Sixteen months ago I left Alderney for a trip to Australia. Five countries later and I am yet to return. I have cuddled Koalas, fed kangaroos, wrapped snakes around my neck and camped out in the bush. I picked blueberries in a factory line & learnt to shoot. I rode motorbikes around fields twice the size of Alderney. I was a modern day Cinderella, scrubbing kitchen floors at midnight to pay my rent. Before leaving, none of this could have crossed my dreams. Time changes everything – so does travel.
I started out in Melbourne - a city that is alive in every sense of the word. As a place it has it’s own personality – artistic, young & exciting. After two months of hostel living (it now feels strange to not sleep in a 14 bed dorm) I moved down to Tasmania for Christmas to get to know the half of my family that lived on the other side of the world.
By the end of January I was experiencing my first outback country town before moving to a 25°C Brisbane for autumn. By this point I’d decided I wanted another year in Australia. So I set off to do my 88 days of regional farming work to a town called Boobrowie, population 153 & counting.
In what warped world do Australia and snow come together? It felt like I was back home; fog, frosts and biting winds every day as we went out to the paddocks of sheep. That in itself was a shock to someone with only one sleeved jumper, but it was nothing compared to how I felt when I found myself in a shed watching as sheep were killed, gutted and hung up. My next job was to help chop them up (apparently I am shockingly good at it) before cooking a roast. Six months later and I still haven’t eaten lamb.
Around about then I learned to look at everything I did – exciting, terrifying or sometimes disturbing – as an experience I would never have had had back home. So I decided on the next step: back to South East Asia.
Four months of solid work later and I was back to Bali. I went through the mountains to a town called Ubud. I hiked through rice paddies, played with monkeys, climbed volcanoes and spent hours admiring Balinese temples. I even drank coffee that came out of a cat.
When arriving in Cambodia I knew only one thing: that mum went crazy when my brother visited years ago. Exploring the Killing Fields, I learnt about a horrific communist genocide that killed a quarter of Khmer people. Cambodia, a country that is only now growing out of trauma is fast becoming a fascinating paradise where travellers gather to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.
In desperate need of another small beachy island, I found Koh Ta Kiev. With no paths, shops, cars, or even electricity, it truly deserted. You arrive by longboat, swim to shore and sleep under the stars leaving it all behind – even your shoes (we regretted this as we walked through swamps at dusk, praying the spiders and snakes wouldn’t find us).
Vietnam, yet another country with a tormented history holds charm like a necklace – beautifully, with pride. From the south to the north we went, abseiling down waterfalls, kayaking at sunset and sailing around the infamous Halong Bay. By then it was time to return to Thailand for the last few weeks to cuddle baby tiger cubs, bathe and ride elephants bareback and relax in the sun.
A couple of pages cannot do it justice. I have far too many stories to tell, too many memories and experiences to hold onto. This is just a snippet of what lies out there – I was lucky enough to take my chance when it came. I’m not saying it’s been easy. I’ve worked 80-hour weeks. I’ve scrubbed the filthiest houses and hostel floors. Travelling alone is unbearably lonely at times. I have had to force myself to stay, not to book that flight home.
But here I am, back in Australia. You find a new job. You meet new people. You move to a new town. Christmas has come and gone and my return home has been put off once again.
This year I will sail the Great Barrier Reef, swim with dolphins, walk Ayers rock and cage dive with sharks. If I’m lucky, I will make Australia my permanent home. Whatever you dream of doing – do it now. It is not the things that you do that you regret, but those that you didn’t.
|Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane, Australia|
|Volcanoes in Bali, Indonesia|
|Monkey Chats, Ubud, Indonesia|
|Time alone with his prayers, Angkor, Cambodia|
|Abseiling Waterfalls, Dalat, Vietnam|
|Temples and Prayers, Chiang Mai, Thailand|
|Sit Tall, Like a Tiger - Chiang Mai Tiger Kingdom, Thailand|
|Elephant Kisses, Chiang Mai, Thailand|
|Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia|
|Beach Dreams, Naked Beach, Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia|
|Kayaking, Halong Bay, Vietnam|