I’ve lived a transitory sort of life. I used to think of myself as a kind of modern-day gypsy, moving from one place to the next, but now I’ve come to see myself more like a migratory bird – still surrendering to that sudden urge to take flight – only now, returning home again after adventures away.
Wanderlust is a term stemming from the German words wandern (to hike) and lust (desire). The desire to hike. What is it that makes us want to roam to faraway places? Perhaps this call to explore parts of the world that are wild and unknown is a call to explore parts of ourselves that are also wild and unknown. Perhaps it is an invitation to challenge and push ourselves, to help us learn and grow. To wake us up again, adding colour and excitement to our lives after the monotony of day to day routine has lulled us into tired, drab, unconscious living.
And there is no doubt that travel can do this for us; be it losing ourselves in the distractions of New York, hiking through the desolate beauty of the Andes, or the culture clash felt on the streets of south-east Asia. Placing ourselves in unfamiliar locations and situations, around unfamiliar people, forces us out of our comfort zone and into survival mode that sees us live more in the moment.
But just like there are times when we feel the need to tear ourselves away from the known, there are also times in life when we need the opposite. There are times when we need to feel clarity, understanding, protection and connection. To our lost selves, going back to the beginning, to that place that offers comforting familiarity, can help us reassess, recharge and reset our inner compass and find new direction. Just as migratory animals and birds instinctively know when to return, thought to be guided by invisible geomagnetic forces, so too can we feel the pull or call of the place we call home.
Heimwah comprised of the words ‘home’ and ‘woe’ is a feeling of sadness caused by the longing for home. While Perth in Western Australia is where I have decided to settle, when I think of the place I call ‘home’, my mind is cast to a land much further north. The Pilbara region where I grew up, in the state’s north-west, is an untamed ancient land of remote and rugged beauty. A land where rich red earth and rocky hills, rise above golden spinifex plains; where swimming holes and waterfalls hide within deep desert gorges and tea coloured coves and golden island beaches sit in an aqua sea. And even though I’ve been gone for more than 20 years, it is still to the Pilbara that I feel most connected and to which I feel most strongly drawn.
I am called back to that land every so often, and like a dutiful daughter I answer that call. The land has been like a parent to me in a way, forever watching over me in the background, out beyond the small mining town where I lived.
As children, we are more open and in tune with what surrounds us. Our imagination is limitless. As a child I really felt that I had the ability to communicate with whatever it was that was out there as I stood at the edge of town, looking out into that endless wild country. Back then, I felt waves of unexplained sadness. As I grew older I learned more about the history of white settlement and spent time with the Indigenous people of the area. I learned more about their beliefs and culture, and I realised that what I had been feeling as a child was a spiritual connection and empathy with the land.
Perhaps empathy is the key to connection. In the same way that we connect with people by listening to their stories, deep listening to the story of our landscape allows us to empathise with our environment. And while we can still practise this and feel a connection to unfamiliar places (or even cities), the connection is stronger when it is in a more familiar and natural setting. It’s like having a conversation with an old friend. By silencing the mind and listening to the sounds around us, we can feel calmer in that comforting space. And if we’re really in tune, in that meditative state, we can not only feel the energy and hear the messages of what surrounds us, but we can also feel and hear the messages within our own hearts.
In writing this I acknowledge the Ngarluma-Yinjibarndi, Yaburara-Mardudhunera and Woon-goo-tt-oo people as the Traditional Custodians of Murujuga
Bonita Grima has a background in TV and radio production in Australia and the UK and is a freelance travel writer, based in Perth, WA. She believes travel to be a powerful tool that can challenge, inspire, educate and encourage empathy by allowing us a window into the world of others.