Goodbye Australia

Matt was the man who took it as his duty to develop my drinking and nightlife expertise so I had arranged a weekend of partying with him in Melbourne before I left Australia. I have lost touch with him since but feel I need to get back in touch to thank him and let him see what a fantastic tutor he had been.

I had been to Melbourne a few times before but only for short weekend trips and the city scared me a little. Coming from Tasmania where everything is small and relaxed to Melbourne where everything seems so big and where you actually have to use public transport can be very daunting.

I had never been on a train or used a bus for anything other than a trip to school and back until I was 21, Now, I have spent more time on them than most bottoms should ever need to endure.

So back then it seemed like a big deal to get a train ticket and be in the big city which made me that even little bit more nervous about the trip I was about to undertake. I would say to myself at the nerve racking moments the thing I still say to this day when I am concerned about a decision, ‘Oh well, what’s the worst that can happen’. This is also a statement that I choose never to answer.

After a boozy weekend in Melbourne it was time to take the Qantas flight to Los Angeles and make my way to Aspen to see Steve. I had arranged to be away for 9 months and then head back to Tasmania but inside I had a feeling that I would be away for quite a bit longer, I don’t know why but I just felt that I would not be coming back any time soon.

On March 23rd 1999 I left Australia and it would be a 3.5 years before I was to set foot on her beautiful soil for another time.

Leaving Home

Let me start by saying, I had never ever wanted travel, it was not something I had ever considered doing or even thought I might end up doing. I just got bored!

Many people ask me whether I will ever be able to settle back in Tasmania after all the places I have been and all the things I have seen, sometimes I think that living back in Tasmania is possibly the thing that I might want the most. After all the things I have seen and the places I have been a beautiful island with friendly people and such a laid back nature seems a fantastic place to settle. How can you knock a life where a beach, mountain, rainforest, green fields and nightlife are all within a 1 hour drive from each other?

Life in Tasmania had always been good. I am the youngest of 4, older brothers and an older sister, as mums little baby it was always easier to get away with things, and to get payback on the brothers beating me up by telling mum they had misbehaved when they hadn’t really. As the youngest it is your duty to exaggerate the truth for revenge right?

Dad had a full time job as a livestock agent and mum was the local school lollipop lady, which dint mean she handed out lollipops to kids crossing the road which I initially thought she did. For a few weeks before she started I couldn’t understand why someone would get paid to hand out teeth rotting candy to kids! The penny dropped when I headed to school and saw that she actually held a stop sign shaped like a lollipop to let us across the road. And the older generation think us youngsters are weird!!

Dad also worked fulltime on his 100 acre hobby farm about 15mins drive from where we lived in town. Many nights and weekends we spent at the farm helping out with the usual tasks involved. Watching your father kill and cut up an aging sheep at a very early age is a very good leveler for life and the experiences you will have in your later years, I think it is from this that I am very Blasé to some of the nasty things I have seen while wandering.

I happily left school to take on an apprenticeship as a mechanical maintenance tradesperson, a combination of the regular fitter and turner and welder trades. I enjoyed this work and seemed to be getting good at it which encouraged my bosses to give me more and more overtime, fantastic for helping me save and invest the money I eventually did before heading off on my travels. I sometimes think that without this hefty nest egg waiting for back home I would never have travelled for as long as I have. Having something to come back to makes it easier to get down to your last few hundred travelling dollars without worrying too much about where the next lot will come from, It just seems to come when you need it.

The company I initially started my apprenticeship with closed down in the 2nd year of my 4 year course. My good karma from hard work repaid itself and the company had North Forest Products take over my apprenticeship and also gave me an unexpected $20,000 redundancy pay out.

Party time? Well not really, as much a shock as it may come to people who have met me on my wanders, I didn’t start drinking until I was nearly 20! And it seems that since that moment I have spent the rest of my days making up for that little bit of lost time.

Working at the wood chipping plant was great fun and I made some very good and lifelong friends there, and some of the weekends we had out were probably so of the best nights we, and maybe even my home city Burnie, had ever seen. I think we all realized that our weekend party antics were pretty good when on our second cocktail party in Warrens garage we had random people knocking on the shed door asking if they could join in, bottle of liquor to donate in hand.

As I say I had never thought of travelling and when I saw the shows on TV and heard my cousin who travelled a lot talk of her trips I was never really that interested in it all. I just wanted to work until I was 30, save my money and retire owning some little business that took care of itself.

But then at age 20, I just got bored, yep the same old same old just got boring and repetitive, much the same as things have since I left the Apple Isle. I reach a point where I need new scenery and just go wherever seems good at the time to get it.

A workmate of mine was heading to Aspen in Colorado to work a ski season as a lift attendant. I considered the options I had at the time and realised that the best was to go somewhere and do something different to have my eyes opened to the world around me, and I also knew Aspen was a celebrity hang out spot and thought it would be cool to be there and act like a local.

It took a few months of planning to arrange to meet Steve there and to decide the stops we would make on our round the world ticket back to Tasmania 9 months later. I was a very naïve traveler and had no interest in seeing most of the places we were stopping at but thought that it had to be done at some point in most people’s life so I would get mine over and done with.

I had left work the day of departure at 2pm and headed straight to the pub and had 3 pints with mates. Mum called wondering where I was and saying it was would be nice to see me for a time before I left and reminded me that I hadn’t actually packed my backpack yet. Oh yeah, better get home and do that and write out my Will just in case.

By 6pm the flight had taken off and I started power drinking ready for the party weekend arranged for me in Melbourne. The guy beside me could not keep up and stopped drinking with me on beer number 3 so I kept ordering for him and double fisting my beers until the flight attendant cut me off as we were starting to land.

So on march 19th 1999 at the age of 21, before there even existed a world where we all had email addresses, I boarded the little twin prop plane from Wynyard airport for my 1 hour flight to Melbourne.

This flight started the trend my life would take for the next 12 years. Always leaving and heading for the next adventure, with a beer in my belly.

See photos for Tasmania: