After over two and a half years overseas I'm back in Melbourne and learning to live life like a traveller in my own home city.
It’s always hard returning home after being away for so long. I usually find it harder than going away in the first place and often experience more culture shock when I return to what I know than when I’m in a completely different country. I guess it’s because we don’t expect to feel uncomfortable in the place where we grew up. I think part of this has something to do with looking at the world you know and realising that you see it in a different way because you've changed.
This time on my return I prepared myself for the weirdness of being back and I expected it to be hard, especially because I had been away for so long. But adjusting to being back hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. Sure, I still find it weird and sometimes get the feeling that I want to pick up my life and fly away again, but I have realised that you don’t have to be away from home to live life like a traveller and see the adventure in everyday.
The thing is, when we travel we take on a different attitude to life. While a walk down the street in our home city or the ride into work on the tram is just mundane, when we travel we open our eyes and see the beauty around us. So when we walk through the streets of Rome or travel on a bus in India we are more open to the adventures to be had, the people we could meet, and the simple wonder in every little thing.
It’s funny how travellers sometimes see more of a city than the locals themselves. When I lived in Jordan I knew many Jordanians who had never been to Petra, the ancient Nabataean city carved out of a rose-coloured rock face, and one of the wonders of the world—or as some may know it: the setting of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Disappointingly, in real life there’s no swinging axes inside that cut off heads, or invisible paths that lead to the holy grail.
But you don’t have to be a traveller to see the world with all its opportunities. It is certainly harder when you’re at home; we live our lives on autopilot, ignore the strangers on the bus, and let the wonders pass us by. Everything is normal and seems unexciting. But it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to look at the world with fresh eyes. I've often observed how kids have a natural ability to do this, while most adults have forgotten. So I’ve been trying to remember since I’ve come back home and have realised that if I came to Melbourne from another country I would see it as it truly is: an incredible city full of so much colour in so many ways.
Now I’ve been to Europe I know that we have a similar vibrant culture here. I love the streets of Melbourne with its bars and cafes, the graffitied alleyways, the mix of people from all corners of the world, and restaurants of every cuisine. You can visit any country in the world in Melbourne in a night. We may not have Sydney's Opera House, or a great landmark of any kind, but we make up for it in other ways.
It’s also been easier returning home because I live in Coburg, which is like the Middle East of Melbourne. This has meant that leaving Jordan and coming here has been less of a culture shock. I love how when I drive down Sydney Road now and see the Arabian restaurants and shops that I can read the Arabic writing on the windows. The sights are the same but I am different.
Last night I went to the supermarket and when I got out of my car I could hear the blaring sound of Arabian music. When I drove home I went past the source of the sound and saw a large gathering of Arab families, and young people.
Australia can feel very isolated sometimes, like it’s on another planet rather than in the world. But last night reminded me that we’re really not so far away and it’s ok because the world is here in my own home town. I love travelling, having adventures, and meeting people from different cultures. But now I realise that I don’t have to be away from here to do that. There are opportunities and wonders to encounter here everyday... if I just open my eyes.