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Australia, we need to talk

by Silke Elzner

I think I am in a bad relationship with Australia. A relationship of the kind where you feel that you have somehow grown apart, where things you never questioned suddenly start to surface, where tiny things you never noticed suddenly become extremely annoying.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Australia. I really do. It’s been my home for much of my adult life. My move here was a conscious decision and a deliberate act. Over time I have become a citizen, I am eligible to vote, I pay my taxes, I raise my children the Australian way.

But something has crept up on me, like a tiny devil sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear the most disturbing ideas.

I think I have lost my interest in you.

Australia, you are the lucky country of beaches and sunshine, of an easy-going lifestyle, of chance, multiculturalism and equality. But is this enough for me to be happy? The more I think about it the less I do think so.

Don’t get me wrong. You are a fantastic country. You offer peace and safety for my family. I cannot thank you enough for that. I am even willing to overlook your shortcomings, such as your sexism, your neglect of environmental issues, the political apathy, unprofessional journalism. It’s a small country on a big continent. Far, far away from global terrorism, international crime, world politics. Living in Australia you can easily forget that there is another world out there altogether.

My motivation to move here was simple. I wanted to enjoy a life on the beach. I wanted sunshine, lots of it. Short, mild winters. Excitement and adventure. Things most of us want when they are in their mid-twenties. I am almost ashamed to say that these were my main motives for coming here. I remember how a couple of years ago a Syrian work colleague had a hard time understanding why I would leave behind the prosperity and safety that I could have found in Germany to pursue a beach life in Australia. But here we go – these are decisions that you make at a certain age when you think they are right for you.

And the sunny climate and outdoor lifestyle still seems right for me. Yet I think I have reached an age where I need something more or maybe something different.

You see, Australia, I have come to realise that you are indeed a very big country. You are so far away from everything that a trip overseas inevitably means a long distance flight. And even on a smaller scale, you really challenge us to spend hours in our cars, from big city streets to outback highways. Escapism in Australia isn’t easy at all.

But there is more to it than that.

No matter where you go in Australia, the experience will not much differ, only the climate or landscape may change. The same people, same food, same language, same shops. Frankly, I am bored. I miss the excitement when travelling within my own country, I want to be wowed by man-made structures that have withstood the test of time. Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth – you have nothing new to offer to me.

Travel up or down the coast and the scenery will hardly change, only the food will get worse and more expensive. Weekend trips are just a waste of time and money.

You are not a cheap country either. Everybody around me will agree that prices for housing have become horrendous. Yes, we earn more and more, but at the same time we are spending more too. Many of us live beyond our means. What good is a substantial salary if it doesn’t buy you what you want?

Subconsciously I always thought that I would find my piece of paradise in Australia. Take Manly, for example. A Sydney seaside suburb par excellence, great for that special holiday feeling on the weekend. Yet, there is something missing here to make it a truly grand place. There is no charm in Manly, no inviting feeling to stroll and explore. Just a whole bunch of pretence and showing off, loud cars, red tape, and dirty seagulls. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a glass of wine of a terrace right by the sea, without the petrol fumes? With live music, a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere, deliciously cheap and fresh snacks?

So where would I find it instead, you may ask. Well, that’s the million dollar question.

Ever since we sold our house we couldn’t shake this tickling feeling in our itchy feet. Freedom. The opportunity to go and leave it all behind. Start somewhere new. Breaking up with Australia, saying goodbye to a relationship that has been good for us for so many years but has failed to follow us as we matured. A fresh start, in a new location. A sea change, a career change, a big move. Could we do it?

I believe we could. Yes, the children would have to start a new school, make new friends, maybe even have to learn a new language. But it can be done. And if done carefully and consciously I think it would even be a beneficial contributor to their development.

But the move would have to make sense. We would need something in return. Something that would compensate us for leaving behind our current security, the jobs that we enjoy, the people that we came to love. For us to go through the stress and the challenges of an overseas move, it would have to take us into a new situation that would have to be not just good but mind-blowing.

Where would we be able to find such a place? In Southeast Asia? In Europe? In America? Back in Germany? We don’t know. The only thing we do know is that there is a lot at stake for us and that any changes would afford careful consideration.

Who knows, we may take the plunge one day. Certainly not tomorrow or next month, and most likely not this year. But something is stirring in us, this feeling of wanderlust, the pursuit of the unknown.

Australia, I really do love you but I think I need some distance. Please don’t be mad, you’ve been good to me. And I still want to be friends. My adultery is only happening in my head, and who knows, it might never come to fruition.


What about you? Are you toying with the idea of breaking up with your home country or your country of residence? Do you have plans or do you dream of moving overseas? Where have you found peace? I’d love to hear your stories!