Today has been a challenging day, before we started on our European adventure getting to London was my main goal. I was excited about seeing Europe and ticking off some lifelong bucket list items, but I was really excited about getting to London… why? Because in June last year my best friend moved there so it had been a long six months since I had seen her face to face. It was the reason we chose to go now, rather than waiting another 12 months and something that I had been counting down to since the moment she left. Yet the journey to get here has been an incredible to say the least we had a jammed pack end to 2015 and the last 3 weeks has completely over shadowed my initial excitement. But today is the day we have finally arrived in London, and even though I am super excited to tell you all about being here and being reunited, today’s travel’s have been quite overwhelming and emotional and I think I need to stop and let it out… Today has not just been our last bus day, but it has included so much more. One last day stop, some confronting scenery, a ferry across the channel and a long drive through peak hour traffic and saying goodbye to our remaining tour friends one last time before we part ways for the first time in just under a month and get on the tube to our home for a week in Notting Hill.
We stopped in Bruges, Belgium, the home of fries, chocolate and waffles and indulged, longed for more time once again to take it all in and then jumped back on the bus and headed across the country and down through France towards Calais where we would catch our ferry across the English Channel. On our drive to Calais we were confronted by just a glimpse of the thousands of refugees who are currently living in what can only be described as squalor, outside Calais port. Many hoping to make the same journey we did, across the English Channel into the UK. This moment of reality thrown into our dream trip was jarring. I had never seen anything like this before, I had completely underestimated what a refugee camp would look like and how I would be affected just by seeing it. I was also completely embarrassed by the constant political squabble of Australia and Australians in response to refugees. I had previously been disappointed in our response to people seeking asylum, but now I just feel angry, frustrated and completely powerless. I just don’t understand, why we, the lucky country, have so much difficulty processing peoples requests for refuge, why it takes so long and why the conditions for people who wait need to be so poor.
I know there are a number of issues that impact this, but I am convinced there has to be a better way. When I think about the relatively small number of people who seek asylum in Australia, and then see the camp that I saw today, we must be joking when we talk about a ‘refugee problem’. When I see how these people have ‘chosen’ to live rather than stay where they were, my heart breaks and wonders what more I can do… I don’t really know what the answer to that is yet, but it is something that I need to think more about. Something that I can not… and like so many of the other lessons I have learnt on this trip… I should not forget… Australia does not have a refugee problem… it just needs to re-read the question and try some different answers because we have to be able to do better than what we are doing right now.