“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” — Sir Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Yesterday marked a personal milestone: living three months in a different country. It became a small goal when I eventually let people know I was leaving the country, not before. Almost everyone asked, “How long will you be gone?” While the Work-Holiday Visa lasts a year, I was scared to say I would leave my familiar surroundings for so long. The fact that I had two visas (one for Australia and one for New Zealand) was even scarier. “At least three months,” I’d say. It struck me as a good amount of time; not so long as to keep me up at nights worrying about the depreciation of my car, but long enough to make those asking glaze over with a “three months away from the daily grind” kind of wonder. In short, three months was doable.
Now, sitting outside the Queensland State Library in Brisbane, Qld., I wonder how much longer I will stay abroad. The Internet has blessed me with the ability to work while traveling, so frugal living and a trickle of financial sustenance could keep me afloat for a very long time. As for friends and family, I have literally never been so physically far away from the people I know and love and yet I feel no further away than any quiet night in my empty apartment at the Riata. Skype allowed the unique, dulcet tones of my parents singing “Happy Birthday” to reach me in real-time a few days back. Facebook and emails have kept me abreast of all the big and trivial goings-on in my friends’ lives. Perhaps the brief trip to San Francisco tomorrow morning will remind me just how far away I am.
With all of this in mind, I decided to create a list – in no particular order – of a few things I miss most, things for which the Internet cannot truly compensate.
1) Friends and Family – Call it clichéd or pandering to those most likely to read this blog, but it’s true. I miss lunches with the guys at BioWare, nights at Dallas Night Club or downtown and happy hours. Nothing beats a hug from my sisters, my mom, my dad, my best friend, or even a manly bro-hug from my brother or brother-in-laws. And the chaotic energy of all my nieces and nephews cannot be duplicated…on second thought, maybe Skype is the best way to watch them and maintain healthy blood pressure.
2) Guitar Nights – My cousin Mike and I lived together for a few years and never once practiced on our dusty guitars. A month or two after living apart, we decided it was high time to be the Rockstars of Destiny we were always meant to be, but knew that would require practice. A year or two later, with up to two practices a week and some lessons, we could successfully and almost consistently switch from a G chord to a C chord! After three months away, there’s no telling how much skill I’ve lost.
3) Whataburger, Chuy’s and Rudy’s – I refuse to be ashamed of missing the affordable fast food burgers, fries and Fancy Ketchup of Whataburger. Many a day and night were made tolerable if not perfected by this Southern chain’s greasy vittles. Chuy’s, the likes of your Tex-Mex cuisine cannot be found in the Southern Hemisphere. And Rudy’s (he says in his best/worst Bill Cosby voice), I truly miss a half-pound of Cutter’s, half a hottie, a small creamed corn, and a small new potatoes. The sauce is what BBQ sauce is supposed to taste like, not some sweet, brown mess. Throw in some pickles and white bread and you’ve easily got a wax paper plate of heaven.
4) My Car (aka Maz-Trey, aka Grey Steel) – I bought him off the showroom floor, paid him off a year early, and we’ve literally been together for thousands of miles. He’s not some fancy, flashy car but his A/C and illegal tint kept me cool in the Texas summers, his seat heaters kept my bum warm in the winter and the Bose sound system played Bon Jovi to crystal-clear perfection. With a decent fuel economy, I felt a certain kind of freedom behind the wheel of that car: an armored shell that could quickly take me almost anywhere I wanted to go.
While I’m sure there are other things I miss on a day-to-day basis (reliable wifi, cheap coffee, etc.), these are the things that stand out the most. Into the fourth month of traveling/living abroad I go and I wonder if there will be a transition to things I will come to enjoy more about Australia than the U.S., things I will long for from this country that I will not be able to find elsewhere. I’m well aware that Oz is about as easy a transition from American living as possible and that other countries would have me missing the days of readily available potable water, proper toilets, etc., but that is a blog post for some time in the future.
So, here is a question to anyone who has been away from home for a day, a week, a month or years: what were the things you missed most? Where did you go and how long were you away from these things before their absence became noticeable?
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