Finally, my family and I were going to be expats in Asia. An adventure I had dreamed about all those years, holed up at work in my shoebox of an office trying to save the world. I had spent our last year at home gathering the strength I needed to leave my all too familiar world behind me and bravely thrust myself into the unknown. Abandoning five acres in paradise and the people I knew and loved was hardly going to be easy. But as I was fast approaching forty, the opportunity to leave my complicated childhood behind me for good (it had plagued me for far too long), was something I was ready to embrace.
I would miss watching the Squirrel Gliders scurry sure footed from our roof along the power line on dusk and jump into the Bloodwood tree and glide like magic carpets out into the night, one after another. They didn’t call them ‘rope dancers’ for nothing. I would miss watching the Tawny Frogmouths nest in the same patch of Angophora trees as they had in years past. I would miss the Carpet Snake that lived between the tin roof and the rafters in our shed, taking in the heat of the day and the rats by night. I would miss the big old Brush Box tree in the far corner of our block that stood silently, its arms outstretched, just waiting to be climbed. I would miss listening to the sounds of my son and his father as they searched patiently for crayfish under the rocks in the creek in summer, squealing with excitement when they got lucky. I would miss huddling around the fire in winter, sipping red wine, sharing stories and laughing with my friends under the night sky, as the children slept.
There was a lot that I wouldn’t miss though, and the three of us were keen to start a new life in one of the most populated cities in the world, Bangkok. My partner was ready to plunge head on into his exciting new job, I was ready to completely let go of the shackles of my past and immerse myself in the fascinating machinations of Asia, and my son, a happy-go-lucky six year old, was ready for anything that looked like fun. Although I had some apprehensions about leaving life in the bush for the city, I couldn’t wait to be somewhere else.
We had already secured a modern apartment in Bangkok; a far cry from the one hundred year old timber Queenslander we left behind in desperate need of a slap of paint. Our new place is on a corner block with large expanses of glass along its western and northern faces. It overlooks a wide but relatively quiet street (soi), fringed by tall sprawling trees and courtyard gardens. There is even a Mango tree amongst it all, to remind us of home.
We were quick to observe that every power pole in Bangkok is draped in swathes of cable, some connected to the grid and some not, leaving even the Thai cable guys scratching their heads as they stood on their bamboo ladders trying to decipher the puzzle. Used or abandoned, this tapestry of cable provides the perfect superhighway for Bangkok’s resident Squirrel population. Our days in the big city began with what we termed “Squirrel watch”. There were red ones, brown ones, and grey ones, with various combinations of colours in between. Our favourite one to watch is a bedraggled old albino. As weeks went by we discovered all manner of birds, reptiles and insects, right on our doorstep. And so the buzz of the cicadas back home was quickly replaced by the sound of barking dogs, the hum and toots of motorbikes and the haunting calls of Asian Koels feeding on fruit and defending their patch in the trees across the soi.
We love our new life in Bangkok and all that it brings to enrich our lives. However, now that I am settled here and that many months have passed, I am able to understand what home means to me more clearly than ever before, and what remains there waiting, what seems like a million miles away, right where I left it in such a rush for something new. Home is no longer ‘the place I didn’t want to be’. Sometimes you just need to be somewhere else before you realise what you left behind. This is why we travel.