9 March 2010

My Private Universe

Reading through the prompts for this week's Writing Workshop, I started singing this in my head

As I watched the video, filmed in Sydney, I wondered what my life would be like if I had stayed in Australia.

I took my gap year when I was thirty and newly divorced from my first husband (my childhood sweetheart). I travelled around Australia for six weeks, before settling in Sydney. I'd had the time of my life travelling. I know this is a cliche, but I can't think of any other way to describe my experience.

How else would you describe the following?
  • Sailing round the Whitsundays, including an afternoon on Whitehaven Beach.
  • Skydiving from 12,000 feet and landing on Mission Beach.
  • A rainforest stay at Cape Tribulation.
  • An outback safari, including hikes around the Olgas and King's Canyon, sunset and sunrise at Uluru and sleeping under the stars, in a swag, in the red desert.
  • A jolly week in Adelaide, including a tram ride to the beach.
I also met hundreds of other backpackers, broadened my horizons and gained so much confidence.

Whist I was in Sydney, I lived in a lovely little house in the funky neighbourhood of Newtown. We were spoilt for choice with an abundance of bars and restaurants all within a few minutes walk. I could get a bus straight to Coogee Beach at the weekend.

I commuted into the CBD for work. My office over-looked the Harbour Bridge. I worked with some brilliant people, some of whom I still see or at least email regularly. I could walk to the Opera House in my lunch hour and eat my sandwiches in the Botanical Gardens. I saw shows at the Opera House. I sailed in the harbour. 

I was living in Sydney when the Olympics were on. I saw the Olympic flame carried through the streets on my way back to the station. I saw some athletics at the stadium (Colin Jackson waved to me when I shouted 'Go Colin' at him from my front row seat, my friends at home saw me on the television). I attended free concerts. I stood with thousands of others in Martin Place watching the Aussies win gold after gold in the swimming. I watched the closing ceremony fireworks in the harbour.

I spent Christmas day in Bondi. I didn't make it to the beach due to the mother of all hangovers! I was over-looking the harbour on New Year's Eve - more fireworks! I saw Coldplay, Powderfinger and PJ Harvey at The Big Day Out. I had a ball at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

I've just read this back and it must sound like terrible bragging. That's not the intention. As well as the highs, there were also several low points. I drank too much too often and got into a few alcohol related scrapes. Luckily I always got home safe... eventually. I suffered at times from loneliness, boredom and depression. I fell out with my house mate a couple of times. I had my toxic (now ex) friend to stay for two weeks, during which time she totally undermined my new-found confidence, slagged off my lifestyle and told me my work friends weren't proper friends. She told me I was an embarrassment when I got drunk at my office Christmas party (that I paid for her to go to). She corrected me when I referred to something as 'scummy' with 'we say scuzzy now', inferring that I was missing out on life in our old local. She refused to pay me the money she owed me. She didn't want to see anything or do anything. I could go on, but I don't want to dwell on that time!

These low points were more than out-weighed by the good times. I stayed in the same job the whole time I was there. I was sponsored by the company I worked for. They gave me a four year business visa and the offer of a (very good) permanent job. I had friends, I had a social life.

I came home though, after a year, because my Dad was alone and not well. I wanted to come home, but I always planned to go back to Sydney. I have, but only for holidays.

What if I had stayed?

What if I was still there now, in some kind of parallel universe? What if my Sliding Doors moment had left me Down Under?

Yes, there would be highs and lows, just as there have been in my life back in the UK.


I can not think about that parallel life. I can not imagine a life without my husband or my children. It is too awful to contemplate. So I'll look at my photographs and remember the (mostly) fantastic year I had in Oz and be grateful that I came home when I did.

This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.4 Imagine there is another 'you', living in a parallel universe.



  1. Sounds like a awesome time! I've never been down-under but it's getting higher and higher on my list of must-sees... and not just because the other places are getting ticked-off one by one. A post like that makes me want to book my ticket straight away!

  2. I guess if you had stayed you wouldn't have what you have now. It's strange to think back and think "what if".

    Not bragging at all, I'm totally in awe! Bondi, that must have been amazing. And seeing the Olympic flame being carried must be one of those once in a life time experiences for so many. I have many relative in Australia, a lot in Adelaide and I keep saying that I'll go one day. Maybe, just maybe..

    CJ xx

  3. Sounds great! I had a ball living in Sydney years ago. Who knows maybe I'll end up back there. It does feel a long way away doesn't it!

  4. Sounds like you had an amazing time.

    I love the what ifs. How we end up where we do is such a lot of chance. But I'm a big believer in we make the right choices. x

  5. Firstly, I LOVE this song!

    Secondly - we also did a lot of those amazing things in Oz.

    Before I had babies, I always had a little fantasy of taking my kids off backpacking when they're really little, padding barefoot across the world, and watching them run off and play with all the local children. Now, reality has kicked in big style and the boring pressures of everyday life make the fantasy seem pretty far-fetched! I can still dream, though....

  6. it sounds like such a fabulous time, what wonderful memories to have! Love the song too, love Crowded House.

  7. Wow, it does sound like you had a great time.. I'm rather envious, Australia is one place I would love to go. x

  8. I can't believe you managed to fit all of that into just a year! What fantastic memories. I would love to know more. xx

  9. The Dotterel, I LOVE Australia and New Zealand. It's just a shame they're not closer...!

    CJ, it's funny, but I just couldn't even begin to imagine my parallel life! You must go, I can't recommend it highly enough :-) x

    Vicki, Sydney is the best, although I like Auckland too! :-)

    Fraught Mummy, yes, I usually say that things have a habit of turning out for the best. :-)

    Young Mummy, I couldn't face the flights! It would be lovely to have little surfer babies though :-)

  10. Heather, it was wonderful. I love Crowded House too. I forgot to mention in my post that one of the free concerts I went to when the Olympics were on was Neil Finn!!

    Beth, if you can go, I would thoroughly recommend it! :-)

    Nova, those were just the highlights! It was wonderful. x

  11. Wow, that sounds amazing; I too occasionally get a moment of "what if I'd stayed?" (although it was London, slightly different!) but like you, I cannot imagine life without my baby in it.

  12. First of all, I love your reference to Oz at the very end. Spot on! Also, I truly enjoy your writing style and did not at all take the initial portion as bragging. Simply sharing about a fantastic experience that has left me wanting to hear more about it. The highs with the lows.

    I am thrilled to have found your blog through the Writer's Workshop and plan to continue reading more!

  13. How fabulous that you have these memories though? It's not a 'what if' because you did it! You had that amazing adventure and then you got to come home and marry a fantastic man and have two beautiful boys.

    I can't imagine another life better than that :) x

  14. I have amazing memories from Down Under too, and was lucky enough to go back for another year in 2005, after my original gap year in 1997. And I was on the verge of emigrating when I met my husband 10 years ago - which is kind of why I had to do the year in 2005, just to get it out of my system. Wow. I need to get the photo album out again now!

  15. Ruth, it was amazing, but like you say, it's impossible to imagine life without your babies x

    Annie, thank you so much. What a lovely thing to say. I can't get onto your blog at the moment, is it down?

    Josie, you're right, I did do it and had a brilliant time. I still get itchy feet from time to time, but I'm glad I had that experience. Maybe I'll go with the boys when they have their gap years! x

    Hearth Mother, is it out of your system now, or does it never leave you? I'm glad you've got an album full of happy memories too :-)

  16. It sounds like a great year! We had a month in Australia and New Zealandon honeymoon and it was super

  17. What a brilliant post I really enjoyed reading this.
    My husband and I travelled for four months after we got married, including a trip around the Whitsundays, one of the highlights!
    He'd always wanted to go, I'd never been right fussed! But like you it was an incredible eye opener and confidence builder and these are memories, good and bad that I'll treasure forever.
    Thanks for sharing, a really brilliant post xx

  18. Muddling Along, so did we! Isn't it fabulous?!

    Baby Genie, what a lovely thing to do. Andy and I went to Australia and New Zealand for our honeymoon. I took him to some of my favourite places and we discovered some new ones together :-)


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