I’m getting closer to the end and it sometimes frightens me a bit. Closer to the end of my time here at Gidleigh, but also closer to the end of the wonderful journey that this trip to Australia has been and still is.. On the first of August, I will leave Australia and go back to Belgium. It frightens me because I still have no idea what will happen after that, as I have stated before in previous blogs. The one thing I do know though, is that I will definitely come back to Straya one day. Maybe I’ll stay for a longer period of time again (second working holiday visa hopefully!) or maybe I’ll just visit. But I will come back. Just because this country has become my second home.
When you travel, you see a lot of places, you visit a lot, you discover, you learn, you meet people. Yet, you still kind of feel like you’re just passing by. Landing in Australia was different. When I came here, I felt relaxed. I felt like everything was ok and that it wouldn’t be a problem to stay here for a longer period of time. The worrying of the days before leaving Belgium was gone from the moment I landed.
Maybe because I immediately met fellow travellers/backpackers and hung out with them. Maybe because the Aussies really are friendly and hospitable people (they really do spontaneously come and help you when you’re looking at a map and don’t know where to go). Maybe just because of the entire atmosphere. I felt like I could just be me.
Then I started travelling, discovered some of this nation’s beauty, met some of its people. Even travelling between the Aussie cities felt different. Sydney was the starting place, the big city. Melbourne was more relaxed and more into sports, which I very much like. Adelaide was a chill beauty. Darwin was small and too hot, but had its charm, just like Alice Springs. And Canberra, the last of the capital cities that I’ve visited up to now, just feels like my Aussie comfort zone. Of course, I still have to go to major Aussie cities like Perth, Cairns, Brisbane and such, and I’m wondering what those will feel like.
At the same time, working here in Bungendore, this little town close to the ACT, makes me feel like I could fit in in this country. Going to play soccer/football on Tuesdays with the colleagues from Gidleigh Station and the Lake George Hotel and their friends makes me get to know more and more of the people who live here while practising the sport I’ve always loved the most. Even better: everybody I’ve met here seems to appreciate me. I know that sounds like a very selfish thing to say, but it’s just a very nice thing to see how I’m welcomed, how I’m invited to take part. Yes, it’s just a one hour friendly soccer game, but it’s great fun. Jemma, the organizer of this soccer practice, told us last Tuesday that she’s looking to arrange a friendly field soccer game against the team of another town somewhere in July, but immediately answered she would try to organize it on an earlier day when I told her I probably won’t be in Bungendore anymore by that time… A beautiful gesture that made me once again realise that I am starting to be a part of this community, maybe even feeling like a part of this country. I’m not saying I would want to spend the rest of my life in Bungendore, but I do get confidence out of the fact that I managed to somehow became a part of all this and settle in, even if just for three months.
Of course, Australia will never be Belgium. Belgium is my home, where I was born, where my family lives. No matter what happens, I will always feel like a Belgian and I still absolutely love my little homeland in the heart of Europe. With our Belgian fries (to the Aussies, I mean ‘chips’; to the Americans, I the things you wrongfully call ‘French fries’), our chocolate, our beautiful cities (especially Ypres and Bruges), our multicultural and multilingual society, our political bullshit, our sportsmen, -women and teams, our musicians, our artists, our inventors, our creators, our innovators, and so on. I like Belgium and I’ll always be happy to be there again.
So on the first of August, I will be full of mixed feelings. I will feel bad to leave this country, but I will feel happy to be back ‘home’ as well and extremely happy to see my parents and my family again.
Yet, this country has become a part of me. I have travelled to Austria, Brasil, Cyprus, Egypt, England, France, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey before, but none of them made me feel the way I do here in Australia. It’s difficult to describe it. And maybe it is also just because I didn’t stay in these other countries for more than three weeks while I’ve been here in Australia for 7 months already. That’s a huge difference. A part from Belgium, this is the country I’ve spent most time in and that’s a major influence. The more time you spend in a nation, the more you get used to it, the more you fit in.
But you know what the best part of it is? I don’t feel like I’m being judged here. I just feel accepted. In Belgium, I continuously felt like I had to prove myself, that people had the wrong impression of me and had to be proven wrong. Here in Australia, I feel like I can be myself, that people take the time to get to know me and give me the time to adapt as well. (Let’s hope I’m right about that.) At the same time, also here, it’s different of course. Because here in Australia, I suppose I’m still a bit considered as a tourist, as a backpacker, as somebody who’s “just passing by anyway”. Maybe things would be different if I actually lived here, had a full-time job of the kind with meetings, reports and deadlines. Maybe then I would again feel like I have to prove myself to everyone, feel that stress of being judged all the time.
It’s difficult to describe it all, it’s also difficult for me to judge the situation because of the circumstances. I like it here, I definitely do, but maybe it’s just an impression because things are different when you’re travelling around compared to when you live somewhere. I don’t know. All I do know is that I am still having a great time “Down Under”, that I am still embracing every minute of it and that time is still going way too fast (which is proof of the fact that I’m enjoying it here).
Talking about travelling by the way.. Right now, I think I will travel up the Aussie West coast first, when I’m finished working at Gidleigh, and then travel back down to Sydney along the East coast before taking the plane to Brussels in August. That’s the way things look right now, but you can never be certain of your planning when you’re travelling. We’ll see in about three weeks, I guess!