Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Place in my Heart Mini Series: Darwin, Australia

In June 2010, I was lost and not in a way which owning a Sat-Nav could cure. I was working 80 hours plus a week, obsessed with work and had zero energy, social life or real perspective. On a flight of whimsy and in need of a break, I booked a flight to Australia to visit a friend. She lives in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, a full eight hour flight away from Sydney and most other typical tourist destinations. Unlike the rest of Australia in winter, Darwin is dry and hot in the summer. So with guaranteed sunshine, and the freeing concept of being over 7000km away from work, I went.

I am thankful 1 million times over that I did.

Most people don't tend to visit Darwin for very long unless a seasonal worker, member of the military, an inhabitant or a freedom loving hippy (Yes they DO exist and in abundance here). There is not much 'to do' per se, but it is a beautiful, unique place.
On setting foot on Australian soil for the first time, however, it appeared to me to be the most terrifying location ever. I spent my whole time in the luggage hall, checking for Huntsman spiders loitering to jump me. The first evening we sat out in a garden, I didn't want to keep my feet on the floor for fear of creepie crawlies and in all honesty, the first time I saw the stunning ocean in front of the Mindl Beach Markets I thought: sharks! Everything was familiar, but altogether different at the same time. Even the chicken things that roamed the streets looked like prehistoric nasties....and don't get me started on the bizarre running-on-two-legs-like-a-human lizards. It was a bit like I had spent so many hours absorbed in work a whole sub-species of crazy creatures had taken over the planet, or everything had evolved in the space of a few years.
Once calmer, I spent a lot of time doing nothing. It's harder than it first appears for someone who is usually busy most minutes of the day. I walked along the beach, into town for a coffee, read books and waited for my friend and her family to return from work. As life became less hectic, and I realised there were no six-foot-tall spiders going to attack me, or crocodiles hiding in drains, I started to chill out. It is that pivotal moment when you walk into a foreign hairdressing salon and ask them to 'do what they think best' that you know a corner is being turned in terms of letting go. When a camp hairdresser called Randy gives you the most epic haircut of your life, then and ONLY then, does the transformation start.
 I also saw a whole family of teachers who were able to work 8 hours a day and then have a life. The concept was revolutionary. After two weeks of Darwin, I was ready to live again - so I did - I went to the outback.

Camping at Kakadu (a National Park the size of Wales people) was an experience I will never forget. It was sweaty, dirty, terrifying, and eye-opening. I saw my first wild croc, a bird that walks on water, swam in waterfalls (with an Iguana once), shared a toilet block with an actual poisonous spider, slept under the stars (with genuine risk of waking up sharing my sleeping bag with a snake or scorpion) and ate real Kangaroo on a campfire.
When I returned, gone was the girl who wouldn't sit on the grass two weeks ago. I was ready to take on the world.

The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of concerts, dinners, and trips as I tried to devour as much of the life Darwin gave me a taster of. On my last night, dancing in a dodgy bar named Monsoons....I met Andi. And rather than running away from this gorgeous, tall specimen of Germaness, I had found the courage to talk back to him and what's more, I had a lot more to say than the person who had arrived just 5 weeks before. None of it was related to teaching, beyond explaining what I did for a job.
Darwin changed me in ways I could not have imagined, but it gave me courage to embrace the unknown; it reignited my passion for travel; it made me prioritise people over work and it made me change my lifestyle when I arrived home. I will always have a big Darwin-sized chunk of love in my heart for this city and everything it did to save me.....even if it still didn't help me to get a tan!
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Alyx said...

Sounds like this trip was meant to be. And I love that you met Andi at the end of it, after a "transformation" of sorts. Sounds like the timing was impeccable!

Lyndsay FizzyPeaches said...

Wow, that is an amazing experience to have had. I love Australia but have never made it up to Darwin, it looks just awesome. Thanks for posting your pictures! :)

Lyndsay xx

Cocalores said...

Besides sharing the toilet with that big spider, this sounds like an absolutely awesome experience! I guess it was just meant to be, right? xo


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