Legs numb, rheumatism approaching, and back indented by the inner springs of the upright seat on the $15 Sydney-Canberra bus. I mentally wave at my mum’s house as we pass by. I’m bursting to tell her about my culture-shocking trip to Mt Kilimanjaro and Egypt. She lives only 10 minutes north of the city, the city that tourists accidentally drive past because it’s so small.
‘Just ask the bus driver to drop you off’ my mum says so casually, as if Canberra isn’t the conservative, almost regimented small town that my brother and I grew up in.
Canberra is the capital of Australia; a compromise between the much larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a city that always sleeps. It lacks a quintessential Australian beach and it’s abnormal to know someone in a non-governmental role. The only thing going for it is its proximity to the ski slopes. And as much as I love the snow, it wasn’t enough to keep me there. I now call the more famous and boisterous city of Sydney my home.
The bus rounds into the downtown Jolimont Centre. I can see mum easily in the crowd. She’s the Amazonian woman (tall, like me) politely jostling the other waiting loved ones to get to the front. I plant my cheek and hand onto the icy glass, but why bother? It’s dark and she needs glasses anyway, but I guess I’m a teensy bit excited to see her too.
Spotting me as I hop down the stairs, I see her familiar smile that perfectly suits her freckled face. With a bear-hug ready she checks me up and down, afraid that I’d come back from Africa missing an apendage.
Waiting back at the house is my big burly brother, his stunner of a girlfriend, and their 18-month old rascal, my blonde, blue-eyed nephew, Fred. I can’t wait to show them all the photos of my trip. Photos I’ve just spent days cropping, adjusting, illuminating, contrasting, labelling, editing, organising and powerpointing, all for this occasion.
But these typically Canberran roads are taking forever… looping around everywhere. I’m sure Canberra holds the title for the number of round-a-bouts per square kilometer, if there is such a record.
Finally, we screech into my mum’s remote-controlled garage. Kisses all around, and my favourite home-made pumpkin soup goes into the microwave. My brother and I cackle in sync as my mum frets about her precious pup, ‘No Freddie, Scooter’s tail is attached. He’s going to nip you one of these days and it’ll be all MY fault!’
After replenishing my thirst for my mum’s cooking, it’s time for me to play Toastmaster. But where do I start? My latest trip abroad has changed the way I think about so many things: about my life, about others’ lives, about the entire world. I now yearn to go back, to go somewhere else, to experience more, to understand more.
How do I explain that I now have a different purpose? A purpose that doesn’t include reality television and office politics. A purpose that … well, I’m not even sure what it actually is. My trip was so much more than a walk up a big mountain and a sail down a big river. It was a truly life-changing adventure, but my slideshow of photos just doesn’t show it.
This post is my third article for the MatadorU Travel Writing Program.