Many moons ago, at the end of 1999, I embarked on my first travelling trip away from home. It was not only my first travelling adventure, it was also the first ever time I had lived away from my parental home. Thirteen years later, a lot older, hopefully a lot wiser, but still with a keen sense of adventure and an explorer spirit, it is time to pay homage to my last big trip.
In 1999 it was a time without digital cameras; the internet was just in its beginning stages; computers were big and bulky; and you did not even take a mobile phone when travelling. Finding out about places to visit was done prior to my trip on a very slow modem-based internet, through the use of the old trusty well-worn guidebook, and word-of-mouth guidance from other travellers.
I can look back on it as a whirlwind of fabulous life changes, but reading my travel diary I see how young I was, how insecure, lacking in confidence and less wordy in my writing skills, not forgetting my appalling photography (wide grin). But now, as I allow in further opportunities to travel, I feel it is time to re-visit and to reminisce, for any would-be backpackers and armchair travellers to the country of Australia (and a brief stop in Malaysia).
THE GRAND DEPARTURE
|Me, Mum & Dad - obviously much younger|
So leaving one's family for the first time is seriously an understatement when I say BIG OLÉ' SCARY! And add a dash of a wailing (not joking here), wailing Mother, and for me, deep breathing was very necessary.
|My sister Lisa and I the year I left for Oz|
I said goodbye to my Dad and my little Sister the night before and on the day it was time to leave I tried to say goodbye to my Mum. She was so distraught you would think I was dying not leaving home for the first time, bless her. I had to leave the house on my own while she closed the living room door and wailed like a banshee. I think her heart must have felt like it was being ripped out. My taxi arrived and I hopped in recovering from the rather stressful goodbye. 'Stiff upper lip' doesn't do that term justice.
New to travelling, clueless as to how much I would need, not even considering I was going to a westernised country, I took with me a very large backpack, the kitchen sink, everything I could possibly need to trek through some isolated twilight zone, not, dare I say it - Australia.
And, to add to my already heavy backpack, I took a 35 litre daysack packed to the point of not being able to open it hardly. It was a very excellent weapon if anyone came near me as it was as heavy and as solid as a brick (grin).
Fortunately I had time to semi-settle down after the farewell ordeal as I had organised my trip so my initial flight-over would not be alone. I had met a guy on the internet, a travel site back in the early internet days. I think it was called TNT. I met Matt at Reading train station after stuffing my backpack onto the train, experiencing a break-down of my connecting train to Reading, and meeting with the rush hour business traffic. I was hot, sweaty and stressed.
And knowing now what I did not know then, I have other ideas about travelling as my more experienced adult self.
I stayed at Matt's overnight and did not sleep at all. I simply had too much nervous adrenalin and anxiety to be able to contain it. Matt on the other-hand was chilled out. He was only going on a 2 week holiday and coming straight back. He did nothing to soothe my nerves, unfortunately, as we had had a brief (ahem) encounter of the physical kind on my initial meet-up with him to see if we could travel together. Needless to say that did not go well and that was why he was only going on a 2 week holiday and not a full year. I smile now, but back then I took it very personally as a shy sensitive woman.
Blessed by that experience I now realise it was for the absolute best because for the rest of the journey I was truly travelling alone, independent, the adventurer and explorer I always dreamt of being.
I love airports. I find them thrilling, exciting, full of promise and possibility now. Back in 1999 I loved airports because of the memory of fond holidays with family, but on the outward journey I was shaking inside and found it hard to get my breath. At the departure airport (Heathrow), I think I was more terrified than excited. I know I am probably not the only one embarking on an exciting adventure to have these feelings. As someone that has had quite challenging anxiety most of my early life, this was a big leap for me, a huge step on my life journey.
Heathrow is a huge airport, lots of walking or travelling in tube-like trains between departure gates.
|Ti. Mo Photos shared via Creative Commons|
THE FLIGHT TO OUR STOPOVER
In 1999 I had no idea that if you go in one direction to Australia you will not get terrible jetlag, whereas if you go in the other direction (the direction I went in) you will. I had arranged to stopover in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur. We flew with Quantas, and as many young backpackers will have experienced, we flew in economy for I think about 14 hours and the continuing trip was around 10 hours. Being 5'10" and with some crazy knee problems (I now realise it was a fear of change being reflected in my joints at the time) the comfort level left much to be desired. It was however amazing, lifting off the ground and saying goodbye to the UK.
I slept little. 'Economy' is not for light sleepers, and I watched movies on the little monitor in front of me. I got very excited watching the flight map as we flew over different countries.
|Me outside The King's Palace in Kuala Lumpur - 1999|
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur in the late afternoon I think (it's all a bit vague right now; it was a long time ago) and piled into a cab to our hotel. The experience was surreal, reminiscent of the movie 'Big Trouble in Little China'. In fact our cab driver reminded me of the guide from that movie.
It was an alien landscape to me. After only knowing holidays in the Meditteranean and the UK, packaged very neatly into tidy boxes, where everyone speaks English, the food is English, to somewhere where most don't and the food is completely not English, I was a little taken aback but also thoroughly excited.
We both tried to sleep that evening but our body clocks were completely messed up, so late in the evening we went for a walk. The heat of Kuala Lumpur is outstanding. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before; extreme humidity which actually encouraged you to slow right down, to slow your movements, to slow your breathing. I must say it was excellent for my then anxiety. Kuala Lumpur relaxed me totally.
We were looking for something to eat but neither of us actually fancied Malaysian food that night. We were just desperately hungry. I think we managed to find something resembling an American chicken takeaway and had some chicken. We later wandered a little and I smelt the most atrocious smell. It was from a fruit that is very popular in Malaysia called the Durian fruit. Tastes delicious - smells plain awful.
We returned to our blissfully cool air-conditioned hotel and finally got a little shut-eye. This hotel was amazingly inexpensive and was more like a 4 Star hotel in the UK.
|An example of the skyline in Kuala Lumpur |
Michael Foley Photography Shared Via Creative Commons.
The next day we began our whistle-stop tour of Kuala Lumpur. I think I stayed there 3 nights. My diary-keeping was particularly rubbish back then, with one date and then no dates for a few days, but I guess I was not thinking I would be revealing all these details to the world-wide-web some day, but here I am.
So we began a short tour by first visiting the King's Palace, Twin Towers and Chinatown.
One thing I must say about the Malaysian people is that they are so incredibly friendly. We felt very welcome everywhere we went. Even if they did not understand what we were asking, they always welcome us with a big smile. A true testimant to a beautiful culture.
|Auswandern Malaysia - shared via Creative Commons|
Next Stop >>>> Sydney Australia....
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