Thoughts for 2014
January 10, 2014

Happy New Year, readers!

Now that the new year is in full swing - the holidays are over and I am back to my work schedule. 2014 sounds futuristic - everytime I have to write a date out it feels unnatural. I still remember writing 2008 on university papers as if it were just a few weeks ago.

I am optimistic that 2014 will be an exciting year.

Home Ownership

My wife and I will be starting the new year as first time homeowners! We were lucky to find the house that we did, because I think that my wife was getting fed up with me saying that the only criteria I care about is location, location, location. While my wife was interested in the kitchen and backyard, I was more interested in if there were sidewalks, parks, and shops I could walk to. We bought a fixer-upper in an old neighborhood. There are no sidewalks, but I can walk downtown in 15 minutes - and to me that is more walkable than a subdivision on the outskirts with sidewalks but nowhere to walk to.

I mentioned it was a fixer-upper. The house is not in bad condition, it is just 50 years outdated. Even after we take down a wall, install new hardwood floors, and replace the kitchen countertop, we will still have money left over to splurge on high-end kitchen appliances. The total cost will be less than $70,000 once done, and the plan will be to pay it off within 5 years and be debt free. I know that the U.S. is supposedly in a housing and debt crisis of some sorts - yet we found a walkable location, have an interior that is just as luxurious as any new build, and it will end up cheaper than purchasing one of those cookie cutter homes that developers are selling in the isolated outskirts.

It is exciting being a homeowner. We have a yard, and I want to put it to productive use and grow some vegetables. I am planning to grow tomatoes and juicy red bell peppers (I still have a habit of call them red capsicums, but nobody here knows what I am talking about.) I participated in a community garden in 2013 and it was a lot of fun watching what other people were growing. Having my own yard means that I will no longer be restricted to a 12x12 foot plot - as I was in the community garden, and will not have to worry about someone stealing my bell peppers again. I just hope it will not be lonely - I think I will miss being able to walk around and see what a dozen different people are growing.

Being a homeowner means I will also start paying property taxes, so now I will be more interested than ever in knowing what the city is spending my money on (I am being wishful here - but could you please spend it on building sidewalks to connect my neighborhood to downtown?)

Trip to Australia

Hopefully, I can convince my wife that this year (or maybe next year, but I really hope this year) would be a great year for us to take a month long trip back to my home country of Australia. By February of this year, I will have been continously in the United States for two years. While I enjoy it here, I jumped head first from a city into the big-box American suburbs - it was quite a culture shock (a new country, a new culture, new friends and family) and - I will be honest - it can get very difficult when you jump head-first into a different way of life. Lately, I have been finding myself nostalgic for the familiar.

I think it will be a very strange experience stepping out of the plane and back into my old way of doing things - perhaps it will feel as if the last two years in the United States were just a dream and I have awakened back into the 'real world.' Or, perhaps I find that I have Americanised myself so much so that it will no longer feel like home. I fear this the most, because I have been reading about reverse culture shock ('You Can't Go Home Again') - I do not want to feel like a lost soul floating through the unfamiliar world searching for a home that I cannot find. I think I am overreacting, but then again, I did not expect to be affected by culture shock as dramatically as I was when I first came to the United States.

I am excited because I have promised my wife (she is American) that when we go to Australia we will do a lot of travelling and sightseeing. I want to take her Brisbane and use it has a base for exploring the rainforests and beaches of Queensland, take her to the theme parks along the Gold Coast, let her experience Melbourne (arguably the best city in the country), and finally end it in my hometown of Adelaide.

I wonder how many expatriates travel home to sightsee and tour their native country?