Friday 26th April
You cry when you hug Caroline goodbye. You cry during the twenty minute cab ride to the airport, you cry while you check in, you cry after you clear security and G buys you a bottle of water. “I don’t want to leave Australia,” you sob, and G looks on helplessly, holding your boarding passes and passports.
Thursday 25th April
Today is Anzac Day. Caroline hands you a bacon and egg sandwich and an ice cold cider at 10am, and an hour later seven of you squeeze into a cab and head to a pub garden in the suburbs packed full of locals playing Two-up. Bets ring through the humid air: “Ten bucks on heads? Anyone got ten bucks?” Everyone cheers each time the coins thunder down, and you cheer too, standing on your tip toes to see over people’s heads. At first you’re too shy to place a bet and ask G to do it for you; later, you’re down thirty bucks, waving your money in the air and screaming along with the crowd.
Later, when you’re drunk and your cheeks are sunburnt and it feels like you’ve been in the pub forever, you and G devour a hotdog before heading back to the bar for some more cider. Even when the sun starts to drop, it stays warm; you push your hair up into a messy pony tail to get it off your neck. Around you, people drink and flirt and start betting 50 bucks a go.
Before you know it, it’s 10pm and you’re all in a cab heading back into central Sydney, to the bar where Stef works. You neck vodka redbulls, egg each other on to do a shot, and another one, and another one. “I don’t want to leave!” you shout to Chris above the music. “Don’t then. Change your flights,” he replies.
You drink and dance and chat to strangers like they’re your best friends, and then you glance at your watch and realise that it’s 1am and your cab’s coming in an hour. Sixty minutes later, you’re standing on Caroline’s doorstep, suitcase at your feet. You’re still dressed in the clothes you’ve been wearing all day, your make up’s smudged from 15 hours of drinking and dancing, and you can feel the sweat on your back start to cool. You gather Caroline into a tight hug as the cab driver beeps impatiently, and that’s when you start to cry.
Saturday 27th April
You arrive back at Gatwick on Saturday morning; the skies are as grey as your mood. You wake up at 4am every morning during that first week back, and you lie in the dark watching the dawn break over another day, wondering what you’d be doing if you were still in Sydney.
You go back to work, you see your friends and family, you start running again. The sky stays grey, and you cover up your tan with 100 denier tights.
Tuesday 21st May
A couple of weeks later, you read the following:
Let me tell what Nietzsche said in his book. He said that there is no after-life in the normal, religious sense – no heaven, no hell, no purgatory. But there isn’t “nothing” either. Instead, after we die, things simply start again from scratch. We live our whole life again, exactly as it was, nothing changing from birth to death. And then the same thing happens again and again and again, on and on for ever… if true, is this a pleasant idea? If you had to relive your life exactly as it was – same successes and failures, same happiness, same miseries, same mixture of comedy and tragedy – would you want to? Was it worth it? - The Universe Versus Alex Woods
And then it hits you: you love your family, your friends, your flat, your job. You love playing netball on Wednesdays, you love that first gin on a Friday evening, you love your friends popping in unannounced because they only live round the corner. You love drinks in the Duke and dinner in the Crown, you love lazy weekend lunches in the Eagle and wasting entire Sundays in the New Rose. But you can see yourself doing exactly the same thing in twelve months’ time, and twelve months after that, and suddenly you yearn for something you didn’t know you were missing; a sense of adventure, of freedom, of setting out not knowing what lies ahead. And that’s when you decide.
Thursday 20th June
One Thursday evening a few weeks’ later, you have dinner with your family in a restaurant high above the bustle of Spitalfields. You talk about your younger brother’s new job, your elder brother’s decision to move out of London with his girlfriend, your youngest brother’s trip to volunteer in Tanzania. And then: “I think I might move to Australia for a year,” you say. “Do a bit of travelling, work for six months…”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” says your mother, taking another sip of wine.
“We’ll come over for the Ashes!” Hen adds.
And that’s that.
Friday 21st June
On Friday, you tell some friends; on Saturday, you tell a few more, on Sunday, you apply for your Working Holiday visa and an hour later, it comes through. On Monday, you do some sums on the back of an envelope, and on Tuesday, you hand in your notice.
“What happens if it doesn’t work out?” asks Jaxx.
“I come home,” you reply. “But better to have given it a go than not.”
And then you’re crying and laughing and hugging because, four months after you landed, you’re heading back to Sydney, back to the beaches, the smell of the ocean and the gleam of the Harbour Bridge in the midday sun.