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On my first trip abroad

I took my first overseas trip when I was in year eleven. It was to Nouméa, New Caledonia and it almost didn’t happen. The trip’s purpose was to improve the French language skills of those of us insistent on studying French during our last two years of school, believing the subject a necessity for our futures when we would most certainly be in Paris living our best French lives being all Parisian and speaking fluent French and just being all chic in our Frenchness and you get the picture.

The first step on this road to being so Frenchy so chic, was a week’s trip to this South Pacific island wherein we would live with the locals, have 3-hour French lessons each day and immerse ourselves in the otherworldness that comes with visiting a place far removed from that in which you live. But whether it was the 3-hour lessons or the 3-hour flight, not enough of my classmates put their hands up to make this trip a reality. Cue teenage woe-is-me angst, the shedding of many tears, threats of life being over etc etc.

Spoiler alert, guys. It all worked out in the end.

Physical boarding passes! Physical plane tickets! So cute! So retro!

Those of us determined to leave Australian shores piggybacked onto a similar trip planned by the neighbouring school through the fence and after parental forms were signed, passports (my first!) arranged, money paid (I even got an afterschool job LOOKING AFTER CHILDREN to pay for this trip), we boarded our flight on Air Calédonie and off we went (I still have the knife we received with our inflight meal to prove it).

There were slight differences between the original trip planned by my (strict) school, and the trip planned by the neighbouring (lenient) school. We didn’t so much stay with the locals as in a Hotel Ibis that also happened to provide accommodation to a fleet of sailors that docked soon after we arrived. And the 3-hour French lessons were replaced by more informal chats around meals when we weren’t shopping or visiting nearby tourist hotspots.

Basically, it was exactly the trip I had imagined. I loved every minute and touched back down in Melbourne a week later with a healthy travel bug that I have nurtured every year since. And while I didn’t quite become a French Parisian who lived in Paris and spoke fluent French and you get the picture, I have visited France often (seven times).

While my first overseas trip happened when I was sixteen, it seems I had been planning my escape much earlier. A recent discovery from when I was in grade four (my dad has been spending a LOT of time in the garage lately) not only shows my inevitable path to blog writing (my early prose are clearly genius), but also hints at my desire to live in another country (much like Flaubert’s self-confession ‘Madame Bovary, c’est moi’ – see, French! – I confess Kristy is me). Since I was young, of two things I was certain: my love of travel and my love of stories. I made a career from one and a healthy hobby and/or lifestyle choice of the other.

Much like Kristy and Dawn, I did end up travelling to the USA. That would be 19 states over four trips. Not sure I'll be heading back any time soon...

A few days ago, famously wealthy investor Warren Buffett sold his firm’s entire holdings in the four major airlines in the US. He proclaimed that the ‘world has changed’ and thus hinting that travel would be impacted perhaps for a lot longer and in more ways than we can imagine. Certainly the way we travel should change. Maybe cheap flights should fall by the wayside. Maybe we should be a bit more thoughtful and respectful about how much we fly and the impact that quickie beach holiday really has. But the thought that travel may become unattainable, a logistical nightmare needing health checks and further screenings is a very bitter pill to swallow. As much as I love Australia, the idea of having to remain on this conveniently remote island has me hyperventilating into a sick bag.

As with my previous post, I say again, please don’t mistake this for a rant. I am happily staying home, staying safe and will continue to do so as long as it’s needed. This isn’t a teenage woe-is-me repeat. People are losing loved ones so who am I to complain about travelling? But what happens after? Will there even be an after? Will the world become too damaged to bounce back? Will we live under social distancing between ourselves and other countries until a vaccine is found? Even then, will world leaders be looking at Covid-19 as the excuse they need to shut borders whenever they like? To whomever they like?

Hopes. Dreams. Wishes. Life. It’s so much to give up, and so many people have had to do just that. But if you can, hold on to your dreams. Hopefully we can dust them off and put them to good use soon. 

Until then, maybe Dawn and Kristy need a sequel…


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