The Australia Process



I made bread for the first time in a while earlier this week. It felt good to do something productive after being hit by a fairly heavy stomach bug the week before. Somehow making bread felt like I was landing back into life in the Netherlands. One month ago I was in Sydney having a pretty great time exploring museums, ferrying across the harbour, and stumbling upon the best falafel place I've ever been to.

I wanted to reflect a little on the time there and some of the things we did and what I'm going to try and take away from the whole experience. We (Wietske, Fuzz, Pete, and myself) went to Australia for a month and were joined by Joss, Caitlin, and Katy for the middle two weeks. We started in Melbourne, visited the Grampians, and made our way slowly but surely along the East coast towards Sydney stopping in Paynesville, Lilli Pilli, and Kiama. We ended our journey in Moss Vale at the wedding of our good friends Jordy and Kate.

friends walking up stairs to go bouldering
friends walking up stairs to go bouldering in the Grampians

Every single day was a completely different day. We effectively ate, drank, swam, and climbed our way across this tiny segment of Australia. This was partly due to motivation and knowing we only had a certain amount of time in the country and partly because Fuzz had put together a regimented itinerary. By the end of our time there I had become accustomed to seeing completely different landscapes every day, spotting exciting animals, and generally immersing myself in unknown experiences every day. I had truly entered tourist mode.

Occasionally, when we stayed in places for longer than a couple of nights such as Melbourne or Sydney, I found myself striving for routine and rhythm. Whether that be through visiting the same outdoor swimming pool each morning or getting pastries from the same bakery for breakfast, it was still an urge to settle somehow. It struck me only a couple of times, but I noticed the difference between stopping and returning and moving forward and exploring. Ultimately they both are forms of exploring, but it made me think of the different ways I interact with the world around me when I'm home and within a routine.

radio tower at the top of a hill on Wilsons Prom
Radio tower at the top of a hill on Wilsons Prom

When I returned from Australia I was still in fully-operational tourist mode. It helped that I had a full schedule packed with things such as the Fiber Weatherscapes Lab and a research week at the KABK. But I moved onwards each day starting afresh and letting whatever was going to coming to wash over me and see what stuck. I like this mode and it fits in with how I've been trying to guide students at the start of their process over the last couple of years.

Marthe and I try to do this through a series of workshops that aim to expand the idea of what research can be and what it means to do research. We've done some more traditional activities like visiting libraries, archives, and museums but we've also done singing workshops, kung-fu lessons, radio making, and bird watching. Whilst these may seem like sporadic activities they all aim to give focus to a different sense or way of doing something to sharpen attention.

rainforest from the car
rainforest from the car

Coming back from Australia gave me this heightened sense of noticing I think. I took more in because I had spent a month doing it every day. I didn't think a holiday would become a research method, but maybe it is.

Now that I am back, I want to try to hold on to that sense of intrigue about things around me, but this comes with its problems of priorities, schedules, and responsibilities that I didn't feel so much when down under. It's a challenge but I have the energy to figure it out. If anyone has tips, please tell me...

Merman Pete
Merman Pete