“Is everything okay?” she asked.
Her question caught me off guard as moments before we had just been laughing hysterically about something. My smile was still on my face. It instantly faded and my eyebrows furrowed. As far as I was aware, I was having a brilliant day.
“You always run when something is wrong. Last week you drove ten hours in one day to explore a random city. What’s going on?”
I stopped what I was doing and really looked at my best friend before me. I hadn’t seen her in about two weeks, I barely spoke to her in that time, but each time we spoke, life was good. So was my impromptu road trip, that I classified as book research and it absolutely was. The warning signs being, my schedule is often too busy to schedule a lunch properly nonetheless escape an entire day without warning.
Each time I feel like something is wrong, I up and leave. Yet, I often come back with answers.
This is a continuous cycle that no one has explicitly pointed out to me. Often times, I escape to a park or a coffee shop, take some time alone and reappear as if nothing happened. It’s often much more cost and time effective!
Flashback to December 17th, 2014, a cold, snowy night in a dimly lit Starbucks, I sat drinking lattes with a friend. I feel at a dead end. I was at a horrible job that was meant to be temporary, I was living back at home, and my boyfriend and I of almost two years ended things only a few months prior. My friend and I are both using our laptops searching anything and everything for things I may be qualified to do to get out of my rut. Nothing is out of reach.
Miraculously, we come across au pairing. Never thinking anything serious of it, we start looking into websites and at family profiles. I’ve done a fair share of babysitting at this point so I take it lightly as I create a profile and create this dream job opportunity of uprooting my life to go live somewhere new for a while.
Cut to a mere four weeks later and I am boarding a plane to Sydney, Australia. Quite literally running away from my problems and rooting myself in paradise.
I was running away from heartbreak. After my first serious relationship ended, I didn’t know where I was meant to go. I thought I was meant to move back to his home country of Germany and start my life with him. It wasn’t until a few months into my Australia adventure that I came to the recognition that the heartbreak was so difficult to bounce back from because I had never loved myself.
My trip to Australia was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. I would never be able to replicate it. I often think back on my memories and read through my journal, wondering how the hell some of it happened. I met some incredible people who were in my life for a certain amount of time and I met some people who I’ll always be in contact with.
Every time I would call home, people would ask me stereotypical questions about Australia or what they read on the internet. Did you hold a koala? Yes. Did you see kangaroos? Yes. Did you go to the Opera House? Yes. Did you surf? Yes. Are there really flies in the Outback? Yes. Did you go to the Great Barrier Reef? Yes.
I am not minimizing the experiences I had. I wouldn’t change the trip for the world or the places I’ve traveled to; worked hard to get to. However, when I think back on my time, I don’t often think about the places I went to and explored, I think about what I learned, who I was, and who I am today.
There’s a dramatic difference between the 22 year old who boarded the plane to the 23 year old who came home. For most of my Australia experience, there was a massive dark cloud over New York for me. I was always trying to escape my home because I felt as if it was holding me back. I didn’t want to return. I actually feared stepping foot back into my state. I feared the person I was in Australia wouldn’t follow-through over the threshold because of how everyone once perceived me.
The real beauty of traveling to a brand new place alone is the ability to reinvent yourself. No one knows who you are. You get to choose the stories you share. You get to decide who you talk to and how your life is led. The downside? We can try our hardest to start anew, but so much is ingrained in us that the moment we stop trying to be someone else, we automatically become the person we truly are. The hard part is recognizing those parts about yourself and making a difference with them.
Australia is a country that will forever be a home to me, throughout all the homes and hostels I slept in, there is a peace and serenity. I’ve struggled trying to figure out what it means to me as it holds far more than anyone could imagine. In Australia, I had people hold me accountable for my actions, I’ve had people question why I treat myself in certain ways and I’ve had someone teach me the path of learning to love myself. And throughout that time, I was tested to the max. I made friends and I lost them. I’ve been introduced to cultures and to people good and bad who have made me question who I am and where I am going. I made some massive mistakes, but I don’t regret any of them. I loved my hardest and I cried more tears than I had in years. And in the midst of my personal journey, I traveled the entirety of Australia with an incredible friend by my side.
I find it difficult to reflect back on my experiences. I’ve tried writing about my traveling and I’ve tried writing about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. I’ve taken time away from writing about my own life and have focused heavily on writing fiction. In Australia, it was the exact opposite. While I finished my novel, I wrote almost every single day, journaling about what I was feeling and doing. I cherish the black notebook that holds my deepest secrets and my wildest adventures. It was my therapy to get through each and every day that I hadn’t recognized until I came home, that the journal was a massive aid in me loving myself.
The person I am today is a reflection of that journey. When I flew back to New York, it was the biggest challenge of my life. I had an Australian accent, I was writing u’s in my words and using Australian lingo and I was incredibly tan in the dead of winter. Most importantly, I had an inner peace that was destined to be challenged because I was now going to be giving up my freedom, getting a job and living back at my parents house indefinitely because I was dirt poor. Most challenging, I had to start all over again from a place where that I ran from only a year prior.
Instead of working through my writing to figure out how Australia changed me, I actively started making changes. I put effort into friends I hadn’t seen in a year, I met my new baby niece that I had missed the birth of, I reacquainted myself in a life that I assumed would just stop the year I was gone, but didn’t. People graduated college, they had new jobs and schedules, everyone continued living while I did the same, sixteen hours ahead of them. What changed significantly? I had a newfound respect for myself. I chose a place to work that brings me happiness. I chose to start off slow, focusing on my future career instead of a job that would provide me money day in and day out. I lived my days for myself before I started to live for anyone else.
For the first four months of being back in the United States, I was massively bitter. I had been offered sponsorship in Australia to live and stay there with a potential citizenship. I turned it down and regretted it for a long while. It wasn’t until I started immersing myself in a life and learning to explore and discover my hometown again that I realized that I didn’t need to run off and live in Australia. I didn’t need to go run away. That if I moved away it would be because it was beneficial for me and not because I was running.
Australia was a dream that I never expected to fulfill. It ended up being an experience I could have never imagined.
Australia brings a smile, frowns, anxiety and sadness to my face when I think about certain times. But ultimately, I recognize the strength and courage I had. I recognize how brave I was. The overwhelming swell that fills my heart is knowing how much I love who I am today and without that incredible journey into the unknown, if I had let fear take over and stop me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Find out what else is Chelsea working on here