We’ve officially missed our flights back to Europe from Australia. Deliberately. Friends and family and the forest have proven to be impossible to leave a second time around. Read on to catch up on the unforeseen (aren’t they all?) happenings of the last few months.
We stay with Mike’s parents for the first couple of weeks back, which is a place we’ve house-sat together in the past, so it feels like home (and of course, it’s Mike’s childhood home). We both love it here as it’s nestled on the edge of the national park in the Dandenong Ranges. For the first few weeks back, we’re immensely jet-lagged and wake up just before dawn, around 5:30am. Every morning, about 10 mins before the sun rises, the kookaburras all begin cackling together as if they know something we don’t about the movements of celestial bodies, and it’s all one big joke. The lightening sky quietens them and the sun rises in-spite of their derision.
The weeks before our flight were spent hopping between AirBnB places in the UK, in our attempt to escape the dreary existence of living in a motorhome in a field which is steadily becoming more and more quagmire and less and less field with every passing soggy day. It’s the middle of summer, when we arrive back in Australia; 30+ degree every day. We take our breakfasts on the verandah overlooking the Dandenong Ranges national park and list the birds we spot with gleeful grins plastered on our faces – rosella, kookaburra, sulphur crested cockatoo, king parrot, black cockie, pink gallah, rainbow lorikeet. The birds were something we knew we were going to miss. In fact, they and our people were the only things we did miss about Australia, in the end. After breakfast we recline on the lounge chairs on the verandah, soak up the sun, read, watch the birds and bask in the surreality of being back in Australia.
On our first walk into the forest we say to each other how great it would be to see an echidna or hear a lyrebird perform again. We hear a rustling in the undergrowth and there’s movement by the side of the track:
On our next walk we hear a lyrebird display. This is an old recording as it was too distant to record this time around (if you’re not familiar with lyrebirds, they imitate the songs of other birds, so all the songs you hear on this recording is actually one bird):
A couple of days after arriving home we drive down the Mornington Peninsula to visit family. We’re shocked at the brownness of the countryside. Everything looks so ugly to my eyes. We also notice the difference in architecture here compared to Europe, as we drive through Melbourne’s sprawling outer-suburbs. Everything looks temporary. As if everything’s been built as cheaply as possible and only expected to last as long as the home owners do. If it wasn’t for The Hills (what Hills People call the Dandenong Ranges), I would find this a deeply depressing place to return to. I’ve never felt an affinity for Australiana and I think of my lush, green, wet forest as an oasis.
I’ve been exercising only sporadically since the weather in the UK became too cold to exercise outside and we then bounced between temporary AirBnB accommodation. I’m really looking forward to going for a run in the forest but don’t get very far before I see the echidna again! After watching him for 10 minutes I head off again. The screech of sulphur crested cockatoos follows me through the forest as I run. I swear they’re following me; probably suspicious of my reasons for running in the same bit of forest their vulnerable babies are nested in.
I head to central Victoria to see my folks who live in a tiny town called “Dookie”. More brown, more depressing. The front lawns and nature strips of the houses in Shepparton (the closest large town to Dookie) are brown, dying, and dusty. When Mike and I see people mowing their lawn in a cloud of dust we joke that they’re mowing their dirt.
We’ve scored a house-sit in a beautiful mud-brick house in The Hills for the remainder of the summer. The final thread tying us to Berlin is severed when we’re offered the house-sit again for June-October. We’re not going to save any more money to buy a house by living in Berlin cheaply than we will living in Melbourne rent-free.
We spend the weekends going to open house inspections and hanging out with friends. It’s astonishing to think that after 3.5 years traveling Europe we’ve returned to Australia in a financial position to be able to look at houses to buy! Spending time with kindred-spirits every single weekend is such a joy that leaving again for such a long time has become unthinkable.
Summer comes and goes all too quickly and autumn sees us back in Mike’s mother’s house whilst her and her partner travel. The weather finally turns (summer days here linger until you think there will always be bright, sunny days, until one day there isn’t), and we’re lighting the fire everyday and revelling in the fact that we have a fire to light. My favourite days are ones like today when it rains and I can watch the forest, thinking of all the little creatures and wondering where they go to keep dry and warm (just like I did when I was little), from the comfort of my adopted cozy, fire-warmed home.
We’ve both fallen back into a routine, although now with weekends – we didn’t take weekends whilst we were traveling; we didn’t even know what day it was most of the time! With just five days a week to work on my art and the social media side of things, I’m finding it very difficult to get things done. I’ve taken to working on my art most days of the week instead of alternating between art making and the business side of things, like I used to. I miss the productivity of reclusiveness and am grateful I had utter seclusion for the first couple of years of my painting career.
Life feels very full in a way it never did before we left for Europe. Essentially, our 3.5 years on the road on the other side of the world re-calibrated our lives. It gave us the freedom, the time, the energy to delve into our respective passions completely undistracted. Mike has returned to Australia with an outrageously successful business and a product so innovative even Apple themselves are using it. I’ve come home with the skills, and dedication, and confidence to finally be able to take what’s in my head and turn it into something that exists in the world that never existed before and share it with people. Before leaving Australia I was frustrated at not being able to portray what was in my mind, fearful that I’d never be able to, and horribly devoid of time and energy due to working full-time in a profession that required me to work outside of where my temperament and skills lay.
The 3.5 years of vagabonding also brought what’s important into sharp focus. After almost four years without friends and family, apart from each other, we absolutely cherish our loved ones. Now, I get to both deeply enjoy my quiet days at home painting, and then revel in the company of beautiful people at the end of the week. In the in-between times, I dream of and plan for my future home and garden with my beloved man. What more could a girl want?