Going home: an expat’s internal conflict

Sydney Harbour 2012

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?

Serpentine Jarradale W.A 2012

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.

Gin Gin W.A 2012

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.

Ferry on Sydney Harbour 2012

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.

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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.

 

Don’t quite move to Sicily, yet …

Ah Sicily so picturesque and appealing
Ah Sicily so picturesque and appealing!

I recently got an email from a woman who was contemplating moving to Sicily from the US as she desired a change in her life and felt connected to her Sicilian heritage. She was looking for some advice and here is what I said to her:

Thanks so much for your email, I feel privileged you choose to contact me about such an important choice in your life, I will do my best to be honest and hope I can give you what you are looking for.

As an Italo Australian I can honestly say Italy and Sicily will always be quite alluring to you as it is a part of your upbringing, your family and heritage so you will always feel emotionally connected to Sicily in one way or another.

Living in Italy is never going to be the same as simply visiting it, even if you have gone back and forth for years to visit relatives being here full-time will be a deeply challenging and at times isolating.

I moved to Sicily ten years ago with my Sicilian husband and I can tell you it has not been an easy journey. Yes, Sicily is a beautiful place, great food, wine and the people are amazing. At the same time it is a land of crippling bureaucracy, it’s an old country and so with it’s ancientness comes the problems of an archaic place, it’s not all museums and Greek ruins, it is corrupt, inefficient at an infuriating level, people will try to rip you off and at times the culture shock will be mind numbing. The bigger cities in Sicily have the usual problems of big metropolis, they are densely populated, with high crime rates, they are dirty and confusing. I guarantee you will always feel like an excluded outsider, despite acquiring a fluent level of Italian, there is nothing you can do about it you will always stick out, whether it’s the way you dress, your accent or diverse point of view, a Sicilian will always pick you out as a foreigner and you will be constantly reminded of this.

I suggest if you are feeling strongly about moving overseas why not simply test the waters a little, if you have long service leave coming up why not try to spend a few months here and see how you go? Rent a house for a few months, perhaps instead of coming in the summer try 3 months in the fall when things are more relaxed and real. I think the secret to life in Sicily to create your own community, projects and work towards your goals and above all do not let anyone get you down, Sicily can be a negative place.

The language is going to be important for you too, Sicily more so than anything else will mean one hundred percent Italian as it is a thoroughly monolingual country and it would help if you understood a little dialect too!

Be sure you have a project to keep you busy and connected while you are here, be it doing a language course, teaching english, volunteering, learning about Sicilian cuisine, wine, art, writing a book or whatever else you might enjoy as it will help you feel more connected to the place. The connections to make to the place are what will sustain you if you are not actively experiencing Sicily and not simply complaining about it constantly you will never get anything out of your experience here.

The best advice I can give to you is to be honest and tell you the truth, moving to Sicily isn’t going to be a bed of roses, but if you want to be challenged the an expat life can be rewarding.

So try it and see.

Life’s a journey feel free to try new experiences.

Good luck to you and let me know if you make it to Sicily.

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