Coming Home

In How I got Here, Living Abroad by Carly10 Comments

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Here’s the thing: coming home always takes 2 – 3 weeks to properly recover from. Even when it’s been a gloriously fun, sunny, brunch-filled trip like we had:

playing in Melbourne

I mean, what’s not to enjoy with cheesy photo ops like this?

Returning to Australia is kinda like being in a tornado (or so I assume from multiple viewings of the 1996 Helen Hunt classic movie, Twister.) All of your intense family conversations, wine-fuelled parties and delicious meals that should be spread across 18 months are compressed into 3 short, spinning weeks. It’s wild, indulgent, frenzied, joyous and pretty exhausting. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything in the world – the after effects just hit you upside the head, normally right on top of a wicked case of jet lag.

Forgive me then, for the lag in writing. There’s a lot of wonderful stuff to share – our weekend getaway to the Grampians! All of the brunches! How exciting Brisbane is! But my head and heart have been wrung out with constant internal questioning while in Melbourne:

‘Could you see yourself back here?’

‘How is it possible that Fitzroy changed so much in 5 years?’

‘How does this drink/apartment/weather/______compare to Vienna?

Sunset at St Kilda Beach

The answer? It cannot begin to compare weatherwise. Look at this perfect life pondering sunset for god’s sake!

‘ Is this city still home or has it moved on without you, along with all your friends?

‘How do people POSSIBLY afford to buy property here? And why is everyone saying property or investment portfolio and not ‘home’??

‘Oh god, should I be buying property??! HOW DEAR GOD HOW??! When did this become a thing people my age did?’

‘Are you really going to be able to stay away from beach days like this? Seriously?’

It was an ongoing internal dialogue – weighing, measuring, testing, what feels right, where is home. By the end of our month away, I think I’d asked them all, a thousand times, in a hundred different ways. But the answer became clearer the longer we stayed…

Right now, Vienna is where I should be. Melbourne was immensely, beautifully, deliciously wonderful – but it’s not my place right now. The stomping ground of 25-year-old Carly has been overrun. The arty, indie, beautiful weirdos of Fitzroy are heading North to Brunswick, the moneyed investment property moguls are moving in. The city of Melbourne feels as far away to the current version of me as the idea of having a weekend long keg party covered in body paint.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s be real, I’m 30 now, life is changing and it’s ok to let it. This was the trip where I came to that realisation peacefully, thankfully. Like a weight of expectation – that I hadn’t known I was carrying – finally lifting.

I pondered all of this in the picturesque Fitzroy Gardens

Pondering big life questions in the picturesque Fitzroy Gardens

My gypsy travellers heart can’t help but think – there’s still so much to discover in Austria. So many European Weekend Getaways to be had. SO MUCH German grammar still to be conquered! The tornado trip home spins you round, shakes up all your ideas of who you are, were and could be – but eventually drops you right back where you’re supposed to be with a fresh perspective.

Plans for 2016 are finally taking shape – because I can let go of any expectations. It took returning to where I was from, to figure out where I wanted to go, and where I really belong.

And now? I can’t bloody wait to see what’s next. All I know is I ‘m excited to unleash more writing, photography, travelling and Austrian discoveries in the year ahead. Stick around here and we can figure it out together 🙂

Have you had some grand realisations after a return trip home to your family? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. Bonus points if you can tell me when the hell Fitzroy got so bourgeois trendy!!



  1. Dear Carlie…
    always keep in mind that you are living in “two worlds” from now on – you probably are travelling from HOME to HOME now happily ever after…
    Here is my “realisation” story:
    In 2006 me and my back then boyfriend moved to Australia on a Skilled Independent Visa without being in the country ever before… we were crazy enough to apply for PR from overseas – because we thought it to be a great opportunity to live in perfect climate, somewhere close to the beach and “by the way” we will improve our english at one point (that would have been the official main reason for migrating)
    So we moved “Down Under” with simple luggage – we did book a return ticket within a year – so that we either could go back home on a holiday, or move back permanently after a 10 months Aussie adventure…
    Well, in 2007 we decided to stay longer – we just loved our “new life” in Australia, everything was so exciting, people were so friendly and having the ocean and beaches of Sydney*s beaches in walking distance just made us feel like we are not having enough of this country… In 2008 our first child was born an Australian Citizen – I guess that might have been the “turning point” in the adventure – from that point, there was more to it then just having a great time – we actually wanted to make the whole thing work.
    While still being at home as a mom with the baby – my partner was offered a job with his company in California, U.S.A. – and as we enjoyed Australia so much, but knew how hard it was to get the working permit – we decided that we wanted to give it a go – since his company organized our visas and payed the move… So after 2.5 years in Australia we moved to Los Angeles, to add a bit of American experience to the family portfolio – and an American citizen also. In 2010 our second daughter was born, due to territorial birth law she was born American 🙂
    In 2011 there would have been another move on the cards – the company wanted to send us to US East Coast, Boston. We had a brief look at it, spending a couple of months there, but my partner was not sure if he would enjoy his work under the boss there – and so we decided to eventually move back to Australia – since we also preferred it to what we tasted in the US so far.
    Moving back to Australia in 2011 was probably the realisation, that from now on we are not having one HOME but two HOMES… Austria and Australia… After being away for a couple of years and now moving back into the same suburb, into the same apartment – meeting up with the friends from two years ago, seeing the moms from my mothers group again… – we realised that Australia has become our second Home already…
    The same year my partner proposed to me – and we decided, that we will get married in Austria – as always anticipated before we moved in the first place. In 2012 we went home to Austria to get married amongst family and friends – and that was the other HOME experience no one could take away from us… you see, we are both Austrians – and we both felt during this trip – that we owe our family back at home a bit more presence…
    So we decided, that once our older daughter will have to start school – we will move back to Austria (at least give it a good try)… Back in Australia this intent was getting paler and paler – and we already convinced ourselves that for the kids it is such an amazing opportunity to grow up bilingual, that it probably would be alright to stay a bit longer in OZ…
    But then my husband was offered a job in Vienna in late 2013 – out of the blue – they found him on Linked in, and he did get the job – and we decided that this was a twist of fate – a sign that we have to go “home”… and we did it.

    We are now back in Austria for a bit over two years – and it looks like we will be staying for a few more years – maybe forever… BUT – nearly every day I think about our life in Australia – it was such a great life too – and we are trying to keep in touch with our friends there – and of course this is fading a bit – but I know for sure one day we will be back there… – sooner or later 🙂
    I would have a few side stories here, but I guess this is enough for now – to keep it short again… I think we can be very happy to be able to consider two places somehow HOME, what an amazing gift this is, and I*m very thankful for that!

    And yes, similar to how you feel, I cannot wait to see what`s next – or better when there is our next visit to OZ as a family… I`m kind of dreaming to take a year off Austria – to go and live in Australia for a while again – if this is feasible with the kids, jobs, money wise…. I don`t know, but we`ll see…

    Enjoy your discoveries and keep writing – your blog is one of my links to beloved Australia 🙂 Thank You!

    1. Author

      Wow Silvia that’s a fabulous story! So great to hear of families moving back and forth. Australia is just a hard place to shake off right? Really appreciate your story and support, thank you!!

  2. Carly, you write so well. You manage to put feelings, that I too, have had for years now, (since 2008 when I went back to Australia for the first and only time since I arrived in Vienna in 2005) but for me these feelings and thought seemed to just frustrate me.
    You wrote on another occasion about that awkward situation where people from ‘home’ just can’t understand why you choose not to live there anymore/right now.
    I had to learn as a tour leader, particularly working with a majority of Australians, how to be very diplomatic in answering this question: ‘It’s a wonderful place to live, but I love languages and… I couldn’t be a European Tour Leader in Australia, so, I guess right now it’s not for me.’ – being very VERY careful not to offend. And of course it got much easier to excuse myself from being an Australian resident when I started in a relationship with my now Wienermann (hahah), because as a woman, if you find a partner, well, that’s a perfectly good reason to not move back home (but i’ll refrain from getting on a tangent in the shape of a feminist rant!).
    What I am getting at, (finally) is that I pondered all these questions and more, the same ones in this blog, and continue to ponder them now almost 7 years after my last visit to Australia. Melbourne has changed radically, and it’s not my old stomping ground anymore either and it frustrates me when the feeling of ‘I don’t prefer it’ is not good enough for people.
    I feel more connected to my European roots now, (particularly my Central European roots) than the connection I ever felt with my understanding of my Australian national identity.
    I love being a foreigner, and I will never technically be one in Melbourne – though even after only being away 3.5yrs before I returned that one and only time, I felt as much as a foreigner as I have in Paris, Istanbul or Dubrovnik and I am sure that sensation would only be more intense now, should I revisit Melbourne after another 7 years since the last time I went ‘home’.
    Thanks for sharing 😉

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for the kind words Leona – I shudder to think how Melbourne may be if I return in 7 years time! But I think identifying yourself with where you are now is so important and it’s pretty special that you are able to re-connect with your European roots. The tactful response to the questions is always the trickiest game I feel – especially as Aussies have a tendency to be quite, ahm, fiercely patriotic shall we say? 😉 Thank you for sharing your experiences it really does help to know that it’s an ongoing process and it’s ok to, maybe, as you say always be a foreigner and just embrace that!

  3. Lovely post Carly! ‘Glad that you had a great time. Yep! As expats, we live in two worlds neither being here or there and when the time is right, we either choose to stay abroad or go “home.”

    I’m very clear that I am British and will remain so until my dying day, but my home and my heart is in Germany. With my German husband and my half German-half British son, and it’s perfectly OK lol!. !

    1. Author

      You’re so spot on Vic! The handy dandy German partner and half-German son definitely helps cement an identity I’m sure 🙂

  4. Dear Carly,
    This is such a relatable post, you’ve summed up my own internal struggles pretty accurately! I went home to Canada for the holidays after living in the Netherlands for a year (and before that, Vienna!) And when I returned, it felt like I was really going “home”. I have a Dutch boyfriend and I’m starting my career here, and have imagined all the alternative paths I could have taken. Going back to Canada helped me realise that I’m doing exactly what I want to do. While it’s not always easy, having more than one place in this world to call home is something I’ll never take for granted!

    Keep it up 🙂

    1. Author

      Hey Erika thanks so much for sharing your story – the Netherlands is so beautiful, you lucky thing!! Bit flatter than Canada though, eh? (Trying and failing for Canadian accent there haha). That feeling of knowing is such a relief isn’t it? Even through the hard decisions, knowing you’ve made the right choice is kind of liberating. Go kick arse in the Netherlands!!

  5. Haha, I know exactly the feeling! I was only 6 hours away from Los Angeles in San Francisco, but every time I went back for a week it was such a fun, but exhausting whirlwind. Can’t wait to keep following your adventures! I’ve been a little behind on my blog reading as I finally moved abroad myself around New Year’s! Whoot!!!

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