I recently completed a two month house sit,a longer period than my usual ones of between three and four weeks. The location, house and animal companion provided one of the best house sitting I’ve had to date. But it got me wondering whether staying in a place for a couple of months, impacts on your overall perception and experience of your stay.
Leaving the laid back town of Port Macquarie at the end of this successful and fulfilling time, I stopped to get a coffee in Sydney before catching up with an old friend who lives in the heart of the city. Two months in the North coastal town had lulled me into a slower pace of living so that when I hit the city which considers itself the real capital of Australia, and my birthplace where I lived for the first twenty years of my life, I experienced an unexpected culture shock. Seeing my suitcase and travel gear, the barista , Shane, asked where I had come from and where I was headed. An international traveller of many years, he seemed a bit disappointed at my domestic itinerary. We got to talking though about the impact of the length of time you stay in a place on the overall quality of the experience. Shane had lived in Los Angeles, Manila, Tokyo, Montreal and so many major overseas cities I had lost count by the end his list. He said that early in his travels he found it curious that his best experiences were those where he had stayed for at least two months.
Staying in a town, region or city for this period of time gives you a chance to appreciate its deeper rhythms of life. But then you might discover its not what you originally thought and become disappointed or have an experience which colours your judgement.
Then there are those places where you don’t need much time to connect with the real pulse of its life. Cities or towns that are instantly open and available to you like Darwin, a place where I haven’t been but my friend Robbie, who lived there for thirty years, assures me is so warm and welcoming because most people come from elsewhere, understand what its like to be new, and are willing to put themselves out for newcomers.
And then there are towns where no matter how long you stayed , you would remain an outsider. When I stayed in Nairne, a small town in the Adelaide hills, I tried my best to connect with locals. Some no doubt were shy, but my overall experience was one of isolation. Travelling on a bus into the city one day I smiled at a woman I had seen before and this time she smiled back. We chatted as the bus moved through the scenic small mountain towns and she shared her experience of living in the town
“At first I found people stand offish…not friendly at all but now I work in Nairne market three days a week and know most people. They are friendly once you get to know them
How long did it take I asked, to be be accepted, to feel comfortable
“About ten years…I’ve been here for twenty now”
Well I had one week left of my stay so I lowered my expectations of fitting in!
So the question needs to be asked is the duration of your stay important to your overall experience and perception of a place or are other factors equally important in your view?
The Koala pictures are part of the Koala Sculpture trail in Port Macquarie
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