The damp air greeted the husband and I when we returned once again to the island somewhere around 11pm last Sunday night. We always take the same flight to and from the island. Although the plane itself is cramped with a distinct absence of seat pocket to store your book or magazine (despite it technically being an international flight – no entertainment is provided in economy) the major benefit is the fact that the flight to Europe is non-stop. You leave the island some time before midnight and wake up six hours later in Madrid. Plus, I will admit, the ticket price is consistently cheaper than the alternatives.
For the last three weeks of November, we returned to the Land of Oz. It had been a quick two years since we had last been there (not counting a quiet, unexpected, week-long trip in April). This November trip was a time for family and good friends. While my family and the majority of my friends are dotted around the southern state of Victoria, the husband’s are mostly found one or two states away to the north. For this reason, we went our separate ways, and I was able to embrace my old independent travelling spirit once again. Well, for two of those weeks, anyway.
Landing on Aussie ground – well, it’s pretty much like you never left. Sure, the shops have changed, and the prices of restaurants and cafes seem to have inflated, but other than that, the vibe is the same. And when you return, people are (generally) pretty chuffed to see you. It’s a really nice feeling.
For the duration of my stay, the sense of nostalgia that comes with a return trip permeated the sights and activities. The red dust of far-northern Victoria, the pollen-y eucalypt of central Victoria; the chill in the wind off the southern beaches. The startling bright Queensland sunrise. I was able to enjoy things that you don’t even realise you missed – browsing the supermarket aisles for brands and items you recognize. Jogging outside in the cool morning air, rather than pounding the pointless path of the treadmill. Being able to grab a couple of sushi rolls for lunch or a cappuccino at morning tea.
When you are living on the island, time tends to freeze. This became more obvious on returning to Oz and noticing how much life has progressed. My family’s new house. My nephews’ transformations into little people with voices and questions. My dear friend’s new baby. Other dear friends, married, now pregnant. And of course, the older generation that have passed.
It was an absolute blast to return to the red dirt and vines of Mildura and know that my best bud is still my best bud in spite of a two year gap. A day of wine tasting, cheese plates and chips is all you need. It was relaxing to sip champagne with mum in the new house and then delve into the cavernous walk-in pantry just to marvel at the variety of snacks available. Empowering to enter my old office, be welcomed with (mostly!) open arms and yet know that I made the absolute right decision in leaving. And so, so nice, just to talk to old friends who still love me enough to make the time to see me when so much in our lives has changed.
Although we are set to return again in January for another whirlwind week, after that date I do not know when we will see Oz again. Of course, there is always the risk that the Employment Gods decide to rain on us and we will be on the next flight leaving the island (and not necessarily direct to Madrid). But we continue to hope that that does not happen.
And so as we settle once again into our daily island bubble routine, I send out love to those family and friends back in Oz as we edge nearer to the season of celebrating Christmas and new beginnings. We may not see each other “soon” but you’re always in my thoughts. And I look forward to our next hug and glass (bottle?*) of wine.
*All right, several bottles in your case Michelle.