How living in New York made me fall in love with Australia
Published December 4th, 2017
This story was originally meant to delve into how a recent outback road trip of mine changed my outlook on travel and life. However, what I ended up doing instead was taking a look back a little further to reveal how the trip came about and realised it all began when I was living in New York. What a great way to start an outback story than with New York, sounds a little familiar though doesn’t it (ahem Crocodile Dundee)?
So here is part one about where the adventure really began…(note: sadly Paul Hogan is not included).
About a year before my red centre road trip I was living in New York and had come home to Brisbane for Christmas. Loving the hot 'n' sweaty weather of Brisbane in December, I decided to drive myself to the Gold Coast for a morning surf. I was sitting behind the breaking waves at Snapper Rocks, on the pink longboard I had scrimped and saved for as a teenager, listening to the meditative sound of crashing waves, when I spotted a couple of butterflies flutter along the glassy top of the water. Yes, actual bloody beautiful butterflies in the lineup like something out of a Disney movie.
I can't even begin to describe just how happy I was. A great big cheesy gummy smile broke out across my face and my heart did that funny thing where it feels like it's risen a bit. I was so utterly and unexpectedly content in that moment, sun shining down and lighting up the water so that you could see right down to the sandy bottom. But the very next second it hit me like a tonne of bricks, that for the first time in a long time, I no longer wanted to live in or return to New York.
In the moment it was shocking to fathom that the thrilling city I'd idolised for so many years and had loved living in for just four, no longer held my heart. Even more shocking was the eventual realisation that over the previous four years I'd somehow slowly fallen for the place I'd waited so patiently through high school and university to escape. Australia had sneakily been moving around the furniture in its tiny attic spot in my heart while I wasn’t looking until it had taken over the bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry, garage and finally had the whole place to itself. New York didn’t stand a chance.
I tried to brush off the thought as it niggled its way through my brain for the rest of my trip home. And when it came to getting back on the plane I tried my hardest to put the thought back in its box. Though as the plane took off, and I peered out the window at the aqua waters and islands off the coast of Brisbane, I could soon feel the box had filled with salty tears that came gushing down my cheeks. I didn’t want to admit it but deep down that coastline out the window was where I truly wanted to be.
Sleeping on the flight back to New York was near impossible and I arrived back in a New York blanketed in snow. As my taxi made its familiar route along the Queens Midtown Expressway I looked out at that famous glittering Manhattan skyline but realised it no longer sparkled for me in the same way.
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"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes..." - Lao Tzu
I was living the life that I thought everyone expected me to be living and that I'd worked so hard to create, doing the job 'every girl dreamed of' when really all I wanted was chocolate sprinkles on my cappuccino (apparently this is an Aussie thing), a friendly ‘g’day love’ in the morning and for someone to understand me when I said: ‘see you this arvo’.
It was too late, I'd already lost my heart to the place we affectionately call the land down under.
Fast forward through the next and final month spent in New York and the 150 kilograms of luggage brought back to Australia (yes, one of those suitcases was filled 100 percent with shoes) and I was living back in Brisbane. It was about a year before I started planning my adventurous red centre road trip and in that time I was able to reacquaint myself with a couple of other cities around the country, satiating my newfound curiosity of Australia’s diverse landscape. However, what I really wanted was to get a better understanding of the people and places that truly give this sunburnt country its glow.
Moral of the story - there's no place like home and sometimes it can take a bit of soul-searching in a great big exciting city like New York to figure that out.
So I made a plan (which included training for the Alice Springs Marathon - but that’s another story) to embark on an adventurous two-week road trip making my way to the red centre from the starkly-urban-in-contrast city of Melbourne. It was on this trip that I was able to reflect on how far I’d come in the last year (not counting the 15,491 kilometres from New York) and what’s really important in life and where you choose to travel to.
Stay tuned as later this month I reveal part II of the journey and what happened on that road trip…
Sam Aldenton is a travel writer, digital content creator (read: takes photos/videos with her iphone and sometimes a real camera) and former retail and youth trend forecaster. When she's not off discovering the world’s best pizza (an obsession picked up from her 4-years in New York), she makes her home in Brisbane, Australia. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @samaaldenton.