I’ve been saving pennies to escape this city ever since I was sixteen. Brisbane had been big and exciting to me as a child, but the older I got, the smaller the city became. I was itching for new experiences.
I had dipped my toes in the water once or twice, travelling sporadically to places such as New Zealand or Malaysia in my late teens. But it wasn’t until I was nineteen that I dived head first into my most worldly adventure – one that would last sixteen months.
Over that time I visited three continents and twenty-something countries. I lived in three different cities, studied in two, worked in one, and attempted to learn four languages (some more successful than others).
I’d never felt more alive, more independent and happier than my time abroad. But every trip has an expiry date (mine shortly after falling off my scooter in Bali) and I eventually returned home at the end of November.
Everyone warns you about the reverse culture shock you may experience coming home. But it doesn’t really hit you until that exact moment when you walk out the doors of the Brisbane International Terminal. It’ only 23 degrees and you’re sweltering. Uh oh. How on earth are you going to last the summer in this heat?
Over the next few weeks, I tried to fall back into my old life. But I quickly realised it was no longer there. My friends were doing different things with their lives. Some had graduated; others were engaged. The city itself hadn’t sat still either.
New bars and novelty diners had popped up everywhere. Gourmet donuts and Croquet had become a “thing.” Zara and H&M had found themselves a home in Queen Street Mall. This was not the sleepy, second-to-Sydney city I had left behind.
At first I was a little distraught. I was a stranger in my own city. But then I realised… I was a stranger in my own city. Unemployed with the summer to spare, I could finally appreciate Brisbane the way a khaki-clad German tourist does.
I didn’t quite pull out the Lonely Planet Guide, but I did go a little overboard, googling “fun things to do in Brisbane” and subsequently trying to tick everything off the list. I’m not ashamed to admit I rode a City Cat for leisure, went for a stroll through the Botanic Gardens and climbed the Kangaroo Point Stairs just to “see the view”.
I was particularly inspired by one article that listed “50 meals you should have eaten if you live in Brisbane” and have been munching my way through the list ever since. Say what you want about Brisbane, but there is absolutely no shortage of culinary experiences to be had here. Whether you’re lusting over a Mac’n’Cheese Burger (yep that’s a thing), Asian Tapas or a refreshingly healthy acai bowl, you’ll find it.
You might be laughing at my newfound enthusiasm for the city. But honestly, it’s fun playing tourist. You find yourself admiring the city’s architecture, taking snaps of iconic landmarks such as the Brisbane Eye or the Skyneedle (the Stefan Tower duh!).
Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all Lone Pine on you, but I do plan on visiting the APT8 Exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery this weekend, and then maybe I’ll head up to Mt Coo-tha.
No, I admit, Brisbane will never be as romantic as Paris; it will never party as hard as Berlin. Yes, sometimes you will have to wait half an hour for a bus here and the Pho will always taste better in Asia. But I don’t know if you’ll ever find another urban city where so many people have a pool in their backyard, or another place where it still costs $5 to go to the movies (thank you Cineplex). Brisbane will always be home, a place to come back to at the end of a long journey.
Oh and you think I’m kicking myself because I left Germany just days before the world famous Christmas Markets began? Nice try – Brisbane is getting its own Christmas Market this year.
– Originally published in IZE Magazine, December 2015