I’m sure this sounds totally stereotypical and cliché, but I can’t believe how long I’ve been here already. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write, but I realized when August hit that I’d already been here a month (that second rent bill was a pretty firm reminder). Now the two months mark is just a couple days away.
I’m not just marveling at “time flying” or anything like that, I’m startled because this feels so different than my last trip abroad. Last summer I spent only 5 weeks abroad in Italy, and as much as I loved my experience there, by the time a month had passed I was very ready to go home. I knew I would miss the beautiful ancient city centers and Tuscan landscape (I started missing the crepes and gelato before I even got on the plane to leave), but I was tired of living abroad the way I was in Italy. I was sharing a room in a bed and breakfast with two other girls most of the time I was there, and when I was traveling I was stuck hauling everything I’d brought with me – which was far too much. As the month wore on, all the little things started to get to me, the heat and humidity and lack of air conditioning in my accommodation (and in most buildings), the half mile hike to the nearest place I could do laundry, and just the general stress that I associated with living in extremely temporary circumstances – for example, we had almost no storage furniture, so we were all living out of our suitcases and one small wardrobe.
Now, I’m complaining a lot about Italy, but I want to point out that everything there was intended only for a month, and it served me fine for that long. And there were a lot of nice things that I’m skipping over because they’re not part of the point I’m trying to make here. Going back to Australia, I was surprised when I realized I’d hit the one month mark because I didn’t feel remotely like I had after spending a month in Italy. Where Italy left me stressed and travel weary after a month, here in Australia I actually feel at home, and I think it has everything to do with the differences in how I’m living here and for how long. My accommodation is much more comfortable here. I have my own room in an apartment, my clothes are all stored in a closet, and the laundry is just downstairs. I have space in my room to make it my own, and I did so with a few small purchases from Ikea. There is a sense of permanence to what I’ve created in my room, even though I’ll only be here for one semester, and also because I’ll be here for an entire semester. And on top of that, I’ve built relationships here, and a routine that works for me. I’ve learned the public transit system and become familiar with the main city as well as the suburbs I live in and go to school in. I’m anchored in Australia by the people I’ve met here and the places I’ve become familiar with. In Italy, I never really got out of the OU bubble. It’s just too hard to escape it in Arezzo. The people I became close to were all returning to OU as well, so the only attachment I felt to Italy because of them was the memories we’d made. So, while I loved going there, I was never really more anchored than a tourist, and it’s hard to enjoy living as a tourist forever – at least, it is when you make the mistakes I did (see previous posts on overpacking and such).
I guess what I’m discovering is that living in a place like you’ll be there for a month is an entirely different and to me, less fun experience than living in a place like you’ll be there for a semester. A semester is long enough to justify building some roots and getting a few comforting touches for yourself, and it’s long enough to really begin to feel invested in where you are. I’m a lot more attached to my place in Australia now than I ever was to Italy, and it’s largely because I came here with the attitude that I would be here for a good long while, and because there was no OU bubble to hide in. I guess my take away here is that my mentality and the arrangements I make for myself have a big impact on how I feel as time goes on while I travel, and I’ll need to remember that the next time I decide to go abroad.