Destinations Magazine

The Land of the Three-Week Visit

By Russellvjward @russellvjward
There's the Land of the Rising Sun, the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Land of the Giants, even the Land of the Free. But what about the Land of the Three-Week Visit?
I have a theory. Anyone who visits us here in Australia generally stays for three weeks, which got me wondering why that is.
We recently met up with friends of the family from 'way back'. They were here to spend Christmas in Sydney and Melbourne, and they were here for three weeks. This week we've been 'hanging out' with my wife's English relatives who are here for a little over three weeks. My own parents have visited Australia twice now. And, each time, for approximately three weeks.
In the land of perpetual sunshine and skimmed milk lattes to die for, it seems that three weeks is a timeframe of choice for holidaymakers and family members on a trip to the land down under.

The Land of the Three-Week Visit

Long distance travel.
Image: Tim Beach /

Distance is obviously a determining factor for the Three-Week Visit.
After travelling to the other side of the world, you'd be a fool to only allow a week or two to vacation here (the infamous jet lag alone will take a week to recover from, then there's the necessary heat acclimatisation, followed by the required time for traversing some of this vast landmass). The same applies in reverse. I wouldn't dream of jet setting 17,000km to the UK unless I'd planned a lengthy stay there. In other words, no less than three weeks.
Ensuring a decent amount of time with loved ones is therefore the other reason for the Three-Week Visit.
For those of us who live in Australia and for family and/or friends arriving in Australia, three weeks is a satisfying chunk of time to spend together. It's long enough, but not overly lengthy. It is ample time to re-connect and repulse (if needs must). It allows for places of interest to be visited, sightseeing boxes to be ticked, and lashings of sun to be soaked up. Three weeks also happens to be a good marker for experiencing every known emotion to man.
Week One goes something like this.
The overwhelming anticipation of seeing familiar faces after more than twelve months of separation reaches its emotional climax at the airport's arrival lounge. Sheer joy is accompanied by dire uncertainty and worry. Did they make the arduous journey in one piece? Will they be permanently scarred by the effects of 24 hours in transit? Is the house going to be clean enough? Did I mow the lawn to those high English standards? And please don't let a cockroach crawl across their cotton bedsheets in the night.

The Land of the Three-Week Visit

Holidays in the sun.
Image: Darren Robertson /

The first week passes smoothly enough, although opposing sides are on tenderhooks - some unwilling to verbalise what's really on their minds; others tiptoeing around each other minding their P's and Q's; each person trying to take it all in. Politeness is the order of the day. Positive words abound, from the quality of cooking skills, to the choice of bathroom towels, and of course how wonderful the local environment is. All parties try to bond in record speed. Although it's really not unlike a room full of strangers, each carrying a bag full of secrets, with the carry handles about to break and spew forth the bag's contents.
Week Two takes a slight turn for the worse.
Familiarity takes hold as life confined under one small roof gets cozier. Old jokes are remembered and childhood memories are shared. Life seems to be getting back to the way it was before you had to go and upset the apple cart and leave the Motherland. But the emotional bubble that's been swelling since your guests' arrival is about to burst open with catastrophic results. Tensions simmer dangerously high and those pent-up frustrations, unresolved arguments, and off-hand remarks from the past year lived apart soon boil over in a series of stormy outbursts.
"This isn't your true home." "Your friends and family miss you." "When are you planning to return?" "And who's going to look after us in our old age?"
The accusations fly and the anger burns yet, as suddenly as it started, the drama is over. Opponents retreat to their respective corners. After all, the show must go on. 
Week Three is less eventful but tinged with sadness.
Regret and remorse are rife as the reality of the situation sets in. This is the last week of the visit and we'll soon be back to living separate lives on separate continents. Thoughts turn to leaving and every moment in each other's company is a precious commodity to be jealously guarded.
The visitors consume themselves with thoughts of the mind-bogglingly boring journey home that awaits them. The thoughts of the 'visited' turn to cleaning the house, fumigating, burning off, de-cluttering, and getting back to the gym again.
Before long, tear-laden farewells will be said at the airport's departure lounge, a flurry of text messages will be exchanged before the plane leaves the gate, and acceptance will kick in that you won't see each other again for what could be a very long time. A quick cry on the drive home, wondering why and how you ever got yourself into this situation. Then the steely resolve returns. This is an adventure of course and the last things adventurers have are doubts. Emotions are buried deep and life goes on.

The Land of the Three-Week Visit

Three weeks in Australia. Why, of course!
Image: dan /

All this in a brief Three-Week Visit.
I sometimes wonder if it's all really worth it. Whether it wouldn't be easier to just do away with the Three-Week Visit, avoid the roller coaster ride of emotions, and save myself a lot of heartache in the process. But you and I know that's not going to happen.
The thing about living in Australia, in this sandy outpost in the middle of the Pacific, is that you can't help but feel the isolation set in as bags are packed and visitors say their goodbyes. There's always that nagging feeling of being left behind that comes with living so far away from the 'rest of the world'. Fortunately, that same feeling of isolation has it's upside. A feeling that isolation in the current global climate has its pros, as well as its cons. Have you experienced the Three-Week Visit? Did you witness the emotional bubble burst?

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