Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about place.
I’ve been thinking about place for two reasons. The first is that we are moving apartments in July, and the second is that the first means that we have been back in Brisbane for nearly year, and have not really travelled for nearly a year, and mostly I am content in Brisbane and the time flies by so quickly that I hardly feel like we’ve been back at all really, but sometimes I miss it a lot. The travel. The “other places”.
I’ve been thinking about how important a sense of place is to a person. Both place as in home and place as in cities.
We currently have a beautiful apartment, we really do. But it is completely open plan. And while part of me loves the modern sleekness of it all, part of me, for a while now, has been yearning for a little spot of my own. It need not be an entire room; a little nook or cranny would suffice. Someplace where I can hang up all my personal stuff (photos, notes, what have you) without ruining the aesthetic of the entire house. Someplace where I can leave my yoga mat on the floor, inviting me to sit and relax, and not have to roll it up again every morning. Our new place will have that. And hopefully a little terrace, too, where kitty and I can soak up the sun in the mornings in the comfort of our pyjamas.
I’ve been thinking about cities. About how my mission when I came back to Brisbane was to reclaim this city as my own. I don’t know whether I’ve been successful at that. And I don’t know how much of that is about effort and how much should just happen. (It’s like a relationship, no?) I don’t get out as much as I should, to explore the hidden backstreets, to the festivals and events. I don’t make Brisbane as exciting as it could be. And I know that is my fault, not Brisbane’s, because a place is what you make it. Brisbane will always be my home, my family is here, my friends are here, but I also think that when you’ve been in a place long enough you build up responsibilities – work, tasks, commitments – that can impede on your enjoyment and your ability to just chill in the city. Brisbane has some of that baggage for me. And although I like it here, I find my mind wandering sometimes, to the coastal towns, or too bigger, more bustling cities like Melbourne. (I can never decide what I want – a city with a new coffee place on every corner, and restaurants and bars, and more stuff than I can take in, or a place with one coffee shop – a good one – and space to breathe).
I’ve been thinking about travel. About discovering new places. I’ve been thinking about the subjectivity of travel – how your state of mind, and the state of so many things (your travel companion, your finances, your health), impact on your experience of a place. Years ago, Nic and I spent a week in Prague, in winter, and we both fell horribly ill. At the time it felt like deathly ill. I still don’t know what it was – some kind of virus, I guess. There was one awful night, where we’d dragged ourselves out during the afternoon because we were missing things, historical things, important things. We caught the bus out of town to an old castle and in the evening the bus dropped us back in Prague, on a corner we didn’t know. It was late, we didn’t speak the language and we couldn’t find our train home. Both of us were in a sickness-induced haze – our brains were sluggish and we couldn’t think right. I remember at one point, leaning over, my hands on my knees, while I coughed and coughed, my coughs throwing me off balance, and looking at Nic standing beside me in the snow, shivering violently. It was dark and the streets were deserted. And I remember thinking, “We are not going to get home.” We didn’t know what to do. Finally, we found a train and got on, not knowing where it was going, but just to get out of the cold. That train, that magical train, took us to our street. The next day, I checked the timetables for that train, and its usual route went nowhere near our street. Maybe I was somewhat delusional that night, but that train was a miracle, I tell you. A miracle.
ANYWAY, the point of my long-winded story is that now when I think of Prague all I think of is grey and cold and misery. I think of a Prague that isn’t actually the modern Prague – I think of hunched old ladies with shawls around their heads, I think of wartime Czechoslovakia. But I have friends who swear that Prague is the most beautiful, most incredible city in the world.
By contrast, Paris, for me, will always be perfection. Paris is beauty and fashion and art. It is chocolate and croissants and crepes. The people of Paris have always been pleasant to me. But again, I know people who hate Paris. Who experienced rudeness there, even violence, and who just cannot see what I see when they look at Paris.
Personal experience can change our perception of a place. But place impacts on our experiences too.
Ultimately, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to have a sense of our place in the world, and how that is intricately tied to our physical place. Sometimes it is a complex relationship – like figuring out which place to call “home”. Sometimes it is simple. I know, for example, that I am happiest where it is warm.
Some of my favourite blogs for their sense of place are:
Everyday Musings - Olivia can make me feel nostalgic for Charleston, a city I’ve never been to
Rockstar Diaries – Naomi’s photos make me miss D.C.
ali (formerly) in asia - my Aussie friend from Georgetown, Ali, takes amazing photos of Australia, the U.S. and Asia.