I Left Far North Queensland With a UTI and a New Family
My eyes are blurry from the tears and I’m squirming in my seat. My nose is a faucet under my facemask. I’m struggling to control my sniffling so my neighbours don’t think I have the spicy cough. Staring intently at the seatbelt sign, I yearn for the light to dim so I can run to the toilet for but a moment of sweet, sweet relief.
It’s in your head, you don’t actually need to pee. That little voice rings through my figurative ears. Nope, I am definitely going to piss myself.
The light goes off. I unclip my seatbelt and Kath-and-Kim speedwalk it to the rear of the plane, where I find myself fumbling to unbutton my jeans.
That face-tingling love-makin’ was so not worth the burning discomfort that is riddling the lower half of my body right now.
I’m on a flight back from Cairns: a place where I just spent six weeks living in a hostel and getting to know my new housemates. The ones who came and went, and the ones who stuck it through from start until finish.
My mind wanders back to the night of my departure: sitting beachside with my mum at home on the Gold Coast, and sinking my teeth into a fat vegie burger. I was telling her how I was kinda nervous and having those weird last-minute doubts about going up north. Though I was only supposed to be going away for four weeks, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on travel, getting on a plane and being away from home for a month felt almost alien.
How long have I been sitting on this toilet for? Nothing’s happening.
I’d never been the real outgoing type. I don’t think I’m the worst judge of character, and I like who I like. I’d struggled to make friends for most of my young adult life. I had gotten used to cruisin’ through with just a couple of good quality beings beside me.
So when I booked a month-long writing workshop in Far North Queensland, I assumed the trip would be no different.
My first night in a Cairns hostel started in total darkness as I scrambled my way up to my bunk without waking anyone in the room. I needed to pee, but willed that part of me away as I forced myself to attempt sleep. It was after midnight; I had no idea where the bathroom was, and the bedroom door was so freakin’ loud when it closed. Nope. I could wait until morning. What’s a measly six hours for a healthy bladder?
My bladder. My poor, pained bladder. This two-hour flight is going to be the longest feat I’ve ever put myself through.
I got through my first night in the hostel and, without needing to ask for a set of fresh sheets, made my contribution to the polite introductions in the morning. Nice people, but I thought about upgrading to a private room. A whole month with literally no privacy? I so value my me-time.
One of the girls invited me to the beach a bus ride away, where the group would park themselves on the sand for the day. After agreeing without a moment’s hesitation, I doubled back on my decision. I was running off less than six hours sleep, I didn’t know my way around the hostel let alone the new town I was in, and I’d be there for four weeks. I skipped the beach that day.
The next 41 days had the most liberating, life-decision-making, emotionally challenging and simply fucking fantastic moments in store.
More introductions and a slow and steady library of names and backstories ensued. The term “existential crisis” was being thrown around a lot and I would let out one of those I can totally relate snuff laughs with each person I found aboard that bandwagon. Not because I was having one myself, but I definitely knew the feeling. We’ve all been there at some stage(s), and I was just chuffed to have some sort of idea about what I was doing in life.
The white noise of an aeroplane lavatory pulls my head out of the clouds 38,000 feet above ground.
People are going to think I’m shitting in here.
I mentally prepare myself to retreat to my aisle seat and remain there for the duration of the flight, regardless of how close I come to wetting my pants. I emerge shyly from my throne and make attempts to visibly wipe my eyes in front of the flight attendant standing in the galley. That way they’ll think I was only in there to collect myself and dry my wet, puffy eyes. Heaps better.
As the days in the hostel went on and I started getting to know my fellow travellers more, my anxiety and feelings of overwhelm began to dissipate. I quickly settled into my own little crew and let the good times roll. You know you’re surrounded by a bunch of good eggs when nothing is required other than sitting in each other’s presence to have a great time.
There’s the friend who gently bullies you with a similar sense of humour and feeds on the fact that you crack so easily. But at the same time, you’re able to cry with each other and say nothing, just being there. Then there’s the friend who is unsure of how close to get because you often come off as an emotionally stunted brick — but whose presence you find comfort and a gorgeous joy in. There’s the friend you’re convinced is actually your soulmate (just not in an “I want to get in your pants” way) who will always say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.
Then there are the people whose pants you do want to get in. The hot-and-heavy moments where you feel like there’s nothing else in the universe but your bodies. That wasn’t worth a burning pee days later, but it totally, utterly was. Who at the same time you wished you got to know sooner, but are relieved to have avoided attachment, which would make your goodbyes only harder.
The more I felt at-home in my temporary new city, the more that crisis started to creep in. The more fun I was having, the less I wanted to go home. So when my flight was cancelled and I got to frolic around the tropics a little more, I was besotted with the idea that I would do all I could to keep that very feeling alive. That whirlpool of warm fuzzies, excitement and absolute freedom. Of adventure and a love of life that makes you giddy at experiencing something so simple as raindrops on your face. Or sunshine on your skin.
Thinking about going home has me more anxious than when I was eating my vegie burger back at the beach all those weeks ago. Leaving behind my new routine and home and life. And family. That all-too-familiar feeling of an actual piece of you being gently tugged away.
My existential crisis is in full force while I peer out over the ocean below me. Am I crying because of the unknown, because of the people I’m going to miss or because of this fucking UTI that woke up at 6am with me?
Words can do me no service in describing how glad I am I did not change to a private room when I got to the hostel. My roommates made my time in Far North Queensland what it was, and I am grossly surprised at how much I cried at the end. When you spend nearly 24 hours a day around people, you can’t not get attached. And I know I’ve never been good at goodbyes, even if they’re only see-ya-laters, but I’m sitting on the plane and leaving some of my new favourite people on the ground below me, and I don’t feel good about it.
The journey home evokes even itchier feet than before. It has me contemplating every aspect of my entire existence and is a grieving process in its own right.
What I have now is photos and memories. I always need to take more photos.
What I do now is reminisce, write about it, and start to plan the next trip.