It was a cold and drizzly evening in the heart of Melbourne’s winter. I stood outside, hunched over with my hands in my pockets trying to stay warm. My father waved, said goodbye, got in the car, and drove off. I stood there and watched his car disappear into the distance. And that was the moment it hit me. I put my head into my hands and burst into tears. What the fuck am I doing?
It hadn’t really phased me before. 3 months earlier I’d booked my one-way ticket to London. I’d never been out of Australia, yet I didn’t do much planning, I didn’t organise an itinerary. I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t even look at a tube map. I wasn’t even bothered.
But that moment sparked the realisation that this was the last time I’d see my parents for a long time. My coworkers. My friends. Everyone and everything I’ve ever known. And I like my friends, I didn’t want to lose them. I had good work opportunities coming up. What will happen to those? Will I last? How long will I be gone? Will I be happy? What if I’m not?
In hindsight, it’s almost laughable how I felt. I was absolutely shit-scared. I doubted myself. I told everyone I’d be gone for around a year, but really I had no idea, and I thought it would be sooner. I didn’t know why I was doing it, and I constantly asked myself it it was the right decision. Hell, my doubts even came down to the weather – I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stand the cold of Europe’s Winter, so I had a loose plan to travel back to Australia for the summer. Of course, this didn’t happen (in fact I love snow, but let’s leave that for another post). These are ridiculous doubts, but you always fear what you don’t know. And I knew nothing about travelling, backpacking, living out of home, and being a foreigner.
I organised to stay the night at Daniel’s place, and he’d drive me to the airport the next day. I can’t even believe it myself, but I actually managed to get a decent sleep. Everything was a-ok, until we got to the departures drop, then we had a couple of tears and parted ways. I turned around, bag on my back, looked up, and tried to figure out where to go. I’ve only been to an airport twice in the past 8 years, and I’ve never flown internationally! I got myself together, lugged my crap to the check in desk, and watched my bag disappear. I started shaking. This is happening. I made my way to security, but before I got anywhere alarms started sounding – it wasn’t a drill. I refused to accept this would happen today, so I stayed put as people started to evacuate. I waited a good 10 minutes, then the alarm stopped, and no one had any idea what happened. But everyone rushed back, so I followed suit, went through security, and boarded the plane.
The 27 hour flight was something straight out of the Satanic Bible. Three 8-hour legs with a few hours inbetween each stop. I watched countless movies, tv shows, and listened to my John Legend discography about 20 times. Luckily I met a couple of awesome fellow travellers, Bill and Natalie. We hung out at both of the stopovers (Brunei and Dubai), and they put my mind at ease. It was such a great relief when we finally arrived in London at 6am, the weather was good even that early in the morning, and good weather always makes you feel better. Considering I hadn’t slept at all, I didn’t feel too bad, but I definitely looked a little worse for wear.
My Mum had organised my journey to the hostel all for me, thanks Mum! It was easy. Take the Picadilly line from Heathrow (there’s only one line, going one way) to Hammersmith, and then change to a Hammersmith & City line for 2 stops. Simple. I got on the tube and enjoyed the journey, and I laughed when we exited a tunnel as I assumed the entire tube system was underground. After all, it is called the Underground. But it wasn’t, so I enjoyed the views, which where starkly different to anything I’ve ever experienced in Australia. The architecture was amazing, everything looked so old, and beautiful. I decided to check where I was, so I glanced up and took a look at the map and saw this. Gulp.
What is this cryptic shit? I’m used to a few different lines going in opposite directions, and perhaps a little loop (ah the good old city loop), but not this. If I got this wrong, who knows where I’d end up. But still, I managed to figure it out, and got off at the right station (and let’s face it, I’m a half-pro at the tube now – but again that’s another story).
I walked up Uxbridge road in the beautiful sunny weather (which is rare for summer in London), and I ended up getting lost. I hadn’t written down any directions, and I couldn’t get the internet working on my phone. Shit. I called my mum and tried to get help, but she couldn’t get her maps out in time, and it was costing me a fortune, so I hung up and tried to figure it out myself. I was stressing big time, I’m in an unfamiliar place, a new country, I’m totally lost, and I don’t know anyone. I approached a guy on the street and asked him if he knew where Becklow road was. He loaded up maps on his phone and showed it to me. With a new sense of direction, I made my way to the Greyhound – the home of the Monkeys in the Trees hostel. I met Bart at reception, checked in, and with a massive weight lifted off my shoulders, sat down and did some work.
Writing this 8 months later gives me a chance to reflect on how my attitudes, fears, and approaches to problems have changed since I first started travelling. Nowadays, getting lost in random cities is something that not only happens, but something that I make happen. I don’t just want to see the same sights and do the same things as every other traveller, so getting lost became an integral part of my life. But that story’s for another time, because this story… Well, this story is about where it all began.