I went to Australia on a whim.
Yes, I know: that seems like a pretty big whim. It was. But when at a point in life during which you can jump at weird opportunities…why not?
I was working as a hostess at Roy’s at Spanish Bay, at Pebble Beach. I was dating a wonderful man. I was also married, but only for convenience. I was poor and from the country and getting lots of cold sores from stress and resentful of the immeasurable flow of money coming and going from the pockets of the guests I was paid to smile at but who didn’t smile back, let alone look at me.
Probably for the best, what with the cold sores and all.
But I was in California, a longtime dream. I’d driven across the country from Michigan and landed in Monterey, and in this job, where I could take a pause in my duties every evening at sunset to turn around and watch the sun dip into golds and pinks as it melted into the ocean right outside the wall of windows of Roy’s. My boyfriend was patient and funny. I had some clothes I really liked. I mean, look at that green dress! So good.
But, I couldn’t fight the need to run away from it all; and so I did.
A co-worker approached me in the employee locker room one afternoon and said that her cousin wanted to go to Australia to work on farms for three months, but his parents wouldn’t let him go alone, so was I interested? I didn’t even ask any questions; I just said yes.
Her cousin was a Spanish Bay concierge, and so we planned a few breaks to coincide so we could meet in the basement cafeteria to go over plans. Basically, he told me what I needed to do, and I did it: buy a plane ticket, sign up for the WWOOF program and have a booklet of participating farms shipped to me, buy some sturdy boots for work and hiking. I used the money I’d been saving up since moving to California so I could return to college; travel seemed more important than school at that time. I had $400 cash left over, to last me three months. No big deal.
I gave notice at work and my managers said they were sad to see me go. I jogged around my neighborhood in my new boots, trying to break them in, paranoid that crows were following me as I went. I packed up the home I’d shared with my fake-husband, who had already moved out. I said goodbye to my very sweet boyfriend, who tried his best not to show how hurt he felt.
And, off I went.
I hadn’t researched the trip, at all. When my co-worker’s cousin pulled out a travel guide during the long flight I was dumbstruck – they make travel guides?! He was wildly more prepared than I. So much so that he started to tell me about where we’d stay once we arrived in Sydney, how we’d get there, how long we should sleep that first day in order to acclimate to the time change. My only contribution was an attempted joke in the airport after hearing an announcement on the intercom:
“People talk funny here!”
He looked at me blankly. “It’s their accents,” he said. Ugh.
It was only then – on the ground, on a completely different continent, feeling upside down in more ways than even Australia could explain – that I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
Luckily, it was too late to turn around.
To Be Continued, of course…