Every time I go home for a visit I get terribly excited, start making lists of what I want to do, who I need to see and what I should buy so I can make the most of my three months in Australia (as my Italian husband travels on a short tourist visa- I’m sure there will be many more posts about my husband’s future odyssey on obtaining Australian citizenship!)
The long haul flight from Rome to Perth Western Australia is what really gets me down: the never-ending waits in airports, uncomfortable airline seats, insomnia, the drone of the plane engines (which is actually less thanks to the new generation of airbuses!), the drying out effect of recycled air conditioning, swollen feet and the dreadful sensation the journey will never end (Rome-Perth is 13,330 km’s)
Landing in Perth W.A is like coming out of a dark tunnel, the harsh sunshine, the flatness of the terrain and the god awful feeling of isolation. Why is Australia so far away from the rest of the world?
In the first few days, I always feel stoned as if I have fallen out of the sky or as if I have been on another planet until I slowly remember how life is in Australia. Every visit home is like recalling a long-lost memory gradually coming back to me, always slightly embarrassing and refreshing at the same time.
Australia for me is like seeing an old friend after many years, at first there is an awkward moment when you wonder if you will still connect and the joyful relief when you replenish your friendship. I think Australia and I will always be ‘mates.’ I love how free this country makes me feel, as if everything is new and possible, living in an old country takes this sensation away from me. I also cringe at the lack of style and history, it seems I have become a terrible snob spoilt by the abundance of culture in Europe. Every time I am home I am shocked at how uncomfortable English was on my tongue, it seems I have become more fluent in Italian than I could ever realise.
I love catching up and spending time with friends and family, for this the time is never enough. But I hate feeling like a tourist in my birthplace and try to shy away from sightseeing, I like to pretend I am living here full-time and do the things I always have done.
I’m always in two minds while visiting home after being away for years at a time, it’s the dilemma of people with each separate foot in a different country, arriving is bliss while leaving is guilt and depression, for those you leave behind.
Each visit is incomplete as I never get to see everyone I love and as I leave there will be an older generation of relatives who will not be there next time.
Then there is the inevitable fate of losing your own parents, it is a thought which still fills me with dread. A few weeks ago I read Cheryl Strayed best seller ‘Wild’ and the part where she describes how she loses her mother to cancer, unlocked my deepest fears and left me weeping and wailing into my pillow.
Coming home is pleasant but it opens up many fears and insecurities which are difficult to hold back. The way I resolve my mixed feelings is the same way I deal with anything bigger than myself, taking it in bite-sized pieces, thinking positive and living the moment, there is no sense in tearing myself in two over the eventualities of life, after all, we are made to survive them.
I have the privilege of experiencing two of the most unusual parts of the world and I love them both. My gratification is they are both a part of me. Letting go is always the hardest part of life but the freedom it offers gives us the best means to actually live life as it should.
At the time this post was published I was visiting Australia and didn’t blog for a couple of months.
But I am back in Sicily and travelling around the island, so be sure to email me any questions or suggestions of places you’d like me to visit or write about.
Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments, enjoy the journey.
2 thoughts on “Going home: an expat’s internal conflict”
Well, you probably won’t read it until you return so this is a sort of retrospective ‘happy vacation’. I hope you achieve all you have planned.
Thank you for your thoughts and feelings. Many of us have similar conflicts about who we are and our response to our birth home. My experience tells me that the adopted home slowly transitions into your spiritual home. Sicily will be your children,s home. Unwilling or not, if you stay in Sicily, chances are that you will become Sicilian and Australia will become the past.
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