Sunday, May 15, 2011

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

No one told us it would be this hard. I've spoken before about the stresses of leaving one life behind for an entirely new adventure. I have been dreaming of my big European Adventure for 10 years. Ten! Since I was 15 and first imagined such a thing was possible. Now, in exactly 4 weeks today, we will be off.

With every day that passes I feel a little bit more of the 'There's no turning back now!' feeling. A little bit more excitement and a little bit more Oh-my-god-I've-got-so-much-to-do. We're so close I can taste it. Puzzle pieces rain from the sky as they fall into place and I twirl through them like the girls in cereal commercials that wear floaty dresses and spin in the rain.

As much as this excitement is continually building, and as much as I have dreamed of this moment for so many years, I find myself unexpectedly mourning the loss of the life I built for myself.

I moved out of home at 17 for my first adventure. It was a big one - moving to Australia to live with a boy I had known for 42 days. It was incredibly exciting and I have zero regrets. I wasn't scared or nervous, at 17 years old already harbouring the attitude that everything works out in the end so there's no point worrying about it now. It's an attitude I still possess and one that Courtney in all his stressed out moments probably can't stand.

A couple of days before I left, I had a going away party. My group of friends at school was big, a mash up of 20 or 30 people that had found friendship through the commonality that none of us really fit in with any stereotypes - not quite sporty enough to be jocks, nor pretty enough to be popular nor nerdy enough to be geeks. Happily floating somewhere in the middle with each other. As the last person left the party, I turned back into my quiet house, and promptly fell to the ground sobbing. Oh, the melodramatics of being 17. But today I identify with that feeling - as exciting as the big adventure was, that last person turning away signified something much bigger. Gone were the home comforts of our family cats, familiar furniture, the walk home from school, staples in our fridge, repeated naggings from Mum, the personalities I had grown to love and hate in school. Nothing would be remotely the same in Australia, bar the one suitcase of belongings I took with me.

I never expected to feel this way about the Europe trip, because we're coming home. I knew I would miss Toby and Izzy like crazy but everything else would be a walk in the park. Australia had a big question mark whenever I tried to imagine the future. I didn't even know what my new hometown looked like to imagine me in it. Europe has a definitive ending though. With a heavily resounding knock-on-wood I know that 110 days after I leave, I will be back. My family and friends will still be here. Toby and Izzy will be where I left them, with Monty and Nurse B. There will be new adventures to be had, but at the end of the day, Soul Buddy and Squish and the rest of the Inner Circle will be waiting with open arms and no matter what happens, everything will be OK.

Despite all of these knowings, nothing will be the same. I have no house. I have no job. The belongings I spent all my daylight hours earning have been sold with few remaining in storage. Throughout the thunderstorms that encased yesterday in a thick black blanket, I couldn't comfort myself with images of my couch, my TV, the warm light that bounced off the wooden walls and the books that piled the shelves of my bookcase. It's all gone, or in storage. Cold, echoing storage with not an ounce of the warm light and air that made these inanimate objects feel like safe enveloping arms.

I do not regret my choice to go to Europe, one tiny bit. In 4 weeks I will be living my dream, exploring and discovering with the love of my life. I am incredibly appreciative of the fact that I am able bodied and have been born into a first world country that has allowed me the opportunity to work and save and plan and eventually, go. I am excited, beyond words. But I wasn't prepared for this secondary, gut wrenching heartache that comes with leaving everything you know, never to return to quite the same life.

No travel writer puts it in their Lonely Planet book, and I'm yet to see a post from a Blogger that warns of the same. If you ever consider a long haul trip, one which does not return to the same Point A - do it. I whole-heartedly encourage it and you will have a fabulous time. Just know that like any great high in life, this journey will be preceded by change and sometimes that change will hurt.

Adventure is one hell of a band-aid though.