Two years ago, I embarked on the trip of a lifetime: I’d planned six months of backpacking my way up through Asia, across Russia and into Eastern Europe, followed by a year in the USA on a much-coveted working visa, and six months backpacking through South America. It was a plan I’d worked towards for a long time, the recognition of a long-held dream.
One year, eight months and two weeks ago, I landed in Sydney, returning home to set foot once more on Australian soil, indefinitely. The dream I’d so lovingly coaxed into life was abandoned.
You see, five years ago, I took a job with a small business, run out a studio in the owner’s yard, alongside her then-fiancé’s small business. Five years ago, I met Conor.
I won’t say it was love at first sight – far from it. He never factored into my dreams of far off places. Even when our office banter turned into more obvious flirting, a boy was never in my plans. But then we started dating. Four months before my grand adventure was to begin.
I won’t bore you with the details. It was one of those, “Oh, we won’t get serious,” situations that quickly necessitated conversations on how we might work long distance. We both fell, hard and fast, into a very intense, very emotional, very short-term relationship.
I never considered not going. Today, this boggles my mind. This was a guy I’d had a crush on for a year! Sure, I’d turned him down when he’d first asked me out (and he loves milking that, let me assure you!), and I’d surprised us both when I then turned around and wanted to give the relationship a chance, but I’d taken that chance and that had to mean something. He never asked me to stay, exactly, but he did ask (a lot) if I was sure I wanted to go. I considered my options, and come January 3rd, I was on a plane to Bali. My dream was too important to sacrifice for anyone. Our relationship might or might not survive, but I was determined to go on my trip – I was determined not to sacrifice, not to fail.
Unsurprisingly, this quickly turned out to be an impossible situation. I’d spent so much time refusing to reconsider leaving to travel long term, that Conor and I had barely talked about how on earth our very new, now long-distance relationship was going to work. Especially when I didn’t know when I’d be in contact. All too soon we were faced with the inevitable, and I was presented the impossible choice. It wasn’t working. Something had to give.
Ultimately, I came home.
I “gave up.”
It took me a very long time to come to terms with that decision. With shaping a different dream. Though Conor and I very quickly decided that we’d be on the road on a long term trip of our own within two years, I very much viewed those two years as an interim period.
But today, I’m writing this from a hostel bed in London, having just returned from spending New Year’s in Edinburgh. I’m so happy to be traveling that I break into spontaneous grins hourly. Now that we’re at this point, I couldn’t imagine being here without Conor. I can’t imagine the dream in which I would have stuck to my original plans and kept going. I took a sidestep off the main path and I was truly rewarded for it.
I’m not going to lie – it took me a long time to not feel like I had failed. To not feel like coming home was some sort of horrible mistake. It was extremely tough, and I second-guessed the decision for an entire year. With the value of hindsight, I know with absolute certainty that the decision I perceived as failure has brought me bigger and better dreams than I would have thought possible; that coming home to take a chance on a relationship was a simple sidestep to a truly amazing goal. It’s sappy, but together, our dreams have a much bigger scope than I would have ever thought possible.
Those first twelve months were tough though, and there were people that I never told in person because I didn’t want to admit that my dream had temporarily fallen through. In the end, I’m glad that I had the guts to acknowledge that the first dream – the one I’d so stubbornly held onto – wasn’t working. I’m glad that I was brave enough to take a chance on love.