Friday, May 20, 2011

Ideas, man

Today I presented a paper at the Brisbane Ideas Festival entitled, "Returning to Iceland: Is there a geography of happiness and does it bring you home?" The presentation was filmed and is available for download here.

Presenting at the Brisbane Ideas Festival

My talk centred on the complex nature of home, and the various ways we come to define it. I spoke at length about my book The Promise of Iceland and travel, which often makes us aware of the distinctive features of the place we're from - interestingly, Australians and Icelanders, both island dwellers, seem to share the need to leave at some stage of their lives. It's as though leaving permits you to see yourself afresh, and suddenly to be freed of an established version of yourself that your friends and relatives may think of as fixed.

Another way to define home is through the process of returning after a long time away: the feeling of belonging and familiarity that hits you when you get back is a kind of definition. It's a feeling that reminds you that the pleasures of travel, and the intoxicating novelties of movement, are limited, temporary; while home, the place you come back to, has more enduring qualities.

But I think home is also defined by the tension between one's need for change and the satisfaction we draw from stability. Home pulls you back, but I think it also, in very positive ways, pushes you out.

With Rod Welford