Australia had been on the list of countries I wanted to visit for a long time. But regardless were I lived, Australia was always very far away and the opportunity never arose. There was always something that interfered with a longish vacation – work, a small child, my husband’s work schedule – and kept me and later us from taking the long trip down under.
For many years I postponed that trip always thinking that next year it would happen, our around Christmas when it is summer in Australia, or the year after. And it never did. After an work assignment had come to an end after a long and successful run I was looking for the next engagement but had a bit of time to do as I please. A rare pleasure for a working mother. My child was now old enough and my husband’s schedule flexible enough that I could leave them alone for a week or 10 days. So the thought of a trip snuck up on me. As an extrovert the idea of going anywhere by myself had until that point never really crossed my mind. It was a frightful idea, really. What would I do all day? With whom would I share my thoughts and impressions? Would I even be able to get out of bed in the morning? Wouldn’t it be super awkward to have to eat alone all the time?
But another thought was there also: I am an adult now, self-sufficient and reasonably outgoing, I should be able to travel alone for once. I will survive this and it might be an interesting experience. Once lodged in my brain it was hard to let go of that idea – go somewhere alone, do what I want to do all day, no kid appropriate activities most of the time, no limit to the miles I could drudge through a city, no limit to the time I could spend on taking pictures of the same objects from various angles. I could go to museums, I could go shopping , I could do so many things that I couldn’t do traveling with a child, especially photography, one of my main hobbies.
The next logical step was: if I were to do this scary thing, I would have to make it count. So rather than spending a weekend in Vegas or something like that I decided that I would be going to Australia. Alone. Scary!
Doing It – Flying to Australia
So I did it. I booked a flight to Melbourne and back from Sydney – so I would see two major cities in Australia. I was uncomfortable when boarding my plane. Was that really a good idea? Shouldn’t I be home making sure my son got to school alright and did have home cooked dinners? Well, the doors closed and it was too late for second thoughts.
It was a great trip, I saw Melbourne and the Great Highway which is beautiful and looks a lot like Highway 1 along the Californian Coast, I went to museums, I sat on benches on busy plazas watching people while eating meat pies which I learned is “the” typical Australian food, I took pictures of everything that I wanted to take pictures off, and took as much time as I wanted.
I learned that traveling alone is hard – at least for me – used to the constant chatter of a family and constantly chatting to them as well to be left alone with my thoughts about so many new things was not easy to do. Doing things alone that I always do in company or in the comfort and seclusion of my home was not easy. I learned quickly that it is a good idea to find a organized activities to break the routine of walking alone.
Photo Class and Day Trip
I found a photographer on some website who had just moved to Melbourne a while ago after marrying an Australian. He made a little extra money by doing guided photo tours of the city. I hired him for half a day and we ended up walking the streets with him showing me interesting sites all day and into the evening. Though a new “Melbourner” himself, he knew where to go and what to see and it was an amazing day full of chatter about photography and the challenges and rewards of being an expat, which I understand and sympathize with being one myself.
Another day I booked a bus tour to the Great Highway. I ended up deciding for a company that was very new and it was during the middle of the week so I was the only passenger. My guide, the owner, was a great guy, full of knowledge and stories and – new to the job – full of enthusiasm. It being just him and me we were flexible and spent a great day eating vegemite crackers on the beach, walking through a cold rain forest with huge ferns, and of course, all the usual things like taking a million pictures of the 12 Apostles.
Another Solo Trip
I am glad I went – wouldn’t want to miss one minute of this adventure. In the end, though, I realized that I am more suited to traveling with others, even if it means not to take a million shots of some awesome place because my son rolls his eyes and says in his most annoyed ton of voice “mom, are you finally ready? Can we go now?” It was great to go to Australia, though and ironically I ended up going several more times after that because I started working a contract for an Australian company. I never had the chance to do that much exploring, though. It was mostly conference rooms and offices. So my first trip will always remain my most memorable.