“I’m booking myself a one-way ticket and never coming back,” I declared. This was back in 1996 and I wasn’t really planning to leave forever. The plan was to start and finish my university degree, save enough money to keep me going and backpack around the world with no real end date planned. One of my cousins worked for Camp America at the time so it was part of the plan to go on a working holiday, too.
Within the first year of uni, I met my boyfriend at the time. This is when plans started to change. It was early months in our relationship, so we spent long hours chatting about our plans after uni. Many of these discussions revolved around travel. As much as we both dreamed about travelling the world, we clashed on how we each wanted to go about it – I wanted to work and travel indefinitely while he didn’t. After some lengthy discussions and weighing up each debate, I decided to make a compromise on my original plan.
I saw a way to reward myself
I reflected and realised that, by the time I was to graduate with a degree, I would’ve spent 16 out of my 21 years of life studying and working part time jobs to pay for it. Of course, there were domestic holidays in between and weekends away when a rostered Sunday off appeared. Yet, I couldn’t remember when I had given myself a proper break. Perhaps an extended holiday after graduation was a good idea, then?
A gap year between school and work had weighed on my mind
I knew that if I didn’t start and finish my degree straight out of high school, I wouldn’t go back to full-time study. Though, I needed to work out how to save for the funds needed for this epic holiday.
In order to pay for my share of the holiday, I had to start saving
My degree was essentially my timeline. I had two and a bit years left to save for this overseas holiday and I had always dreamed of heading to the U.S and Canada. Luckily, my boyfriend had similar travel aspirations. We worked out roughly how much we needed and started saving. I even took on a second part-time job as a waitress to pay for the dream.
I put in the time, hard work and effort
Having a second part-time job did take its toll. I was studying 30 contact hours at uni and working up to 30 hours in between. It was common for me to start at uni weekdays at 8am, drive straight to work and arrive home any time after 11pm. Weekends were loaded back-to-back shifts and I missed out on friends’ birthday parties or nights out. Any rare spare time I had to myself was used completing assignments and studying for exams. I was still young; with energy to spare. I wish I had that sleepless, 20-something energy now!
I decided on a balance of independent and tour-style travel
Wanderlust can transport you to wild and wonderful places, but the reality set in when travel times were calculated. Why spend 20 hours on a flight from Melbourne, only to come home again in a couple of weeks without ticking off everything you wanted to do? My boyfriend and I wrote a wishlist and mapped out our journey across two-and-a-half months, breaking up any big tours with DIY stops in between. We saw ourselves traversing the southern and northern U.S states, east and west coasts of Canada, sandwiched by mini-stays in L.A, San Francisco and New York. A sneaky stop in Hawaii on the way home made it on the list, too.
Travel agents didn’t take 20-somethings seriously back then
With our epic journey mapped out, along with the time and money involved, we discovered that travel agents didn’t take us seriously. Remember, online bookings weren’t the “done thing” back in 1999. We went old school – heading to a travel agent to gather quotes and make our bookings. Some agents didn’t even believe we had the money to do it. Trust me, those agents missed out big time! We eventually found one agent who believed in us. She worked after hours to prepare our quote and hand-delivered it to us at my boyfriend’s home. Our planning was such a lesson in travel – it takes faith and trust from others, as well as believing in yourself, to ensure dreams and goals are achieved.
Returning home translated to a huge bout of post-travel depression
By the time we returned home in the middle of a frosty-cold Melbourne winter, we had covered over 40 U.S states and both of Canada’s coasts. We bussed, flew, walked, kayaked, speed-jetted and hiked through national parks, ice glaciers, soaring skylines and arid deserts. We saw the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium, wandered Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, stepped within the gates of Alcatraz, played the slots in Las Vegas, had a beer at the iconic Cheers bar in Boston, grooved our way to Blues along Bourbon Street in New Orleans, paid our respects at the spots where Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were assassinated, visited Washington D.C on Memorial Day, awed over The Badlands and The Grand Canyon, attended music festivals, ate loads of American food and discovered countless record stores.
By the time we returned home, we fell into a bout of post-travel depression and it wasn’t long before the travel bug bit me again. I also needed to break into the inevitable world of full-time work. I was lucky enough to start working at a small publishing house as a receptionist which eventually led me into working on trade exhibitions; some of which were overseas. I also worked for a manager who understood the value of travel and allowed me one full day off on each work trip to go out and experience my surroundings. I was lucky to travel to Singapore, Thailand and within Australia, too. I was able to satisfy my initial desire of working overseas.
My boyfriend and I still kept travelling together and ended up getting married as well. We eventually made our way to New Zealand, later marrying in Victoria’s Yarra Valley winery region then honeymooning on Hamilton Island. Later, we travelled more through China, South East Asia and the Middle East. Plus, there have been many little domestic trips in between.
Sometimes, our dreams in life don’t always go to according to the coordinates we set ourselves. Despite this, we almost always achieve our dreams if it means taking new turns or backstreets. A road less travelled, or not travelled at all, may then just be the solution. Compromise may be the new map you need when life presents a new direction. I’m thankful that travel is in my life to teach me this.