I’ve been in Australia for just shy of two years, and in that time this global traveler has crash landed and found herself a home.
However, despite my contentment about living in tomorrow, occasionally there are things that aggravate me about this continent and make me miss living in the US.
A simple example? Hydrogen peroxide.
Yeah, you read that right. That 32 ounce brown bottle you can get for 96 cents at Walmart? Fantastic for getting out blood, as a wound disinfectant and using as a cleaning material? Here in Australia, if I’m lucky I can spend four dollars and get shy of 7 ounces. It’s much more difficult to find, and when I’ve asked around I’m stared at like I have three heads.
That’s not the only pharmacy-adjacent purchase I miss. Let’s talk melatonin.
In the US, melatonin is considered a supplement, just like buying iron or magnesium or getting a bottle of vitamins. I can spend $10 on 180 tablets that each have 12mg of it.
Completely the opposite here. In Australia, melatonin is highly regulated and you need a prescription for it. My partner does shift work, so we often have it around the house to help him switch from working overnights to working days. A single box of 30 pills at 2mg (yes, 2, not 12!) runs about $35. If you happen to get a 5mg prescription instead, you’re looking at nearly $100.
Okay, okay, maybe I mostly miss pharmacies back home! Staying in the health section of Walmart, can I whimper slightly about deodorant?
I’ve spent significant time in nine different countries, with another 20ish being shorter visits. In all those places, the United States is the ONLY one I’ve been to where stick deodorant is normal. Roll-on deodorant, crystal sticks, spray deodorant, sure! But often there is one or two options for stick deodorant in the men’s and women’s sections. I’ve been proudly using one advertised as being a “masculine” scent for the last couple of years. The roll-ons melt everywhere, and the aerosols from the sprays make me feel sick every time someone uses them. So here I’ll stay in my awkward place, buying the only options I can find.
Speaking of buying, goodness do I miss pay-at-the-pump! It was such an odd experience when I first moved to Oceania to realize that gas stations weren’t prepay. I have to (excuse me while I shudder) interact with people when I fill up! We’ve got self-checkouts at the grocery store, but gas stations just haven’t caught up to my introverted self yet!
I also miss Venmo. Australia is SLOOOOWLY moving more in that direction by introducing PayID where you attach your bank account to your phone number or email, but it is still extremely common that when you need to send money to someone, you ask “What’s your BSB and account?” Just willy-nilly handing out routing and account numbers! Like! To strangers and friends alike! Once you’ve added them as a contact in your online banking it is pretty routine for paying back roommates for bills and rent, but still.
Oh, and Amazon is completely useless here. You know how in the US you can type “orange fuzzy blanket” and get six options of exactly that and 3,000 options related? Not so in Amazon Australia. We get, like, six options in total and none of them are orange, or fuzzy. Or they are orange, but not a blanket. I swear, 60% of the time I just give up and go to Kmart.com and wait the extra week for my items to arrive.
(And, yes. Kmart and Target both exist in Australia, but swap your mental reputations for them. Target is pretty useless here as well, but Kmart has everything.)
Living here, however, has turned me into a pretty decent cook. I’m learning how to create without the ease of ingredients. I wanted to show off a treat from home – scotcheroos – to celebrate my roommate finishing his degree. It turns out we don’t have butterscotch chips, so I learned to make them. I’ve learned the difference between icing sugar and soft icing sugar so that I can make my own buttercream frosting. I’ve gotten very good at roasting Brussel sprouts and making stew. And, like everyone else, I’ve gotten pretty good at baking bread.
I realized that I was settling in to this country as a “real home” about this time last year when I returned from farmwork and decided to purchase my own (second-hand) espresso machine. From living out of a backpack for several years to purchasing something the size of a computer from the 90s was a drastic transition… Although it certainly cut down on my coffee bill!
While moving to another country can feel like death by a thousand papercuts with all the little changes, even for someone who has traveled as much as I have, eventually it becomes home sweet home.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I’m now a resident in Australia, on a de facto spousal visa with my partner Michael. Some day I may write a post talking about the fees and evidence we had to provide to prove that we were life partners, made extra difficult by the pandemic. At the same time, the lack of other visas being issued meant that partner visas were prioritized and instead of having to wait 2+ years for my visa to be approved, ours was granted in five months.
When I got the email, I was sitting next to Michael and one of our witnesses who wrote a supporting statement. Apparently, he was afraid someone had died because I went white and froze waiting for the grant letter to load. Afterwards, I ran and grabbed a scroll I had created in preparation of telling him the good news. I think at this point I can officially say I’m an immigrant?
Further ways of making Australia a home? Well, we have a cat! Navani (rhymes with Bonnie) is the snuggliest little Russian Blue you’ve ever met. She is happiest when Michael and I are together, but will guard whomever is asleep and give cuddles to whomever is awake. She often gives the tiniest meow and then stretches up our legs until we pick her up and she can flomp over our shoulders. Talk about making me melt! Navani is about ten months old and has made the last six months an absolute joy.
I’ve also gotten my motorcycle permit. Granted, I use it to legally drive a moped around the city, but it’s been a delightful freedom. Public transport is around, but what is a 12 minute drive takes 75 minutes on PT from our little corner. We talked about getting me a car, but between the parking situation and the expense, we decided that a scooter would be a more affordable option. Also, people think I’m cool now? I’ll walk into the shops wearing my riding coat and strangers will come up and try to talk motorcycles with me. I always feel a little embarrassed when I’m like… Look, my moped is huge but it’s still not a proper bike. Regardless, it is the greatest feeling in the world to ride next to the Bay on a sunny day and feel the wind buffeting me around.
I know that I’ve turned into the worst blogger in the world. Believe me, I know! I even finished the first draft of my book and I haven’t touched it in months. But I thank you all for your love and support, zoom calls and care packages. Living abroad this long at one go has been a surprise (Michael and I were meant to go to Iowa last July. We bought our tickets in February right before the world ended.) It’s been difficult to be away from my family for so long, difficult to watch two of my closest friends get married through a screen, difficult to break a promise to be there when my college roommate defends her dissertation, difficult to be approaching five years since my dad’s passing and to be so far from his farm. Yet through all the difficulties, there has been beauty and joy. There has been growth. There have been tears and therapy. There has been laughter and dates with my love. There has been creativity and change.
I’m not who I was when I started traveling fifteen years ago. I’m not who I was when I lived in a van three years ago. I’m not who I was before the pandemic started. It’s a process, it’s a change, and it’s a chance.
Thank you for coming with me on this journey, anyway.