Where Do I Belong?

For those who are privileged enough to be able to travel the world and live in numerous places, they are treated to a life full of eye-opening experiences, sights and sounds that change their life, and the opportunity to make friends all over the world. However there is a problem that comes with it when you continuously keep leaving loved places and loved ones behind, and that is a severe questioning sense of ‘Where do I belong?’.



where do travellers belong in the world?



Forgive me for falling down a self-obsessed rabbit hole, but I feel I really need to get some of these confusing thoughts out in the open and have a cathartic ramble about the issue I find with travel; the concept of losing a sense of belonging in one place.

Where do I belong?

I thought I was struggling with this alone until I joined some travel blogger communities on Facebook and saw some girls talk about this issue. Wanderers had returned home or had stopped in one place for an extended period of time due to work, and were faced with a severe unsettled feeling about settling. Being on the road for long periods of time can begin to feel pretty mundane, but for me – whilst I have always enjoyed travelling – I have also enjoyed a place where I can call home. But what if there’s a place that you feel completely and happily at home in, and it’s a place that simply won’t allow you to call home?



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When I lived in Melbourne for a few years, I fell for the city and the people I met, but those damn visas meant that it wasn’t a place I could stay forever. Having to leave the most beautiful friends and the most vibrant city was heart-breaking and I truly struggled hard with it in the UK when I returned. I had to leave the community that I had cared for. I had to leave the brilliant friends I’d made. I had to leave my favourite cafes, bars, parks, bakeries….. I had to leave this life and move on to begrudgingly try start another.

I lived in a perpetual state of looking back and remembering the ‘glory days’ of times where the grass was greener and the sky was bluer. With rose tinted glasses on, I basked in memories of my previous Australian life and clung onto the contact with the friends I left far far behind (could Australia be any further from the UK?!). In a nutshell, I was homesick for a place that had only been home for 2 or 3 years and I lamented the death of my Melbourne life, mourning it and staying caught in memory lane.



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When I returned to Melbourne last month after three years, I was a whirlwind of emotions – how would I feel? Would it be the same? Would my torch for Melbourne relight and burn bright on this trip? Had my friends changed? Would I feel like it was home? All these questions spun in my head on the flight over, so I deadened them with a G&T or two (worst idea ever on a long-haul flight) and just ODed on in-flight entertainment.

Looking out of the plane window and seeing the rugged Aussie outback as we flew over the Red Centre immediately choked me with tears  – holy shit, I was finally back! Three years later, a few wrinkles later and a goddamn long 24 hour flight later, I had finally made it back to a place that had changed my life all those years ago. The pit of nerves exploded into a flash flood of excitement in my belly and I literally bounded into Tullamarine Airport all bright-eyed and bushy tailed!

Such a fleeting two week visit, but of course, not much had hugely changed. All my friends were exactly the same (if not a touch wiser), the city was just as fun and invigorating, the food and cocktail scene had got better and there were a ton of new things to do, see, visit, explore. Overwhelming? You bet, but I relished every minute.



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It broke my fucking heart to say those goodbyes again when it was time to leave – Melbourne really does ruin your life! I probably put a dampener on my best friend’s wedding by sobbing onto her pristine dress with my black ‘not-as-waterproof-as advertised’ mascara, but I believe an epiphany had slowly edged into my psyche during my visit. While I still don’t have much clarity on where I belong in the world, it’s now not as much of a freak-out but just a gentle reminder of how lucky I am.

I felt like Melbourne had been home, but now after living in Bristol for three years, I too feel this is home. I have my family in the UK, I’ve put down roots, I’ve made new and lovely friends, I’ve gotten into the Bristol community spirit and I’ve enjoyed having Europe at my doorstep! Whilst Melbourne and all the fantastic people who I left there are so freaking far away, it just means that those reunions are sweeter and those who are meant to be in my life continue to stay in touch no matter how many years pass. Melbourne will always be there for future visits and my friends who I left will always be there for me no matter where in the world they end up living. I need to stop looking back, as the present and the future are pretty darn bright and I don’t want to miss a thing. I need to cast off these rose tinted glasses, blow a kiss in Melbourne’s direction and turn to face my present head on.



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I don’t know where I belong and I don’t know where I’ll feel like I am home – traveller problems, eh? – but I know that I am blessed to have such important people in my life both home and away (excuse the Aussie pun). I am hella lucky to be in the position to have travelled far and wide, and most importantly, I am so lucky to have the freedom to have experienced many places to call home.

Even if I have inner turmoil about where I belong and I never fully feel settled in one place as there will always be someone I miss or am miles away from (damn you, international friends and family!) I should live in the now and enjoy what life is handing out to me today. I have my freedom which enables me to wonder where I belong and wander to figure it out, and I shouldn’t forget how lucky I am.



melbourne wedding



photo courtesy of @nohumdrumlife

All photographs by Sophie Saint unless otherwise stated

8 Comments on Where Do I Belong?

  1. Stephanie Hartley
    March 13, 2016 at 5:12 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m about to move away from all my friends to a new city where I know nobody apart from my boyfriend, whereas for him it’s his hometown and birthplace he’s moving back to. I’m really nervous about what this means for me, and this post was really helpful!

    Steph – http://nourishmeclean.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Sophie
      March 16, 2016 at 10:26 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for your comment! Ah I could imagine how nervous you must be feeling. I did exactly that when I moved to Melbourne all those years ago and it was nerve wracking. I made sure to find my own friends, work somewhere social and fun, and establish my own circle outside of the boyf so I could feel independent and begin building myself a life – good luck with the move! 🙂

      Reply
  2. paul
    March 14, 2016 at 11:26 am (1 year ago)

    Good points made here. The older you get the more you realise you can not have it all. There is an opportunity cost involved with all our decisions, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence etc. It is a function of our limited time and all the things that need doing within that. And it is true, Australia is very far away. It’s a two edged sword, the isolation is a great part of its character but its a long way to travel to get just about anywhere else. Some people never leave their home town and others live in different places. I dont know which one is best. For me it is the latter but it raises all the problems covered in this article.

    Reply
    • Sophie
      March 16, 2016 at 10:27 am (1 year ago)

      Hey Paul, thanks for the comment 🙂 You really hit the nail on the head – especially on what makes Aus so great. That flight though… it’s a killer!

      Reply
  3. Ella
    March 16, 2016 at 9:02 am (1 year ago)

    I completely relate to this. I grew up bi-cultural, living in 2 countries that I love. But because I spent one half of my childhood in one and the other half in the other, I don’t feel like I 100% belong to either, because of the other haha. What’s even more annoying is that I recently came back from Australia (Melbourne is blooming amazing!) and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere culturally and that I could really fit in there. But it’s so ridiculously far away from everyone that I love and that was difficult. Even though I have met a handful of Aussies that I truly love, and now I’m very far away from them. These are definitely first world problems and it’s a problem that I’m a grateful to have, but that doesn’t make it easier haha. Thanks for writing this post! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sophie
      March 16, 2016 at 10:29 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Ella, maybe Melbourne is a place where everyone is lucky enough to get to experience, but the magic is that not many can stay there permanently so everyone leaves on a high with fantastic memories! but yup… doesn’t make it any easier…. thanks for the comment 🙂

      Reply
  4. the adventurer
    April 7, 2016 at 3:12 am (1 year ago)

    I can completely relate to what you experienced leaving Melbourne. Having grown up moving every few years I fell in love with many places and people. Always remember to smile at the memories you made because had you not lived there you wouldn’t have become the person you are today. You are not just a citizen of one country but of the world =o)

    great blog so happy I found it, follow me back if you’d like =o)

    http://dreamofadventures.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    • Sophie
      April 19, 2016 at 8:58 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, I have to remember how lucky i am to have had the opportunity to meet so many great people around the world. It may leave me confused as to where I belong, but it definitely has shaped who I’ve become 🙂 You’ve got a lovely blog – thanks for linking to it for us to check out! We’ll add you to our bloglovin’!

      Reply

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