This was supposed to be my year in Australia.
I didn’t know the specifics. Where exactly I’d be and when, what I’d be doing and with whom — these details were all up in the air, an assortment of daydreams and half-formed intentions. The plan was entirely and simply Australia. And so, when I found myself on a flight headed home just four months after landing in Melbourne, I could hardly have been more surprised.
It all started with an email in May: “the opportunity of a summerlifetime,” it teased. The message came from my workplace back in North Carolina, and for several days I thought it was an affectionate joke. They’d asked me to come back to work for a month, and after several days of emailing back and forth I finally realized that the offer was for real. I was stunned. I had so many reasons to return, and only one not to. It was a single lingering thought: …but I’m in Australia.
In the end, I let that go. I accepted that Australia would still be here in July (surprise: it was!), and I embraced the spontaneous but familiar potential of home (…and hot, sunny summer). June became one of the fastest, most unexpected months of my life to date, full of ends and in betweens. It was also one of the messiest. Thanks to my biggest travel blunder yet, home turned out to be only the first of my surprising returns for the month.
The thing is that as I excited as I was to go home, I was also having some trouble wrapping my head around it. As much as I moved growing up and as much as I travel now, leaving is never easy for me. I was pretty much a mess my last week in Melbourne, and it all came to a head the morning of my departure. My roommates and I were all leaving Melbourne the same morning, all for different places. Somehow, all three of us managed to sleep through our alarms. We woke to the taxi driver buzzing our apartment and scrambled to stuff our things into our bags and ourselves into the cab. We laughed at ourselves the entire way to the airport and tried to get ourselves together. We made it in time, said our good-byes and boarded our flights. By the time my flight took off for LA, I was exhausted, excited and most of all relieved.
Until I reached into my backpack for my computer and realized all at once that I’d left it at the airport, in the bin at the X-ray passing through security.
I’m notorious among my friends for misplacing keys and phones and shoes on a daily if not hourly basis, but this was a new level even for me.
I checked my bag three times before I accepted it. I asked a flight attendant for advice. And I waited. There was nothing I could do until I landed, and so for the next fourteen hours of the flight I sat anxiously. At LAX, I was sent from person to person and office to office. I learned that this is not how you recover items lost at international airports. I tried to get in touch with the Melbourne airport, only to find that I couldn’t make international calls, nor was the appropriate office even open at the time (it was early morning back in Melbourne). Thankfully, my dad got in touch with me just as I was really starting to freak out and offered to make the calls for me. By the time I turned my phone back on in Newark, he had confirmed that my computer was safe with the airport’s lost property services — a crisis averted, thankfully.
Of course, computer safe or not, there was still the issue of it being in Australia while I was halfway across the world in North Carolina. Although I had a roundtrip flight back to Melbourne, I’d intended to fly straight on to a warmer Australian destination from there. Instead, not even a full 48 hours after saying a difficult good-bye to Melbourne, I realized I would be back much, much sooner than expected.
Which brings me here: writing to you from my favorite St. Kilda cafe, my computer recently recovered from a friend who agreed to hold it for safekeeping this past month. It’s massively cliché, yes, but I really feel like I never left. The whole of June, from surprising my family and relaxing with my pups to catching up with friends at my favorite restaurants and breweries to long drives along green country roads and fireflies and bright expanses of stars and all of the amazingly hot, humid summer afternoons spent lingering by lakes and rivers — already, it all feels like a world apart. Looking out the window here at the grey Melbourne skies and bare trees, at the almost achingly familiar houses and storefronts of the neighborhood I lived in and fell for, June at home feels like a fleeting dream. A perfect, much-needed (didn’t-even-know-I-needed-it) dream.
Plans change all the time. Mine, it seems, are rarely concrete. For now, I have flight booked out of Melbourne on Wednesday morning, a commitment to returning home for the second time this year in October for a wedding and an intention to return to Melbourne at the end of this year when my sister comes to visit me in Australia. My year in Australia has become instead an adventure in three acts. While I’m slowly and a little sadly closing out part one here in Melbourne, I’m getting pretty psyched for my next destination. Just two days and two flights separate me from Australia: Part II — and this time, there’s no way I’m leaving anything behind at the airport. Lesson learned.
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. My mom and I had planned to tackle this classic together this year, and I decided that between three flights and an eight-hour layover headed back to Australia (…without my computer!), now was the perfect time! Big reads for big trips.
“Dreaming of You” by The Coral. I spent one of my last nights in Melbourne eating pizza by the coziest fireplace while the worst of Melbourne’s cold, windy winter rain raged outside. This came on and overwhelmed me with nostalgia. It’s one of those songs that will forever encapsulate how I felt in a certain place and time, and in my short visit back to Melbourne, it’s been back on my mind.
& Feeling Inspired by…
“Australia’s Double Wild Appeal: Big City to Outback,” from a recent issue of AFAR I picked up for some travel reading on my way home. I’ve wanted to get to Kakadu for awhile now, and this article got me so excited I almost booked myself a one-way flight to Darwin.