I was born in Australia, becoming European was a choice I had, a choice I could make… A choice I made.
It brewed in me for a long time, so often I remembered the words of the craziest man I respected utterly, who always reminded me how lucky I was to live in a country that was not stymied by tradition. As a child I believed him, after all, he was a professor!
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With Age comes Wisdom. So they say…
But as I grow older and the more I travelled, I come to understand that his perception of Australia was much like my perception of Bali. I had that perception because I was not Balinese, I did not have the cultural requirements drilled into me as an expat living there. My life there was filled with freedom, which was reinforced by freeing myself from the feeling of disempowerment I felt when I left Australia.
When living in Australia I felt as though I was always looking over my shoulder, to check if the police would bust me for speeding. Or had I filed my GST return properly? Would one of my staff try to claim against my insurance? had I renewed my insurance, my registration, my tax return, my… whatever?
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
In Bali, I let all that go. I stepped onto a scooter and I rediscovered my sense of freedom. I fled from the commitments I could no longer keep, that I had not the heart for anymore. They were destroying my soul.
I stepped onto that scooter and suddenly there were no more patrol cars and speed cameras, Practically speaking, there was no point in having them there, there is too much traffic! But that’s not the point, the fact was I could drive however fast I wanted to drive, no one was there to write me a speeding ticket, treat me like a criminal for feeling free and making my own judgement calls on what was safe and what was not.
I was now responsible for myself too, my choices became my consequences.
Lo and behold, it wasn’t about the speed, it was all about the freedom of choice. Given the choice, I rode safely, partly due to the fact that my life depended on it, mostly out of respect for the other people on the road and definitely due to the fact that the Balinese are so calm and cool on the road. They are full of smiles and understand we can all make mistakes.
Flowing like Water
The roads to an outsider seem chaotic and dangerous, but when you live there, they start to feel like rivers. they flow like water and there is a reason for this. The whole system of local governance is based on the flow and sharing of water between the rice fields. As the water flows from the tops of the mountains to the sea, it must be fairly and evenly distributed among the many thousands of rice fields.
To say it is a feat of engineering and management is a gross understatement. It is a masterpiece of human relationships and a truly beautiful example of how to cooperate and manage people.
Living in this extraordinary culture changed me, made it impossible for me to ever return to Australia and prepared me for my transition to becoming a European. One only needs to spend a week in Italy to understand that Europe and Asia have more than less in common than Asia and Australia do.
More in Common
In Europe, things make more sense to me, I believe that this does have to do with growing up in a home ruled by a Lithuanian mother. It also has to do with blood I think. There is something in it.
My mother and other family members were exiled from Lithuania at the end of the war, my grandfather, the famous tenor Kipras Petrauskas and the rest of the family were caught behind the front. the family was split in two and it took 70+ years for the divide to be restored. I was the one to do it, Lithuania was the one to allow it to happen. I grew up in Australia, but I am a Lithuanian!
Now that I have tasted the food, drunk the beer, felt the snow falling on my face, sat and listened to the wind, smelled the autumn leaves. I feel the connection. Things totally foreign, things I have never known before, somehow feel familiar and totally normal. How can this be?
Yet I see that I am still being a butterfly, flitting from one leaf to another, not settling any particular where. Dragging my family along with me. So I am European and I am not! They are becoming European, more by the day, but they are kids, so that’s to be expected.
Switzerland has grabbed us, I didn’t expect it, I thought it would be Austria… But here we are, sitting in Malta dreaming of the mountains.
School and snow
A chalet for us a school for the kids, at least the two older ones, Switzerland is the dream. A perfect temperate climate, warm summers, cool winters, and snow in copious amounts. Yet an average of 25 sunny days per month year round! Will we actually be here year round? We are so nomadic by nature now that I can’t see it, but we have felt in our hearts for over a year now. Switzerland is the centre of our world, yet we haven’t even moved in… Go figure!
We can’t shake the feeling, so we have decided to stop trying and instead start calling it home letting it be our home in our hearts.
Are we European, in so many ways, yes, but in as many others, no. Can we become European? Almost, some of the family are more likely to than others. Time will tell, and perspective will come with it… Until then we will keep sharing our experiences here, and hopefully, it will mean something to you and us.
I fear we have seen too much and lived too many lives in too many places to be anything other than citizens of the world now. Due to this, I decided to make a collection for us, a collection of passports, to buy us more freedom, more choices and an even broader perspective!