On a beautiful 20 degree afternoon in London I was dreaming of what was in store for us when I looked up to see a flight descending into one of the airports nearby.
Its tail was red and I swear I could see that iconic white kangaroo. I had sudden recollection of the Qantas ad from years ago, the one where the children’s choir was filmed singing in the red desert, on the rock cliffs and on the white sands of Australia’s amazing beaches.
Only after having been away for so long, could I comprehend the meaning of that song.
It had been over two years since my last swim in the Aussie ocean. I missed the quality of the beef steak, I missed the freedom of owning a car, and I missed being able to drop around to a long-term friend’s place for a cuppa or a beer.
It’s the little things that get you in the end, and I knew I was ready.
When your visa expiry date is fast approaching and you have a limited time left in London, you start to go a little crazy. Having witnessed it happen to many others before me, I decided to prepare well in advance. But you get lost in the London life and suddenly months become weeks and the countdown is on. Fear sets in when you realise the little time you have left and you start to think of ways you can come back.
The last minute must-do bucket-list
My husband and I started to prepare for our return to reality in Australia with five months left in the UK; we planned out our last holidays and weekends.
My first step was to work out what needed to be ticked off the bucket-list and what countries we wanted to visit. At the top of our list; the ANZAC Day dawn service at Gallipoli, cooking classes in Tuscany, sailing in Croatia, beers in Prague and historical sites in Poland.
Then we made a list of all of the things we wanted to do while in London; the Jack the Ripper tour, the secret bar at the Breakfast Club, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards at the Natural History Museum, a night out at Fabric, and a music festival in Hyde Park. Having missed out on tickets for Glastonbury, a summer on the European continent was ours for the taking and we were going to make the most of it.
Unfortunately, our bank balance was not keeping up with the programme and we were not going to be able to achieve as much as we had hoped.
The longest (and cheapest) way home
So began the daily ordeal of scanning flight websites and travel agent deals, trying to find the cheapest way home that didn’t include an 11 hour stop-over or driving through the Middle East. We considered some crazy options… If we made it to Eastern Europe we could catch a bus to Istanbul and fly to Brisbane via a quick holiday in Beijing, the Philippines and Perth. If we were somewhere in Italy we could go via the Maldives for only a few hundred more… the possibilities were endless, but sadly, the bank account was not.
Frustratingly, a one way flight is about 80% of the cost of a return flight. The best priced flight we found was around £550 per person on a one way, 35 hour flight, stopping over in the Philippines. The reviews weren’t great.
What to put in the bag (or shipping box)?
Then it was time to work out what was coming home with us, what was going to the local charity shop and what we could sell on eBay or Gumtree to make a little extra cash.
Every souvenir, item of clothing, electronic and adapter was strewn across every surface of the bedroom as we tried to eliminate the unnecessary and calculate the number of shipping boxes we would need to order. The entire process only raised more questions. How did hubby end up with so many winter coats? Would we ever use that many shot glasses? Will we ever wear the dinosaur onesie again?
It took two weeks to get the room back to a state where we could see the floor again. I crossed my fingers that it would all fit into four large boxes to be shipped home.
At first I was sad to be leaving behind the life that we had created in London and the friends we had met along the way. Since leaving Australia for our extended honeymoon we had travelled to so many wonderful places, from New York, to Lyon and old London town.
To borrow some fitting lyrics from that haunting song, I’m always travelling, I love being free. And so I keep leaving the sun and the sea. But my heart lies waiting, over the foam…
I still call Australia home.
Reader poll: What’s the greatest song for homesick Australians?
Also by Jacqui on Australian Times:
Read Jacqui’s blog about her overseas working holiday adventures with her husband: NeverEndingHoneymoon.net