I’ve been in Alice Springs now for coming up to two months and I’ve spent most of time living in a hostel. The plan was to find a room and to have flatmates similar to Townsville. I thought it would be pretty straightforward and if anything easier here given that it is a small town. Whilst I spent many a weekends looking for a room, I had a little luck. For me, it wasn’t just about finding a good room, more it was about finding someone or a few people who I gel with. Who I live with is certainly more important than where I live. I invested a lot of time and energy in Townsville and this resulted in me finding some great flatmates. I failed to do the same in Alice Springs and consequently, I didn’t find anywhere where I felt was right for me. Thus, I lived out of the hostel and sure enough I made friends here. There was a group of us working in town and living in the hostel. Many had casual work, working at the local cafe or restaurant and some had two jobs.
This group of fellow backpackers essentially became a second family. I hadn’t come with the intention of growing so close and comfortable to a group of backpackers but it happened over time. It was essentially inevitable as all of us were living out of the hostel so whilst other backpackers came for a night or so, we were there for weeks. I came to learn how some had been living at the hostel for months and how some had met in other cities before travelling to Alice Springs. We became this extended family which was exclusive but open to new backpackers, who were working in town, to join. Some of us shared a dorm room and others worked together in town. We cooked together on occasions, went out and enjoyed the moments. We came from different walks of life, some much younger and from a range of different countries.
Alice Springs is a transient town, I came to learn, with many people simply passing through. I came with the intention of spending the remainder of my working holiday visa here so, three months and if possible, longer. Due to Alice Springs being a transient town and in the outback, job opportunities are a plenty. Upon securing my position, I was informed how difficult it was for organisations to attract and employ qualified social workers. For some locals, the town offers very little in terms of professional development and growth, for others, the remoteness of the town and the fact it is so isolated from any major city, is simply not appealing. I was unaware of most of this before accepting the job but truthfully, I was excited to embrace the outback, the real Australia compared to the city life here. This town is consequently, packed with backpackers, willing to invest time and energy in positions which are less appealing to some locals.
I adapted to and accepted life in Alice Springs. I walked to work, to the supermarket, to the gym and library. I never felt the need to drive anyway and sure, a car would have been grand to explore the landscape more and to go trekking. I shared many a great moments with the other backpackers, some of whom had bought a car and driving around Australia. Whilst I finally felt like I had settled and had a good support network, it came to light that some backpackers were ready to move on. I shared the last two months with them but many had been there for longer and were ready to hit the road. It is a harsh and hard reality to swallow but truthfully no matter how great a friendship or relationship is, it is bound to end because either my friend will leave or I will. The only way to over come this is to travel together so to change plans and to some how reach a compromise but realistically this is also not always possible and more importantly not right.
I used to think that with time goodbyes would get easier, that I would be less impacted, less emotional and less torn up by them but I was wrong, very wrong. Truthfully, whilst it is much easier of me to start and engage in one-off, random talk, it is just has hard if not harder to say goodbye. I finally realised that no matter what, no matter where or who I am with, saying goodbye will always break a part of my heart. I used to think I don’t get attached or that I could invest a little less of me but this doesn’t work. I get just as attached, just as quickly and I invest my heart and soul with people I connect with. I don’t hold back, I don’t shy away and I don’t walk away from the possibility of great conversation and company. It is something I both crave and need amongst other things so when I am fortunate enough to find it, I don’t want to let go.
I used to think if I left before others than this would be easier for me. Again, I was wrong. There is no easy or quick way of getting over change. Another goodbye leads to another new beginning, another journey, a new hostel and another friend. So, as painful and at times unpleasant I find saying goodbye, I am only too aware that it is not the finale but the end of a chapter, a phase with many more yet to come. I find myself coming to terms with a farewell or a see you later more so than goodbye. I believe, for instance, that many of the friends I was fortunate enough to meet in Alice, I will meet again, somewhere else, some other day. Our world, after all is small and our life is long so anything is possible. I believe we crossed paths for a reason and maybe it was just for the moment but maybe there was something else.