Fuck This Place
“Fuck this place and everything about it.”
Although far from an epiphany, I can confidently say that at age 20, this was one of the most profound thoughts I’d ever had. I needed to get out. Away from working 14-hour days, six days a week. Away from sleazy ex-boyfriends who seemed to conveniently grace every shopping centre or nightclub I chose to set foot in. Away from the misconstrued opinions that had followed me through high school. I’d had enough of dragging myself through each day, uninspired and unimpressed by the shallow life I was living. So I ran away.
I mean, I didn’t pack my bindle, sling it over my shoulder and start walking. Instead, I escaped the domestic drudgery of home by pulling that classic move: booking a one-way ticket to Europe.
After an emotional goodbye to friends and family, I boarded my flight to London. The whole sleepless 25-hour journey was consumed by overwhelming excitement at the thought of how perfect my new nomadic lifestyle would be, and how happy I was to be leaving my old life behind.
No more phone calls from my distraught boss asking me to cover yet another shift:
“I know you’ve already worked 50 hours this week, but we’re really desperate this time.”
No awkward encounters with past flings, all so self-righteously convinced that I’d still be pining after them years later:
“Man, you were a real wreck when I broke up with you. Are you even really over it yet?”
No one to remind me of my distasteful drunken antics at high school parties:
“Oh my god, do you remember that time you were so drunk you fell down that hill and broke your ankle?!”
How could I forget…
But as time went on, I did forget. Believe me when I say that the challenge of backpacking through Europe presented new challenges to keep my mind occupied. It was not long until my carefully planned trip became a series of missed buses and trains, each time providing a healthy dose of embarrassment as my 20kg bag and I “didn’t quite make it in time”. My fantasies of sitting under the Eiffel Tower sipping champagne and crunching on freshly baked baguettes were soon replaced with the reality that noodle cups and instant coffee were much more within my price range. My confidence in my own sense of direction soon turned into a montage of furiously tearing up over-sized tourist maps, and then begging locals for directions; only to be met with sighs of, “No English”. My new and improved drinking capabilities soon saw me with my head in a dirty hostel toilet after a night out in Spain.
But my whole trip wasn’t a disaster. I got to experience some truly amazing things in my time abroad. I cycled along the French Riviera as the sunset lit up the sky in a dazzling display of light, I threw my coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome and wished for… (did you really think I was going to tell you?), and I even spent a night at the famous Christmas markets in Munich, filling up on so much fresh gingerbread I would surely have given Mrs Claus a run for her money.
And although I am incredibly grateful for these luxurious memories, they are not the kind of stories I will tell to my grandchildren as I laugh so hard that I swallow my own false teeth. They are not the experiences that forced me out of my comfort zone and into a place where there was no choice but to learn and grow from them.
It was when everything went hilariously wrong that I found the person I had lost somewhere between working too many hours, being bitter about my past and caring too much about other people’s opinions. The girl who had forgotten how to love life for what it is – an unpredictable, messy yet beautiful journey.
It was in the midst of the sangria-soaked nights out, the missed train departures and broken conversations with fellow travellers that I found myself. Free from any expectations, burdens or limitations that had once been imposed on me by others. It was in these moments that I was finally able to grow way beyond all the monotonous bullshit I had once despised so much, and realise that it never really mattered in the first place.
Home may be exactly as it was before I left, but I will never see it from the same perspective. My old life no longer looks like it used to – it has changed because my perception has. I am now consumed by much more than the opinions of those who are too scared to go out and challenge their own prejudices and beliefs. I’ve seen too much potential in the world, too much beauty to worry about such pointless chatter.
So for those of you that haven’t yet, I beg you to travel. In fact, I dare you. Run away from your problems, and be amazed at how small and insignificant they will one day seem. Widen your horizons, broaden your perspectives and open your heart to what the world has to offer. Get stupidly lost in a foreign country, and try your luck asking for directions in a different language. Book in advance, and watch as all your plans unravel in front of you. Grab every opportunity as it comes, and hold on tight for the ride. Then when you’ve seen all there is to see and done all there is to do, go home. Because without the return, there is nothing against which to measure your journey. I can promise you that what you go back to will have changed, not necessarily because it is different, but because you are.
Cover by Mike Wilson