For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated flying. As a child, I once flew to Greece with my family (from France), and I vividly remember being afraid during our somewhat rocky landing in Athens (I was five at the time). After this experience, I didn’t fly again until I was 17 and going to Spain on my own to visit my brother. I did NOT enjoy flying, once again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who gets extremely anxious before flying and is on the verge of going home before boarding. I don’t enjoy it, but if I have to do it, I manage. I get sweaty palms during take-off, but I somehow eventually end up forgetting I am on a plane. And funnily enough, I love airports! (Probably because they represent travelling and going on holiday, or picking up loved ones after a long absence -- only positive things, really).
But back to the subject: Because I love travelling (as all of us on this blog do), I don’t really have an alternative choice when it comes to long distance travel. Even if I’ve become more and more conscious of my carbon footprint, if I want to go to Australia, I won’t be able to get there by train or boat, or a combination of the two (I have vacation time, which is generous in Europe as compared to my friends in other parts of the world...but not that much!). Before going to Australia, the longest flight I had ever been on was 8.5 hours to go to the US (that’s a lot, but manageable) and mostly, I would fly around Europe on flights that did not exceed 3.5 hours.
So here’s the dilemma: I was talking about Australia, right? 24-hour flight?! Never in my entire life! (That’s the voice in my head!). But my yearning for visiting this country began when I was a teenager. I remember when a cousin came back from her honeymoon and showed me pictures of the red desert and Uluru. I was mesmerized! So when one of my best friends from London announced she was going to live there for at least a year with her boyfriend, I figured there was no better occasion to finally go and face my flying fears!
I started looking into ideal dates. Considering my job, I didn’t have many alternatives other than going during the Christmas break and adding on a few extra days to make the journey worthwhile. Because the plan was to visit my friends, I would travel by myself (horror!), and meet them there along the way. My idea was to visit a few places I absolutely wanted to see, not knowing if I would get a chance to come back to Australia a second time in my life. Uluru was my number one priority, and Sydney also, where I wanted to spend the New Year’s celebrations, and where I would meet my friends.
When I started planning this trip and looking at the places I wanted to visit, I realised this country was absolutely gigantic! A distance that seemed “small” on the map ended up being a 24-hour bus journey! (For instance, between Cairns and Hervey Bay). That’s when I realised I would really be out of my comfort zone out there...and also the moment I decided this trip would be the trip where I would face my fears and go beyond my usual traveling habits.
If I’m going to do something out of character, I might as well go for it all the way!
Don’t get me wrong -- I advance-planned my itinerary, means of transportation, where I would stay each night, what activities I would do...it wasn’t a complete “adventure”. But to me, the adventure was to be alone on the other side of the world, doing things I would never have thought of doing before, and during a time usually spent with family.
...Not to mention the fact I was backpacking my way through an enormous continent solo and sleeping in shared hostel dorm rooms, all during Christmas time while my family was back home in France celebrating together.
But oh, how this trip was memorable! I won’t go through the details of everything I did and everywhere I went because it would be too long to recount...but the trip taught me I was able to face (some of) my fears and step outside my comfort zone. I mean, after this, going on a plane was just like waiting for the bus. Something of everyday life! (Despite my fear of flying, I took off and landed 8 times in 17 days!).
Also, so that you can understand the full story, I ended up being on my own for the entire trip, as my friends weren’t able to meet me in Sydney as we had originally planned. However, I did manage to meet a former colleague who lived in Sydney (thanks, Dana!), and she took me to the Blue Mountains and the Featherdale Wildlife Park where I saw the cutests animals (koalas and kangaroos included).
But apart from that day, it was a true solo trip for the 17 days I was there (24th December 2015 to 9th January 2016), and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. I met people at hostels, and one of them I met later on for New Year’s Eve as she (like me) didn’t have any plans but was going to be in Sydney at the time. I went on group excursions, and being the only solo traveler, ended up spending a lot of time talking with the guides (which I loved as they were both wealths of knowledge about Australia!).
It was my first solo trip, and it was thousands of miles away from home. But it was exhilarating, and I was neither bored nor lonely for one second of the trip. Each day I was discovering something new: a bird I had never seen before, giant bats, amazing flowers and trees, and so much more. I felt like I was in some sort of exotic land (which was the case for the European woman that I am!).
Today, I have only good memories of this trip, and if I ever feel sad or helpless, I have a small tattoo** reminding me of it, and what I managed to accomplish. I had never been so out of place and out of my comfort zone, but yet I felt fearless and proud.
That goes to say that we all have fears and concerns in life, but I believe we are all capable of facing them in one way or another. We just have to believe we can and the rest will come.
My favourite things from Australia (not in order of preference):
To read more about Marion growing up in France, her adventures living in London and now Paris, and her travels over the past few years, check out her ESG blog page.