Reflections On Australia After 6 Years Away

Australia is a beautiful country, full of fabulous scenery, amazing animals and friendly people.

I always knew this, even while I yearned to explore the rest of the world and immerse myself in other cultures. And despite loving Australia, I left to chase my dream.

Although I’ve only been home for three weeks, I’m really noticing the beauty of my homeland and the friendliness of the people (even the customs officer on the way in was friendly, saying “welcome home” as he stamped our passports).

Australia is beautiful

Posing in front of the Sydney Opera House, one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks

I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on things because I’m not zipping around as much as usual, hampered by almost constant hip and stomach pain. (WHO designed this awful state of pregnancy, I ask you?)

So much seems to have changed since I left Australia in 2007.

Here are some of the things that have jumped out at me since I’ve been back:

Prices are crazy

I thought I was prepared for Australia’s higher prices, which really sting when you live in a low-cost country like Vietnam. But 165.9 cents a litre for petrol? $6.20 for a pie? $16.80 for a serve of takeaway fish and chips? It’s insane. (And if you say I’m showing my age, I’ll poke you in the eye with a sharp stick.)

An Aussie meat pie photo courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

The television landscape has totally changed

Darling Man often laments my stupidity in putting my stuff in storage in 2007 when I set off on my “three months or so” adventure, pointing out that my old TV won’t even work anymore because Australia has switched from analogue to digital TV. As well as the signal changing, the stations have changed. There’s now a bunch of strange new channels, called things like Gem and Go, instead of the old stations with the creative names of Channel 9, Channel 7, Channel 10, the ABC and SBS. There’s also ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3.

In previous trips home I hadn’t really noticed what was on TV because Dad had pay-TV (which he hogged) and I was busy doing stuff. But at the moment I am spending a lot of time beached in front of the box, quietly thanking my fellow taxpayers for ABC2, which broadcasts non-violent kids TV shows during the day.

Too many people aren’t here anymore

My Dad is gone, that’s something that has been really hard to deal with over the past two years. I’ve been in Mum’s too-quiet house enough to be used to the lack of Dad-noise. What I wasn’t prepared for was living in a house with no dogs (who are people too, in my opinion).

My wonderful best friend, Molly the cattle dog-cross, died in 2008 after 18 months of living with Mum and Dad and their two dogs.

Molly the super dog

Molly the super dog

Earlier this year, Mum’s husky had to be put down and then, on the day Miss M and I flew into Sydney — five days before we were due at Mum’s house in Queensland, Mum had to put her second dog down. I was so looking forward to hanging out with Sam, the ever-loyal Staffie-cross with the fat tongue that audibly slapped his head when he licked his lips. The house is so quiet and still without dogs wandering around, sighing and snoring and vacuuming up stray food.  Mum’s new chooks (chickens for my North American readers) really aren’t an adequate substitute for intelligent and loyal dog-love.

Both my grandmothers also died since I left. So many people missing … and Miss M is at that stage where she can get totally fixated on a topic. So guess which topic is her favourite at the moment? That’s right — death. We have had seemingly endless conversations about who’s died and why they died and how they died and where they are and whether they woke up again and whether the doctor fixed them. And for some reason Trang Hung Dao, the Vietnamese military leader who repelled the Mongol hordes in 1200s, often rates a mention in these conversations.

Australians have really been sucked into consumerism

This revelation may be the result of more than a year with out newspapers or television, and therefor ads. (Ads that I can understand, by the way, because the Vietnamese advertising is just white noise to me.) Or it could be related to the fact that I’ve lived with minimal stuff for six years. But everyone has so much stuff … and everywhere EVERYWHERE there is advertising urging you to buy buy buy. It’s a bit frightening, really — the cars are huge, the people are huge and the shopping centres are huge and choc-full of people shopping.

 

There are other things I’ve noticed but forgotten now I’ve sat down to be profound, something I’ve never been good at. It’s nice to be home, though. It’s nice to have a friendly chat with the person next to me in the bank queue or the checkout operator. It’s nice to drive alongside other well-mannered drivers. It’s nice to be able to cross the road in front of cars and buses that have stopped. Oh, and sea breezes … SO NICE. I hadn’t even realised I missed proper breezes until I got home to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

This is "home", the Sunshine Coast's beautiful Mooloolaba Beach.

This is “home”, the Sunshine Coast’s beautiful Mooloolaba Beach.

Until next time, G’day from Australia, maaayyyyyte. And chúc mừng năm mới (happy New Year)!

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5 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Currently on a year-long World School adventure with my two kids, seeing what this wonderful world can teach us.

11 Comments

  1. t-cat says:

    As an expat who returned home for four months last year, I can only agree with you 100% about the prices of food and consumerism. I was totally shocked on a daily basis, whether I got a sandwich at lunchtime, bought groceries from the supermarket or sat down in a restaurant. How did food prices get so outrageously high in just 4 years ? And consumerism….It seems spending Sundays at Chadstone or some other monstrous shopping complex has become the norm…..But you are right also about the friendliness of the people and the beauty of our beaches and the sea breeze …somethings will hopefully never change . Enjoy this precious time with your family. T-cat xxxx

    • Barbara says:

      It really hit home, T-Cat, when I saw a grotty cafe in a non-touristy area advertising a lunch special for $16.90. Unbelievable. And shopping as a weekend activity is one of the things I hated about Singapore. The malls there were filled with people just looking for ways to throw away their money. I hope Australians start waking up to themselves soon. I am much happier since having the revelation that buying stuff doesn’t actually make you happy.

  2. I know exactly what you mean – I felt the same when I came back to NZ for a spell after years away. Even the immigration officer – such a difference to going through the mill in other parts of the world. I lived in Australia last year and the prices and consumerism is overwhelming, even just the supermarket food. I never thought I would find it cheap in the UK by comparison. How things have changed. Still nice to see friendly faces, especially family. Anyway, I hope everything goes wonderfully for the remainder of your pregnancy and the new arrival!
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..New Zealand: The Hobbit film locations

    • Barbara says:

      Oh my, Natasha, things are bad when the UK seems cheap! The grocery bill leaves me staggering and I am forcing myself NOT to convert it into Vietnamese dong for comparison.

      Thanks for your good wishes for the new arrival. Darling Man arrives in 16 days … and the baby should arrive shortly after. I am sick of waiting!

  3. Michele says:

    As we have been saving furiously for our adventure and not spending on anything we really don’t need the consumerism has really hit me recently. Living In an area impacted by the mining boom the amount of boats and toys sitting in driveways and never used, the big houses with small families in them just do my head in. As we head off next week with our 9kg backpacks and not much left in the world I have to say Getting rid of our stuff has been a cathartic experience and I am not sure we will ever go back to how we were before.
    Good luck with the remainder of your pregnancy hope all goes well.
    Michele recently posted..Christmas Celebrations

  4. Barbara, welcome back to Australia! As someone who has mostly lived in Australia except for a period when I was a child I think you just get used to it. And even when I was younger my Mum’s idea of a good day out was to go to a shopping centre.

    My husband and I have been really focusing on reducing unneeded expenditure over recent years and have been training ourselves out of being excessive consumers (and it is difficult as old habits die hard). So I think what you are seeing has always been there, but you have now chosen to not be part of it and that is what makes the difference!

    All the best with your new baby and the year ahead!
    Anne @ Pretraveller recently posted..NEW! Pretraveller Top 10 Posts of 2013

  5. David says:

    Hi Barbara, your article made me teary-eyed as I read it slowly. They say “home is where mommy is.” As a backpacker, I can really relate to what you wrote. I’m always on the road, miles away from home, missing my family and friends. But what I really miss the most are my 3 loyal pet dogs. Everytime I go home, I would hug them and play with them in the park.

    Glad to know that you’re having a blast in your life, Anyway, I hope everything goes wonderfully for the remainder of your pregnancy. Keep writing coz you inspire so many travelers like me. Happy New Year! 🙂

  6. One of the things I love about living abroad is the fact that all the ads/commercials/news headlines/celebrity gossip/etc. is, as you mentioned, white noise. SO nice to be able to just completely tune out all that crap!
    Alana – Paper Planes recently posted..>> Moment: at a Market >>

  7. Soon the whole world will be sucked into consumerism 🙁 But I am certain that you now carry great lessons with you from the 6 years you were away from Australia. That will certainly help you with your new bundle of joy. Congrats on the Lil Man!
    Marcello Arrambide recently posted..Sunset At The Galapagos Islands

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks Marcello! The cult of consumerism is making headway in Vietnam, unfortunately. I hope we can keep resisting it, although our four-year-old is starting to ask why we don’t have a car.

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