My hometown is an oft-bemoaned burden on my life. In all honesty, my grudge against it is probably no different from what most small-town kids bitch about.
Yep, it’s boring.
Yep, it’s a bit of a dump.
Yep, it’s full of people who remember my early teenage years, which I never ever want to think about ever again, thank you very much.
No, it’s not somewhere I will ever look forward to going back to.
But feeling trapped since about the age of twelve did give me one thing – an urge to push myself, and get out once and for all. And here I am, writing from Australia. I escaped!
After I finish my degree, I still face the ever-growing dread of you-have-no-experience unemployment, laugh/cry sized benefits and rising rent payments that the rest of our generation are being trodden down with by some asshole with an Eton education and diamond-encrusted hobnail boots –
Okay, let’s maybe not go there.
Anyway, the point is, I’m out and about, supposedly living the dream in Brisbane, and feeling kind of homesick. This is not unusual, obviously. I’ve only been out of the country for three months. It might be far from the first time I’ve been away from home, but it’s the first time I’ve been out of England completely for so long. Apparently, this is not just about Sleaford (or, as we mostly non-affectionately nicknamed it, Sleahole).
The thing is, for the past year I’ve been living in Bath. While just BARELY qualifying as a city with less than 100,000 residents, it is about six times bigger than that little town where I went to school. Brisbane is a step up again. It’s a REAL city, with 2.3 million inhabitants. Which is… 30 times bigger than Bath, and 127 times bigger than Sleaford. 127. I’m not saying I wasn’t prepared for a difference, but I didn’t think I’d get quite such a shock.
I’ve wanted to travel for as long as I can remember, lured by the draw of the unknown, the mysterious, the exciting. Spending a month travelling New Zealand was exactly that – exhilarating. New experiences every day! Amazing places, amazing people, everything I’d ever been promised by Instagram travel blogs.
Australia, not so much. Why? Because I’m not a tourist here. I’m a resident; a country girl suddenly living in a city the size of my entire home county (or bigger?), and seriously, seriously, missing the trees. Admittedly, it’s quite hard to get anywhere from Sleaford, but my parents, those incredible human beings, got us out of the house a lot. The Peak District, the Lake District, the Three Peaks, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland… need I go on? The outdoors is as much a part of me as my Wanderlust, and I’m sorry Brisbane, but your public transport is more than a little bit shit (I’m not saying it’s worse than Bath’s, that takes real dedication, but you’re definitely putting up a fight).
I’m a bit stuck. I have no car, access to a public transport system that is overcomplicated, expensive and badly signposted, and itchy feet. In Sleaford, I had my own car. In Bath, I could walk out my back door and be out of the city in about ten minutes. Getting out of Brisbane is pretty much impossible.
I’m halfway across the world, and I’m trapped. Again. AGH.
The thing is, when I have managed to escape to places like the Glasshouse Mountains, Australia has astounded me. I love writing, but I draw so much inspiration from the natural world, and there’s only so much I can get from city lights and sunset half-hidden by the skyline. It’s even more frustrating when I’ve had the slightest, delicious taste of what lies beyond the end of the trainlines.
So, evidently I should probably never live in a city if I don’t want to end up writing my own version of The Bell Jar. I’ve also realised that it doesn’t matter where you go, anywhere else in the world is not going to be magically better than love-to-hate-it Sleahole just because it’s in another country.
Disclaimer: I DO NOT HATE BRISBANE. I am also not hating my Study Abroad (I would like to issue a formal apology to the Australians that I gave that impression to). I’m just taking the time to reflect on the fact that England isn’t as bad as I thought it was, and the reason I love Bath so much isn’t just because it was my first escape.
Bath is where my life is. My closest friends, my beloved university and course, the first house I really thought of as my own… it’s the place where I finally (and perhaps slightly aggressively) seized my independence and the chance to force my life in the direction I wanted to go. Bath is home.
Do I regret coming to Australia? God no! It’s actually pretty awesome here. Also please note that I am here first and foremost for my education, and I am definitely improving in that area. (I think. I hope. – Yay?)
If there’s one thing that I do regret, it’s that I was so attached to Bath that I didn’t throw myself fully into Brisbane life when I first got here, and that I was so desperate to get away from Sleaford when I first started university I signed up for a Study Abroad placement without considering how much my situation might have changed by the time I had to leave a year and a half later.
I get asked about home a lot. Specifically, the one question I wish people would stop asking is where in the UK I’ve been. The first time I was asked it was a revelation. Like a ‘being hit around the head with a frying pan’ revelation. I’ve lived in England for 19+ years, and I’ve never been to Ireland. What? Anyway, now it’s just embarrassing to have to say I’ve never been to most of my own country, especially when most of the Australians who’ve asked me this questions have seen more of Europe than I have, too.
I mean I know I’m far from alone in that, but I’m disappointed in myself. I declared my hatred for my home country based on one town, and conveniently forgot how much I loved our elsewhere childhood adventures, nevermind living in Bath. I didn’t even change my mind after spending two weeks in Africa pining about how green and lush the desert wasn’t (no duh).
Okay so maybe I still don’t really intend to stay in the UK after I graduate. Maybe I still don’t look forward to going back to my parents house (although at this point seeing my family again when I get back will probably involve copious amounts of tears). However, if there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s not to judge too quickly.
I’ve got three and a bit months left in Australia, and I’m going to do my best to make the most of it. Public transport be damned!