3 May 2007

Going Overseas

In seven weeks I'll be leaving the country.

For people who live on other continents, this may not seem like a big thing. You can drive to another country.

I can't imagine what that's like. I can't imagine driving for a few hours, and suddenly being in a different country, with a different language spoken. I can't imagine an international border that does not consist of ocean.

When you're an Aussie who was born here and has never left, the world is divided into two parts. There is Australia, and there is this other place called Overseas. Overseas is where the interesting things happen. Overseas is where the bad, scary things happen. Going Overseas is almost a rite of passage. It doesn't matter where you go. Everywhere that's not here is Overseas.

Australia was started as a prison. For some of us (in other words, me) it still seems like a prison. Unless you have a lot of money, you can't get out of it. You can't walk or drive or swim far enough to get out of it.

When I was young, I had dreams of travelling to far off lands where exciting things happened. I just assumed my life would turn out in a way that let me travel. But it didn't turn out that way.

I watched so many other people leave. It made me so envious and frustrated. I was the one who'd had the dreams of leaving all my life! It wasn't fair of them to live my dreams. I'd thought of it first! And I was the one left behind.

And as the years went by, it began to seem like I'd never leave, like I was stuck on this prison continent. And somehow I twisted my feelings around and learned to love this country, to protect myself from the desire to leave it. Call it a kind of continental Stockholm syndrome, if you will.

Gradually as I grew older, I became scared of leaving. I hid my fear under a veneer of excuses about why I couldn't go.

I don't think I fully realised how afraid I was until this trip flipped over from dream to potential reality. Suddenly, every time I thought of it I became physically sick in my stomach. Talking about it gave me panic attacks. I put off applying for a passport, I put off booking a ticket, I put off paying for the ticket.

Now all this is done. I can't back out now. And suddenly I am free - free of the fear, and free of the bonds that were holding me to this land.

For the first time ever, I'll be flying across the ocean to a place on the other side of the world.

Why? Those of you who've been around here long enough may recall how I wrote about a housemate of mine who came from a foreign country. She became one of my closest friends, and when she left I missed her so much it hurt. So finally, I've been inspired to get off my arse and leave the country, to go and visit her.

Seven weeks and counting.