How Ya Goin?

Wollongong Local Rockstar

Halloween. A holiday met with resistance here in Australia. Many people scoff at the idea of dressing up and asking for candy, not fully realizing that only the kids (usually only the kids) go trick-or-treating in America, and the real draw of Halloween is to dress up as adults and hang out with each other. It is just another excuse to celebrate life with your friends, and given that Australians love holidays, I was baffled to hear how they brush off halloween. 

Granted, I am still unsure of exactly what halloween is.

I wish you could hear this wind. It’s 3 AM and the wind is blowing with such force the whole house is shaking. I can only imagine the halloween decorations outside and their current whereabouts. Winds like these have always reminded me of fall, which is comforting given the fact that it is fall back home. Here, Spring is passing its time off to Summer. Storms roll through with a quick and poignant ferocity, leaving just as quickly. The wind blows with a strength that makes me want to get out of bed and run down to watch the sea. I have always loved the way wind howls as it blows through spaces. Tonight is no exception.

My current location is in my new house. I haven’t learned the sounds yet, and the novelty of renting a room as a traveler in a foreign country is bizarre to me. This is the first room I have rented in a house with less than 5 people in it. Maybe I’m finally growing up? The yearnings for home have their fingers delicately balanced on my heart strings. I didn’t realize how much I would miss fall, with its warm winds and crisp mornings. The contrast of the leaves back home turning to orange, vs. the flowers blooming purples and pinks here summons a strange nostalgia for the familiar. I do not know the seasons here, and my body feels backwards with its cravings for the cozy, chai drinking, pumpkin carving, warm scarf days of home. 

My New Home

Then pops in the age old question, “What is home.” Home is where the heart is… Home is wherever I’m with you… Home home on the range… home… Well if you ask webster dictionary, as a noun, home is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” That is fair, I suppose, though the definition of family seems to be constantly in question as well. There is blood family, and then there are those people who you happen upon in life that make you feel a little more you. Both are equally important for creating the person you identify yourself as. I like the “permanently” part of the definition because that is a word I rarely frequent. Nothing in my life is permanent. It seems that things are coming and going constantly. 

The definition of home that seems more suitable for me comes in the verb form, “(of an animal) return by instinct to its territory after leaving it.” Now I am not sure that I have landed in my territory, but some of me believes that I need the separation from California in order to feel her calling again. My instincts pull me back to the sandstone mountains and Santa Ana winds at the same rate that they push me towards everything else in the world. The freedom of being a human echoes across the escarpment, through the turqouise waters, and into my heart as I bury my feet in the sand and walk home holding hands with strangers and swimming in the ocean with the moon bright above. 

Currently, Australia is a beautiful home. I have fallen in love with the gumtree forest and the way the people here talk in their round lazy slang. I’ve learned that when people ask “How ya goin,” not to respond with how I am doing, but rather just to say hi. I now know that they call squash, pumpkins here and that capsicum are bell peppers and Cilantro is called coriander. Australians put cocoa in their cappuccini, a flat white is made of heaven, and that “afternoon” can be shortened to Arvo. When someone asks “You alright?” It isn’t because you appear to have something wrong, but rather it is just a nice way of saying “All good?” Banana is pronounced with the long A sound, and no longer rhymes with Hannah unless you pronounce my name with a british accent.

My name is maybe the most endearing part of being in Australia. You see, Australians inherently nickname everything and everyone. Shortly after introducing myself as Hannah, I am called “Han.” I have never liked that nickname before, but the accent here softens it up, and the sweetness of having strangers call you by a nickname brings a level of closeness I have only found in a select crew of humans back home. I have never had a nickname that stuck before, and I love the novelty of having one here. For now, this home is one of the best I have ever had.

Before Going Down Under

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I have always wished there was a list for how to gracefully leave a place. A list for who you need to see, what you need to do, and how you need to pack. For me it always seems like a desperate whirl-wind of chasing the people I love around California, unloading everything I own into a giant pile in my parents house, and then making last minute trips to the thrift store to drop off the unwanteds and no-longer-needs before meticulously packing my bags up until the minute I HAVE to get into the car to go to the airport. Because of this wish for a straightforward list, I will try my best to make one later on in this post.

What no one really says about traveling is how hard it is to leave the ones you love. There always seems some kind of glorification around the traveler’s ability to up and leave on the flip of a coin, but the truth is that it is never that easy. Every time you leave a place, you are choosing to put your life with the ones you love on hold. Social media can only go so far to act as a buffer from that separation, and so you share your life through pictures and the occasional facetime. However, it is never easy. Liberating, sure. But easy, no. There is always a tug pulling you back towards the lives of the people you have cared about for your whole lives, whom strangers can never truly stand-in for.

This being said, for many of us, it is worth it. By letting go, we find ourselves. Yeah, yuck, it’s cliche, but in full honesty no one knows who they are until they find space from the people that think they know who they are. And when the traveler gets onto the plane and steps into uncertainty, the only person they have to believe in is themselves. The true traveler recognizes this separation. She can acknowledge the choice she made to travel, and the goodbyes she had to make, and the hellos she will be able to create. And then, in the end, the people who are there when she returns are the ones that are meant to stick around. It’s an unusual test, but it’s just another way to sort through the chaos.

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Without further ado….

Who to see: You usually will have a limited number of days to say your goodbyes. This means you need to be selective about who you say goodbye to. Spend quality time with your closest friends and family and write down their addresses before you go. Everyone loves letters. Do not waste your time on acquaintances. You will probably end up spending more money on coffee and beer than you need to in the days before leaving.

What to pack: 1. Shoes are the most important thing. Do not pack any shoes you can’t walk more than a mile in. I like to bring a pair of boots, sandals, and running shoes to keep up with whatever comes my way. 2. The little black dress. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the black dress. It will love you on the days you can barely move from exhaustion. It can dress up and down. It is lightweight. Everyone loves a black dress (I got mine from Ross.) 3. Enough shorts and shirts and pants not to have to do laundry every day, but not too many that you’re faced with the crippling decision of what to wear every day. I like to bring an assortment of clothes that all match with each other so I can swap shirts and pants accordingly. 4. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the camping essentials are a must. I never travel without my sleeping bag and a pair of long underwear to get me through long nights. This addendum to the list is bulky, but saves you in the long run by being able to camp instead of book a room. 5. Toiletries, duh, but facial wipes are amazing for long stints without showers. Nail clippers seem to be the friend I always forget, so I’ll throw that up here for fun. 6. A good book. Only one. You will find more as you go I promise. 7. A shawl for the plane. It doubles as a blanket and is an amazing travel companion. I just discovered this one recently.

What to do before you go: 1. Put everything you’re not taking into a cozy storage space somewhere so as not to burden anyone with your belongings. 2. GIVE AWAY EVERYTHING. I mean sure, if you are super thrifty you can throw a garage sale or sell to consignment shops, but trust me the things you have left will only beckon you to come back sooner. The less you have, the more free you are. I cannot stress this enough. 3. Notify your banks that you are leaving…. otherwise you may end up in a foreign country with no money, just saying. 4. Check the visa requirements and read the fine print. If you are doing a work holiday visa, make sure all of your forms are filled out and turned in. If you can only stay in a country for 3 months, make sure your final destination there is near a border for a quick escape (just kidding kind of). 5. Triple check what you packed to make sure you have everything, and then get on the plane and go! Let the stoke fill you up as your stomach drops into “what the hell am i doing?” and then back to “hell yeah, lets do this.” Traveling is always worth it. Always.

I am currently packing up for Australia. The goodbyes have been said, and all that is left is to get myself down to the airport. Stay tuned for the adventure to follow.