I first went on a plane when I was 22 years old. I’d somehow convinced my parents to let me spend two months in Australia with The Boyfriend, and had then wangled two months off from my part-time job at the local Pak’n Save. With the former, it helped that we’d been seeing each other for four years and everyone (apart from me) was convinced we would get married; with the latter, I worked 50-hour weeks from the time I finished university until leaving, so felt they kinda “owed me”.
I was full of trepidation – both about going on a plane, and going to a “foreign” country – and I was a little nervous about spending two months with The Boyfriend. But above all, I was excited about the potential experiences I would have, the independence I would gain, and the Oh-So-Cool Stories I would have to tell.
Image from here*
We started our trip in Sydney, and I remember feeling over-whelmed at all the people, and by the sheer size of the city. But it was all so thrilling – walking through King’s Cross at night, avoiding eye-contact with dodgy looking drug dealers, trying not to giggle when strip club hawkers called out, “couples welcome!” – and meeting travellers from all over the world set my mind a-racing. I suddenly realised there was this whole world available to me, and that with a little bit of planning (and a whole lot of saving), I would one day be able to call myself a Traveller, too.
Image from here*
After Sydney, we took a train to Brisbane to visit The Boyfriend’s sister and her family. I remember feeling so worldly when I said of Brisbane, “Oh, it’s just another city” – like I was qualified to make such a blanket statement (I still feel that way about Brisbane, but I reckon I’m a bit more qualified to say so now!).
I thought I was soooo cool. I read books that Travellers were reading at the time (‘The Alchemist’ and ‘The Beach’ – only Travellers were authorised to read such tales, you know). I spoke of “commuting” and stayed in grubby hostels; when we returned home, I proudly told stories of almost getting pricked by a used needle in King’s Cross, of singing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ on New Year’s Day, 2000, with two lads from Manchester, of transvestite hookers and the availability of all sorts of illicit substances (of which I did not partake, but at the time, it seemed so risque and worldly to say that if I’d wanted to, I could have).
This first trip opened my eyes to an exciting new world (pardon the pun), and made me realise that I wasn’t content to stay in my comfort zone any longer. It would be another four years before I left the shores of New Zealand again, but by that time, the travelling bug had well-and-truly bitten this shy Dunedin Girl.
* This trip was taken back in the day when digital cameras were a thing of the future, along with robot maids and spaceship cars, so I’ve had to borrow a couple of images!