by Andy Mayer
I had a great chat with a gorgeous friend from Australia today. We talked about her maternity leave, how her first born son was growing (and I had never met him), future job prospects, Australian housing prices, the economy, internet dead spots in the house and then she asked me the inevitable question, “When are you coming home?”
This is a big conundrum in our life. I don’t think we are alone in the feelings planning a trip “home” bring up in us.
Let me start with the word home. Our home is Dubai right now. It’s where we live transiently-permanently, where the boys go to school, where we pay rent and where we have a car registered to our address. Mostly home to us is the place our old couch is. It’s a brown couch that cost us a lot 13 years ago and has come with us on each move so that wherever it is becomes our home.
We do not own a property in Australia. We have family in Melbourne, we have family in South Australia ,we have friends that are scattered across NSW, Victoria, Western Australia,Northern Territory and South Australia and we have friends we have met as expats scattered all over the world. Each friendship is unique and marks a certain time and place in our lives.
“When are you coming home?”
My husband and I bring up the subject of going back probably once a month these days. It is friendly debate where we talk about what we miss of “home” who we want to see, what we want to eat and drink and where we want to holiday. It always ends up going around in circles and coming back to rest on the discomfort of choices. Everything goes silent and we walk off in our thoughts to a more comfortable spot. It all gets too hard.
It has been 3.5 years since either my husband or myself have stepped foot on Aussie shores. That alone gets raised eyebrows a lot! So when are we coming home?
Semantics aside because our Home is here. It depends you see. Spring break just finished and we spent that time in Iran because it was affordable, close and an adventure we wanted to undertake. Summer finds my husband working here and low on holidays so we are sending our children back to spend time with grandparents. Fall break will be a short holiday and is not long enough to fly to Australia. We have been discussing spending New Years Eve in South Africa meeting up with a group of friends we made in Mongolia. They are fantastic people and each has already made the trip to Dubai to visit us.
We spent Christmas last year in Georgia hanging out as a family wandering the streets of Tblisi having fun and making yet again more new friends who have invited us to the Uk to hang out this year.. The previous 2 years we spent Xmas in Hong Kong with some old mates from Melbourne and it was a blast. A month over summer was spent in Thailand with a family from Qatar, Xmas next year looks like it will be in Singapore with our good Aussie mates, Spring break might be diving in Jordan and in between there will be a trip for my husband to see a mate in Kiev and a trip for me to see a mate in Russia and maybe another in Indonesia.
There is guilt hanging heavily l around our necks. I need to rub my neck often and the discomfort rivals the memory of a sore neck from sleeping in a shitty spare bed in a friends guest bedroom.
Facebook is a poor indictor of friendships “I know you have lots of fun with your new friends but why don’t you fly home to your old ones?” my friend asks me. I can’t answer her without insulting her.
Expats fly to meet one another to hang on to the friendships that were so important and marked a special time in life. They make the catch up a holiday.Expats often have more disposable income to holiday and more annual leave but there lies the conundrum. Why haven’t we been home?
I want to scream the 14 hour flight is a killer, the week of jet lag sucks , sleeping a few nights in different spare rooms and literally thousands of dollars spent on short term accommodation, car hire, fuel, gifts for those having us stay on their blowup mattress saving us a night in a hotel, dinners, trips to Dan Murphy Bottle shop for champagne, ! I dread spending 8 hours driving to my husbands family home only to get in the car the next day to drive another few hours visiting relatives.
I dread driving back and forth from Melbourne to my parents home always rushing, never relaxed, to curse the price of fuel, yell at the crazy drivers and balk at the urban sprawl. I want to say it is supposed to be our holiday we do it tough at home day in day out just like they do and look forward to spending annual leave relaxing. I could say that but that would be rude, hurtful to my family and friends. How do we see friends in Melbourne,Clare, Geelong, Sydney,Coffs Harbour and Brisbane in such a short time covering hundreds of kilometres?.
“Why don’t you rent a big house the whole time and ask your family and friends to come and visit you?’
I imagine renting an awesome country home.
Great idea I say
I announce we are “home”,come and invite our friends to come and visit.
“We can’t we have Lucas’s 40th birthday party, little Mia has ballet class, Patrick has Auskick, , I have a work function , the kitchen is being renovated, there is an auction, the car is being serviced, got a new job, we have our used all our annual leave ,it’s too far, stay with us.we are off to Noosa/Bali/Fiji for the school holidays,why don’t you come? You guys make heaps of money, I have work and can only come on the weekend”, says almost everybody.
I imagine looking out the Australian holiday window,It is freezing outside, cold wet and miserable as Melbourne winter should be. Lots of friends are planning their 2 week winter getaway to rest and relax.
I already hear myself saying I want to go home.
Home is where my old faithful beat up brown couch is.
DISCLAIMER: I love my parents, parents in law and our Aussie based friends.. You all know which one of you has crappy spare beds! xoxooxox