I traveled around Australia with my cousin when I was 20. Not to be too dramatic (oh go on then) but I had no idea what I supposed to do with my life back then (still not totally sure). I don’t really think anyone does, unless you have one of those true callings like medicine or teaching. (I don’t think drinking cocktails on the beach can be called a vocation?) That trip gave me a focus. I knew I had to come back (possibly a little obsessively though).
As I’ve mentioned before, I totally messed up my exams, I’ve since learnt that stress makes my mind go blank. I can now work around it by making sure I have all my information with me to refer back to. I create this stuff so you would think I would retain in. But it goes back to that whole imposter syndrome thing, this current job makes me feel a bit like they are trying to catch me out. Paranoid much?
But back then I ended up in a full time job at the North London lending centre of the Natwest bank. If you were writing bouncy checks in 1997/98 around North London it was probably me bouncing them back. Sorry.
Still living at home and working in the town I grew up in. I’ve never felt more trapped or left behind. That town still makes me feel like that whenever I go back for a visit. My Dad can never understand why I hate it so much, it’s just another Hertfordshire suburb like any other. But I can never quite vocalise the feelings of failure and disappointment that place still instills in me.
Travelling was the first step to getting away. We were only gone for about 4 months, we had decided we didn’t want to have to work and our budget would just about get us that far in Aus and the USA without having to earn any more money. (With some cool stuff like hot air balloon rides, hiking the Blue Mountains and trips to Disney Land thrown in) There’s probably so many stories from this time. But Byron Bay is the place that I remember as the most life changing. (Cruising around the Whitsundays was another, but I spent most of that trip throwing up over the side of the boat. Damn you motion sickness!)
Nothing particularly epic happened there and the strange thing is I’d actually forgotten how being there made me feel. But going back for a holiday recently brought it all flooding back.
When I was there 20 years ago it was just another stop on the back packer trail. It had the largest number of people on the dole in Aus. It was full of beardy old hippies that hadn’t let go of the 70s. But it was magical. White beaches, choppy seas, and as you can imagine just the most laid back feeling. I’d forgotten that it was Byron that sold Aus to me. I don’t know how I forgot, but 20 years is a long time.
So a few months ago I finally went back. An afterthought from a trip to the Gold coast to see the Commonwealth games. A friend got the tickets and we decided to take the week following as holiday. Mine was to make up for the epic appendix fail trip home.
As per the current form of the time, when we arrived the accomodation had fallen through. I remained surprisingly calm, I think I’d reached a point where I just expected that things would go wrong. It’s a pleasant surprise when things go ok.
Airbnb hooked us up. So we actually upgraded from a small studio to a 2 bedroom house. It was the best thing
that could have happened. I wake up early normally, but it’s all go, I’m off to the gym or work. So waking up early to just sit out front in the sunshine with my coffee was heaven. Just listening to the birds and watching the Geckos. This step was my spot.
It truly is one of the most beautiful and chilled out places I have ever been. It’s definitely changed in 20 years. There is a lot more money around this time. It’s still on the backpacker route, but’s it’s now also the place for the rich and famous of Aus to have a second home. The shops have gone more upmarket and the food has definitely improved. This is probably also because I can afford more than 60c noodles this time around.
One of the best meals we had was an amazing lunch at Rae’s. A beautiful hotel on Wategos Beach. Just a stunning location. Although I didn’t get the memo and wore black, not a natural shade of linen or something the colour of the sea like everyone else. I stuck out like a sore thumb, that has clearly lived in London and Melbourne.
I would also highly recommend The Farm, I think one of the best views I’ve ever had for a breakfast.
All in all, Byron Bay remains one of the most beautiful and affectingly mood altering places I’ve ever been.
Unfortunately this time I had such a good trip, during such a difficult time emotionally and mentally, coming home and getting back to work pushed me over the edge. Seriously need a lottery win so I can just hang here permanently! But here I am, six months out from the trip home that started the downward shift, finally feeling like I’m on the up.
And lucky me, I have been invited to a wedding in Byron Bay in October that is shaping up to be another epic one. I’ve booked myself a very fancy Airbnb so fingers crossed I get to see more sunsets like this.