We’ve been back from our walk for over two months now, and I (Gab) thought I would have settled back in by now. Australia is my home, I’ve lived here most of my life, it should be easy for me to slot myself back into daily life here. Everything is great…..NOT.
Walking across South East Asia was hard, not just because of the physical feat, but because of the cultural and language barriers and the distance from loved ones. However there was a great freedom in being able to wake up and walk, literally just walk and keep walking until you were tired. It was addictive. All those endorphins, the feeling of accomplishment each day, taking in our surroundings, listening to podcasts (and feeling like we were super smart from all the things we were learning) and literally being greeted by complete strangers with love and food (another form of love). That’s not to say we didn’t have our downs, I mean, we’re not exactly jumping up and down to go cross a subcontinent again. But life was devoid of clutter. Living out of a backpack surely helped.
One of the first things that startled me when I got home was the sheer amount of stuff I had. I felt a bit gross going back to my room at my parents (yes, guiltly, I still store a lot of things at my parents, slap me and call me “entitled youth”), and opening my cupboards to find stuff that I didn’t even need or use anymore. So many different clothes I didn’t know what to do with them all. I now realise that my wardrobe is a lot smaller than most, but two months ago it looked colossal to me. I felt sick.
I realise that a lot of families in Asia don’t have a huge amount of material possessions (this is changing rapidly in countries like Thailand and China), but instead are forced to make decisions about what is a necessity. Being as privileged as I am, I am not forced into a simple life, but I know it’s better for the planet, and probably better for my mental health. It’s awful that the rich in the world get to “choose” to be minimalistic, and I hate that it has become a trendy movement. Um, hello, those living on basics have been living minimally for centuries! Isn’t it nice to be able to choose to be simple? Ugh, it makes me feel icky. But then at the same time I wish most privileged people (like myself) would buy less and help conserve resources.
I’ve really been struggling with how much opulence there is in Melbourne, so many trendy and expensive cafes, so many shopping stores, so so so many ways to spend, spend, spend. I’ve taken on a job that literally requires me to sell, sell, sell and I’m just a part of the cycle.
Another thing I’ve been struggling with is being surrounded by people all living in their own bubbles. So many of us just sit in our day to day lives and don’t explore beyond that. I find myself disengaged from mundane conversation. I can’t even nod and smile politely. I’m thinking about the fact that my friends in Cambodia are now faced with living under a dictatorship and I’m worried about their safety.
I find myself in difficult situations where meeting new people at a party and we compliment each others outfits and they proceed to brag about the bargain they got from “insert-chain-store-here” and I want to scream and cry and laugh all at the same time. I want to shout BUT DON’T YOU KNOW PEOPLE ARE DYING AND THE PLANET IS BEING DESTROYED? DON’T YOU KNOW THERE IS A BETTER WAY??!!! I CROSSED ASIA FOR NOTHING! NORTH KOREA SHOULD JUST NUKE US ALL! Instead I just lower my head and look for snacks, so I can’t talk, preferably cheese. (I’d also like to say a massive thanks to those who have taken the time to say they appreciate WSG and have been working on changing their shopping habits, Thank-you).
I’m scared that I too am going to be sucked back into the “bubble” life. I worry if that happens, it becomes so much easier to be ignorant. It becomes easy to buy clothes and not worry about where they come from, because instead of thinking about that, I’ll be thinking about my promotion at work, or the fact that I need to save for a holiday, or that I want to look smokin’ at my cousin’s wedding and I’m shopping last minute.
There’s a lot I miss about Asia. I miss being welcomed into strangers homes, I miss sharing food with people on the streets, I miss being outdoors every day, I miss the freedom of it all. But, far out, I do love being around my family and friends. Wow, I missed you guys.
Australia is such a beautiful place and I’m so lucky to be back. The natural beauty does make it easy to return too. I do love a sunburnt country. For now, I’m going to stay focused on the things we can achieve and keep chipping away. Also I’m going to keep wearing dope ethical fashion so that when I get asked about my clothes at parties (I’m so pretty and popular), I can brag about the awesome stories behind them.