So I lived in Melbourne for a year.
Eleven months, to be exact.
My goal, when I flew from Bali to Melbourne, was the same one I had when I spent eleven months in Beijing. I wanted to work and save as much money as I could, while experimenting life in a new environment. But why Australia this time?
Because after my stay in China, I quickly drew a few lessons from the experience and I established a few guidelines for my next pit stop.
First was the importance of ultimate frisbee (and sport in general) in my daily life. Following a whole year without playing ultimate and during which bouldering (alone) had been my main – not to say only – sport/physical activity, I knew that another year of work without intensely practicing a sport I love would be extremely difficult both mentally and physically.
Second, the importance of very good friends, or the possibility to make new ones. Because if the novelty and exoticism inherent in a year spent in China bring a whole lot of enriching experiences, the downside can be found in the small size of the immigrant community. Incidentally, the pool of strangers where you would usually look for people to bond with and build an authentic friendship is tiny.
My vagabonding across South China, Nepal and Southeast Asia during the following year logically pushed me toward Australia, but it’s chiefly the possibility of satisfying those two requirements that made Melbourne an unavoidable destination.
That was, at the time, my hope.
Although I learned a lot and had the best boss I ever had, I won’t pretend that working – for the first time – as a labourer in construction (concreting, landscaping, tiling, painting) was a revelation to me. To say that I managed to put aside as much money as I could would be just as false.
Australia was supposed to be a year of “work”, but it became something else.
It’s performing in ultimate Frisbee with an elite open club, a level higher then anything I had done before and that could bring me to World Club Championships 2018 in the U.S. that makes me particularly proud. Months of effort, training and learning will have left behind them a taste of personal accomplishment and a deep desire to do it all again. The tournaments that brought me from Sydney to Hawaii already feature among my favorite travel memories.
But still, despite the level of performance that I attained in the sport I love the most in the world, despite the amazing team I had the chance to be part of, what made this year of “work” in Australia unforgettable is nothing more than a handful of new friendships.
Jessica and Mikaël, to be precise.
After several years abroad, the feeling of being truly at home was… undescribable.
Those two ultimate players from my hometown, with whom I only became friend at the other end of the world and only ten years after meeting them, quickly got in the pantheon of my favorite people. And with all the differences between us, in our view of travels, of the future, in our cinematographic tastes and our thinking patterns, this traveling couple became a model for me.
They made me reflect on complicity, compromise and complementarity in relationships.
But also, more recently, on the real meaning of “home”.
To me, home is not inevitably the house of my childhood, my old single bed waiting at my mother’s place or the city I grew up and studied in. Of course, with parents who split up before I was two, moving physically, mentally and emotionally between two confronting worlds each week until I was 17 could alter the question and define home in a very personal way. But even when I try to ignore my own experience, I realize that “home” is not necessarily a place I know by heart.
With Mik and Jess as flatmates for five short months, just like a few other times already, I had the feeling that home didn’t have an address. No city. No country.
Because I could truly feel home literally on the other side of the planet, because I happened to get this impression in Istanbul, Montpellier and Beijing, I understood that it wasn’t the place that became home. It was the people around me.
People I love, and who love me back, as simple as that might sound like, are the framework and the address of that “being home” feeling.
The song I listened to the most for the past four years – since I left Canada – is probably The Road, from Old Man Canyon, a small Canadian band. The chorus goes like this:
« I’ll go the way less walked to find
All the roads that wind
Between the trees, over the seas, I’ll go
Till I’m home »
– Old Man Canyon (The Road)
I wouldn’t say that Jess and Mik, or Carlos, Matt or Laura will have given a meaning to those words. But they will certainly have taught me that there will always be a home where there are people I love. Be it at their address somewhere around the world or in Québec, Montréal or Sherbrooke, I will feel like home.
I will be home.