On belonging to a place

On Sunday, I visited the Sutherland Shire for the first time since I left it to pursue my seachange. October 2016 was when I packed up my bags and moved up the coast. Sure, I’d been through the shire on the train a couple of times while headed down the south coast but I never really stopped there. Until Sunday.

And I think I know why I really avoided the place for about 20 months.

The second I saw Wanda beach on Sunday, my eyes filled with tears. It’s a place I frequented for years. It’s home. I walked along the Esplanade watching the waves, wandered through Gunnamatta Park, reminiscing about my thirtieth birthday celebrations, the times I spent at Mint cafe reading or writing, or just soaking the sun by the bay or the beach reading a book. It was hard to stop the tears.

Gunnamatta Bay

I find it difficult to explain when people ask me about my response to the Shire. It’s not like I have any family or friends who live there. But as a migrant, with no real roots in this country, it was the first place I felt connected to and felt like I’d come home.

The first time I visited Cronulla was in July 2005. I’d already visited Manly, the city centre, some suburbs up north and was living close to uni in south-west Sydney. While Sydney was nice, it was still quite isolating. And then I was introduced to Cronulla and the Sutherland Shire.

And I instantly felt like I’d come home. I knew it’s where I eventually wanted to live. I was fortunate to have that dream come true.

The Shire isn’t the most multicultural place {though I noticed it’s progressing in that regard}. It tends to be well-known for the wrong reasons *cough* Cronulla riots *cough* Yes, it is cliquey but that’s the same where I currently live and I’m sure it’s not uncommon in a lot of areas in Sydney too.

Yet, I’ve never felt like a minority or an outsider in all my years of living there.

Gunnamatta Bay

In October this year, it will be two years since I moved up the coast. I’d told myself I was going to give it two years. I have made wonderful friends and connections here. For that, I am truly grateful. However, it still doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t evoke the same emotions. It doesn’t feel like I belong.

Strangely, I never felt like I truly belonged even in my country of birth. Sure, Mumbai was all right and it was also where I lived from the age of nine till twenty, but I don’t have the same emotional response to it that I do to the Shire. I’ve visited Mumbai twice since moving here in 2005 and felt nothing for the place.

I wonder though, can you really belong to a place? Especially when you have no people to connect you there? Yes, I have memories but I felt connected long before I made those memories.

I left the Shire for multiple reasons, not all of which I outlined here on the blog. I don’t regret it, because it has meant I have met some lovely people here on the coast and have some amazing friends that I hope will remain. I have also learnt that I can still be courageous, still push myself out of my comfort zone, still cope.

But I know one thing – I will be returning to live in the Shire. I don’t know when. But I will go back.

Because it’s home. And it has a piece of my heart.

***Linking with Min, Leanne and others for the Lovin’ Life Linky***

Image source: Mine

Until next time,




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  • Denyse
    19 July 2018 at 11:23 pm

    When you have an emotional & physical reaction like you did .. then you know it’s where you belong. Glad it’s happened. But please… we need to meet up for our coffeeeee

  • Reema Dsouza
    20 July 2018 at 2:20 am

    Sometimes a place does make one feel home. Yes, you can belong to a place and it is wonderful to feel that way. But sometimes change is good! Glad that you got to relive some memories and I hope that you have a wonderful time in your current city.
    Reema Dsouza recently posted…#WednesdayVerses : Fragments of timeMy Profile

  • Kristin Alicia
    20 July 2018 at 6:51 am

    How nice that you felt that sense of connection in your adopted home. I hope you do return someday, if that is the place that calls to you. Just last week I posted something similar, about the place where I feel most at home (Australia) being outside my country. I think some places just call to us. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your new town.

  • Jo Tracey
    20 July 2018 at 8:08 am

    It’s funny, but I was born in Sydney & came back to The Hills 26 years ago. We left for our sea-change last year & here on the Sunshine Coast feels more like home than Sydney ever did. I went back to the Hills last time I was in Sydney & the progress and development in my old suburb of Castle Hill just reinforced that decision – as did the morning commute from my parent’s house in West Pennant Hills. Here on the Sunny Coast it’s like I’ve come home, found my true north.

  • Deborah
    20 July 2018 at 12:48 pm

    I love that you had that reaction. It’s sad for you at the moment but nice to have a place that feels like home.

    I’m the opposite when I return to Brisbane. It’s familiar but I don’t necessarily feel like it’s a place I belong. I’m not sure here is either but I’ve got some ideas longer term and thinking the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast perhaps.

  • BellyBytes
    21 July 2018 at 2:52 pm

    I moved a lot as a kid since my dad was in a transferable job and because of this I have the opposite problem – every place soon becomes my home! I therefore, feel comfortable in any part of the world within days….. and even if it is short trip to a place, even if I am the only stranger in the place, I have a strange sense of having been there before….
    BellyBytes recently posted…It all started with Eleanor Oliphant.My Profile

  • Caz-Room For My Soul
    22 July 2018 at 8:21 am

    I think you can belong to a place. I feel very much like that about my hometown. It’s cold. It’s old. It’s a little backwards. But I love it. I feel like my soul is connected to it and I always return. Do you think you will move back or just return for trips when you need to?

  • Natalie
    22 July 2018 at 12:01 pm

    It’s nice to have a place that feels like home and something to look forward to. You can make plans to eventually move there and make your plans happen.

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    22 July 2018 at 2:44 pm

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  • Shilpa Gupte
    22 July 2018 at 9:29 pm

    I find it difficult to feel ‘at home’ in a new place, because for me, Mumbai is home. Having grown up here, I spent about 40 years here, I cannot imagine myself getting as comfy in any other place. But, you never know when a place beckons and makes a place for itself in your heart and you instantly feel you are home! Guess, we need to keep our heart wide open for that to happen! Moreover, some places have that effect on our psyche…maybe we belonged to that place in some other life!
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…Three quotes I live by.My Profile

  • Pratikshya Mishra
    23 July 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Some places do make us feel at home. For me, the seashore and the waves feel the same. But nothing feels cozier or comfortable than home- where my parents live. I too had this idea- can someone really ever belong to a place- when actually we are the amalgamation of all the places we have ever been to.
    Pratikshya Mishra recently posted…July : A Month of Massive Changes #MondayMusingsMy Profile