One of the most common questions I get asked (aside from “so there really aren’t spider’s everywhere???”) is whether I’m ever ‘going home’. It comes up in conversation with family in the UK, people I meet at work and all my friends who have never been over here.
I’m in a strange situation. I’ll never really get over the fact that I spent the first 23 years of my life in good old Blighty, complaining about the weather and guzzling tea, but I’ve now chosen a new home for myself. It’s not a common thing, this swapping countries, although it does appear to be happening more frequently. There just seems to be this ever-so-slight suspicion from other people that I’ll rock up at Heathrow one day having thrown all my summer clothes (so, all of my clothes then) in a bin at customs and binge buy PG tips to set myself back up.
The thing is, is that I don’t need to go home. Because I already am home. Home is here, it’s a home that I’ve chosen myself and somewhere that past Francesca would have a hard time believing was real.
One of my favourite websites Waitbutwhy pose a question to their readers every week; the last debate they proposed was regarding the best advice you’ve ever been given. One of the answers struck a real chord with me:
“When you’re figuring out what to do with your life, I think it’s a mistake to first decide what you want to do and then move to best location to do that thing. Instead, pick the place where you really want to live and go there. Your career will work itself out wherever you go”.
I love where I live so much that just being here makes me happy, and because of that everything else has just seemed to work itself out. I’ve met my best friend and life partner, figured out a semi-decent career path and wake up smiling each and every day (white wine hangovers permitting). Should I have stayed in London working in sales? I would have been on a bloody nice salary by now but I dare say that I would have been miserable. Another long term expat told me a while ago that our problem was that we’d been born into the wrong country, and I can’t help but agree.
Those who’ve visited me here seem to understand a bit more, having seen the amazing things lurking in my new backyard.
I will never get sick of the mountains. They follow you everywhere in the tropics. Even the carpark of the Cairns shopping centre has great views. I watched a solar eclipse from there once and if you time your supermarket run right it’s a great place to watch the sun slip behind the range. You didn’t get that in the Holloway road Waitrose.
Drive a few minutes out of town and suddenly you’re surrounded by rainforest and swimming in a waterfall. Nothing cures a bad day like finishing work and heading to a creek for a dip, washing away your daily stresses in crisp clear water. Although I do feel like a right sook complaining about how cold the water is when it’s still a good couple of degrees above typical British sea temperature.
People dream about diving the Great Barrier Reef and for good reason. I’ve still not got over the magic of slipping under the oceans surface into a new world. Every time I go out there is something new to see, a different fish to make friends with. The fact that I can explore one of the thousands of reefs anytime I want just blows my mind. That is reason enough for me to be here, to get my dose of vitamin sea. It’s been two weeks since my last outing and I’m already getting tetchy.
Sometimes I’m told that people couldn’t live here because of the heat. Really? Then drive an hour to the Atherton Tablelands and discover a totally different landscape, with the added bonus of higher elevation and lower temperatures. If I’m craving the need for a snuggle up then I can head to lake Tinaroo and sit around a wood fire with a carpet of stars above my head. Bonus points for the fact that The Tablelands is a huge foodie area and as a result has an abundance of cheese.
I love this part of the world, a little corner of Queensland that I’ve come to adopt as my own. It was pretty much love at first sight, from my first sail around Magnetic island to the moment I first stepped onto the expanse of Mission Beach. And the stars! As a London girl I couldn’t believe what I could see, still don’t. I can vividly remember (despite the wine consumed) lying on the deck of a boat 2 weeks after arriving, anchored out on an island miles from the coast and fighting sleep to keep looking upwards. I still have that feeling of awe even now: camping can be hazardous as I often forget to turn my head down when stumbling back from a nightime toilet-block run, mesmerised by what’s above me.
We might not have a big city and all that goes with it but I didn’t think twice about trading that in for weekends finding nemo or camping by a crater lake. Yes I’d appreciate a bit more live comedy, but I’ll swap that for living in the shadow of jade green mountains any day. If I spent the rest of my life exploring the area around me I think I’d still find new things to wow. I live in my happy place: how many people can say that?
My soul was born in Tropical North Queensland and it just took a while for the rest of me to get here.
I don’t need to go home. I’m already here.