I heaved my suitcase onto the scales at the Brisbane International Airport and crossed my fingers.
It was the year 2000 and I was a 23-year-old whippersnapper about to embark on my first overseas trip.
My suitcase was bursting at the seams filled with shoes, makeup, a hair dryer and a million different outfits – everything I thought I needed for a few weeks travelling through England and Europe.
I was off to catch up with friends, who were living the Australian dream in London. After we finished uni, it seemed like all of my friends were leaving Brisbane for London and the rite of passage for so many young Aussies before us, an overseas experience.
I had waved my friends off one by one with a heavy heart, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to follow them. Just like those who had left me for London, I was filled with the belief that I could conquer the world. My conquering involved something different to those of my free-spirited friends though. I was driven and focused and keen to do, I guess, what was expected of me.
By the age of 22, I had scored a well-paid job and bought a house. Next on my list was a man, a white wedding, and kids.
This would have been ideal if I was 32, but at 22 I had so much more life to live before settling down and I didn’t even realise it. I felt stable, secure and content, and that’s all that I wanted.
Eventually, one of my friends who’d moved to London convinced me to fly over for a short visit. I of course had no money because of the whole buying a house thing, so I wrangled my first credit card and let the adventure (and credit card debt) begin.
The check-in attendant gave me the all clear on my baggage and I waved goodbye to my parents to set off on an adventure that would change me forever.
I will never forget the adrenalin coursing through my veins as the plane descended into Heathrow. While I had moved out of home the year before, this was my first real time away from my parents. I had a new found independence and for a few weeks I had only my friends and myself to rely on.
My friends and I smashed London, doing every touristy thing imaginable by day and partying by night. Rome was next on our list, where I stayed in my first ever camping ground.
The Seven Hills Camping Village, which I renamed the Seven Holes, was an absolute shock to my system. I couldn’t have been more out of place if I tried as I dragged my suitcase through dirt to a poor excuse for a cabin in the middle of freaking nowhere. The toilets were a mile away in the pitch black dark AND you had to provide your own toilet paper.
After a restless first night paranoid that we’d be murdered in our sleep, I awoke a new woman ready to ditch the makeup, hair dryer and expensive coat my parents had bought me in Melbourne. Fresh faced and wide eyed, I threw myself into everything Rome had to offer. After a couple of days we set off on a Busabout tour and in no time I was stealing toilet paper across Europe like the backpacker I was born to be.
Rome, Florence, Venice, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna were my introduction to the Continent and where the travel bug bit me bad. I was in awe of every city we went to, the people, the food, the traditions. I savoured every single thing. The trip was hands down the best thing that could have happened to me at that stage of my life as it changed me to the very core.
My massive suitcase and I had set off on that trip content with the simplicity of my life and all that I’d achieved in my 23 years. On that trip though, I grew as a person. I learnt more about myself in a few short weeks than I could have in years plodding along at home. I was proud of myself for jumping out of my comfort zone, for making new friends, and relishing my independence.
When my time came to leave, I once again nursed a heavy heart.
I flew back to Brisbane and attempted to settle back into life, but my goals and dreams had changed.
Two months later, I met a young kiwi with gentle brown eyes and a crooked smile. His name was Dave.
I fell for Dave quickly and life returned to normal for a few months, that is, until Dave dropped a bombshell on me that he was moving to Dublin for his own overseas experience.
With a heavy heart, I watched him walk out the door not knowing if I’d ever see him again.
The pull for an adventure of my own was stronger than ever. Dave and I remained in contact and almost exactly one year after my first overseas trip, I returned to London to reunite with Dave.
This time I upgraded my suitcase to a backpack, but that my friends, is a whole other story.
Linking up today with always Josefa for Conversations over Coffee. The last Thursday of each month, Josefa elects a theme to write to. This month’s theme was Conversations with a suitcase.