The Five Hour Night: Our Embarkation to Australia
I can feel the adrenaline electrifying my skin as we pull into the rent-a-car carpark and step out into the chilling night air. It is only 7:30 pm on this Spanish night but the sun has long set, and it is only the glowing orange lights of Alicante Airport that light up the sky. We return the car keys with a clang into the rusty metal box and head towards the terminal. I can’t help but smile looking at the luggage trolley. It is the first time in a long while where we only have a few bags. We had set the rule very strictly, one backpack per person and miraculously we had stuck to it. I am certain that it was our Camino experience that changed us in our perceptions of how much we really needed to pack.
In the reflection of the skyway bridge, I see myself.
But this girl is not carrying the camera tripod and sweeping ahead eagerly – she is fiddling with the zipper on her jacket and trying to get her brother to promise to play a tournament of UNO with her once onboard. It is me, but it is me three and a half years ago, crossing the skyway bridge at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, mere hours from embarking on our journey around the world without a return ticket. As I look back now, I can barely hold back my laughter, remembering my frame of mind back then, focusing only on finding the food court once we passed through security where I could fuel my sushi addiction. I had absolutely no idea what lay ahead. None of us did. Grandma has stood by with us at the embarkation gate, and the flight attendants had looked on as we had hugged each other one last time, me holding onto her until the very last second… and then we surged ahead into the unknown.
Three and a half years, 27 countries, six continents and countless, priceless experiences later, we are finally starting our return journey to Melbourne. Not forever! No, only for a brief Christmas catch up, which to be exact means three months in the arms of our family and friends! I am looking forward to our return with a mix of emotions, uncontrollable excitement and yet a twinge of apprehension. I was barely 11 years old when we left and now returning, I will be seeing Melbourne through an entirely new set of eyes. While traveling, Australia faded into obscurity, a distant memory, one only entered daily through the dimensional portal of Skype, and only into Grandma’s room. Now that veil will part.
But Australia is not our first stop. To begin with, we are heading to Moscow, at the start of a brisk Russian Winter, for three days of exploration through the city and snow! Then, we are set for three weeks of adventures through Incredible India that will see us travel through +13 cities. The cultural experiences that we will encounter are unfathomable at the moment, and I am looking forward to our time there with more excitement than I can express. Finally, we will stop for a 24-hour layover in Malaysia, where we will meet up with some old friends on this quick jaunt into South East Asia. Read about how you can create your own layover while traveling to maximise your travel experience!
We check in and make our way over to an assembly of sparkling red booths. We pull out our snack bag, and I take my final few sips of my coveted Gazpacho soup and finish off Dad’s pumpkin ‘fluffins’ (fluffy muffins). We make our way through security and stand in line to convert our Euros into Russian Roubles. I hear a cry sound out from behind me and as I turn, I am amazed to see David and his family, our local dried fruit and nut vendors from the Saturday market from our home in Águilas. Their joyous, laughing faces mirror ours, and I find myself spinning through a vortex of memories, thinking of all the people we have met across our travels. Young and old, from Ecuador to England, from Canada to The Caicos Islands… all around the world, I see the same smiling eyes and kind hearts. It is overwhelming for a moment, and as I blink away tears, I realise we never got to say goodbye to David and his family, not being able to make it to the Saturday market that morning. Yet, here they were, heading to London for a small family vacation and we got to wish them a safe journey and say farewell for now.
After a quick stint with a broken vending machine, we arrive at our gate and step out onto the bubbling tarmac. I can see the bright yellow of the plane’s wings in the distance. Our flight will be 5 hours long, taking off at 11 pm and landing at 5 am due to the time difference between Spain and Russia. The five hour night. Possibly the shortest night of my life.
As I sit in my seat, minutes before we taxi onto the runway, I reflect on where the last three and half years have brought us. We left with our project of EnergeticXChange, which worked on the principle that for every need out there in the world, there was a corresponding offer, ready, willing and waiting to be met. Over time, as we traveled, the project evolved as we did along with it. As for me, traveling has seen me go from small email updates sent to my family, to starting my own blog and writing my first fiction adventure novel that is set to be published early next year. So much has happened and yet, somehow I feel that we are only at the very beginning of what is to come. I’m looking back, and I am also looking forward, whirling through an endless sea of the past and the future… but I bring myself back. Right now, I’m also in the present, and that’s exactly where I want to be. I sit back into my seat and take a deep breath. The engines are roaring in my ears, but I only hear the silence, pulsating with the calm beat of my heart.
I smile and squeeze my brother’s hand.
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