I had a lot of time to think to myself while walking three hours through the countryside this morning. I smiled as I passed cows as they stared me down for walking along their pasture, then again as I passed two horses as they happily grazed fresh green grass together, all the while noticing all the beautiful birds that fluttered around. Galahs, Ravens, Willie Wagtails, Fairy Wrens, Kookaburras, Magpies and Pacific Ducks were just a few friends that accompanied me on my morning stroll. As I walked, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of serenity fall over me like a warm blanket as I thought about how thankful I was that my passion for conservation has brought me to yet again, another incredible destination.
My mind wandered to all of the people I have met along my conservation journey and to all the families I have found myself being an important member of over the years. I thought about how weird it is that I am so many people’s daughter and so many other people’s sister. Sometimes I think about how conservation has been a method of transport for me, a vessel to take me to so many different places and to become a part of so many different lives that I otherwise wouldn’t have been if I was instead a carpenter or an accountant or really passionate about model trains.
As I walked along the dusty gravel path through the valley, looking at the mountains either side of me, I thought about all the times I have truly felt accepted and at home. I thought about eating rice with my hands at the dinner table in Sri Lanka with the family and gossiping with Auntie over tea in the mornings before anyone else was awake. I thought about drinking iced tea with the village men in North Sumatra and despite being a woman, being accepted as part of their male harem. I remembered cuddling my boss’s daughter as we went on long family road trips together away from Medan, and making her giggle until she fell asleep in my lap. I thought about teaching people I loved English so they could talk to me in my language, I thought about laughing over dumb TV shows with people, I thought about playing cards late into the night and most importantly how a whole village gathered in a pub to watch Eurovision with me, just because they knew how much I liked it.
Sometimes I think I am like a family parasite. I just insert myself into people’s families and make them my home for a while until it is time to move on. Sometimes I think I trick the host into making them think I am their blood relative, their real true daughter, their real true sibling. Sometimes I think I am the best version of myself when I am surrounded by a close-knit community, one where I can contribute and be a part of something magical.
Today I thought that I never really felt at home in my childhood house, and that I have felt at home in a hundred different other places. I thought that this home, this new home, even though temporary, is a good home. I will be happy and I will do something special and unique with my time and I will be something special and unique as well. I was taught from a young age that school cannot teach me everything I need to know, and I think that’s why I have this insatiable urge to meet many different people and go many different places and truly live like them and understand the way they think. The more I learn, the more I can do to appreciate and protect the natural world I live in.
I suppressed the tears of gratitude I knew were wanting to escape. I thanked the hills and the trees and the birds and the cows for all being so wonderful and fascinating to me that they have taken me on such a grand adventure that I would not be the same person without. Without conservation, I would not have so many families, I would not have so many homes, and that is something carpentry and accounting just cannot compete with.