The Roads I Didn’t Travel

Travelling around gets you thinking. Hours spent sitting on planes and trains reminds you of previous journeys, places you’ve visited, memories you created. Sometimes, it can make you think of the trips you didn’t take.

Whilst travelling through three cities and two continents, I’ve come across a few friends that have taken different roads from me, that could well have been mine. One studied for her PGCE with me, and is now teaching in Singapore. Another was a friend in school, who now lives in Sydney, while another was someone I performed on stage with who continued his teaching abroad in Sydney after being in Malaysia.

A few interesting sights to be seen…

I always wanted to see the world when I was younger. When it came to the crunch, a year in China at the age of 22, heading out on my own, I almost chickened out. It was so far, and for so long, and I was doing it alone. With a nudge from my mum (who later said she’d much rather have had me stay, but knew I would regret it), I boarded the plane and began on of the most unforgettable years of my life. After that, I went travelling around South East Asia, followed by another stint living abroad, this time in Spain. So why did I stop? Seeing friends that had either carried on or made the leap later in life made for some interesting musings on life choices and how we end up where we do.

I can see why people want to live in Australia. Even after a week or so, its appeal is obvious. Sydney has beautiful architecture and a buzzing urban feel, while being skirted by a plethora of beautiful beaches that give it a laid-back air. Just down the road in Wollongong, when I asked my cousin who lives there how many beaches there were close by, she looked at me like I was a crazy person. We ate a very tasty brunch in a cafe, mere metres away from a stretch of pale sand and sparkling waves, with another one just round the corner. If beaches aren’t your thing, there are swathes of national park to trek through, featuring some impressive wildlife and plants. Even in the built up areas you are greeted by the squawk of cockatoos and a flurry of colour as the rainbow lorikeets fly overhead.

A bit more exotic than pigeons

Head a bit further out of Sydney and it all gets more spectacular. The Blue Mountains has jaw-dropping views over Megalong (great name) Valley featuring craggy cliffs painted with a myriad colours from millennia of rock formation. On our morning drive out of our first campsite we saw a small chocolate brown wallaby lolloping away from the road and three kookaburras perched on a telephone wire. Not a bad spot on our first day. The camper van is a little cramped, but there’s something adventurous about bouncing your way along roads flanked by actual kangaroos and rolling hills.

It could easily have been me. Many people, once they start teaching English abroad, just keep going. There isn’t a shortage of jobs, in certain areas the prospects and salary are great, and you get to go on a non-stop tour of the world. As my cousin’s husband said, you can walk out of your door every day and it feels like you’re on holiday.

Fancy having this as your local scenery?

But something pulled me back to the drizzly UK. The family I have there, the friends, the places that feel so familiar. There’s also something to be said for trolling all over the place, still having these wonderful experiences, and then having somewhere to come home to. For now, I like the mix of the two. Being able to visit exotic locations but having something fixed to hang on to while doing it. This trip is a little different, seeing as I’ll be away for many months. I can’t deny that it’s tempting to keep moving, with all the wonderful things I’m seeing. But then, who would I have to sit and tell my tales to, and to share my memories with, if I never came home?

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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