Cathy from ~wander.essence~ is re-inventing her travel blog(s) and encouraging us all to think about the ways, the reasons and the whys about how we travel. Her posts are certainly making me think about how I blog.
The Call to Place: “I invite you to write a 500-700 word (or less) post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a recently visited or a future particular destination.”
There is one place that has had a very strong pull on my emotions pretty much the whole of my life. And still does.
The Land Down Under
I was ten years old when my parents told me that we were going to move to Australia. The other side of the world. I was so excited. There lived kangaroos and wallabies and parrots. The sun shone every day, everyone lived by the beach and doctors flew in planes.
It didn’t happen. At the last moment my dad backed out. He was fifty and worried that he wouldn’t find a job and with a wife and three kids to support he decided that being a £10 POM wasn’t for him. Or us.
For years I dreamed of that big island continent. I learned about Australia in my geography classes and the more I learned the more I wanted to be there. A friend in the same class as me emigrated when we were both fifteen. She was a Judith too. I was so jealous.
Several years later and I was ready. I had just finished six months working in a hotel in Norway and had saved almost every penny (or kroner) I earned to make the journey to Australia. I was going overland with a someone I’d met who was returning to South Africa. We made it to India together which was where we would split up. He to the west, me to the east.
It didn’t happen. At the last moment I chickened out. I got scared of travelling alone in India where Europeans disappeared from trains, never to be seen again. I joined him and headed west. To South Africa. I met some New Zealanders in Cape Town. They were moving to Australia and invited me to stay with them once I got there. Which meant returning to Norway for another summer season and then flying out to Sydney. I wasn’t taking any chances.
It didn’t happen. Instead I met a man and fell in love and returned to England and got married and returned to South Africa and had a baby. Australia was still in my heart, but life was too full to dwell on it for long. We discussed moving there, but it never happened.
Fast forward several years and I was living back in England with my four children. Broke. Homeless for a while. Desperate to get to Australia I made a plan. I went back to college and studied for my A levels. I applied to university and got myself an Honours degree. I worked in IT for ten years to build up sufficient points to be able to apply for a migrant’s working visa to Australia. I filled in all the forms, I got copies of all my certificates and then I sat down to complete the visa form.
And then I came to the third or fourth question on the form:
‘ I am 45 years old or younger’
If the answer is No do not proceed with this application.
I had turned 46 only three months before.
I was gutted. Heartbroken.
I was numb for a long time. Over a year.
For fifteen years of my life I had only one goal in mind and now that had been taken away from me. The Aussies had changed the maximum age requirement from 49 to 46. I was too damn old. My skills were not wanted. I was not wanted.
It couldn’t happen.
There is a sort of happy ending though, I am sure you will be glad to know. My eldest son moved to Australia, married and had a daughter. I visited him for the first time when she was eight months old and got to see Sydney and we took a trip up the coast as far north as Noosa. We visited Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. I stood on the ‘eighty mile’ beach. Got annoyed by all the flies. Sat on the Opera House steps, walked over the Harbour bridge and took a ferry to Manly where my old Kiwi friends moved to all those years ago.
They had sent me a postcard telling me there was a spare room waiting for me.
Looking up at the building where they had lived I thought about why it hadn’t happened and how I have always felt that Australia should have been my home.
But it will never happen.