I have never been so disappointed to leave somewhere before. Australia has truly become a second home to me, and watching my apartment disappear out of the window of the bus was one of the most difficult goodbyes I have ever experienced. I have now been “home” for five days, and am still a little disoriented by all the changes: $1 bills, driving on the right, and the most difficult one of all—winter temperatures. The separation from my new home is certainly more extreme than the separation I experienced when I first embarked on this journey, partially because of the seasons and partially because I know I will probably never find myself back in Gold Coast with all the same people ever again. So while it may be a “see you later” to the place and the people, the experiences I have had these past four months will never be replicated.
Writing my reincorporation letter was easier than I thought, as I had discussed what this transition was going to be like with a few of my friends from Australia. However, conveying the messages I needed to was not so simple. I am planning to share this letter with my roommates, but want to wait until I can share it in person. I have shared the contents with my family as well, who understand that this experience has provided me with more life lessons than any classroom. I shared in my letter that I have become what is referred to as a “marginal”. Slimbach describes these people as questioners, often asking “why” to things generally accepted. I shared the following quote in my letter in an effort to convey what differences they may be noticing as I transition home: “Despite the perils and conflicts, being suspended between two cultures confers the rare ability to reframe our own sense of “home” by understanding the ways others imagine it. The long, slow, and hard work of acquiring cross-cultural understanding ultimately finds its payoff in our ability to think and live from a hybrid consciousness, and then to use this special aptitude to make a positive difference in the world” (Slimbach 227). My family did their best to understand my message, but there is so much about this experience that I have been unable to put into words. Something just feels different—like the place I have called home for twenty years is no longer my one and only home. So far, this personal growth has not been recognized by anyone in my home community. I understand that this recognition is important to a successful right of passage, so as time passes I will seek to express this change more openly to my friends and family. I hope that they will still be supportive of this change, and that I will be able to find a new place for the new me in my old community.
It has been hard to not become an “alienated returnee” as I sit in the cold missing my life in Australia. But I know these four months have changed my outlook on many things, and I did not embark on the experience to spend another four months moping about being home again. So I am vowing to carry the new things I have learned—the “gems”, as Slimbach calls them—forward so that those around me can also benefit from this past semester. Gold Coast is a very health conscious and environmentally conscious place, so in order to bring this “gem” back with me, I vow to reduce junk food consumption, and to encourage my family and friends to do the same. Junk food is not only detrimental to our health, but to our environment (think of all those plastic wrappers!). I also vow to “discover the joy of less”. With Christmas approaching, I have never been less excited for Christmas morning. I will be happy to spend time with my family, but no longer feel the need to add to my collection of useless and unnecessary gadgets. For the first time in my life, I really truly feel like I have everything I need (except maybe plane tickets back to Australia, but I should give this place more of a chance I guess). So I vow to keep this momentum going, and use my time and resources to better the world around me, instead of my closet. I will turn the heat down a few degrees, and live without air-conditioning whenever possible. I will minimize my time in the car and carpool whenever possible. I have seen first hand this past semester that this world is a beautiful place, and I want the next generations to be able to see this. Some of my current habits have not taken this into account, but I will work on this for the sake of my global community. I hope these four months will still influence my actions for the rest of my life. As Miriam Beard once said: “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”