It was almost three years ago now that I stood in Heathrow airport departures lounge with my one-way boarding pass to Australia clasped nervously in my hands.
I had decided to migrate indefinitely, to a country that I had never visited before. This may sound like a rash plan by anyone’s standards, let alone someone who thoroughly embraces routine and suffers from acute OCD at times. However, I had it on good authority from Australian friends that I was undoubtedly headed towards the best place in the world. Fact.
And wonderful it is. So much so that on two separate occasions I toiled through 12-hour days of manual labour and sheep offal sorting, in order to extend visas and gain a more permanent place in this country that I have come to call home. I love the climate and the wide expanse of great outdoors that begins to unravel only meters from Canberra’s civic center. Most of all I love the new life I have nurtured here.
It’s therefore rather reluctantly and with trepidation that I return to the familiarity of the UK. Not only because I will miss all my new friends and my Australian lifestyle, but also because I can’t be 100% percent sure that the great Land Down Under will ever let me back in! Living a life from visa to visa can be stressful, and goes against everything that the renowned cliché teaches us; “Home is where the heart is”? No. Home is in fact, where you can remain and work legally without having any more arduous papers to sign.
I sit in Sydney airport departures lounge gazing with a deep sense of nostalgia at my completed customs card. Yet to be able to call myself a permanent resident, I’m unable to tick either the first or the second box. I resign my fond memories of my time here to another part of myself with a sigh. I’m still simply a ‘Temporary Visitor Departing’.
And so, in what seems like an eternal ebb and flow of personal migration, I will take the long way home. The Trans-Siberian Railway will whisk me from my new home to my old home, via a very unfamiliar landscape. I look forward to returning to the UK to explore what it has to offer me now that I am, for all intents and purposes, a tourist.
First stop? Beijing.