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How Canberra saved me from the post-adventure blues

Sarah Bown

That’s right people, you read the headline correctly.

This is a piece about hope. About salvation. About how to learn Hebrew in a week (ok it’s not about that).

2016 has been a journey so far.

There have been highs: Gilmore Girls coming to Netflix, pineapple Tim Tams and second place in Eurovision. And the lows: the latest Batman movie, Pokemon Go and the real global threat of Donald Trump. But for me, calling Canberra my new home in 2016 saved me from the most deadly of ailments: the dreaded post-adventure blues.

Diagnosed following an extended period overseas or away from home typically including little responsibility and a lot of irresponsible drinking, the prognosis can be scary. The post adventure blues manifests itself as anxiety, stress and the ultimate realisation everyone is buying houses and picking out bonbonniere and you’ve worn the same jeans for six days and can’t remember the last time you filed a tax return.

Until you’ve lived it, it can seem a far-off notion, something made up to scare people. Like global warming.

“You’ll adjust back to routine super quick, trust me.”

“It’s just a phase, everything will settle soon you’ll see.”

“Oh you didn’t hear yeah Jane and Doug started getting it on while you were gone!” #somepeoplegetstraighttothegossip

I’ve experienced the post-adventure blues and it’s about as much fun as the line at Centrelink.

Exactly six months ago I was up at 4am in -36 degrees driving to Ulaanbaatar airport, the capital of Mongolia. I had been living there for a year and the time had come to head back down under. Of course the preliminary emotions were positive.

Will remember what sunshine feels like again.

Will see family and friends.

Will eat body weight in avocados and donuts (they do have donuts in Mongolia, I was just going through a phase).

But simmering underneath all of the excitement was the eloquent feeling of “What the Bonjour am I going to do now?” (excuse the French)

I didn’t have a job. Or a house. Or much money. Ok any money. My parents were ponying up for my avocado habit.

All I had was a month of freedom before I moved to Canberra (insert slight shudder) and crossed my fingers it wouldn’t be a complete disaster. That should be enough time to amalgamate back into normal society right?

Upon my arrival home I stayed with my parents in country South Australia. Population 30,000. Unlike Mongolia all of those actual people and not 27% horse.

At first the freedom made me a little giddy.

Should I get up at 12pm on a Monday?

Should I wear my elf costume all day and choreograph and interpretative dance to “Michael Buble’s Christmas”?

But gradually the pool of dread started to lap at my ankles.

One afternoon I ran into a girlfriend from High School and our conversation went a little something like this:

“Oh hi, what are you doing in town? Just home for a visit?”

“Actually I just got back from overseas, I lived in Mongolia last year”

(Insert long pause here where she tries to figure out if I’m serious or off my meds)

“Mongolia? Wow I wasn’t even sure that was a real place…. Well I’ve been busy the little one is three already and I’m getting married next week”.

“Oh darling how frightfully lovely!”

Ok so my response was less Downton Abbey and more Geordie Shore but you get the idea. We may as well have been from different planets.

I felt like I had changed so much and yet my world back home hadn’t changed at all. In a whole year my Mum had gotten two new pairs of shoes. That she insisted on modelling for me. Twice.

I was the odd one out. The bacon and egg sanga on the hipster breakfast menu. The deep fried Mars Bar in a sea of burpees.

It took everything I had not to pack my bags and jump on a plane again to avoid confronting all dem feelings. Reverse culture shock had hit hard. It was like listening to Taylor Swift for 24 hours straight. Seemingly innocuous but ultimately proving fatal.

A few weeks later I arrived in Canberra a little uncertain. Was I going to feel differently in this new town with its brash display of manicured nature and military precision traffic lights? Or was it simply a new backdrop upon which the Shakespearean tragedy of my adventurous spirit was to die a slow death?

The changes started off small. I began applying for jobs. Shopping for cutlery and bedside tables. Attempting to make new friends with a zeal that mostly proved to scare them off. These are all of the things I would have done in my old city but the air of freshness about everything Canberra was making a big difference.

I felt pleasantly distracted. Happily occupied. Positively well adjusted. Basically the opposite of everything I felt before. I realised I didn’t need to fly off to Mozambique for ‘nother hit of the good stuff. I had just needed a new Australian adventure to sink my teeth into.

Now I am pleased to have settled back into my old routines.

Watch Masterchef while eating 2 minute noodles.

Tell the boyfriend of course I watched his football game when really I was there for 10 minutes and then went to get a panini.

Reading instead of cleaning and then procrasti-cleaning instead of writing.

But I’m also happy to have included new aspects to my routine. Walks home from work in the crisp late afternoon sun. Sunday morning breakfasts at the newest local cafe. Telling myself I’ll go to Canberra Centre and just browse and then giggle when of course I admit that’s not true.

Settling into Canberra helped me settle back into life in the slower lane. Where a great day is making pancakes and getting to Coles early to avoid the crowds.

Do I miss the thrills and spills of a life of adventure?

The time we were abandoned overnight in a yurt and dozens of cows started circling?

The time I thought I was saying “me too” in Mongolian but actually saying “I want to poo”?

Of course.

But life ebbs and flows and I know another adventure is around the corner.

Like tonight we are going to this great Vietnamese place in Dickson and I am going to get the deep fried AND fresh spring rolls.

Wild. Child. People #getoutofmyway

Sarah is now playing over on Facebook at Signed By Sez, sharing more newbie tips, general hilarity and plenty of things to read while procrastinating doing actual work. Be there or be square!

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Sarah Bown

Sarah is fresh off the plane to Canberra and quickly realising she's not in Kansas anymore. She's a writer and marketing professional by day and spends her free time reading way too much self-help literature followed up by too much Pinot Gris. Sarah spent 2015 working in Mongolia sharing her marketing and communications skills with local organisations. Yes it was her choice, yes they have internet and no it's not next to Syria. She's in Canberra to write more, exercise more, meditate more and then proceed to do Option D: none of the above. Sarah shares more newbie tips, general hilarity and plenty of things to read while procrastinating doing actual work at www.facebook.com/signedbysez. More about the Author

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