Drunk on Homesickness
Seven months into a student exchange in Europe, and I’d only seen two Australians.
One was guy who had little interest in reminiscing about our favourite meat pie flavours. “Mine’s bacon and cheese!” I offered. He said he didn’t care.
The other was a girl whom, upon hearing her Sydney accent, I became so overwhelmed with excitement at finding another Australian, I tried to high five her, accidentally catching her on the side of the head. She wouldn’t speak to me after that, which I couldn’t blame her for.
I later realised these uncomfortable encounters all stemmed from my deep longing for Australia and all its uniqueness. Missing family, friends and my adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was to be expected, but missing my country was a new feeling I’d never had to experience.
So while searching for cheap pre-drinks from a supermarket in Prague, I found a bottle of Yellow Tail: a shitty bottle of Australian wine that I’d never touch at home. I didn’t even look at the price.
Seventeen minutes is all it took for me to drink the whole bottle. Walking with my group of exchange friends to our meeting point, I tripped over the cobbled roads as everyone encouraged me to chug it.
Oh what a fool I was.
It’s a weird kind of power move to walk down a street openly sculling a bottle of wine. No paper bag. Nothing to hide (which became further evident when I tried to flash people passing by).
The wine hit hard – possibly because I was emotional about home; possibly because I hadn’t eaten much that day; possibly because I did pre-shots before pre-drinks.
With a beautiful Italian friend to my right and an adorable Finnish pal to my left, my hands were gripped tightly as they both talked in that light babyish voice people use to address drunk people. Feeling happy and floaty and obviously straight-up stupid, I suggested we get more drinks. The idea was shot down in a variety of languages all with the same premise of “fuck no”.
As a group of 12, I was easily passed around for shifts of, “Okay, you take care of the drunkard now,” which I did apologise for profoundly the next afternoon when I could function again.
When we started to fumble our way back home along the rickety pavers of Prague, my legs and arms were swinging in all directions to keep me from falling on my arse. I was in high-heeled boots, squinting as the sun hit the rooftops. A Canadian guy, whom I had only known for a week and haven’t seen since, lent me his sneakers and carried my three-inch heels for me. I weakly protested that I was fine, but he wouldn’t have it; he even joked that I look good in his rather large sneakers.
He went on to tell me how excited he was to go back home in a few weeks, finally getting to see his girlfriend after a year. They had planned to head to Africa as soon as he returned. Suddenly turning to me, he asked me for tips.
I replied I had never been to Africa, so didn’t really have any advice to offer. He then went onto explain that they were thinking of going on a safari, and he wanted to know if it would be safe to approach and pet the kangaroos.
I almost fell flat on my face. But those boots hurt so much, and my feet were so comfy in his two-sizes-too-big sneakers, so I simply changed the subject and decided I’d laugh at him tomorrow.
In a crazy way, that shitty bottle of wine (which I still can’t look at to this day) actually gave me what I wanted. I wasn’t alone at all for that whole night. Until the next morning, I always had someone chatting with me, looking after me and kindly telling me I was an idiot. I did not once feel lonely or sad once. I actually felt very loved.
Homesickness is straight up awful. It makes you want to pack up and go home. It makes you feel guilty for wanting to do so. It makes you want to give up. And the worst thing is there is no solution. No one quick answer, no Insta quote, no wise advice from a monk on a hill, not even this story I’m telling you. You just have to recognise it and deal with it.
All I can suggest is that being around others helps. A few hours of distraction can do wonders for the mind – even when your friends don’t know the difference between your home continent and Africa.
Cover by Priscilla Du Preez