This is my first proper attempt at writing a creative non-fiction piece. It is about travel or more specifically about the journey that I made through going on my travels.
But for those who do not quite know what creative non-fiction might be, I’ll leave the definition here: Creative nonfiction is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives.
Some might have said that I was a bit of an idiot for trying to live so far away from home, but I wanted to test myself. And what better way to challenge me than to force myself into a situation of self-reliance. The decision to move to Canada has been one of the most life-changing decisions I have ever made to date. Everything began with my decision to first start travelling on my own.
I am standing in Melbourne international airport there is something weird about embarking on the most significant journey you have ever taken. Looking around, you can see the faces of those who for them might be a regular occurrence. Then there are those who much like me have their families all standing together to send them off. It can be a tearful affair, but this time it isn’t permanent, so the tears don’t last long.
This journey to Europe was to be my first big adventure. There was no telling how it might take shape. But I was hoping that I would be able to have stories to tell at the end of it. There is nothing like a good story, is there? They’re something that everyone loves to hear. Through stories, you can share anything you would like. Whether it be good or bad.
Once through the gates towards Customs, there is a feeling in the pit of my stomach. Can I actually do this? I ask myself. This is the first time I have fully organised a trip for myself by myself. Every step that I took that reality felt more and more set-in-stone. I was going to be exploring by myself.
Aboard the plane, it felt as though a state of limbo had come over my reality. I was neither here nor there. All of my worries seemed so far away while I gorged myself on the plane food and drink. The binge-worthy movies certainly helped ease me into the long-haul flight. So many films at the tips of my fingers and all to watch at my own leisure. Being aboard the plane felt as though it was a space all its own, not connected to where I was from or where I was going.
Before travelling, I had never been one to journal my thoughts and feelings. The adventure had kicked that side of me into gear. I didn’t want to forget anything that was going to happen. Carl Phillips, the author of the article about writing for an audience of one. The best thing in writing is writing for oneself. By writing for the audience of one, we can focus our thoughts and not try and not bend the writing to fall within the confines of one audience. That is the best thing about writing in a journal, the only audience is me. There is no judgement or fear with what I am placing down on the page. The thoughts and feelings that rush by me flow onto the pages to stand there for time immemorial. Anything that we write in our journals can be used for times in the future when we wish to look back and explore what took place in the past.
Heathrow was a world of its own. I thought that Melbourne airport was big, but it had nothing on Heathrow. A feeling of insignificance washed over me while I stood there wondering what my first move should be. I knew I couldn’t stand there frozen forever. I had to move on with my plans.
It reminded me of something Bear Grylls once said: “to be brave you must first be afraid”. Those words had never hit more home than in those first few moments of being there. I’d always thought of myself as someone who wouldn’t give in to fear, but there I was petrified to go on my own journey. Those words were like a beacon of hope to me in those times.
There are so many times that you see these places. The news, movies, tv shows or maybe you have read about them. But it is an entirely different feeling actually being present in these spots. Seeing the Tower of London or Buckingham palace with your own eyes or hearing the chimes of Big Ben. It’s a feeling I can’t quite explain. A mixture of euphoria and excitement might be the best way to describe it. There was no helping the history buff inside me. He was overindulged with everything he was taking in. It would take him a while to process.
There is a particular aspect to travelling alone that brings forth a feeling of freedom. There is no need to compromise on anything that you do. You can pick and choose what it is you want to do. But also, you can select who you wish to travel with.
One of the decisions I made during the organisation phase was to join a Contiki tour. I decided it would be the best way to see a large section of Europe while travelling with likeminded people. It was through this; I gained the confidence to be able to make friends with almost anyone and everyone. Beforehand I tended to exist within my own safe sphere of influence. But stripping all that away, I learned that I could make friends easily if I tried. Although many of these people I have never heard from again, there were a small few who kept in contact with me. These few are some that I still cherish to this day.
There were so many places that I was seeing for the first time. There are always times when you watch movies or tv shows, and you say to yourself, ‘I want to go there one day’, you almost always say that as a wish that you don’t expect to come true. But standing there and seeing it all in front of my eyes, I couldn’t believe that my wish had finally come true. More than anything, I was grateful for the experience that I was able to have.
One of the best things that can come out of travelling the world is, of course, the people you meet and not just the ones that you may become friends with. But all of the people that cross your path along your journey. You almost always realise that people as a whole are generally very good-natured. You learn that even though we are separated by such large distances that we aren’t so different from each other as we may seem to think.
The trip seemed to end almost as quickly as it had begun. Although it was a two-month venture, it could have felt like it was a few weeks long. I had become one of the stereotyped Aussies, travelling the world for an extended period without a care in the world.
Melbourne airport never seemed to change. People all shuffling all around. Nobody takes much notice of anyone else that is there. It has been some years since my first major adventure and to think I am back here to begin my next one. If anyone had told me that I would be spending the next 10 months living in another country, I wouldn’t have believed them for a second.
The first step is always the hardest to make. This time was far harder to leave the ones I loved. My eyes burned through holding back the tears. Walking away, I could not bear to look back. Seeing their faces with tears streaming from their eyes would have made it all that much harder to leave.
You could say that everything I have learned about myself and travelling had led me to that point. Although at the moment, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and dread. The hardest thing I realised was finding accommodation for myself for a long-term while also trying to secure myself a job. Those were the two things that really struck me in the face upon my arrival. The veil of over enjoyment quickly fell away to reveal the stresses of real life. I had forgotten how hard it was to get a new job. I had always relied on my connections with people back home to get me positions in the workplace. But this time I didn’t have that option, and it was terrifying. I didn’t want to not be able to get a job and have to come home so soon. In my head, I would have felt like a failure. Even though that wouldn’t have the case, I had done an amazing job actually coming over to Canada in the first place. I came upon a place that would take me on, and I couldn’t be happier, and as it so happened it was the same day; I found my house that I would be staying in. It felt like the universe was smiling down on me.
It impacted me in such a way for many reasons. I had to rely on only myself and the few friends that I knew in the same city as me. It was the first time that I was living out of home, and lastly, I had to try and adjust to the way of life in Canada. Although it was quite similar to that of Australia, some things differed. A large portion of them originated around work. However, the exchange at the time was better than Australia, the hourly wage was much lower. That would have been more manageable if the cost of living hadn’t been so much higher. All these things took some time to adjust to. But I could say that a significant thing that brought me out of my shell was the fact that I could continue my dancing while over in Canada.
The weather made it feel a bit like home. It too could never make up its mind. Especially when it came around to winter. God, that time was cold. It snowed for a least a few weeks in the new year. Much less than the rest of the country but more than my liking. I realised during that time that I enjoyed visiting the snow but less so living in it.
What more could I ask for? A chance to test myself without any help from those around me. It was the best environment for me to develop myself. So many opportunities where provided to me during the 10 months that I was in Canada.
Now, that leads me to the present. The inability to do any travel throughout 2020 and possibly beyond. It feels as though those times of gallivanting across the world are far behind me. There is something strange about having every intention of wanting to travel but not having the actual ability to do so. This year has turned many things on its head. Namely the idea of travelling. For many, they don’t have the ability to travel outside of one’s country or even to another state.
The feeling of never being able to travel again has its grips on my heart. I am sure that it is the same for many people across the globe. But I dare say I have not given up the hope for travel in the future, for the desire to travel still burns from within me.
Everything started with my decision to travel the world. It is something that I am immensely happy with my younger self about. If I hadn’t travelled who knows where my life might have led, I can undoubtedly say that it wouldn’t have headed in the same direction. Having travelled the burning passion for travelling more keeps raging within me. Since the time of travelling on my own, I have managed to travel to a further 24 countries. I never would have expected to travel to so many in such a short time. Still, I am grateful forever experience that I have managed to gain along the way.