In all the years I lived on the tiny island that is the UK I never once felt like an islander. Perhaps it was because I was based in the big city, so sucked into London life that I rarely made the 1 hour journey to the coast. Or perhaps it was because we could access another country just by getting on a train. Or pop to a number of European countries in the space of one weekend, something I often did over the last few years.
I naively had notions of ‘popping’ to Asia from our home here in Sydney. Despite having been to Australia many times, knowing the flight times and vastness of the country, in my mind it would still be easy to hop to the nearest continent for a long weekend. What was I thinking?!
We have friends and family we would like to visit in Perth. Situated on the opposite side of this same island, it would take us 5 hours 20 just to drop in. Bali is just beyond Perth. Almost like an Australian equivalent to the Med, it’s the go to beach break for families and groups of friends. Yet whilst it takes us Brits less than 3 hours to be on any multitude of beaches in France or Spain, Denpasar is 7 hours away from Sydney. There are budget airlines that do the trip. I have salivated over the reasonable prices the likes of Jetstar and Garuda Indonesia offer to fly to exotic Asian destinations, yet I am concerned at spending 7 hours or more on the equivalent of Easyjet/Ryanair.
Getting in-between cities on this side of the island is easy though. We popped to Melbourne last weekend, picking one of the Virgin Australia flights that run every 15 minutes (they’re more frequent than buses!). As we live only 15 minutes away from the airport we were home in less than 1 hour 30 – we timed it from check in to front door. Security is speedy on domestic flights and Virgin Australia make it easy with mobile check in. In contrast, it used to take longer to travel from London to my parent’s in the Home Counties – and it cost about the same amount with South West Trains too. Although distances may be greater here at least there are faster ways to traverse them.
It’s not just travelling that has made me realise what a vast new country I have moved to – it’s the postal system that really got me thinking. I am yet to order anything online that arrives in less than a week – even if it comes from the same state. Often the delivery times are less than the vendor estimates (7 to 12 days seems to be the speediest quote) but they also come with a disclaimer – *may take longer to reach rural locations. As a girl who has become used to next day delivery for everything from my groceries to a new outfit for that night, this small matter blows my mind. My boyfriend tells me that in the rural part of Victoria where he grew up they didn’t have a postman. They would drive to the nearest post office and see if there was anything for them about once a week. Just this small piece of information had me stunned for a good 10 minutes.
This difference is compounded when I dare to order something from overseas, or do so by accident as happened recently with an art print. I’ve never lived somewhere where the currency sign is the same in another country so when I saw a print I liked in an Aussie magazine and went online to purchase it, it never occurred to me they were quoting in US dollars. It wasn’t until I had completed the transaction and got an email saying my purchase should reach us in about 12 weeks, subject to customs, that I noticed it was coming from San Francisco. Doh. (Postage was almost the same price as the artwork. Double doh!) Our household items, which we lovingly wrapped into 4 boxes in London, are currently enjoying a round the world cruise. Last time we checked they were hanging out in Singapore. The total journey time is expected to take at least 3 months.
And yet despite the acute awareness that I have moved to a massive island, very far from the rest of the world, I do not feel as remote as you might think. Skype brings me my family and friends on-screen, email continues to be instant, I can still be social on social media. I am in no way put off by the flying times; just learning to be a bit more strategic about where and when I go. (And being a bit more careful about what I order online.)
If anything this distance is teaching me to appreciate my immediate surroundings, to explore all corners of the new city we live in, and get out and about this giant country.
Speaking of which I am heading to the ProBlogger conference on the Gold Coast next weekend and am spending some time in Brisbane whilst that way too. Can’t wait!