I am lucky enough to have travelled a lot. I have white-water rafted down the Zambezi, climbed down (and up) the Grand Canyon, stood outside the Taj Mahal, and cycled over Tower Bridge just to go to work! I have walked with lions, been within metres of bears and rhinoceroses, been charged by a hippo while in a boat, and touched the oldest, biggest and tallest trees in the world. I have driven alone through Albania, drank wine in Burgundy, taken a siesta in Spain, and drunk beer in Munich. I have walked through the ruins of Pompeii, visited the home of the Count Dracula, kissed the Blarney Stone, and seen the home of the Loch Ness Monster. I have parachuted down into the deserts of Namibia, caught a fast train in China, walked through monasteries in Meteora, and seen the Eternal Flames in Olympos. I could keep going but I think you get the point. A. Lot.
Considering this, you would think that getting on a plane and leaving would be old hat for me now. Just another place. Just another plane ride. But leaving home is always difficult. You call it home for a reason, you know. That thing they say about where your heart is? Well it *is*. There. Home.
This time it actually surprised me a little bit how acutely I felt the leaving. But last time I left for this long it was different. That was six (maybe seven?) years ago, and then I was leaving because I had to. I had something I needed to find, but I wasn’t sure what it was. (on a side note, I found it, but that is *way* too long a story :)) This time I knew exactly what I was leaving for. There was a purpose. But more than that, I knew what I was leaving this time.
I should probably explain a little bit.
I am a person with a very low need for social interaction. This is not to say I don’t like people – I actually like people quite a lot. And when I do go out socially, more often than not I enjoy it. But I can also go months without seeing family or friends – *any* friends – and not be particularly bothered by this. And over the years I have been lucky enough to have surrounded myself with a solid circle of people who know this about me and love me anyway. So why should it matter, then, that I was moving to the other side of the world?
Even after reflecting on this for a couple of weeks, I am still not sure I can answer it sufficiently. There are certain things that have changed in me that make the links with my people that much more important. Part of it, I think, is to do with getting a bit older – maybe I am getting set in my ways? Another factor is that I am happier than I have been than at any other time in my life so far. And although there are many reasons while this is the case, my people are definitely a factor in this.
I know, in this age of technology, that communicating with people is as simple as picking up a phone, writing an email, or even linking up by video over the internet. But no one will ever be able to convince me that any of these mediums can compare to being in the same room as someone you care about. To hear someone’s voice or see their face without it being transported through a myriad of cables. To smell them. To touch them.
So even though I may not see my friends (or family) incredibly regularly I always knew, deep down, that they were not that far away if I wanted to see them. In person and face to face. It won’t be that simple for the next six months. That is what the leaving is all about.
On the day of the leaving I was still waxing my hiking boots in the car on the way to the airport. This will not surprise anyone who knows me relatively well. Organisation is definitely not my strong point. I had crammed the necessities into my backpack and I was ready. There to see me off was my sister, a close friend, and my mother, who was a distinct health hazard having spent the last couple of days confined to bed with a rather nasty dose of the flu. (I did try and tell her she didn’t need to come and see me off – I will let you guess the response I got!) But it was definitely nice to spend some time having a beer (or two) with some people from my forever home before flying out.
So it was with a touch of sadness I boarded the plane. But although leaving can be hard, going is always exciting, so it didn’t take long before the sad feeling was replaced by the anticipation of going somewhere new. And I was doubly lucky today. Melbourne gave me the gift of a beautiful sunny day, and fortune gave me the gift of having a whole row to myself on the plane. It was a window seat. This trip was starting out well after all. 😀