The glowing appeal of a place you’ve already decided to leave


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As regular readers of this blog may have noted, I've moved around a lot in the past few years. Changing jobs, changing housing, changing countries. It has been wonderful and amazing and sometimes exhausting.

I'm about to move again, this time back to Canberra for work.

There's something that all these moves have taught me.

That something is… all the places I have lived have been great, but they seem even more amazing once I've made the decision to leave them.

The urgency of having limited time left in a place makes you appreciate things more and makes you realise how much you haven't seen yet. The complacency you feel when you live in a place permanently (or even semi-permanently) suddenly vanishes and you realise just how lucky you are to be in the place you are about to leave.

There's also a flood of nostalgia. You are slapped with the memories of certain places and certain events over and over and you think 'awww, remember that time? Wasn't that amazing?'

As soon as I have the next plan worked out, the plane ticket out, things suddenly appear so different. All of a sudden, the sea I drove past every day to work in Dili was sparkling and even more blue. The cheap fried noodle stall around the corner in Jakarta takes on a weighty significance. The dingy cocktail bar you've drank in so many times is suddenly some sort of limited experience you need to grasp as much as you can of before your flight leaves town. You suddenly realise how many museums and galleries there are in Washington DC and Canberra. You look at the beauty of Sydney Harbour and the beaches that you barely ever went to because a 20 minute drive seemed like an effort and you smack yourself for your own foolishness.

And the hardest part of all is the people — even though the people are often transient, just like you, and you know you will (hopefully) see them again and you're all connected on Facebook, etc. But you won't see them in the same time and place, in the same bar, in the same cafe, eating fried rice from that same roadside stall, carving pumpkins in that same leafy suburbia. You can't recreate exactly what a place was before, even if you move back.

I've been pretty lucky to live in places that I have found hard to leave and to have met so many wonderful people. This is certainly no lament about that.

Sometimes people think people who move around a lot are trying to escape something. Maybe some of them are. But it's hard to have made your home in many places. And even those of us who move often forget just how hard it is to say goodbye until we've already made the decision to pack our bags.


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