And One Year Later…

It’s fitting that this article popped up on my newsfeed today as it covers the exact quote that led me to move to the other side of the world, into a home of people I’d never met, by myself, to a city where I knew no one, and all arranged in about two weeks. Was it brash? Probably. I didn’t plan much other than having employment, housing, a visa and a plane ticket. I didn’t think about this for years or months. In fact it was probably about 30 days between me even fathoming the idea to actually arriving in Australia. Before I left, I was in a place where I could see my options running out daily and where I felt like I was sinking into quicksand instead of progressing into my best self. So I did what anyone else would do–I packed my bags and moved to a new country.

It’s been a year since I landed back in America. My hair was the shortest it’d ever been, it was fading into a really weird color, I was tan, I’d dropped weight, and my outfit was comprised of things I’d bought overseas. The weather however was much the same as it was in Australia–I left a grey and drizzly Sydney and arrived in a grey and drizzly LA. Everything was the same when I got home–it was like I had been living in a little bubble doing all the growing/changing/exploring I needed to do, and time had kindly stopped back home, patiently awaiting my return so it could begin anew.

Since coming back, not a single day has gone by that I don’t think about my trip, how amazing it was and also how unbelievably lucky I was in my endeavors. My first bit of luck, aside from the job/housing/visa, turned out to be that this girl I met through a friend of a friend one time in LA like a year and a half before I moved to Sydney. I had facebook friended her to see some photos she had of me then forgot to delete her. About 3 weeks after I moved, she posted a photo of Sydney so I messaged her asking how long she would be visiting since it would be nice to see a familiar face. Not only had she just moved on the same visa I was on, but she moved literally one block from where I was living. Serendipity? Yes. She became one of my best friends and a constant ally. When the nannying thing wasn’t working out, I stayed with her until my new housing was ready. We went on constant adventures and I know that my outlook on this whole trip would be seriously different if she hadn’t moved down my street.

After that, I found a job with one of the coolest dudes I know, through which I met other amazing people, and where I made and saved an unreal amount of money. I also found an incredibly cheap apartment next to one of the most famous Sydney beaches, where I lived with 5 beautiful, hilarious, crazy girls from all over the world and was neighbors with another 5 people from all over the world. Every day as I got off my train for work, my view was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a landmark I was only a 10 minute walk from. I played in the botanical gardens, made friends from all over the world, toured The Opera House, walked the bridge, took the ferry countless times, went to the zoo, had adventures and never felt more alive than I’d ever felt in my life. I woke up every single day to be excited about life (even at 7 am), a feeling that never faded even six months later.

After a few months of saving up my pennies, I embarked on a solo backpacking trip up the East Coast. Even though each stop was only a few days, I fell in love so quickly with everyone I met and every place I stopped by. I started my trip at a hippie beach town where I stayed in a hostel where people came for a few days, fell in love, then ended up living in their tent commune for months and months. I met a man from Mauritius who was trying to start fresh with his life by selling his restaurant and finding his way in Byron Bay, who lent two strangers (me and a friend) his car so we could drive around the forests that surround Byron Bay. He also drove a group of us to Nimbin  on a rainy day when we missed our shuttle. He took us under his wing. One night he orchestrated the cooking of the biggest curry I’d ever seen and just passed around a hat asking people to donate a dollar. He made all of his money back (I know because I bought the ingredients for him and helped count the money) and an extra few bucks. He instilled in us a sense of community and a sense that we should always help one another. He loved everyone and believed in all of us. I met a lanky Canadian whose only birthday request was money so he could buy a tent and stay for a few months. I met a beautiful English girl who fell in love with a boy and whose happily ever after was staying in Byron Bay with him in a shared tent. I met another beautiful girl whose gregarious spirit has led her to the far corners of the world as a “professional backpacker.” I met people who never stopped living and never stopped loving.

From there I went to Fraser Island, the trip that has made the biggest impact on my life. I went camping to this island with almost 30 other people and made some of the best friends that I have ever had in my life. I became so close with some of these people they became like my brothers. It’s hard to say why we all clicked so well but we did and to this day we still keep in touch, posting stupid things on each other’s facebook walls, and keeping up with everyone’s latest shenanigans like it was just yesterday that we were together. There were so many characters in this group and yet we all had the craziest three days, which turned into four when we all got back to base camp together. There were the Roofie Newfies, the crazy Irish lads, the Swedish House Mafia, our outspoken tour guide and so many other amazing people that just didn’t end up with a moniker. Over those three days, we felt like we had known each other for years the way we carried on at all times. Our last night together was so bittersweet. We had dinner together, we went wild in the eerily quiet streets of Rainbow Beach, then one by one we all boarded separate busses each going a different way. Because the backpacking route is so common, many of us ended up going the same way. Half of us had the same destination after camping so we felt like we could still cling onto some semblance of what was had during that trip. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer of us running into each other until it was just me and one other person, and then just me making my final destination before going back to America. It’s crazy that all of this happened from just three short days.

I remember riding the bus by myself from Airlie Beach up to Cairns by myself. It was raining and I was on a quiet bus. I had Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” on repeat and I was having a hard time coming to terms with knowing that my trip was almost over, because I knew it meant I wouldn’t be seeing my friends for an indefinite amount of time. It was the first time I could truly feel how quickly and unfairly time slipped through my fingers. I scrambled at every second to enjoy it all and to try to keep it from moving forward. I don’t know what it was about backpacking but everyone (or maybe just me) seemed to fall in and out of love so quickly. Maybe because we knew that all of it was fleeting, that soon enough our adventure would be over and we would have to go home to normalcy that everything became heightened, magnified. Every place I went was more beautiful than the rest, every person I met had a more incredible story than before, and having to leave each place became more heartbreaking with the departure from every bus terminal.

I miss every single thing about Australia: I miss walking to Bondi Junction because the lines for the 380 were too long. I miss fighting for my life to get onto the 380. I miss missing the 333 and the 380 almost every morning for work. I miss seeing people walking home from a night out in the dirty X as I walked to work. I miss JP and our daily snack sacrifices that often involved nutella. I miss our pretend miscommunication as customers watched, scared we got their order wrong but we never did. I miss Andrew always hanging about and being the butt of our jokes. I miss Darling Harbour. I miss the prevalence of wagyu beef and Bundaberg’s ginger beer. I miss spelling harbour with a U. I miss Tim Tams being $2 and readily available in 20 flavours. I miss Tim Tam Slams. I miss telling people that I miss them heaps. I miss my ex-pat best friend. I miss Bondi being so crowded I can’t find a spot to sit. I miss O’Sullivan Street. I miss jogging from Bondi to Rose Bay and knowing that I could run to a crazy amount of beaches in 30 minutes or less. I miss the costal walk from Bondi to Coogee. I miss giggling every time I saw a sign for Woolloomooloo and Wollongong. I miss fat Sundays and jokes about cats. I miss the CBD. I miss calling it the CBD. I miss saying that I spell my name “Zed-A-N” and I miss “ANZ(ed) Bank.” I miss bins, rubbish, and arvos. I miss trains, ferries, and the low-key terror that is actually Cockatoo Island. I miss all of the alley shortcuts in between houses. I miss my public transport pass. I miss The Bondi Hotel, Ravesis, and The Beach Road, even though I always complained about how creepy they were. I miss drinking goon in the park. I miss going to Sydney Kings games even though I hate sports and hated the Kings more. I miss their super creepy mascot and the B-Boys who were the highlight of every game. I miss seeing Rod Stewart for Valentine’s Day. I almost miss everything being ridiculously overpriced. I miss Byron Bay. I miss that teepee. I miss having random roommates who would leave pieces of art for other backpackers to enjoy. I miss ALAN, ALAN, ALAN, STEVE. I miss the kindness of strangers. I miss becoming friends with someone because I helped her cover up a hickey. I miss my friend vehemently denying he was sleeping in the wrong bunk (mine) then waking everyone up in the room looking for his phone. I miss fake Alan who pretended to be Scottish but was probably from Wisconsin. I miss the Irish couple who made this decision with me and then drank goon on a disappearing island with me. I miss swimming with sea turtles. I miss the free pizza at Phoenix and borrowing McDonalds cups from a 14 year old employee so we could drink goon. I miss fitting 20 people on a bunk and giggling the night away. I miss playing with sheet-capes in the middle of the night. I miss saying that I got bit by a mozzy. I miss the emerald waters at one lake and the pristine blue waters of another on Fraser. I miss my Chilean, Irish and Canadian roommates. I miss doing improv in Glebe. I miss Newtown. I miss my head not being fantastic. I miss secret beaches. I miss swimming in the reef.

I miss my freedom. I miss the life I once lived. I miss every single tiny thing.

Traveling changed me for the better. It helped me stop giving so many fucks about anything and everything. I don’t care if you want to be my friend and I don’t care if you like what I do–it is my life and not yours. It has opened me to the possibility of anything and everything and taught me the appreciation for life that I didn’t have before I set foot into LAX over a year and a half ago. I can’t wait until I can go on my next adventure and reunite that everything that has brought me to where I am today.

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