This time next week, we will be landing in Hobart. It’s exciting and a little bit scary, it’s happy and sad.
I’ve been to Australia many times, but this time it’s different.
I first set foot in that amazing country, thirty years ago, single, in my twenties, on a working holiday visa valid for one year. It was the best year of my life to that point and I vowed to return one day. It was more holiday than working, it was fun, relaxed, it was a few short term jobs and a lot of exploring the country.
My next visit was back to Sydney, married, with an eighteen month old daughter. Aussie Mate had come to the UK on a working holiday and never gone back, so this was his return trip and my first introduction to many of my in-laws. Looking back, how did we manage the twenty four hour flight with a toddler who didn’t have her own seat?
Aussie Mate’s parents were divorced when he was young. His Mum and family lived in a large house with a swimming pool in the garden, a few minutes walk from Middle Harbour. His father and family lived one street back from one of the Northern Beaches. I had this big dream that if I moved to Sydney, I wanted the harbour view or the ocean view, not a back street home in one of the inland suburbs. Dream on!
We returned again with our daughters aged seven and four. I can still picture a curious C~M on the flight, wandering off for a walk and returning with several other kids in tow, like the “pied piper”, introducing each of the to us. “This is X, she is going to visit her Grandma in Sydney” and “this is X, he’s been to London on holiday”. We went to Taronga Zoo and “Skippy Park”, the Blue Mountains and the beaches, showing the girls the Aussie side of their heritage.
Our next trip was “the big one” when our girls were aged eleven and eight. A holiday for us as well as catching up with family. My Mum joined us for a trip were I showed Aussie Mate parts of his country that he’d never been to before – Alice Springs, Uluru, Brampton Island on the Great Barrier Reef – as well as the familiar Sydney and Canberra. This was a fantastic trip, long drives in “the Red Centre”, a memorable puncture in the middle of now-where, a helicopter tour over Kings Canyon, cave paintings as we walked around Uluru, playing and buying a didgeridoo, to snorkelling the reef, wallabies on the path between our cabin and the breakfast restaurant, parrots landing on our table to share the breakfast.
As the girls got older, we stopped in Hong Long on route, and S~E stayed longer to travel back on her own. She had another holiday on her own before taking a one way flight when she was nineteen.
Our last trip was to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. S~E was settled in Sydney by then and our visit coincided with her engagement. C~M joined us for part of the time and travelled back to the UK for her own commitments. We had a wonderful time catching up with family, meeting new nieces and nephews, sampling wines of The Hunter Valley and getting Aussie Mate to visit Melbourne.
He and I spent the final week of our trip in Tasmania, a part of the country that neither of us had been to before. We loved it, the contrasts of Hobart, Port Arthur, the countryside and coastal towns, the emptiness of the centre of the island state, miles of unmade road.
Each of these trips have been holidays for me, as I travelled on a tourist visa.
Now I am returning to Australia on a permanent visa. I can stay and live and work there for as long as I like. I have the excitement of going on holiday but I need to change my view and acknowledge that this is trying a normal working life. We’ll have to get jobs, earn a living, pay bills, budget our finances, settle into the community as we plan to stay for a year or more.
This is a fantastic opportunity for me to experience life in Australia, to live near the sea, but I need to get my current “I’m going on a long holiday” attitude out of my head. This is real life.