Leaving a place you are familiar with is never an easy thing to do. However, I have found that leaving the people that become your closest friends who have been apart of some of your greatest memories is possibly the hardest thing you will ever have to do. Just as I was sad and nervous to leave my friends and family at home before I left for Australia, I was once again overwhelmed with emotions at leaving my friends and newfound sense of home and family in Australia.
The last few weeks in Cairns weren’t exactly the easiest. We all found ourselves swamped with finals and the omnipresent feeling that pretty soon we would have to leave the paradise we called home for five months. Our families were anxiously waiting for us hundreds of thousands of miles away, and, yet, we found ourselves emotionally torn between what we actually wanted. Our last week in Australia, we gave it our final hoorah. We studied hard for finals, spent as much time with our friends as possible, and even woke up at 5am on Wednesday, November 14th to bike to the beach and see the solar eclipse. Despite our effort to live up every last second in Australia, the things we did there never seemed to get old.
Our flights were scheduled for November 17th, and a taxi was to come pick nine of us up for the airport at 3:30am. It was almost like a dream. I couldn’t believe as I was taking down everything in my room that I was leaving a place in the world that I may never see in the same way again. I mean, lets be honest, I highly doubt that I will be living for an extended period of time in Australia at another point in my life. My home is completely stationed here in the US and I know that. I love Australia for everything it was and how much it has added to my life. But I know the US will always be my true home. Too many of my memories and all of my feelings of familiarity are here in the US, in addition to (more importantly) the people that make my life as special as it is.
Leaving that morning could be summed up in two words: emotional disaster. Of course, no one slept and we all had our luggage piled in the living rooms of our suites. My one friend said it in the best and worst way: ”It is almost like we’re waiting to die.” To some people, it seemed that way. For hours, I can say that I was in a room engulfed by twenty people reminiscing, crying, and completely dreading the thought of leaving. To some individuals, it really did seem like the end of the world in a sense. I guess I can say I kind of felt like I stuck out, since I was one of the few individuals from my immediate group of friends not crying. Sure, I thought that it was very sad that I would be leaving these incredible friends that I had established a life with and conquered the task of being abroad in a foreign country with. However, I could not lie and say that I wasn’t excited to go home. I treated Australia for what it was- a fabulous and wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am forever grateful to have and will never forget. At 3:30 am, we boarded the taxi, leaving about a group of 20 plus individuals behind crying outside the student lodge we had called home. Many of us questioned whether we would see some of these people again. I think that was one of the hardest facts we had to come to terms with. Once we got to the airport, however, I found that leaving Australia and getting back home to the US was going to be a lot harder than anticipated. But, getting home was the only positive thought that was going to get me through the amount of traveling I was going to have to embark on.
Literally, everything that could have went wrong to someone when they are traveling happened to me. And I really do wish I was exaggerating. My first flight was from Cairns to Brisbane. However, once I landed in Brisbane, a huge storm hit which delayed my flight from Brisbane to LA about 2 hours once all was said and done. This was very problematic for me, because my travel company booked my flights so I only had a little over an hour to make my connecting flight in LA (and I knew customs would take quite a bit of time). By the time I landed, I had to wait a extraneous amount of time for my luggage. Once I finally got my luggage to take through customs, I was already on the verge of missing my flight to Dallas. After sprinting to drop off my luggage and get to the correct terminal, I made it there just as the flight attendant was shutting the doors for final boarding and she refused to let me on. I wasn’t too worried, however, because my Dad told me if I missed my flight there would be plenty of other flights that I could take (to Chicago, Dallas, etc.) that could connect me to a final flight to my destination of Philadelphia. However, both of us simply forgot the fact that it was Thanksgiving travel weekend.
After waiting about 45 minutes to get someone at American Airlines in customer service to assist me, I was informed that the next available flight wasn’t until 11:50 PM. I was PANICKED. You have to be kidding me. It is currently 9 am and the next flight wasn’t until 11:50 PM. What the heck am I going to do in the LA airport for over 12 hours. I kept trying to explain my situation, and eventually they put me on standby for a flight that was to leave for Chicago a little after 10 am (I would then have a guaranteed flight to Philly that night from Chicago). Needless to say, I was stressing. There were two individuals ahead of me that were guaranteed seats on the flight, and then there was myself and eight other people after me on standby. American Airlines was offering travel money and guaranteed later flights to people who were willing to give up their seats. It simply wasn’t happening. They boarded the entire plane and I was starting to lose hope. Then, last second, someone gave up their seat. Thank. Goodness. I was ecstatic! And I gave that individual the best thanks I could give them (I was super tempted to give them a giant hug but I thought that might be a tad awkward haha). I hopped on that flight, went to the windy city, hopped onto another flight and BAM! I was in good old Philadelphia before I knew it! My family met me right away with a big welcome sign- I was beyond happy! It felt SO good to see them all again! Unfortunately, my luggage was lost in transit and didn’t arrive with me in Philadelphia. But, my family took me home and I ate the pumpkin pie which I had been waiting MONTHS for (which seemed to make everything better haha). Plus, they were able to locate my luggage and deliver it to me only a few days later. So, it all worked out! Overall, from Cairns to arriving in my own house, I had completed over 30 plus hours of travel. It was more than time to be home!
I loved seeing my dogs and sleeping in my own bed. And, I even enjoyed seeing all of the squirrels everywhere after not seeing them for five months. I loved spending Thanksgiving with my family and eating all the yummy foods and having leftovers for a number of days after. Seeing the first snowfall of the season when I woke up one morning reminded me of one of the many reasons I loved being home during the winter season. And I can’t describe how amazing it felt to go up to Susquehanna University and see all of my friends and sisters. Literally, I have NEVER gotten so many bombardments and hugs in my entire life and it was WONDERFUL! It felt so good to be back! Especially at the holidays. I truly do feel right at home. As much as I miss Australia, I will always have the amazing memories and friendships that will last a lifetime! It truly was an incredible experience, and I have a LOT to smile about when I look back on it all.