The day has started badly. On any scale.
I left the house under a cloud and into the rain. I walked no more than ten steps (while looking at my iPod) before slipping over…on a kebab!
An actual full-blown kebab on the pavement, in seemingly mint condition. At 8.50am.
My New Look soles lost traction on a piece of wet lettuce and I am now at my desk picking sweet chilli sauce off my tights.
It’s still raining outside and it’s perfect for a coffee, a chocolate hobnob and a moment to lose myself in a time when my mornings were good.
It’s 2009 and it’s almost Christmas in Sydney.
The shops are full of fake snow and tinsel and Santa is making his way through the throngs of people. He must be 100 degrees in his red suit and beard because it’s at least 35 on Bondi as we laugh at him sweating over the sand and perving on the hot Brazilians laying nearby.
It’s my first Christmas away on my big trip and my best mates are flying out to meet me in a few days. It couldn’t be better, I’d only been away a couple of months and I already had a Bondi apartment, I was juggling a six-hour-a-day beach schedule and a party-all-night evening one; I knew words like ‘Goon’ and had learnt what a ‘bottleo’ was.
To the untrained eye, I was an out and out backpacking success.
But, I missed my friends and familiar faces and nothing made me happier than to see three pieces of home walking through Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport on December 22nd.
I’m waiting in Arrivals. I’m wearing white because it’s winter in the real world and yet I’m tanned and it’s the law. I’m expecting to see some very tired little faces after a 38 hour journey.
Then, suddenly I hear shrieks from behind the world’s biggest suitcases….
“Hola! Hello dear! Woo hoo the boys have arrived in Sydney!” It’s accompanied by frantic arm flapping and what looks like a curtsey!
Amazing. The warmest most incredible happiness to have my three best mates in the land downunder for Christmas and New Year.
As a new ‘traveller of the world’ I tell them it’s under control and I knew where we can get the train to the hotel, flipping out my Lonely Planet guide. This is met with horror and laughter in equal measure. “Oh Missy! We don’t do public transport Dear. This way… Taxi!” They offer to take my backpack and wheel off in the direction of the queue.
I’m so happy to see a slice of the life I left behind. The one with posh handbags not a backpack, the one where I’d spend £150 on a haircut not two weeks accommodation. It’s incredible to be free, to shake off the student-vibe, to buy bottles of wine not squeeze the life from a Goon bag, to sleep in a bed without someone above me and to see a bath again!
Such simple pleasures that breezed in with my temporary touch of England.
We stayed in Waterloo, Surrey Hills, in a beautiful, luxury two storey apartment. The boys cooked incredible food and we sat in the jacuzzi every evening laughing at how great it all was and our new rock-star life.
We took the ferry to Manly, we walked the cliffs of Coogee to Bondi, ate deep-fried Mars Bars and filled our faces in China Town. We went out to the Blue Mountains, we ate at Darling Harbour and shopped in paddy’s Market. We had a Christmas bbq on Bondi and swam in the torrential rain (yep, they brought the weather!). We queued from 6am in the Botanical Gardens to see in the most spectacular New Year of our lives – 18 hours later. We climbed the Harbour Bridge and we drank wine in Opera Bar.
Every day I was wishing so hard for the time to slow down. The memories will last forever and so will the day we checked out of the hotel in the pouring rain.
Three plush suitcases and one battered backpack on the pavement, lots of hugs and swallowing down the tears. I guessed I’d see them again in a couple of years.
A taxi came and picked up the boys for the airport. I watched them waving from the window as they drove away through Surrey Hills; three faces pressed up against the glass until I could no longer see them.
I dragged my backpack to the bus stop. My luxury days left with the boys. I tried not to cry remembering them waving and looking so sad to leave me behind on my own in the rain.
I paid $2 to get to Wake Up Hostel and walked, with tears in my eyes, back to a 10 bed dorm by myself.
I’m going to need some water to get the last bits of chilli out of my tights. They’re laddered and there’s a smell of cold onions coming from my general direction.