When I was 11, I went on the biggest adventure my childish mind could ever fathom. I hadn’t travelled too much as a child (unless you count many summer holidays in a VW caravan on the Dorset coast) and I found out I was to quite literally traverse the globe and end up on the bottom of it. Or something. I was going to be taken to Sydney, Australia to visit my Aunty and Uncle for a month over Christmas and I nearly exploded.
Not only was I to experience flying (not my first flight, but certainly my longest by a good few hours), I was to go to a country I’d only ever really read about in books and seen in cartoons. It wasn’t a reality I could quite wrap my head around – it’s hot, they talk funny, there are koalas EVERYWHERE and hang on, what would we do about Christmas dinner?
It was a big deal for an 11 year old.
As we boarded the first leg of our flight I could barely contain my excitement. This was going to be the best trip ever! I could feel it. I would write about it in my exercise book and draw pictures and take dodgy photos on my disposable camera and I’d swan about in clothes I’d never be able to wear in the UK lest I catch my death. I’d definitely hold a koala. Or maybe two.
And I think I did all of those things. Except – I actually can’t remember.
Memories are a funny thing, aren’t they? Because I remember going to the Australia Zoo and the Opera House and seeing the Harbour Bridge. I think we went on a boat at some point. And we definitely spent some time on the beach. Or maybe there were two of them. Over the New Year we went somewhere else I think, called Forster. There were racoons in the trees and the house felt like it was in a forest.
Oh! And we went night fishing and I think we caught prawns. Big juicy prawns that were attracted by torches and we cooked them the next day on a huge barbecue, bigger than my eyes could possibly take in all at once.
And as you can see, I definitely held at least one koala.
But that is the thing. It’s quite possible that I’ve recreated all my memories from blurry photographs that haven’t really stood the test of time that much and were very definitely taken by the hands of a wobbly child. Most of my memories are actually not about the fascinating city of Sydney at all.
They are about doing my homework at my Aunty and Uncle’s table, that had been set by my teachers so I didn’t fall too far behind.
They are about the torrential rain we had on Christmas Day, oh the irony!
They are about playing swing ball in the back garden with the sprinklers going on and dappling my tee shirt with cool water when I needed it most.
And actually, they really are about that night time fishing trip we took. I felt like such a grown up. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday.
But I don’t remember anything about the place at all. I don’t know if we saw anything other than what is documented in my photos, and for the most part I don’t know what half of those photos are of. And I’ve never really been worried about that. That is of course, until now.
Guess what though? It’s never been easier to visit Australia!
On an upcoming episode of the podcast I chat to Beverley from Pack our Passport about her time living, working and exploring in Australia. It suddenly made me grab my dusty old photo albums to see what I could remember about that huge childhood adventure, and I was so sad that I could remember actually very little. So with that in mind, it is absolutely time to visit again.
And whilst back in 1994 it was a long and very expensive trip to make, now it’s never been easier to visit Sydney, or anywhere else in Australia for that matter. In fact, my 80 year old Grandad has been doing just that for years! So why can’t I?
And looking at the stats below, it wouldn’t have to be the month long epic I’ve had in my head (which is difficult for most people who work full time), but it could be just 12 days! With shorter flight times and cheaper fares it makes a trip much more viable. And you never know, I could hop to another destination (like Melbourne, that seems like a pretty awesome city) whilst I am there.
So maybe another Australian adventure is in order, 24 years after the first. Are you going there too?