As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to be mining my earlier 2018 travel adventures for blog posts as I spend many winter hours at my desk or on the sofa. I never want to give a false image of my real life, so while I am truly blessed to spend some weeks and weekends of the year doing amazing things in awesome places, there is also plenty of work time, chill time and hours spent reading, writing and generally being static mixed up there as well.
In April, Mum, Jake and I flew pretty much as far you can go around the world before you start coming back, to see my family and jump into an ocean that isn’t eerily reminiscent of a freezer.
Australia is one of my favourite places ever. That’s a bold claim given it numbers over seven million square kilometres and one of my other favourite place is the left hand side of my sofa, which tops out at a sprawling 40cm2. So yeah, to say that all seven million of those kilometres are my favourite is probably pushing it, especially when there’s so much more of Australia that I’ve never seen. I mean, there may well be parts of Australia that no person has ever put their foot on. I want to spend more time along the West Coast, see the pink lakes, visit Melbourne, surf at Bondi (I’ve been swimming there a few times but I’ve yet to get on a board!), swim in Byron Bay and head off to one of the pristine islands and go diving. And I want to eat more TimTams.
But the despite the small fraction of Australia that I’ve seen over the years, one thing that will always be true is that it houses a group of people I will never stop wanting to fly across the world to see – my wonderful extended family. My mum grew up in Australia but moved to the UK to get her graduate degrees in her mid-twenties, leaving her parents and brothers behind to enjoy glorious sun, incredible coastline and superior flat whites while she lived it up in the land of rain and queues. The only redeeming feature of this decision is that, had she not moved, I wouldn’t exist. So we can all be grateful to whatever twist of fate led my mum to decide that beaches and warmth weren’t as important as dry humour and emotional repression.
It’s funny thing, having family so far away. It’s odd to have sweet little cousins who have gained years every time you see them. Turns out, there’s are some pretty major differences between four and eight and a Peppa Pig obsession is one of them. During Dave, Pia, Phoebe and Hamish’s last visit to the UK in 2013, we took Phoebe to Peppa Pig World to meet her idol and she was rendered catatonic with excitement. To whatever poor employee had to wear an enormous, bumbling pig costume and get mauled by small children several times a day, thank you for your service. A few years later, Peppa had been replaced by burgeoning espionage obsession, and the love of that cartoon pig moves into the past. A lot changes with kids and it would have been so special to have been around for it. But there isn’t a version of the world where this happened – I was always going to grow up half a world away from my mum’s family and to have been able to visit many times over the last twenty years is an enormous privilege.
With Skype, Facebook and email, communication has become a lot easier and soon there will be direct flights to both Perth and Sydney which will shave a staggering two or three hours off a twenty-four hour journey. (I jest. But seriously, seventeen straight hours on a plane is no picnic either). It’s doable, and the huge benefit is that I get to explore more of an amazing country every time. I can definitely tell you where the best vanilla milkshake in suburban Perth is and if that’s not a valuable travel tip then I don’t know what is.
Because I’d been rowing so much, I hadn’t had an opportunity to visit for three years. When Mum said she was hoping to go out in spring 2018, I was absolutely thrilled to realise that there were no punishing ergo workouts stopping me from going with her. It was also a great opportunity for Jake to meet my family. We spent two weeks in Australia, spending the first week in Perth with one of my mum’s brothers and the next week in Canberra with my grandparents and other uncle (and their families). Then Jake and I spent two days in Sydney before flying home, as Mum was staying for longer to spend more time with her parents and meet a client. We also were able to meet some of Jake’s extended family who had moved from Poland to Australia some decades prior. A family-focused trip all round, though with plenty of ice cream and ocean for good measure.
This was just the most wonderful trip. April is getting into autumn in Oz, so the weather can be variable, especially on the East Coast. Fortunately we were absolutely blessed with beautiful sunshine, which was great as I wanted to show Jake the best version of Australia for his first trip! Sometimes everything just comes together. It was so lovely that I cried leaving my Perth family at the end of the first week, on the bus to Sydney after leaving everyone in Canberra, and at the airport before our flight home. Many tears saying goodbye to the sweet kiddies and my lovely aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends down under. I have a feeling this is a destination for life, not just because it’s the most wonderful place but because it’s full of the most wonderful people!
Stay tuned for posts on our trip to Perth, Canberra and Sydney!