Life is a Highway

Vantage point

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road

My husband and I live on the banks of the Brisbane River. Two years ago, more juiced up than teenage boys before a solo striptease, we travelled across the Indian Ocean, congratulating ourselves on having the balls to leave behind our home, our things and our people. Despite Brisbane’s giant bats, humidity and lack of Hugh Jackman, I immediately fell for the city’s wide open spaces, hundred-year-old weeping fig trees and inner-city harbours.

Brisbane River and weeping fig
Brisbane River and weeping fig

Of the Australian cities, Brisbane is the stoned cousin, urging you to rip off your bra, wear elasticated pants and make out with a beer. I have spent hours absorbing the sunshine, exercising my jaw muscles and, on the annual impulse glutes, writing and wining in its parks. When I’m not shooting the kayaks, rowboats and twilight joggers dirty looks, I am swooning over passing sailboats or a calorie-ridden morning market buy.

All dressed up last Christmas Southbank, Brisbane
All dressed up last Christmas
Southbank, Brisbane

My South African hometown, Pretoria, has the same Jacaranda-lined streets during spring, down-to-earth folks and dozens of parks. It calls you to pull up a deck chair, unbutton your pants and light up a braai. But even though Pretoria felt like one big picnic on Xanax, my life was the opposite. If life is a highway, mine used to be the Autobahn. I would overtake anyone as I casually assembled an Ikea couch, did this year’s taxes and sipped a pina colada. I was an overachiever, and not just in terms of my calorific intake.

Jacaranda trees in bloom in Pretoria, South Africa (Source)

But once my wheels touched Australian soil, I was pedalling a tricycle up a rock face. Without a job and a social circle, I was compulsively throwing anything edible down my cakehole and trashing my apartment in frustration. But between roundhouse kicking armchairs, throwing back shots of Shiraz and staring down tubs of Ben & Jerry’s, the slowness and isolation brought about introspection, forcing me to redefine my identity. Achievement and ambition had kept me from living the journey – inhaling each moment, noticing the views and truly connecting with my fellow travellers.

Although I am no longer getting my Serena Williams on up a rock face, the unpaved road to here has had unexpected turns, detours and roadblocks. My journey down under has brought life changes – the end of major relationships, illness and unemployment – but it has been the most rewarding yet. I feel more gratitude for the ones I love, what I have instead of what I can win, and the road I am on, although I oftentimes thought there was none to travel on. Apart from the fact that I’m always right, being present in my life means I no longer feel the pressure to win. The hardest road turned out to have the most captivating views, and I’ll stand in awe at its vantage points, however long the road may last.

Brisbane, Australia

49 thoughts on “Vantage point

  1. I lived in NSW, Australia for a brief period of time and adored the Jacaranda trees. The photo of the Jacaranda lined street in South Africa is particularly moving, though all of your photos are beautiful. I really enjoyed this piece. Very colorful and interesting.

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  2. Oh Nadia! This was even more beautiful the THIRD time around (heading back to soak in the pictures!)
    I love your last line…”the hardest road turned out to have the most captivating views”….so true in a literal and metaphorical sense.
    I’m so honored that you would come out of your mini-hiatus and write something that so perfectly captures the essence of life’s highway.
    Now….off to look at plane tickets and more pictures of Jacarunda trees!

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    1. Michelle! Writing this made me think a bit deeper of my journey so far, and how rewarding it has been, even if it doesn’t necessarily appear that way on the surface. So thank you so so much for having me – it’s brought me some renewed perspective. xxx

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  3. It’s just beautiful – both pictures and your descriptions – really makes the reader understand how it is to actually be there.
    It’s a gift to be able to appreciate the surroundings and opportunities presented as you travel though life. Well done

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    1. I’m happy you could have a glimpse of the two beautiful, laidback places I call home. I think I would’ve appreciated my birthplace and its people far more if I hadn’t been chasing other things at the time.

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  4. beautiful,
    i can see it all, so lovely…stoned cousins, inner city harbors, 100 year old fig trees….it all sounds luscious.

    And, for the first time I heard you voice differently…do you have a SA accent like my fiend Dennis (or Dinnis!), who I thought was Australian but then British, no Austr..no..ahhh, South African?
    I never “heard ” that.

    Actually I don’t think of things like that with the blogs I read because your writerly voice is so clear and bright…even blogs that use very specific language that bring up certain accents..I don’t really hear them in how they write.

    I’m, off on a tangent, I see…but fascinated! I’m going to start reading your posts with an accent!

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    1. wait, sorry..

      i am confused, living in another universe…
      Nadia wrote this
      idk.
      i’m losing it
      I’d delete my post if i could but…
      whatever.
      still loved the post s there’s that!

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      1. Oh Michele! I love you in so many ways! I read your first comment (at dinner, with my boss and co workers!) and thought YES! I love reading posts I can “hear.”
        I’m not deleting a thing…you’re awesome and I love you to pieces 🙂
        (Did I say “love” enough times for you?!?!)

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  5. Welcome back back Nadia. Brisvegas is almost as laid back as Fremantle where I grew up, you probably flew over it on your way over. Good to see you again. Red

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    1. Thanks, Red! I just love the laidback feeling here. I haven’t been to WA, but would love to pay it a visit. And only when we flew over Australia, did I realise how insanely massive it really is… It’s good to be back, and I have the lovely Michelle to thank, as she gave me a bit of inspiration.

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      1. You’re a great storyteller, Nadia, great to see you back. Yeah, we do big well over here. You’re in the 2nd biggest state now but if you ever decide to have a squiz at the biggest let me know and I’ll steer you right. Cheers Red

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    1. I roped Nadia into this for a reason…I wanted to see the other side of the world and see it through her eyes. Even more awesome than I could have ever imagined. Thanks for stopping by Cayman 🙂

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  6. People so rarely talk about the loneliness that often accompanies a new adventure. But I think that loneliness can be sweet, in a strange way… if only to make you more open to gratitude. Your perspective is refreshing 🙂

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    1. Didn’t you just love hearing this from Nadia, Aussa? I loved her story and you picked up on the same nuance I did.
      I’m feeling a love fest tonight…truly, this WP space is graced with so many kind and generous souls…like you!

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      1. Love fest, indeed! Thank you, Aussa. It’s only when I befriended expats from other countries that I didn’t feel as alone in my loneliness, if that makes sense… And it helped me grow up and smell the kangaroo poop.

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  7. Ah Nadia, you are a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Every time I read a post of yours, it feels like I’ve come upon another new, vibrant voice – I look and lo and behold it is yet another aspect of Nadia. This post feels so peaceful, a tribute to your writing Nadia – to communicate your sense of living in the present . It is a big change in life you have described. Both physically and mentally. It shall be interesting to see what Nadia qualities will now inhabit your writing.

    Beautiful pictures and engaging prose. Well written Nadia. Here’s to the views from the roads yet to be travelled.

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    1. So nice to see you here! I think emigrating has been one of the most stressful experiences of my life, but one I’d do over and over again if I could.

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  8. First of all, thank you for not starting out with the most obvious Kerouac quote. The one about the mad people. Its overuse has rendered it a cliche.

    Leaving home is essential. I moved to an area where everyone I meet is FROM there. They love it and never want to leave. To me, that’s like wearing cement shoes. Comfort breeds complacency. Complacency breeds boredom. You did the courageous, albeit difficult, thing. I’m betting that you’re a better person for it and have no regrets.

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    1. I totally agree. Moving has made me grow as a person and has brought difficult, but also new and exciting, experiences. I would do it all over again if I could.

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  9. Oh beautiful Nadia, it’s a pleasure to see you back here writing. Well, not here, but you get what I mean. I don’t know if we have the jackass trees here in ‘merica, but they sure are lovely. Picking up and moving to a new state or province or whatever in one’s own country is a big step, so to move to another country altogether really takes courage. It looks like the right move for you. Brisbane seems to fit you we’ll, and you it. The stoned cousin city should be an official motto!

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    1. Well. you did once say that Brisbane seems to be the home of hot blonde women…
      And from now on, I’m not calling those trees anything but Jackass trees. You’re awesome.
      x

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  10. Ah Nadia, your story really resonated with me. The beautiful photo of Pretoria reminds me of my home town of Toowoomba – even the Xanax comments seems applicable. Your journey feels like déjà vu for my own recent move to Brisbane. Truly beautiful.

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    1. Michael, I am happy you could relate to this piece. Moving can be difficult, but also exciting as shit. I hope Brisbane only brings you happiness.

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