‘I can’t believe I’m finally doing this’, I said to myself, while I sat in the cramped window seat of a plane heading to Sydney, Australia! I thought I’d be clever and learn how to say ‘G’day, mate!’ with an Australian accent but the more I tried the worse I sounded.
Charleston airport was quieter than I thought it would be, considering all the shenanigans on the news, so it didn’t take long to check my bags, clear customs, and find my seat on the jet. When I told my friends what I was about to do, they thought I was crazy. Especially as I’ve never done anything spontaneous or brave in my thirty-five years on this planet. Which my now ex-wife would whole heartedly agree on.
After our divorce, I moved into a small apartment that I recently rented. We didn’t have any children so there weren’t any serious repercussions but since I had nothing tying me down, apart from a stable job, I thought, ‘screw it!’. I spent my whole life choosing the safe option, being conservative and just being… boring, and for what? Things fell apart anyway, and I didn’t have fun in the meantime, so a week ago, I went to my local travel agent and surveyed the travel posters on the wall, to see where I wanted to go for an extended holiday. Away from my job, my worries, and my life.
The travel agent approached me and asked,
“Good morning, sir. Thinking about going on a holiday?”
I turned and found a pretty girl in a corporate uniform, with a dark brown bob cut, fair skin and bright red lips. She was full figured, had expressive eyes and full of confidence – right up my alley. Being built for comfort myself, I’ve been told I was handsome with dark brown wavy hair, goatee, and hipster glasses. Shaking off the few sparks of attraction, I responded,
“Uhm… Yeah! But I don’t know where yet.”
“Well, if you have any questions, I’ll just be over here… my name is Anna.”
Then she smiled and left me to it. As there were so many destinations, it made the choice harder and not simpler. Hmmm… Tokyo? Nope. Berlin? Nope. Sydney…
I’ve always been intrigued with Australia, with its back to front weather (Their seasons are opposite to ours), freaky animals, and laid-back population. Sydney looked like a beautiful city, with the Opera House, Harbor bridge and slate blue harbor. With that in mind, I walked over to Anna and asked,
“Tell me about Sydney?”
“Sydney, Nova Scotia or Sydney Australia?”
Was Anna’s question and I almost laughed when I responded,
“Australia. Gee, I’m glad you checked as I would have been ‘really’ confused walking through the streets of Cape Breton Island looking for koala souvenirs!”
Anna’s laugh was musical and a moment later, we sat at her desk and went over some details.
What’s your name?
“Danny. Danny Johnson.”
“When did you want to go, Danny?”
Was my response.
“For how long?”
With most of my assets liquidated, I didn’t have much in the way of limitations, so I responded,
“As long as possible. I’m in no hurry to come back. ‘If’ I come back at all!”
And we both laughed.
We booked an open return-date flight leaving a week later, as well as a nice harbour facing room in the Ibis Sydney, Darling harbour for three weeks… to start. Anna explained that it had an amazing view of the Sydney skyline, which was only a short walk from the hotel. In fact, she had hoped to visit Sydney herself and this was the hotel that she would have booked.
Anna then explained that there were many options on how to get around, including, ferry’s, trains, trams, Uber, Taxis, and busses, so if I stayed in Sydney, I wouldn’t need a car. The number of things to do and see withing a square mile was mind boggling and I was so happy with my decision. There were a few casinos, restaurants, nightclubs, zoos, shopping malls, parks, amusement parks, historical monuments and the more we discussed a possible itinerary the more we ‘both’ became excited.
The list just went on an on and the way Anna explained it to me, Sydney was like a cross between New York (without the rude people) and Venice, with so many waterways, harbours, and bays. She was so helpful, friendly, made the whole process effortless, and I didn’t know if she was just being a great travel agent or…
One of my requests, was a window seat and she explained that the flight from LAX to Sydney was usually quite full, then I asked,
“How long did you say the flight from LAX to Sydney was again?!”
“Sixteen hours… and you lose a whole calendar day by arriving in a different time zone. Look at this.”
She showed me the itinerary then continued,
“You will leave LAX on 10:00 PM Sunday night ‘in Winter’ and arrive in Sydney on Tuesday, 7:00 AM ‘in Summer!’ Crazy, huh?”
My mind began to swim with the prospect of being stuck in a plane for so long. I’ve only flown a few times before, but for a few hours at a time and when I included the total wait time at Charleston, Atlanta, then finally Los Angeles, it worked out to be one… whole… day…
Anna could see the light gradually dying in my eyes and said,
“Hey. I promise you it will be worth it, and I’ll make sure that I have someone fun sit beside you!”
And with that, I walked out of the travel agency with a large folder, containing all the documents and tickets I needed. For the next week, I made arrangements with my office… Telling them I was off for three weeks (without letting on that it may be much, much longer) and if it lost me my job, well so be it. I also Googled everything I could about Sydney. Writing down the places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do but I stopped after the first few pages because my head began spinning with ideas.
The day before my trip, I traveled to downtown Charleston, South Carolina to buy a suitcase and just happened to pass the travel agent that I planned my trip in. Anna had just finished with a client and turned to see me peering through the large front window. She waved then smiled, and after I waved back, I continued self-consciously on my way.
The thump from the baggage compartment door, brought me back to the present and I looked at the empty seat beside me. Being a small plane, it only had two seats per side but the bigger planes to Los Angeles then Sydney, would have three beside the windows, as well as a whole row in the centre of the plane.
While watching the strange looking vehicles on the tarmac zoom back and forth from various planes, I heard someone open the overhead compartment directly above me, but I didn’t immediately make eye contact. The same way that I didn’t look someone in the eyes when stepping onto an elevator. My row twelve co-passenger then took a seat and I heard,
At that very moment, I though that reality had broken down because low and behold, I was sitting next to Anna from the travel agency. Sensing my shock, she cheekily added,
“I told you that I would have someone fun sit beside you!”
I stared so hard, without blinking once. So much so that I felt my eyeballs drying up and it was then that Anna panicked.
“I’m sorry to freak you out and I promise that I’m not stalking you! It’s just… you were about to go on my dream vacation, and I saw that we were the same age then thought ‘what was I waiting for?’ You will never see me again once we get off this plane!”
As the building blocks of the universe fell back into place, I thought that this was a neat scenario, so I said,
“Hey, I’m cool! I just… didn’t expect to see anyone that I knew! While we’re in Sydney together, I wouldn’t mind catching up for dinner or drinks. Just so we can compare notes. What do you think?”
Anna became immediately relieved and said,
“That would be nice… Well, Danny. My name is Anna Beaumont.”
We proceeded to exchange phone numbers and discussed what we would do when we arrived at our hotel rooms… which were right beside each other.
The flight(s) were as long as promised but having a charming girl sit beside me made it seem quite pleasant. In fact, we got on very well together and talked about everything. Like how Anna had broken up with her boyfriend about six months ago and when my train wreck of a marriage ceased.
Before we knew it, the screen on the headrest in front of me, displayed a little plane on the map of the world, entering Australian airspace. I made Anna jump into the window seat so she could get the best view, but I explained that being taller, it would be easy for me to lean over and look out.
We watched as all the tall skyscrapers came into view, surrounding the various bays and waterways.
Anna turned to me with a big smile on her face and said,
And I wasn’t just talking about the view. Sydney looked amazing and I was so excited to be visiting and happy that I did something spontaneous and daring. Who knows! If I really like it, I might not go back!
No more safe options for me. If I fall on my face, then so be it. It seemed that my open-ended ticket was a symbol of my new life.
Open to adventure…
Open to love…
Open to life…
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A positive and optimistic story- I want to go to Sydney now too-