I’ve been away from Australia for six weeks now, and I’m finding myself pining already for my island home. Which is funny, since I don’t usually miss Australia at all when I’m gone.
For the longest time I could stay away for months on end and not care if I ever came back or not. That probably had to do with the fact that I didn’t really identify as Australian for a long time. Silly I know since I was born there, but whenever I (the girl with the weird, unpronounceable surname, who had salami on her sandwiches instead of Vegemite and who was terrified of the surf) was asked where I was from I’d identify with my European roots first, apologetically adding the Australian bit at the end.
Anyway call it maturity, or maybe being away from home too often, but somewhere along the way I’ve found countless reasons to love and miss the place I now truly identify as home. Most of them have to do with geography rather than culture because, let’s face it, that’s our best asset down under – and I’ve decided that suits me perfectly.
Here are ten things I love about you, Australia, illustrated with imagery from the inimitable Trevor King.
I love the way you light up
I remember returning home from France for the first time when I was 16 and being struck by how blinding your light was. You have a light so vivid the air becomes almost opaque with it, a light that turns water into glitter.
I love the way you sound
Especially in summer. The chanting of cicadas on a hot summer’s night, the cackling of kookaburras in the afternoon, the crack of thunder during a summer storm – there is no better soundtrack on earth.
I love how you make me move
Your glorious weather pulls me out of bed at sunrise and plunges me into your hammering, surging surf, pushes me through your national parks, and makes me hike aimlessly for hours along your ragged coastlines. This means, quite simply, that I always feel good when I’m with you.
I love how you bring out the wild side of me
On days when your sun burns the sky clear of clouds, I love the way you make me walk barefoot down suburban streets, not caring whether the asphalt scorches my soles.
I love how you bloom
Summer on your soils means the sweet scent of blossoming jasmine, towering jacaranda trees ablaze with violet-coloured blooms, pavements littered with frangipanis to tuck behind my ear… You are the original flower bomb.
I love how affable you are
For us to be truly happy in life, we need to feel connected with other human beings on a daily basis. Thank goodness, then, for the way you encourage people to smile at each other in the street, to call a stranger ‘mate’ and actually mean it, and to give bear hugs instead of air kisses.
I love how you feed me
I’m mad about the mountains of fresh bright green lettuces, fat orange prawns, slimy Sydney rock oysters and prickly pineapples you offer up so bounteously, and the fact that I can travel the culinary globe – from Japan, to Morocco, to India and beyond – when I’m with you.
I love your wide open spaces
The lush Eucalypt forests of the Blue Mountains, the vast emptiness of the baked desert interior, the rumpled, roo-lined gorges of the Hunter Valley: all places you can get lost, and found, in.
I love your waters
I’ve swum in ocean trenches in Samoa, in boundless lakes in Mongolia, in hot springs in rural China and in glittering coves in France’s Cote d’Azur, but your pristine waters win every time.
I love that you’re still such a mystery to me
There’s still so much of you I haven’t seen, Australia. The scorching ochre plains of your Red Centre, the wild shores of your west coast, the tropical wilderness of your northern territories… The list is endless, so luckily life is as long as you are huge.