Australia international travel bans: It's OK to love more than one country

There's nothing quite so inspiring as a group of screaming Scotsmen. OK maybe that's not exactly true, but this particular group of screaming Scots, the good men and women of Glasgow, neighbours and friends, strangers and acquaintances, was more than enough to gladden the heart.

Watch the video. It was shot on mobile phones, mostly, last week in Glasgow, as the UK Home Office attempted to detain and transport two Indian men suspected of committing "immigration offences". Pretty quickly a crowd of locals surrounded the Home Office van, refusing to let it leave, chanting "let our neighbours go", and "refugees are welcome here".

Politicians try to talk us into mindless parochialism but the world doesn't have to be that way.

After seven hours, the Home Office officials bowed to the inevitable, and opened the van doors. The crowd cheered as the men were freed.

Inspiring. Heart-warming.

I love Scotland, and I love the Scots. I always have. I have a close family history in Scotland and the country has always made sense to me, it's always felt comfortable to me, and watching that video I was thinking: take me there. I wish I was in Scotland. I wish I was with those people.

Scotland, to me, is everything Australia thinks it is – but isn't. It's a country that really does stand up for the underdog, a country that really does thumb its nose at authority, a country that really does believe in compassion and a fair go.

The Australia I live in doesn't feel that way. Contrast our treatment of the Murugappan family, asylum seekers from Sri Lanka who once lived and worked in Biloela, but currently languish on Christmas Island, having been detained now for three long years.

Of course, the good people of Biloela didn't get the chance to stage a Glasgow-like protest – the Murugappans were swiped from their homes by Border Force officials at dawn, while the country town slept peacefully unaware. We do heartlessness like few others. But ever since then the voices of protest have been too faint to make any sort of difference.

Anyway, that's something of a digression. The point is that watching that video from Glasgow I thought about Scotland, a place I consider my second home, somewhere I've lived and somewhere I continue to love. I thought about what it's like to have a second home like this, where you feel so comfortable, and the fact that COVID-19 has robbed me of it.

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And I'm hardly alone there. So many of us, I think, have another country in which we feel safe, comfortable and among like-minded friends. The connection might be familial – millions of Australians are either migrants or their offspring – but it might be something else, too, a place you just visited and realised that you fit so perfectly and that it fit you.

You don't get to plan these things, these connections. They just happen. I often wish my second home was a little more "exotic", for want of a better word, a little more unusual compared to the place I grew up. Scotland is not all that different or unfamiliar.

I also wish my second home was warmer. I mean, would an affinity with Bermuda have been so hard?

But Scotland it is. The land of kilts and haggis and fiery red beards. For other people that connection might be with Vietnam or Japan, France or Spain, India or China, Bali or the USA. Somewhere you once used to spend a lot of time. Somewhere you connected with on a deep and important level and feel when you're there like so much more than a tourist.

We Australians have lost those places, thanks to COVID-19 and associated travel bans. We've lost those connections, those feelings of belonging in another nation. And the worst thing is that those feelings are treated by others in Australia now with suspicion, as if you're doing wrong by one country to say you love another, as if by enjoying another place what you're really saying is that you despise the one you currently inhabit.

"Love it or leave it," people say of Australia. Ha. If only we were allowed.

I have divided allegiances, and I'm happy to admit that. I'm a dual citizen. I love two countries. In fact I love many countries. It's infantile to insist you're only allowed to feel passionate about one nation, and it's the one you just happened to have been born in.

Politicians try to talk us into mindless parochialism but the world doesn't have to be that way, particularly not the modern world, where so many of us have ties to other places far, far away. It's OK to love multiple countries, and to feel sad that you can't visit them. It's OK to love some things about your home and dislike others; it's OK to want to be somewhere else and declare that publicly without people sneeringly dismiss it with something like, "Oh yeah? Well good luck catching COVID-19 then."

Scotland is a great place. It is incredibly beautiful in a moody, misty, heather-covered way. Its people are funny and friendly. They stand up for the underdog. They do anything for their friends.

It's home to me, just as Australia is. And one day – one day – I'll go back.

Do you have a country you consider your second home? Why do you have such a strong connection with it? Do you feel that the pandemic has changed your relationship with that country, or with the rest of the world?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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