It is hard for me to believe that I am sat here writing this at a cattle station in the middle of the Australian Outback. It is hella hot, the sky is all bright blue and the ground all red dust, and I’ve swatted away about fifty flies in the time it’s taken me to write this sentence. It has been two years since I was sat in Heathrow airport, a maximum of 6 months adventure planned, jittery with nerves and desperately trying to calm them with a bloody mary. I can’t believe that apart from a brief interlude at home over Christmas this adventure is still ongoing. I certainly can’t believe what an insane two years it has been and where it has taken me. It is a funny thing travelling, no matter how much planning you do, you never quite know where you’re going to end up. For me, it’s isolated on a cattle station in the middle of a global pandemic, feeding cute calves and gardening for work and drinking beer around bonfires for fun. And I find myself on this anniversary following the threads back that led me to this inconceivable situation. A story that I didn’t really expect and probably is of little interest to anyone bar me, but it is fascinating to look back at the unexpected chain of events that led me first home for Christmas, then out to Australia and then on to the cattle station. A series of decisions, that I am loathe to admit were based on a boy.
My plan this time last year was to return to New Zealand from a month in South East Asia, do my second ski season there and then head to Japan for back to back winters. This plan very swiftly changed when I returned to the lodge and met the chaotic bunch that became some of my very best friends. We drank way too much and threw insane parties and came up with ridiculous games to entertain ourselves on closed mountain days. We took random day trips into the nearby towns where we day drank yet more alcohol and raided the op shops, and we fought over what movie marathon or tv series we should binge next. The prospect of more adventures post season with some of my favourite people was too good an idea to miss out on and so the first part of my plan changed, I decided to postpone Japan for a year and stay and adventure in New Zealand a little longer.
Then the boy came along. This messy head case of a boy who somehow so quickly became such a big part of my life, who I fell for with a kind of manic intensity. We worked together, we partied together, we slept together. We messaged all day every day about everything. I was obsessed. But there was a problem, his ex girlfriend also worked at the mountain with us, and a few weeks into our fledgling relationship he informed me that she had decided she wanted him back and he wasn’t sure what to do. I promptly got drunk and declared my feelings for him and then waited out the few excruciating days for him to make his inevitable decision to get back with her. Crushed that we on gone from 100 to 0 within a matter of days, I broke when I received his message confirming the worst. I was mid party, had been drinking all day, hadn’t really eaten and may possibly have taken something a little bit illegal. I cried so hard I was almost sick. Spiralling I called my oldest friend back in England, my muddled brain could not think rationally and in that moment I felt like the world was ending. My two best friends at the lodge put me to bed and stayed with me, one even climbing into my cramped single bed with me for the night. And I woke up gutted and tearful and more than a little hungover. The next few days my best friend and sister called me daily checking in on me and reminding me to eat my vegetables and drink water. And my friends at the lodge cooked me meals and came up with ways to fill the evenings so I didn’t wallow in the overwhelming sadness of it all. In ski season time, though a week flies past, it contains so much that it feels like a month and I quickly bounced back. There were parties to attend and skiing to be done and I wasn’t going to let a boy ruin it. But the burn remained, I wanted to go home and put a little distance between myself and the boy who had undone me so badly. I needed some sanity, and some downtime and most importantly some home cooked meals. And so one night me and my friend sat down with a large glass of wine each and booked a flight back home for early December.
At this point my mind was flooded with ideas for what I could do after Christmas, stay at home and earn money for Japan, try and get a job at a European ski resort for the winter, see if I could get a sponsorship and return to New Zealand or use one of the other working holiday visas available Australia or Canada perhaps. I had so many possibilities and options, and to use a common phrase the world was my oyster. But then came the boy part two.
We had been doing a pretty good job of working together and being friends for weeks, it still stung a little but as I continuously told myself and him if he was happy I was happy. The night he left his job at the mountain, our lodge had one of our famous theme parties, this time pimps and hoes, and I told him to come and celebrate his freedom from a job he had hated. He was everywhere I looked all night, and at 3am when the party was winding down we found ourselves alone in my room. It was not my finest hour and that night is something I will always be ashamed of looking back. It worries me how easily I went back to him. We saw each other a couple more times before he left the area and each time, aided by alcohol, gradually declaring more feelings and regrets about how it all went down. After he left we messaged daily and I put every feeling I had for him into our conversations. I was in a weird kind of happy confusion for weeks. When my friends asked what was happening I replied I didn’t know it was up to him he had to make up his mind and decide if he wanted to be with me. Then finally the night we set off on our epic roadtrip he messaged me (in the most cryptic way) that he and his girlfriend were over for good this time. And when a week later we reunited at a friend’s birthday party it finally seemed like we had got somewhere, we were both single and we both wanted each other. Our first proper date in Napier followed a few days after and over good food and good wine I thought this is it. All that mess and all those tears and we had finally figured it out.
Unfortunately I had booked that flight home, and five weeks later, after the most spectacular time spent with my friends, the time came to leave New Zealand, but I no longer wanted to go. To give me some credit (I’m not completely insane) this was in part due to the magnificence of the country that I’d just spent weeks exploring and still couldn’t get enough, and in part due to my friends who I just did not want to leave. But honestly the boy was a big reason for my reluctance to go.
Once back home I missed him painfully, we still messaged all day every day when time difference would permit, and very quickly my mind was made up I was going to Australia. Looking back now I think my feelings for him were intensified because I was struggling so badly with being back at home away from my friends and the place I loved so much. I was horribly homesick for New Zealand and I was desperate for an escape and he offered it. I wasn’t going there for him I adamantly told myself and my friends although we both remained unconvinced.
Then one dark January night what I, in a way, had always expected to happen happened. My best friend who remained in New Zealand (through an unexpected twist involving a lost passport and a storm cancelled flight) messaged me to say she had heard it through the grapevine that he had a new girlfriend. A part of me always suspected it would end this way, how could I expect him to patiently wait for me to figure out what I was doing when he was so unbelievably bad at being alone? But to go through all that and not end up together was inconceivable. For him to say all that he had said to me and then not fight for us or wait for me was cruel and I instantly saw a different side to his character. The rose tinted glasses had finally fallen off. I spent the night weeping and watching guide dog documentaries with my best friend (the very same one who I had called during that meltdown the first time he rejected me, and I am ever grateful to have had such a wonderful, patient and wise friend in my life who has managed to not only put up with but help me through my very worst moments). The next morning I woke up, went for a long walk and shouted all my feelings out to the wind. Then I came home messaged my friends in Melbourne saying I was coming and booked my flights. Sadness gave way to seething anger and I had got my mind set on going to Australia and he damn well wasn’t going to be the reason I didn’t go.
My resolve wavered a little over the next weeks of planning and packing. And sitting on the plane clutching my Roo as a security blanket, I tried not to give way to the hysterical panic that was bubbling under the surface. I arrived in sunny Melbourne still questioning whether I had made the right decision and my first few hours in the city I wandered around in a jetlagged daze trying to formulate a plan. Then came the most unexpected message, a friend from my first ski season in New Zealand the boy who I’d met on my second day in that country and became my first friend there (and proceeded to develop feelings for and cry about during my first ski season), was of all places, in Melbourne, a mere 20 minute tram ride away from me. This miracle friend’s appearance made all my doubts fade away, and over the next few weeks I fell in love with Melbourne, we wandered the city and found the street art, we watched the sunset at St Kilda beach every day we could, we drank a whole heap and we danced literally all night. Most importantly though I didn’t text the boy. I decided one night sitting on a crate in an outdoor bar with a bottle of beer the size of my head in hand that whatever had bought it about I had made the right decision.
Eventually though I needed to come out of my giddy excitement of being out of wet and cold England and back to living out of a backpack, and figure out what my next move was. The sensible part of my brain told me that getting out of the city before the boy arrived in it was probably a good idea. It also told me that spending all my time with a guy I used to have feelings for was probably not the best way to get over a heartbreak. On top of that I needed money, my liver needed a break, and if I was to do the ski season as had now become the plan (the snow just keeps calling me) I needed to get my 88 days farm work done fast. And after so many applications I finally got a call from a cattle station offering me a job as homestead help. A week later I packed my bags up again went for a few last drinks with my friends and jumped on a plane to Alice Springs, and here I am.
My travel wifey, Vanessa firmly believes that everything happens for a reason and it certainly seems that way. Because of all this, I got to spend five fantastic weeks exploring New Zealand with a bunch of beautiful people. I got to experience all the best things about Christmas at home with my family and see old friends. I got to spend a month falling in love with Melbourne and I got a friend back in my life I never thought I’d see again. I have been able to live and work in the Australian outback something I could previously only have dreamt of. I have met some lovely people, made friends with some of the cutest calves, seen stunning sunrises and sunsets, seen a real life rodeo and ran away from a couple of snakes. In a global pandemic when the world has gone to shit I have gotten a safe place to hide and a secure job.
So what’s the point of this very long rambling story. That everything turns out for the best? That heartache will pass? That you never know where you’re going to end up? That it’s not the destination it’s the journey? To not make decisions based on boys? Or to make decisions based on boys maybe? All I know is that travelling is a wild and wonderful ride and the best thing to do is to make the most of every situation no matter what got you there. So shout out to that boy for getting me here, you may have been a collosal dick but if it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be in the best possible place I could be right now. Cheers to that. And cheers to another year of adventure may it be just as random, and hopefully with a little less dickhead involved.