16th of July
I’m currently in Abu Dhabi airport – a place I never really thought I’d be sitting. Not that in my life I didn’t anticipate airport or travelling, the Untied Arab Emirates was just never on that mental list.
It’s thirty-five degrees here, as opposed to the eight degrees I left back in Melbourne. The jacket I cleverly thought to wear rather than pack in an exorbitant waste of precious space is shed and on the chair beside me.
So far the trip has been – and dare I say it and risk jinxing is all – easy. Perhaps this is due to the pendant around my neck given to me by my sister depicting the god Ganesh. A custom’s lady here in Abu Dhabi remarked on it, surprised to see a young, blonde white-boy wearing it. When she queried me with “Ganesh?”, and pointed to it, I confidently replied “Yes, Ganesh. The remover of obstacles,” as if I was the embodiment of all worldly knowledge on the religion of Hindu. I assure you I’m not, and have my sister to thank for this scrap of information that helped me win over the custom’s lady.
I have a cold at the moment, an apparently immutable side-effect of travelling, even when just setting off, it seems. I have been hoarding tissues to get me through the flights – they may be the most important thing in the world to me right now. Luckily for me, and my fellow passengers, I have had the window seat with my last two flights, and could at least turn away when expelling the contents of my nasal cavity.
I am missing my family and friends, but more so due to the knowledge of how long it will be until I see them than from any huge passage of time so far. It has been eighteen hours since I hugged my parents, sister and brother goodbye at the airport.
On the flight from Melbourne to Sydney I sat next to a couple heading to a national go-karting competition that they were officiating. In another apparently immutable side-effect of travelling, they were from Morwell, and we discussed people who had grown up down the road from me while growing up. From Sydney to Abu Dhabi I sat next to a sweet Italian couple who were heading to Napals for the first time in fifteen years to visit family. After helping Marie find the port for her headphones post her attempts to shove the plug into a USB port, we became firm friends.
I’m now off to message family and friends through the mundane miracle of the internet. Thank god I live in a time when even here, alone in the Abu Dhabi airport, I’m not really alone.
17th of July — scratch that, 18th of July
I had good intentions to write yesterday, but ran dry on time and motivation. Jet lag and a few beers were to blame.
So I’m in Italy. In Rome. From our small apartment I can hear church bells ringing out, and yesterday I wandered through the ruins of the Colosseum. To say it feels surreal doesn’t do it justice to the sense of dislocation and wonder. Italy has been a presence since childhood due to my primary school’s weak attempt to teach us Italian, and because of this I saw pictures of the Colosseum at the same time I was reading children’s books. Somewhere in my head the concepts merged, and the land of Italy joined the ranks of Narnia and Middle-Earth as just another fantasy land. To be here, to be walking through the physical evidence of those childhood stories is…well, imagine getting to meet Aslan. Yeah.
The food has incredibly lived up to the hype, and I can foresee myself happily eating my way across Europe. A friend from Austria asked if I’d brought loose-fitting pants for the trip due to all the delicious food I’d be eating — I no longer think she was joking. I’ve made a promise to myself to maintain my exercise, if only so I can completely indulge in the food, guilt-free. Because, let’s face it — I’m not going to hold back on the food.
A change of location now: I’m on a train heading towards Salerno. We were originally going to brave a bus and save some euros but google failed us and delivered us to the train station. And seeing as we were at the train station…needless to say, we took the train. Which, while sitting here, still warm despite the train’s air-conditioning, is probably a good thing — air-conditioning was not guaranteed on the bus. We also learnt the hard way that seats on the train are allocated, and after an awkward bilingual conversation with an elderly Italian couple, wrestled our over-sized bags through three very cramped and full carriages to our seats.
The beautiful Italian countryside is whipping past the windows, so I’m going to stop and enjoy that for a bit.
19th of July
I am on a balcony, three stories above the ground in the seaside town of Salerno. Our apartment building bookends the street, and from my vantage point I’m looking down the corridor of buildings, painted an assortment of creams and tan. Scooters and cars drift by on this lazy Sunday morning, and it is all perfectly stereotypically Italian.
The Italian summer is definitely a contender for an Australian summer — temperatures remain in the mid-thirties. Our current place is lacking in air-conditioning, and while the owners promised us a fan, they were successful in breaking said fan in their attempt to construct it. So no fan. Luckily, all three of us, Dom, Nikki and myself, are all veterans of a summer in Brunswick, a red-brick house deprived of insulation, and are familiar with braving the heat. This mostly involves laying topless (Dom and I, not Nikki) on the cold tiles and doing as little as possible.
We took a stroll through Salerno and alone the coast — the township curled alone the crag of land with mountains standing senile behind and the sun dripping down in a haze of orange. It was beautiful. And made more so by the beer we enjoyed.
A concert was taking place on the beach in a temporary stadium, with a line of teenage girls waiting to get it. We managed to discern the headliners were a group called “The Kolors,” which we presume are like an Italian One Direction. Dom was disappointed we couldn’t get in.
A lot of this is still feeling surreal, although made less so by the necessary practicalities travel forces upon you — coordinating transport, arranging accommodation, figuring out meals and activities. These administrative tasks keep the whole experience grounded. The fact that I won’t see my family and friends for so long still hasn’t sunk in. Intellectually I’ve accepted it, but a part of my brain insists this is just a holiday, and my normal reality is waiting around the corner, ready to resume in an instant.