Befuddled, I sat in my living room. Not to say I was exactly in a frump, but I certainly wasn’t smelling the daisies and I had somehow mislaid my rose tinted glasses. I reflected on my mood. What was underpinning this listlessness? This shifting in my seat and mind? Why did the sun seem not so bright as its beams would suggest, nor its warmth so inviting?
And then, bing! It went off in my mind. I had been back home for exactly 2 months, and wanderlust had come to claim its next victim.
I knew the signs. My mind vamped up in preparation to defend, to rally against the infiltrating need to gallivant into the great unknown. I vowed to avert my eyes from the European photo albums of friends. To radically curtail the scrolling through world pockets on Instagram. To, with much aplomb and dignity, abstain from the vast catalogues of brilliant media bursting with the promise of the great out there. I glowered (good naturedly) at the coffee table.
And that’s when I decided that I needed to head out. Not to a foreign land, not somewhere ‘unfamiliar’, but through my own neighbourhood. Alone in my living room, I declared that day a holiday. In the full sense of that wondrous term I would move about and see the sights, take photos, ogle at the local creatures about their usual routine. All the while shedding my cloak of local resident. It was to be the Tocal day (rough translation - tourist local).
I was in earnest to notice the small things, to partake of them. I would intrepidly step out of my front door and examine every nook and cranny ignored, every corner usually passed, ever rivet and crack in the road consistently cursed, and rejoice.
I left the house and turned to the back streets. As only the untameable weather of Australia could bequeath, there was brilliant sunshine to my left and the creep of storms to my right. The clouds were darkening but I reasoned a good dousing on an adventure only lends itself to the telling of a richer story. I persevered. Weaving my way further into the older side lanes it became apparent that for all my complacency, I had never walked down these streets but a five minutes meander from my home. Or, I had never truly seen them. As glib as it sounds, I started to become enamoured with the trees that had sheltered my walk back from work, week after week.
The houses flanking either side were old and cracked. Vines creeping steadily and assuredly, increment by increment up exteriors that had seen the cycles of moon, children, student, workers, lovers all yield to the bold step of time. I thought of the grand tree at the centre. What games had it overhead as children concocted guises, worlds and emperors? How many clasped hands of couples had it shielded, how many lovers tiffs had it attempted to sooth with its cool shade? The sun streaming through in pleasant dialogue, I smiled up, sensing a bemused reaction to my new scrutiny.
Thrilled at the prospect of dousing a lass on holiday, the storm clouds rolled in. All elements of the streetscape seemed to be hunkering down. Banding together as if in solidarity. Ready to face what the heavens would pour forth in indifferent rage and might. The telegraph poles and wires, whispering as to the last rainstorm that swung and unfurled. The freedom and wildness they felt wobbling to and fro, and yet, reaching the point of sheer inconvenience when the gusts became too precocious and mischievous. I thought of the great wealth of mirth stored on the sundered corners and curbs, upturned umbrellas seeking their dance with the gusts and vision obscuring hair, aflutter in fiasco.
I had stumbled onto the green and here, poised to house my weary frame and feet, a local watering hole. Partaking of the local cuisine and beverage assortment is essential on any holiday. I paid homage to this necessity by ordering a coffee. All this meandering on my holiday was taking its toll, all hail caffeine.
My emotional-scape was such that when my long black was brought out and the first drops of treasured nectar nourished my beleaguered self, my eyes moistened a little and I knew I had made the right decision to go on tocal- oliday. I wasn’t lost, I knew the language, I was sipping magnificent coffee at an aesthetically charming cafe and the amount of green was soothing the last traces of my pre-holiday blighted self.
I walked back to the main street of Newtown. The hustle and bustle was there to greet. Unrelenting, noisy and boisterous. Boutiques dazzling with glamour and eccentricity. The full breadth of Thai cuisine in all its forms beckoning. Cafes buzzing with students just about to grasp but a sliver of Kant or Marx. Life, laughter, leisure, it was here too. Maybe they had all issued holiday days as well.
The sun, never being upstaged for long, blazed down, all the more passionate to dispel any retirement rumours. Sweetly perched in ordered boxes a merry party of colour, I had never noticed the flowers before. I seemed to be grinning at everything.
I treasure that exploration. I will return to the little alley way – the urban secret garden. For I laughed there.
Dear reader, find the little pockets that make you laugh. Repeat as many times is necessary. Throughout the day I contemplated what has possesses us to think that holidays are only comprised of small fortunes bestowed on long journeys, tantalising unfamiliarity and exotic food? What about the unfamiliarity three streets over? Do you really know your area? Truly!? Give it a whirl, grab the partner, housemate, dog, camera in hand and: Explore home.