When going ‘home’ is the biggest challenge.

In Expat, Featured, Life by Carly25 Comments

I’m kind of freaking out about going back to Melbourne in 2 weeks. I’m excited, of course, to see my family, my friends and the blazing sunshine of an Australian summer. But living between two cities is a tricky balance. The hardest part (that no one talks about) is explaining to your loved ones ‘back home’ how you can possibly love your new home just as much as the city you were born to.

Quote about moving homes

I miss Melbourne, but I love Vienna. The ongoing battle in my heart tends to go something like this….

Things I miss from Australia;

The big bright skies that somehow seem wider and more open than in Europe. Driving with confidence on the correct side of the road. Going to the footy with my dad. Understanding in-jokes and cultural references on TV. Banter with the checkout ladies at the supermarket. Fish and chips on a Friday. And oh man, the ocean, sunshine and sand.

Great Ocean Road

There’s nothing as blue and wide and white as Aussies beaches…the Apostles on our last trip

I’ve missed a lot of my friends having weddings and babies (your late twenties brings on adulthood like a rash). Missed latte’s, brunches, beers on the porch. Missed a hundred glasses of wine and cackling laughter with old friends. I miss singing along at a music festival to songs that I grew up with. I miss girls’ nights. I miss being a fag-hag in trashy dance bars. I miss chicken salt (though surely with better dedication I can find that here). I’ve missed seeing my brother grow up into a real adult. There’s small, everyday things I’ve missed – like being able to walk into a bookshop knowing I’ll find an English book there. Or listening to Triple J at the right time of day, when the playlists make sense.

And yet….

There’s so much to love about my life in Vienna;

Being in central Europe. Freshly made Josefbrot. Discovering new parts of The city. Having 4 actual seasons of weather, including snow and picturesque falling leaves in Autumn. Alllll the high street stores – H&M, Zara, Mango, BikBok. I love getting to London on a 2-hour flight, love learning a new language, hell I even love my job when I’m not completely exhausted by it. I love Vienna – the people, the architecture, the lifestyle.

Two Homes-1

Views over the Ringstrasse..I’m meant to resist this somehow??!!

Two Homes-2

I love the Mountains, skiing and extended family who greet you at breakfast with a bottle of Prosecco. I love the small things, like our apartment’s perfect balcony. The squirrels who scurry across our neighbours roof. Public transport that is efficient and affordable. A thousand small and large things that add up to a wonderful, unbelievably happy life.

So going home is bittersweet.

I can never visit and do and see and eat all the things I miss.

It’s just not possible in 3 – 4 weeks. I can’t recreate my entire life in Australia for Stefan in under a month. Can’t make up to my mum the hundreds of hours that I wasn’t around. Can’t possibly find all the new bars, cafe’s and alleyways Melbourne has opened up since I left (but that won’t stop me trying!).

What I can do, is work towards being ok with having two homes that I love dearly. To forgive myself for ‘leaving home’ and release the pressure – just a notch. I blindly walked into life as an expat, never realising just how difficult having two ‘homes’ is, individually and for my family and friends.

Having two homes on opposite sides of the globe goes against all the cardinal rules of Aussie travellers and expats. Aussies are always supposed to come back. We travel far and wide, and often, but we always come back. The number one thing Stefan and I get asked by all Australians is ‘when are you coming home’. (The expectation being, we will naturally return to Australia.)

The honest answer to that question is – I am home. I just have two homes now.

Zell am See

And one of the homes looks like a postcard 87% of the time. Zell am See this Autumn

That’s where the tricky part comes in. For friends/family who have never lived overseas it’s hard to understand how you can deeply miss your hometown, while at the same time be wildly in love with your new home.

This trip home will be different. I’m setting myself the challenge to confidently explain that Vienna is my home now too. Not for a visit, not for just one or two more years. Maybe for a long time. And the thought of explaining that particular bombshell scares me shitless.

I’ll be keeping you guys updated on our trip to Melbourne here on the blog and regularly via Snapchat (just follow @carlyhulls or scan the code below). If you’ve been through the expat challenge of visiting home when your heart belongs to a new city, comment below with your survival tactics!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Hello,

    I do understand the fact to belong to two homes.
    Each one bring you joys and experiences and this is a privilege..
    May be there is no need to choose but to often make a visit back home.
    Being from France and living in the UK remind me this reality.
    About Vienna, such a rich city, which we are thinking to visit soon next year.
    Best,
    Laurence

  2. Hi Carly.

    I really feel that we have a parallel life. I too went home for my dads wedding in October and had the same thoughts. A lot of people in Australia can’t understand the mixed feelings we have. I too don’t want to go home. Not because Austrslia isn’t great but I like my life here in Vienna is great too. The Viennese can’t understand our battle. I feel like a perfect life would be to bring all of my friends here to Wien and then life would be perfect. The Australians are the same. A lot can’t understand that we don’t want to come home. I think it’s better to not say to much. Just say that you are happy in Wien and that you are going to stay longer. They will work out in their own time that you aren’t coming home for good.

    It’s tough. One day I would love to meet you because I really feel that we have the same thoughts and feelings. I read your blog and think, here is someone in the same boat as me. From Melbourne. Such a cool city, but at the same time not in any way ready to go home. I can really see myself retiring here. It’s much cheaper and the pension goes a lot further.

    I read your column with real interest as you seem to experience the exact same things that I do.

    Whe I was in Australia it felt like. Had never left. That makes it harder as you just pick up where you left off with your friends, but you are torn in you heart where you belong.
    I hope this has helped in some way.
    Cynthia

    1. Author

      Oh man Cynthia we are going through the same thing!! I always feel when I return to Melbs that I just left and things are kinda always the same – it’s also why going home is great. I’m going to try your ‘life is good’ strategy and am totally up for a (Melbourne style) coffee when I get back!! Thank you for sharing this really appreciate it.

  3. You must love the Vienna tourist bag that says ‘no kangaroos is Austria!’ 😉 you should bring some back home for friends when you go back! And I couldn’t agree more with your blog, I am from Canada and have been living in Vienna with my Austrian boyfriend (and newly fiancé 😉 for 3 years now and when I picture the future (kids, job, etc) I somehow picture Vienna. I went back to Vancouver for my first time after 2 years this past summer and was lucky enough to stay for 6 weeks but the best advice I can give you is to not plan something every single day. Take time for you, enjoy spending time just relaxing and smale time to sit back and take it all in cause boy does it go by fast! You are right, you will never manage to have time to everyone and do everything, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy it more if you don’t plan every single second of your trip/ give yourself days to go with the flow and see where the day takes you!

    I hope you have a wonderful time, enjoy your city and don’t ever feel bad for having left! You have created a new home and a new life which has shaped you into the person you are today. Your friends and family will understand this. Nothing is forever, and although you may see Vienna in your immediate and even long term future, Australia will always be there and friends can always come and visit your new home! Looking forward to reading your upcoming blogs and reflections on your trip home, I always find myself relating to each and every word you write! The life of an expat is beautiful, bitter sweet, cultivating, filled with both struggles and achievements, lust, love, adventures and so much more! But living abroad has you constantly stepping out of your comfort zone each and every day, and a life of comfort and no risk isn’t a life at all.

    Enjoy your trip! Liebe Grüße, Alynn

    1. Author

      Alynn, can I take you with me for pep talks? I want to print on a poster your entire last paragraph there! Beautiful supportive words, thank you. It’s so reassuring to hear from fellow expats who know the struggles, I really really appreciate it. Here’s to smashing more comfort zones….

      1. My god the spelling and grammar mistakes on my blog post make me cringe, i wrote that on my phone and didn’t have a chance to proof read it… but I’m relieved to know you still managed to understand that chicken scratch 😉

        I am really happy that my words encouraged you and i hope you continue to remind yourself that its okay to be selfish while you’re home. Don’t ‘make up for lost time’, you’ll always end up being left disappointed; instead focus on the present and be excited about seeing your friends and family again as the Frau you have become. While nothing has changed, everything has changed. So enjoy and be proud of being the new, more experienced, more worldly, highly adaptable, bulletproof (at least thats how i feel after trying to learn this language they call Deutsch and dealing with Austrian bureaucracy), and adventure seeking you! Take it all in as best you can and sit back and remind yourself how far you’ve come!

        And thank you for the congratulations, i will be an offizielle (Ehe)Frau in about a year 😉

        All the best Carly,

        Alynn

  4. Your post is resonating so much to me… Yet, I don’t exactly know where my home is… My native France but where my sisters are spread everywhere and my parents always move to a new part? Czech Republic where I live now but which is neither my country nor the one of my Austrian beloved? Austria where I will maybe live one day, but who knows? I love moving and all the super interesting stuff that expat living is bringing, but I kind of miss roots, and sometimes it’s weird. Sometimes I’m homesick but I don’t exactly know from what! Sometimes I have the feeling I HAVE TO find my roots, to settle somewhere where it makes sense.. And sometimes I feel it’s ok to no have roots in a place, because my roots are the people I love, and so I can stay flexible… Always a bit torn apart between these 2 mind settings!
    Enjoy your two homes, it’s so cool you know where they are! ::)

  5. GAH. This just made me well up. I know EXACTLY how you feel. Every time I go home it’s a terribly tough balance – trying to see everyone, make everyone know that you still want to be in there lives in a big way and yet, that at the end of it all you’re still getting back on that plane and living your life how YOU want to. Good for you – looking forward to hearing how it all goes for you. Best of luck.
    Laura | collectinglabels.com

    1. Author

      The seeing everyone-but-still-relax-balance plus a side serving of missing it all sadness is brutal. Trying to be more strategic this time…spreadsheets may be involved. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles, so thanks for your well wishes, fingers crossed!

  6. Hi Carly, I really loved reading this. When I read the paragraph about the things you miss about Australia, I was just like “YES. Someone understands!”

    I feel your pain! I am also flying home (to Tassie) in 4 weeks and I am facing a similar challenge. I’ve been in Austria for almost 3 years now and have managed to make it “home” once per year – I have a bit more pressure (and desire) to go home with 3 sisters and 9 nieces and nephews, and it sometimes seems like I am missing them grow up. Who am I kidding, I AM missing them grow up.

    Every time though, I end up coming back to Austria completely exhausted from 3 weeks in Tasmania. I printed out a calendar last time and no joke, it was full almost every morning, afternoon and evening. I always find it hard to say “no” to friends who just want to catch up “one last time while you’re here” and I run myself ragged. This time my plan is to be happy with seeing friends one time, and if time allows then maybe twice. I hope to just have plenty of time to hang out with my mum, my sisters, and the kids.

    Good luck! I hope you have a wonderful trip 🙂

    1. Author

      Omg Trudy! We have planned a calendar this time too! No joke, I thought Stefan was being super-Austrian about it but it must be a strategy right? Hahaha although all the lovely comments I’ve had today are telling me to take it easy and I think you’re right, you have to let yourself relax. Last time I landed in Vienna after a trip home I remember sighing in relief and exhaustion because the whole trip had been so physically and emotionally draining. Sounds like you have a solid plan in place though – I think I’ll take a leaf out of your book. Here’s to both of us having a wonderful, loving, RELAXED break in sunny Oz with our families!!

  7. Hey Carly,

    hope you’ll have loads of fun in Australia and if you run into my friends tell them I said hi 😉
    My family is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina. My dad moved to Vienna the year I was born and stayed here ever since (there was a thing called war in Bosnia). But he never calls Vienna his home, his heart belongs to his hometown in Bosnia. When he refers to home then he is talking about Bosnia, never Vienna. He wants to move back when he retires – my mom does not.

    I feel at home in Vienna, for a long time I wasn’t sure where I belonged, but now I know. Although there are times where I say “back home in Bosnia” – I’m using it as a figure of speech. The thing is, my relatives (none of them) understand when I say that Vienna is my home. They look at me like I lost it totally. I like going back to Bosnia once a year for a few days, but that’s it. Even before the war I spent a lot of time in Vienna with my parents, I grew up here and feel a connection to this city, but noone understands that. I have absolutely no memories of my life in Bosnia.

    What I am trying to say is (with this immensely long and boring comment) that it is okay to have two home and to love each home.

    Have fun in Australia =)
    Ivana

    1. Author

      Oh wow Ivana that’s a whole other level, but it sounds like you know in your heart where ‘home’ is. I really appreciate your lovely advice, you have it 100% correct – loving two homes isn’t a bad thing. Might have to print out your quote to remind myself of that over the next few weeks hahaha. Thanks so much for sharing your story here it’s wonderful to hear about Viennese people from all different backgrounds. And there’s no such thing as a long and boring comment! 🙂

  8. Hi Carly,

    I have been following you and reading your post for awhile now, I first came across your post back in 2014 when I quit my job and moved to Vienna to be with my boyfriend. We have been together for almost 7 years, always long distances and things were not really moving forward. So I bite the bullet and made the move. I was there for about 8 months, did 6 months language school and was looking for a job at the same time but didn’t have much luck. Then I was offered a really good job back home in Sydney by my old boss so I came back home and we went back to the whole long distance thing all again, although we wanted to get married probably next year, so someone will need to really make a move soon.

    I always really enjoyed reading your posts, because I feel that it is just like reading my own diary, and watch my own physical & emotional journey through your lenses. It just makes me feel so much better to know that I am not alone, and know that its ok to feel hopeless, scared, insecure about the future, the sense of guilt for leaving your family behind and yet it should not stop us from making most of this beautiful city of Vienna.

    Anyway, all in all, I just wanted to drop you a few lines to let you know that you have really inspired me and make me believe that this whole thing of living an expat life to be with your loved ones maybe hard but not impossible. Keep up the good work and I hope you have so much fun re-exploring Melbourne this Christmas 🙂

    xoxox

    Chelsy

    1. Author

      Chelsy thank you so much for sharing your story – I have the same feeling of ‘omg thank goodness there’s someone else out there!’ hearing from you, its so good to know there’s other weirdos out there like us! It really is a long-haul journey and it sounds like you guys are battling long distance on top of everything. Keep at it, its definitely worth it, but you’re right, you have to believe it’s possible yourself to make it work. Bloody hard work, but in the end we get to live a ridiculously beautiful life. How lucky are we? Thanks for getting in touch and enjoy sunny Sydney this Chrissie!

  9. There is nothing wrong *at*all* with having two homes.

    If anything, it’s an advantage … although friends and family will never totally get it, in my experience. But they’ll cope with it.

    My father used to do a thing!

    He’d go to all of his favourite places, and if people wanted to catch up they’d have to go where he was. That seems quite self-centred, but if you’re only in for a few weeks it’ll help you not be run raggard.

    The first thing I do when I get back to Adelaide is get a pie from the servo (literally on the way from the airport)

    The first thing I do when I get back to Vienna (nothing like as often as I’d like these days) is grab a wurst.

    When I get back to Haarlem, it’s fish all the way (can’t ignore the maternal side of the family!).

    This is a good thing.

  10. As someone who has been on the road for over four years I can relate. It’s your life, live it how you want. Good luck!

  11. Thank you so much for such an insightful and honest post! I’ve been living only 6 hour from my hometown, and I already feel that to some degree, and now that I am moving to Turkey in 2 weeks I’m sure all of those feelings are about to be thrust upon me! As if they knew I wouldn’t be around, I have no less than 4 weddings that I will be missing next year. I look forward to reading how the trip back will go!

  12. I really love this post Carly.

    I’ve been living in Germany for 16 years now and I still get asked this question lol!. I guess my family have bcome resigned to it because I spent 2 years living in the Czech Republic too and at one point, I was even thinking of living in Hong Kong…!
    Having said that as a British person living in Berlin, I still love my country very much and I’m still as British as a steak and kidney pie. I mean, that is what my blog is all about lol! My son even went to a private international school for his formative-pre-teen years, as I wanted him brought up as British as possible! We’ve now transfered into the German Gymnasium system as science seems to be his forte and the Germans seem to have a good hold on that subject. We also join the Boy Scouts of America so as to stretch the Anglo-American environment lol!

    But I do love your quote “The honest answer to that question is – I am home. I just have two homes now.”

  13. I understand you! I lived in Vienna for one year and I also fell in love with this wonderful city. No I’m back in my motherland and instead of beeing happy I miss Vienna a lot.

  14. wow i loved reading your blog Carly! Im australian & romanian married to a romanian for 6 months now.
    It seems as though we both miss australia and at the same time our new life is here presently.
    Im living in Eastern europe and we are planning on coming back to Australia after visa is granted, When we return there i have this thought that it won’t be as exciting as here…as in we will then return to the normal grind of life, working and so on. Then we will miss it back here.
    Its inevitable we will be torn by it. A home away from home – is the home we’ve created wherever we are 🙂
    Its true Australia is always warm and lovely and the summer is awesome and the breeze so nice I can’t wait to see again all my family and growing nephews and nieces. Also cant compare the mangoes and pineapples there they rule!! And are the best!! ahh lol yet aussie land is so far to travel to other countries from it and i’m gonna miss all my romanian new friends here and relatives…and my husband’s little family and cute place by the beach.
    thanks for your blog, i want to read more
    Blessings and happy travelling!
    andra

  15. This is so spot on. I feel like my heart is constantly torn and in two places 🙁 not something I expected when I first set out on my little “adventure abroad”… 😉

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