felt almost guilty. Surely the adventure and challenge of the unknown was the point of this trip, the removal from our context a key part of us growing and learning? Cringe.
I did a lot of thinking about this. I enjoyed Indonesia a lot, but the relief of arriving in Australia made me worry that I wasn’t open enough to people and places that are completely different from what I’m used to; that somewhere that felt so much like home was so enjoyable to find got me feeling as though we’d somehow failed a little at this whole travelling thing.
Perhaps we’re just home birds, unable (or unwilling?) to separate ourselves from the safety of the concept of home, or maybe because we both grew up with such a strong sense of Devon as home means we haven’t experienced the changes necessary to embrace the rest of the world as ‘home’, or perhaps – and maybe I’m most convinced by this – everyone has an attachment to the concept of home (whether that be found in certain people, places or comforts), and however much we convince ourselves otherwise, humans are intrinsically settlers, and we cannot escape that our greatest comfort is found in that which is intimately known to us. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this.
Whichever of those is closest to the truth I don’t know, but I came to the conclusion that this life and this journey is not a lesson on beating ourselves up about not struggling enough, but instead experiencing, learning, growing. And that, I suppose, is exactly what is happening in articulating these thoughts. Here’s to unashamedly embracing familiarities found halfway across the world!
So, in the spirit of western privilege, and full of tea and kangaroo meat, we proceeded to find the most familiar things nearby that could satisfy our homely cravings… wine, cheese and beer.
And boy oh boy, was it fun. After our chauffeur dropped us in the wine region (thanks Rachael!), we spent the day being blown by gale force winds from winery to winery, absorbing knowledge and repeating expert phrases (“Ooh, look at the legs on that… Hasn’t this aged well?… Has this been barrelled in French or American oak?”). By the time we were on the fifth winery, and many tasters down, we had become far more knowledgeable, but far less coherent.
As the haze of Semillon began to lift, we found ourselves atop a blustery hill at the Hope Brewhouse tasting beers and ales, when what should we spot out of the window but our first kangaroos! (This was quite a momentous occasion for these two sheltered Devon home birds who were disappointed that they hadn’t seen a ‘roo within the first 24 hours of being in Aus.)
So, these two happy, kangaroo spotting, kangaroo eating, cheese tasting, wine connoisseurs from Devon have arrived in Aus, and are unashamedly beyond delighted to be here and experience all that this vast country has to offer.