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Reisverslag For as long as I can remember
13 oktober 2014
For as long as I can remember
Throughout my childhood years, my aunt and two cousins would make the long trip back to The Netherlands every four or five years. Those family visits and the blue airmail letters with faraway stamps of koalas and kangaroos inbetween probably fueled my curiosity for this far-away land further. By the late 90s, I had heard so many second-hand stories about Australia that I was dying to see it for myself. I don't remember what came first - the vague plans of a new family holiday to Australia or my incessant inquiries with my parents if or when this type of holiday would happen again - but I do remember the excitement I felt when in 1999 we all got on a plane and once again made our way to this magical land of Aus.
I completely fell in love with Australia on that trip. We spent the first two weeks with my family in Nashua, a small town near Byron Bay NSW, before packing our suitcases into a campervan for another three weeks and travelling from Brisbane along the Queensland coast up to the Daintree region. I loved being on the road and finally get a first-hand experience of the land Down Under. I was young enough to not mind so much that it got dark at 6pm and we were mostly surrounded by the over 60 age category on camp grounds – the infamous grey nomads - instead of the long light Summer nights and families with kids of similar age we were usually surrounded by on our camping holidays in Europe. I was also old enough to really soak up the trip and realise this was a type of holiday that wouldn’t happen too often. I cried on the plane back to The Netherlands, because I just didn’t want to leave.
I guess from that holiday on, it was only a matter of time before I would return to Australia. When my sister was about to finish high school some three years before me, my parents had floated the idea of a gap year with her. My sister decided it wasn’t for her, but I remember thinking even at 14 of how awesome that would be. So when my time came to finish high school mid-2004 and think about what next, I knew deep down I didn’t want to start studying straight away. I felt too young – which probably sounds crazy to some considering I didn’t feel too young to go to the other side of the world by myself. I was barely 17 and scared as hell when I pressed the ‘send’ button at the end of 2003 to apply for a high school exchange year to Australia.
Pressing that send button was one of my best decisions ever though. And in early August 2004, I boarded a plane to Australia for the third time in my life. This time I was Melbourne bound, where I arrived some 24 hours later in the middle of the night local time, jet-lagged, tired and filled with nervous excitement as I walked out into the arrivals hall to meet my new family. Like five years before, I fell in love with Australia all over again during my exchange year. This time not only with the country, but also with its people. My Aussie family shared so much of their lives with me, taking me in as their ‘Dutch daughter’ and making me feel like a part of them. And the friends I made along the way – both local Aussies and fellow exchange students – taught me you can start over and build a new life for yourself anywhere. Even when you’re that strange tall Dutch girl with the funny accent who can sometimes be way too direct and takes way too many photos ;) As I left for The Netherlands at the end of my exchange year, I cried on the plane once again for having to leave it all behind.
Although it felt like forever at the time, it didn’t take too long before I returned again in 2007. I was afraid life in Australia wouldn’t fit me anymore, like my Dutch life didn’t fit me for a while after coming back from my exchange in 2005. But I discovered that although things were different, I hadn’t outgrown it the way I had outgrown my Dutch life previously. Being back in Aus that Summer holiday with my fam felt like coming home away from home. I had missed it; the feel of it, the smells and sounds and the wide open spaces. Showing my Dutch family just a tiny bit of my Aussie life during that trip and introducing them to my Aussie family was awesome =)
Coming back to live in Australia a second time in 2008 and being able to immerse myself in uni-life in Adelaide for a whole semester was such a special experience too. Where during my Melbourne exchange I was mostly surrounded by Aussies, I spent most of my Adelaide exchange in the company of fellow exchange students from all over the world. They re-opened my eyes to some of the weird Australian idiosyncrasies I had already gotten used to during my earlier travel/exchange experiences. It made me realise how much Australia had become a part of me, and at the same time how much I was a born and bred Dutch girl too. I don’t have to give up on my natural inner Dutchie when I’m in Australia the way I have to give up on my adopted inner Aussie when I’m in The Netherlands, I guess.
By now it’s already been over six years since I’ve set foot on Australian soil, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about it or the people it holds for me, however fleeting those thoughts sometimes are. Although the long distance makes it hard to keep in touch, I know the connections are still there. I’m reminded of it every time people come to visit and a glimpse of my Aussie life collides with my Dutch life =) The most recent visit in this series was from my hostdad at the start of August this year, almost exactly 10 years to the date of our first meeting at the airport. To be on the same side of the world again for just a little while and be able to show ‘my’ (honorary) Aussies just a tiny bit of my country and my life in it when they’ve shown me so much of theirs is simply wonderful.
So I guess the question now is not if I’ll ever come back to Australia, but when. Going off earlier patterns, I obviously have to go at least once in every decade of my life. That leaves me with just over five more years for the 2010s, or just over two more years until I’m in my thirties (how scary does that sound by the way!). Who knows? All I know is Australia will always be a part of my life. Like it has been for as long as I can remember.
Until we meet again, know that I miss you. Sending much love to all corners of the world.
Foto's bij verslag (53)
14 oktober 2014 13:01 | Door: Froukje
Haha, ik zeg: gaan! ;-)
14 oktober 2014 22:02 | Door: Annet
Wat leuk al die foto's door de jaren heen. Dierbare herinneringen voor jou.
15 oktober 2014 17:15 | Door: Renske
Michelin mannetje rules ;)
15 oktober 2014 19:28 | Door: Papa
Ja dochter, het zit diep. Mooi alles op een rijtje gezet. Koester het maar.