It’s been just over two months since I moved to Canberra, and I’ve at last started to feel like a local.
It’s nice too—I can now walk to the shop nearby without having to look at a map ten times along the way. I like knowing how many signals I need to cross before reaching the mall, and which entrances are be open later in the night. I find myself analysing the various walkways to my destination and choosing the closest or the most scenic depending on my mood.
It’s empowering in a way that I don’t have to rely on someone or a some technology to help me navigate, to help me get through every day.
That’s the life of a local—knowing the right bus stops and the frequent routes, not because you’ve memorised them but because they’ve become part of your routine. I even shrug off the little things that a someone new in town might roll their eyes at; well, that’s Canberra for ya, mate.
But it also means that I no longer feel the city the same way as a traveller does. And I felt that way for quite a while. Everywhere, I saw something worthy of a jaw drop, a closer look, a lingering moment. Everything fascinated me, and I’d willingly walk an extra kilometre to read the street names and stare at the buildings.
I don’t do that as much nowadays. Sure, I still walk four kilometres everyday around the lake just because I want to experience the many wonderful trees and birds and noises—they’re so enchantingly different every time.
However, I also see the other side. And resonate with it.
I see the things, the little annoyances, jitters, that a common person sees. I understand more about why some people don’t appreciate the new bus routes. I loved them when I arrived—extra buses, free services for a month, what’s not to love, I wondered.
Now I know how it’s affected some people’s lives. How a small change in their schedule has toppled regular commuters who find it difficult to adjust to the new system. I’d never have understood that a couple of months ago. Now, though, I can sympathise with them. And now when the old lady sitting at the bus stop tells me that the previous bus never showed up for some reason, I realise what it means to her. And the best of all, I’m now local enough to agree with her and tell her about the time I sat waiting and the bus never showed.
It’s the little things like that that make home feel homey. My lifestyle has melded into the ways of other Canberrans, so much so that I’m now a regular spectator at a local Morris dancing practice. The dancers identify me so that if we run into each other someplace else, we’d exchange a warm hello. I have events and things to do every week—people to meet, shanties to sing, writing clubs to be accountable to—things I look forward to. Things that make living in a society enjoyable and worthwhile.
That’s what it means to be local.