Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Globe Trotting.

Ever since I was a child, the idea of seeing the world filled me with such wonder and excitement my fingers would twitch! Being a total film buff, I wanted to see the amazing lands I was being transported to; from the rolling hills of Austria (The Sound of music) to the city streets of London (Mary Poppins) - Oh yes... I had a 'thing' for Julie Andrews.

When I was 13, I went overseas for the 1st time to Fiji; what a beautiful and magical place. I feel very lucky that my parents could take us to such an amazing spot for our Christmas vacation, although I have vague recollections of being quite the sullen teen, it is still one of my fondest memories... I would take long walks along the beach in the evenings, swimming in the bluest ocean you have ever seen- truly it is paradise.

When I was 17 I was given an even greater oppurtunity, to be a youth exchange student in America through the Lions Club... Boy, oh boy, 6 weeks spent with 2 host families- seeing their local areas, living with them as a family member and soaking up some good ol' American culture.

I went to California, Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois. I stayed with my host families in Martin, Michigan & Sigourney, Iowa. Both rural, small times. I loved it. It was such an amazing experience and I still keep in touch with these families 12 years later (and some fellow students thanks to social networking.)

Whilst in my final year of school the romantic idea of travelling through Europe could not escape my mind, I had grown up pouring over my Mum's photos of her backpacking as a student and my little country town was starting to make my skin crawl. I wanted to stand at the Trevi fountain like my Mother had... Climb the Eiffel Tower... Kiss the Blarney Stone. I wanted it all.

I planned out a very crude map of where I was going to travel (thanks to an out of date Lonely Planet Guide)... I wanted to see the United Kingdom, France, Greece, Italy.... but... Life got in the way... What would easily derail a 17 year olds plan? Well, I fell in love. Hard. I am embarrassed to say it consumed alot of my final year at school... I would never say negatively in terms of my school work (thank God) but in terms of taking off for the other side of the world for a few months? Well... That went on the back burner.

Straight after school I moved out of home. I was minus one boyfriend (heartache), plus a new one (*sigh*) and was starting university the following year. Travel was pretty much not a word in my vocabulary for the next 3 years... Ok... 4 years (I had a degree change.)

Fast forward to 2003 and that restless feeling came back, yep, I couldn't shake it... I wanted to go to Europe! I had been in a relationship for 3 years and on a whim one Saturday, walked into a travel agent, and booked my holiday of a lifetime; 6 weeks in Europe. I had finished university, but was waiting to graduate, my relationship could pretty much be described as 'meh' and I needed an escape. One of my closest girlfriends decided to come along too (I had booked onto 2 touring groups) and then the fun began.

In the Summer of 2003 we went to Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Germany, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland. It was a blast, I hardly have the words to describe what that trip meant to me; but I have hundreds of photos from that time that  treasure and I cannot wait to share them with my daughter. You only see Pompei for the first time once. It hit me ("I am here") when I first saw the Eiffel Tower. Cheesy, I know. But it takes my breath away (and have been back to Paris twice since then.)

My best friend Kate was living in London at the time so I got to spend a little bit of time with her. London was just. Me. I didn't want to leave, but I had someone waiting for me at home and a graduation ceremony to attend. I will never forget the day before I left London that summer, sitting in a pub in Russell Square, ironically named 'London Pub' and saying to Kate, "I'll be back here again before you leave." She was planning on leaving in 2005 so that gave me two years to save my pennies and get myself back to Ol' Blighty.

....and that is what I did.

On March 15th, 2005, I left Brisbane International airport with tears streaming down my face for the adventure of a lifetime. I was taking a years leave from my job with the Commonwealth Bank, a years leave from my boyfriend of 5 years (the deal was, I WOULD be back) and saying farewell to my friends and family for 12 months.

I was in Thailand when it hit me. Shit. WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE??? I have no job, hardly any money, boyfriend and family on the other side of the world. SHIT! I got through that 8 hour wait in Bangkok airport with a battered copy of King's, "It" and some semi positive thoughts. To this day I would say this is the bravest thing I have ever done.

I moved in with Kate in Ealing Common ("I am here. I promised I would be back") before we moved into a flat share in Victoria. Central London, baby... I was loving it.

Fast forward to 2009 and I am still in the UK, married to the man of my dreams (NO, not him!) and travelling to South Africa to meet many of his family for the first time. Seeing the exquisite sites of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Margate, Graskop and Kruger National Park. We stayed with G's Dad in Johannesburg too. We did a Great White Shark dive in Gansbaai- A-MAZE-ING!

In the same year we ventured back to the US with my work (Los Angeles and San Diego) and back home to Australia for a friends wedding (since leaving in 2005 I have been back 4 times??)

Travel is in my blood. I will never stop exploring and wanting to know/see/experience more. I would love to see the Canadian Rockies, or enjoy coffee in a street cafe in Göteborg.... and we will, but these adventures will be as a family.

Seeing the world is something I want for Avalon. I feel it is so important to see how others live, how other cultures thrive, and that is an education you cannot get from any institution. I would always encourage her to see the world, and along with giving birth to her, it is the accomplishment I am most proud of. I cannot wait to share this experience with her.

The world is your oyster, baby....