Sydney, Manly, Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island, Cairns, Blue Mountains, Jervis Bay,...

It’s my last day here today. I’m thinking back to all that has happened in my life over the last six months. Things have not gone according to plan, in fact quite literally the opposite. I like to think that my travel experiences over the years have made me more resilient in adapting to changing circumstances and tackling the curves and bumps in the road ahead. It turns out that nothing can quite prepare you for complete and utter global upheaval, all you can do is find acceptance, perspective, positivity. I have to some extent accepted what has come to pass, and gained new perspectives along the way. Some very positive and others less so. Above all, I have discovered within myself a new appreciation for the raw beauty and potential of the life that each of us is here to live. And that will always be my memory of Australia.

It’s funny how time seems to compress and expand according to the meaning of its content and the eye of the observer. I find myself becoming more and more peacefully nostalgic looking back, rather than constantly anticipating what’s next. Attempting to hold on to moments and memories, which keep piling up as life passes, has never mattered to me more. Realizing what truly matters, who truly matters, building my present upon the strongest and brightest bricks of the past. Using the power of a mindful mind to be in the moment and fully absorb what the world around me has to offer. And knowing that feeling comfortable in a healthy physical body is an essential part of that.

There might not be a better place to come to terms with these insights than the insanely beautiful country that is Australia. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions, I still managed to explore some of its plentiful natural wonders. Maria and I went on an impromptu apocalyptic campervan road trip from Sydney to Cairns, skirting border closures, social distancing in our cozy containment and managing increasingly sparse overnight hospitality. We found ourselves completely alone on spectacular beaches, hiking lush rainforests and cruising along gorgeous, vast expanses of Australian coastline. We saw wild giant lizards, deadly spiders, eucalyptus-eating koalas, kangaroos with their joeys, poisonous snakes, jurassic birds, rainbow-colored parrots, as well as a few humans.

Australian humans are generally great. I had always wondered whether the extroverted, enthusiastic, party-loving, booze-binging walking Australian backpacker cliché I’d come to know and love abroad would carry over to the homeland. And to some extent it does, despite the general nanny-state approach the country has to public behavior and the abundance of rules and regulations. People are extremely polite, open-hearted and talkative. Society is hyper-modern, publicly open-minded yet steeped in Anglo-Saxon traditions. There is a lot of dark history, mostly related to the colonization efforts by the British and the discrimination and abuse of the indigenous Aboriginal population. Their unfathomable 40.000-year history provides yet another perspective on time and the meaning of a human lifespan. Though traces of their world remain, everyday life is marked by staples of prosperity and spaciousness that characterize the Western new world. Massive pick-up trucks guzzle gas, imposing skyscrapers mark city skylines, consumption is king and money its mistress. Life is good in Australia, exotic and foreign in some ways but familiar and comfortable in most others. A place where most people are generational immigrants, it’s no wonder that people come from all over to start a new chapter in their lives here. My chapter has been brief, but I don’t regret starting it.

University life has not been university life since by the time I got settled on my new campus, it had to shut. Work life has not been work life because the experiment I was able to set up never got carried out, and setbacks have been pretty much constant after that. But through all of this, having Maria be here with me for most of the time made these aspects pale in significance compared to the quality and positivity in my personal, actual life. We lived in a peaceful, communal house hosted by Karen, an artist and extremely generous person. The ocean was 5 minutes away, along with Manly beach, one of the most famed Australian surf spots. We had sanctuary there to explore our life and our love together, and to keep expanding the horizons beyond which we continue to find profound and exciting new ways to navigate our unique bond. This summer will mark thirteen years since we first met, and my feelings for her are only ever growing.

So with utmost sincerity, I believe that life remains quite unbelievably exciting, not only despite but perhaps also because of the setbacks that have come along. Every cloud has a silver lining, but only when the sun is shining through. Call me naïve (pun intended), but that may be the best way to deal with the challenges that each and everyone of us have been facing, and will continue to have to deal with for the foreseeable future. To attempt to find acceptance, perspective and a positive outlook.

I hope for myself that I will continue to be able to fulfill these intentions as I return home to Europe, home to the final stretch of a stressful yet rewarding PhD degree, home to my family and my friends, home to my love, home to my violin, home to the next chapter in my life.

July 2nd, 2020

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