Perth, Western Australia. Most isolated capital city on Earth, and home to around two million people simultaneously hugging the coast of the Indian Ocean. Physically, Perth is a downtown core of three or four skyscrapers, surrounded by a vast sea of mostly single level detached bungalows. After the endless suburbia actually ends, lies the worlds greatest expanse of, well, nothing. After travelling for more than 600 days, through three continents, and altogether too many countries to count, I’ve taken a holiday back to Perth – the city I once called home. This is my first visit to Perth as a “tourist”. A city I know better than any other. But what is Perth really like?
Australia, for almost all of it’s inhabitants, is life in suburbia. Perth is no exception. Urban-landscapes of suburban swathes are not what you’ll ever see in the glossy tourist brochures. Sure, some of the Australian stereotypes you may have seen are very real – our suburbia includes miles of clean sandy beaches, and people enjoying BBQ’s, in giant houses with huge gardens, swimming pools, big blue skies, and even the occasional kangaroo.
However, the un-promoted reality of life in Australia is endless low-density residential sprawl, shopping malls packed with all the international franchises that you already know, and a population of car-dependent citizens who want good schools, safe communities, low taxes and cut-price-big-screen televisions. It’s a denuded land-ocean of kids, sports, cars, shopping, and despite being constantly in my sight, the Perth suburbia, like most suburbia, is invisible to the rest of the world.
Although some may say that this isn’t the “real” Australia, the fact is that life in suburbia is the reality for almost every Australian. Choosing a five star hotel in Perth is something that tourists do. Personally, I’ve found floating around from one generous friends house to another, absorbing invisible Perth suburbia, is a far more interesting way to spend time here. But I’m lucky. Tourists may need the hotel, I’ve got the friends. So the unfortunate reality is, getting to know the real Australia is almost totally impossible for the average visitor. It’s not just one “side” of the Australian lifestyle that most tourists will never see – most tourists will never experience anything of the real Australian lifestyle.
All over the world, I have seen people’s faces light up when they realise I’m Australian. But do they know the real Australia? Not for one moment am I suggesting the real Perth, or the real Australia, is not deserving of the “lucky country” moniker. What I am saying, is that people around the world are enamored with the marketed image of Australia – the amazing outback landscapes, the cute fury animals,and the endless deserted beaches. In reality, Australia is probably not what you think it is.
Perth is a typical Australian city.
To me, these days it’s also the invisible suburbia where most of my friends live.
It’s no longer my home, but I think it’s the real Australia.
PS, the clock hasn’t stopped. This really is a quick rest back “home” in Perth, Western Australia. My journey has crossed the 600 day mark, and I’m just getting started. Soon I’ll be heading off again, slowly making my way back to Belgrade, where some of my email followers will be joining myself, Phillipa, and Larissa AKA The Blonde Gypsy on a trip through the Balkans in May and June. If you didn’t know about that one – it’s because you’re not on the email list… so please, feel free to pop your email address in below. You’ll receive each post by email, and occasionally get some cool stuff that is just too good to be on the internet…