“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” ~ Bill Bryson
In my opinion, one of the greatest things about living offshore for ten years was coming back home to Australia. Whilst I have loved visiting or living in other countries, and exploring as much as I can, travelling has given me a greater appreciation of the country I was born and raised in.
I have spent most of the past 12 years living overseas, in some of the most densely populated cities in the first world. Having been raised in Sydney, then spending 4 years in Tokyo, 4 years in Singapore, and 18 months in London, I have certainly had my fair share of large cities and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
I spent years looking out over skyscrapers, concrete jungles, smog-filled skies, rivers of automobiles, and millions of rude, unfriendly, harried people.
I have battled with ineffectual health systems, burdened by large populations, and I have cried my eyes out with education systems that were struggling to provide adequate care and support for all their charges.
I have sat in traffic for 2 hours in London, travelling 10 miles to a park, only to get there and find it cold and rainy and crowded, and turned around just to take another 2 hour trip home.
I have spent 4 hours in Japan, sitting in a carpark on the expressway, trying to make the 40 minute drive to the beach.
I have visited public pools in Tokyo, in the sweltering heat and humidity of summer, only to have to get out every 90 minutes so that the “lifeguards” could check the bottom of the pools for drowned bodies.
I have struggled to find something to do on the weekend because I was living on an island that was 42km wide and 22km long, and the only real “entertainment” was on an island called Sentosa, and the beaches were dirty and crowded, and polluted with diesel fuel from the hundreds of cargo boats just off its shore.
I have lived in a city where summer only lasts 2 weeks, and winter lasts over half the year, and when it snows the city grinds to a complete halt.
But on the flip side –
I was fortunate enough to live as an expat, have a live-in maid, and enjoy the most wonderful social life ever.
I experienced incredible history and culture throughout Europe, and saw some of the most amazing sights I had only ever read or dreamed of.
I survived in a country, never learning their national language (apart from how to get home in a taxi cab on a drunken night out), and taught some of their people how to speak english. And that was in Tokyo AND England!
My children saw snow, lived in snow, played in snow, and skied in the snow. It was amazing for them to go to bed and wake up to a winter wonderland.
I learnt that the Japanese are masters at customer service, probably the best in the world, and that their bullet trains go bloody fast! I also learnt that Japan has some of the most incredible ski resorts.
I learnt that the Japanese like to shower all together, and bathe together as well (keeping males and females separate, of course). This was one thing I could NEVER get used to.
I learnt that the Japanese LOVE karaoke. And so do I. And I don’t need to be drunk to take part.
I have learned so much from every place I’ve lived. But what I have learnt most of all is that there really is no place like home. It bothers me that Australians complain about their health system, their education system, the traffic, and the weather. I think, when you have lived in other places, you actually realise how good it is here. Yes, there are amazing experiences to be had around the world, and I encourage EVERYONE to travel and see as much as you can whilst you can. But it’s wonderful to come back here, where we have freedom of speech, great weather (for the most part), a pretty good health system (I have friends in America who end up with six-figure medical bills for the treatment of life-threatening conditions, whereas we get the same treatment for free) and an education system that works well.
The beaches are beautiful and clean, the sky isn’t brown with pollution, and our public transport system doesn’t grind to a complete halt because of “snow on the tracks”. Summer lasts for 3 months, and so does winter. And both autumn and spring are pretty much perfect.
I can drive 3 minutes to the ocean, and in 10 minutes I’m in the country. The traffic that occurs in the city I live in would be considered fast-moving in other places.
When they called us the Lucky Country, they really knew what they were talking about. I just wish more Australians actually realised how lucky we are.
And I wish more Australians would stop taking all the wonderful things we have, the things we see and the things we do, for granted.
Because it doesn’t get much better than this.