During my 20 years in Australia, I lived in a grand total of 6 houses. All in Sydney and all within about a 3 mile radius of each other.
In fact, my ‘local’ supermarket never once altered during my entire time in Oz – creature of habit or what?
Living, working and playing in the same area for so long meant that inevitably I got to know lots of people. Rarely would a day go by without bumping into a number of familiar faces on the street to say hello to or to stop and chat with.
The same would go workwise. Whether it was going to a regular meeting, attending a conference or turning up to some other networking type event, it would be rare for me not to encounter a range of people I knew.
It was a comfortable situation. Very comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable.
The reason I mention this is that yesterday I went up to London for a couple of meetings.
They were meetings with people I hadn’t met before. (In fact, both meetings were the result of earlier meetings with people I also hadn’t known before).
I travelled up on a train full of people I didn’t know and walked along crowded streets full of unfamiliar faces.
There were no shouts of “Oi, Sean” from the other side of the road and no chance encounters with old friends on a street corner (or in the supermarket). I was complete in my anonymity.
One of the benefits of making our move back to the UK – and I do see it as a big benefit – is that it takes us out of our comfort zone. It forces us to recalibrate our lives and create a whole new footprint – home, work, friends and rituals.
Whilst in Australia, I had often been envious of friends moving overseas to try new things and experience new lives for themselves. It somehow seemed daring and exciting to me as I ploughed a familiar furrow. But now it is my turn.
In the past, I have often found that I’m at my sharpest and most energised when tackling something new, whether that be a new job, new project, new skill or new pastime.
I’m generally more observant, listen more acutely and try that bit harder to ensure that I succeed at whatever it is I’m attempting to do.
I find that approaching the unfamiliar with fresh eyes and an open mind can be both stimulating and personally rewarding.
I guess the same also goes for relationships – perhaps you have to try a little bit harder when you are looking to develop new friendships rather than maintain existing ones where you have the benefit of history to rely on.
Once we’ve been back in the UK for a while, I dare say that which was once familiar and is now often unfamiliar will become more familiar again.
Chance encounters will become more common and I will start to feel more comfortable in my new environment.
But until then, I’m really enjoying being that stranger in the corner of Starbucks, nursing a coffee and keenly observing the world go by with the detached fascination of an outsider.