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Reflections of a nomadic renter
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Pass it on
I'm reading
Reflections of a nomadic renter
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Reflections of a nomadic renter
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
23 March 2018

Reflections of a nomadic renter

For Tegan, home isn’t defined by the walls she lives in, rather, it’s a feeling, one she carries with her everywhere she goes.

Written by Tegan Sullivan

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Last year, I moved into my 26th house. It’s funny how people react when I tell them. For most people, moving house is an ordeal, right up there with public speaking, and the thought of moving so many times is quite horrifying. But I quite like moving.

The excitement of new, uncharted territory is like a drug for me. I love nothing more than deciding where to hang my pictures, getting to know a new tram route, finding the best coffee within walking distance, and learning the subtle differences between neighbourhoods.

The smell of pho and freshly cut lawns in Footscray. The nonnas tending to their fruit trees in Preston. The designer-breed dogs out for a walk in Prahran—always in pairs. When the shiny newness gives way to monotonous routine, and when all I can smell is the garbage truck, I know it’s time to move again.

My ambivalence toward the notion of ‘home’ can be traced back to my childhood when my mum and I would shift from rental to rental, criss-crossing and returning to the same handful of suburbs in search of fairer rent and nicer landlords.

I’ve lived on a farm and I’ve lived near the beach. I’ve lived in two different houses on the same street. I’ve lived in eight share houses, and I’ve lived next to two pubs.

I’ve been burgled more times that I can remember. I’ve experienced storms that blow fences down, drug dealing neighbours, exploding water heaters, and housemates I’ve had to call the cops on.

But I’ve also discovered fruit trees behind fallen down sheds, and friendly local cats, and beautiful walking trails just minutes away. Even the most derelict rentals have their charms.

Without a mortgage anchoring you down—and with some degree of financial flexibility—you are free to move house, move state, move country, or pack up and travel.

As it happens, that’s exactly what my mum is planning to do next year. She’s packing up a van and taking my teenage siblings around Australia, exercising that rebellious spirit that I am lucky enough to have inherited.

When I moved from Perth to Melbourne, I experienced the strange paradox of being in a new and unfamiliar place, yet feeling—almost instantly—that this city was “home” in a way Perth had never been.

The benefits of travel have been preached for the ages, but I am a firm advocate of living in a new city at least once in your lifetime.

In my six years in Melbourne, I have lived in five houses and crashed on many couches. When I reached house number 21, I thought I’d finally found a house I would call home. My partner and I rented his dad’s investment property—a real fixer-upper—and spent 12 months renovating. It was filthy, exhausting, and extremely satisfying work.

When the paint was dry, we adopted two gorgeous cats. We put armfuls of our mandarins in a basket on the picket fence, and found thank you notes in their place. We had parties. We buried compost.

For a few years, I was happy. But then I got bored—of my life, my relationship, and even our house—and a restless energy disrupted my life until everything had been turned over, examined closely and eventually discarded.

I have since learned to think of home as much bigger, more abstract, than just a house. It’s a feeling of sanctuary.

Home is a spot where I can stretch my legs in the afternoon sun. Home is the smell of burning incense, vegetable curry, and freshly washed clothes. Home is wherever I have my morning coffee and roll out my yoga mat.

After two years of heartbreak and endless disruption, I find myself here, in house 26, in a place of internal stillness.

My renter’s journey has taught me that, although I know I will inevitably move again, I don’t have to keep searching for the “perfect” place, and I don’t have to subscribe to the traditional notion of home. I am embracing my inner nomad.

My home is all around this beautiful city. It’s the rattle of trams, rainbow flags, the heady buzz of walking to Flinders Street after a concert.

Home is not a childhood bedroom, preserved like a time capsule, and it’s not even this house where I now happily reside. I get to carry home with me wherever I go, and that feels like a superpower.

Tegan Sullivan

Tegan is a Dumbo Feather reader from way back with a love for spreadsheets and to-do lists. She looks after our subscribers and keeps the stationery cupboard well-stocked. She also writes, dabbles in photography and surrounds herself with cats.

Feature image by Tegan Sullivan

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