“Why are you moving back to South Africa?”
After 8 years of living in Australia, we as a family have decided to move back to South Africa. In this better part of a decade we have made friends, dived into the culture, had a thousand barbeques, frequented pubs, changed cities, done road trips, changed jobs, had 3 more children, made more friends, and finally in January became official Aussies. We never intended any of this when we came over in 2010 and to be honest thought we would be back in South Africa after a 2 or 3 year adventure.
And now here we are. 8 years and 4 Aussie kids later, and all with a slight twang to our accents. I even support the Aussie cricketers if you can believe that?! Not against SA though, of course.
But what has struck me most about our news to return is that 100% of people have said the same thing to us and asked various versions of the same question, “Why are you coming back?”. And mostly, this has been with the tone and implied subtext of “Why the hell would you come back?!”
I get it, SA is not exactly the most desirable place to move to. Even our mover said to me last week, “Yeah we don’t get a lot of people moving to South Africa, mate”
So why? Well it’s not because we love South Africa, which we really do. It’s not because Aus is a nanny state, which it is, but is actually what makes it a beautiful place to live. It’s not because of financial reasons or the fact that we think SA is a better country. Truth be told, I believe Australia is a superior country in almost every way I can think of.
The reason is a simple but profound revelation to me — the people we love the most are in SA. This Christmas will be the first in a long time spent with them. And although we have a handful of great friends here, some of our deepest friendships are still in SA.
Being apart from these people in your life can burn a hole in your soul that never gets filled completely. With every beautiful experience, with every moment of your child doing something wonderful, with every small success in your life, it’s only made complete when you’re able to share them with your loved ones. Someone said to us the other day, “It’s great to Skype your grandkids, but it’s something else entirely to be able to hug them and smell their hair”. That made me tear up.
This revelation has taken 8 years to really cement in the fabric of my being. You always read how old people on their death beds say that relationships are all that matter. But it’s all theory until you have actually experienced that and know it for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved living in this country and if my family were here I would stay. It’s been amazing, but there has been another “spiritual journey” taking place which I am talking about.
I get a lot of people contacting me from SA saying they want to move to Aus and I always try to help because it is such a great place to live. I know what it feels like to be frustrated by the political climate of SA, the crime, the education system, the unemployment, the uncertainty of the future, and the list goes on (Although these were never the reasons we moved, they quickly became reasons to stay in Aus).
I see those same people eventually make it over here and for a short while they are extremely happy. It is an amazing feeling to see what you can give your children here in terms of their future. But I know, with all of these people, that feeling of emptiness is coming. And it comes in waves and it’s something you never knew was in you until you lose it. Each of us go through it in different ways. And some deal with it better than we have. Some have family and close friends here who can fill that void. For some it’s something they can justify because of the obvious benefits of living in Aus. But for others it’s always burning there in the back of your heart and mind.
Everyone has to go on their own journey. It’s sounds like some clichéd crap, but it’s more true than most things. I don’t judge anyone for their life choices. If you’re happy in a place, then I’m happy for you. Stay there. Be where you are most happy, I believe.
You only get one life. This has become especially apparent of late to us as we have had family members pass away and some have health scares. It sounds heavy but I am even faced with my own mortality constantly, and I just think that this short life should be spent close to those you love.
As humans, we are certainty addicts, who mostly think in binary — “this is the right place to live, that is the wrong one”. I lived like this for a long time. But I am happy to say that in the middle of a black and white perspective, is a messy, gooey gray that is uncomfortable and amazing and challenging and beautiful. And only in that place have we been able to make a decision like this because we know nothing is perfect. Nothing makes 100% sense. And the best moments are the ones that we haven’t planned, or could have predicted.
We might come back to Aus one day, who knows? And we would be happy to — it is a home for us and it’s full of incredible people who we just adore. But for now we choose to believe the poets who say that love is all that matters. We choose a dangerous setting, because in that setting are the people who mean the most to us. We choose an uncertain future because we are certain of what matters most.
We know it won’t all be easy. We know there will be challenges. But a large part of us is so excited to embrace our home country again and be amongst our people and help contribute to making it better in whatever ways we can. I can’t wait to show my sons Africa, the place that still makes up the majority of my soul.
A lyric that has been going through my head a lot of late is this “When I see your light shine, I know I’m home”
We are going to where our light shines brightest — with the people we love the most. And regardless of country, or accent, or culture…for us, that’s home.