I have many friends, some of whom live locally, some who live under 100 miles away, and some who live many thousands of miles away. I keep in touch with them all on a regular basis. There are some friends who I have never met in person, but chat to every week via Skype.
All my friends are important to me and I love hearing about their successes, their plans, their daily lives. I have one friend in Australia who I have known for about four years, and we chat regularly each week via Skype. Heather lives on a farm in Wangaratta, about 350 miles from Melbourne. She is a coach, teaches the Romany language, is an artist and an author. We spend a lot of our time laughing when we chat, and it makes a great start to my day and a good end to Heather’s day (Melbourne is 9 hours ahead of BST).
In April Heather told me that she had been to see some specialists and she has a recurrence of melanomas. The doctors had told her she had probably got around five months left to live. Heather of course told them she intended to be around for another thirty years, so not to write her off yet.
She began a course of chemotherapy and I decided to offer my support to Heather in person. That meant I would fly to Australia to be with Heather for a few days.
This decision was not easy to make since I have never travelled anywhere on my own, the furthest I have flown is to Italy (about 2 hours), but it felt right to me. So I booked my flights out of Heathrow to Melbourne, via Dubai and Brunei. I was leaving on 15th June at 5.50pm and arriving in Melbourne on 17th June at 4.30am. Phew! What had I done? Stepped right out of my comfort zone. But it still felt right.
The preparations began. Because it is winter in Australia I had to sort out jumpers and a coat that wasn’t too heavy. I was only allowed 20 kilos in baggage. I also collected lots of brochures and magazines about the Isle of Wight since Heather is planning to come over here in 2016 and these will help her plan what she wants to do when she gets here.
Everything was packed, checked, double checked. Passport, currency, travel insurance, itinerary, tickets. Time to go.
Me at Heathrow Airport
So, there I was at Heathrow airport, having been driven there by my lovely hubby Kelvin. All checked in and waiting to go through security. And so the real journey began. I boarded the Royal Brunei Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner, found my seat and then we took off. The cabin crew were lovely and brought round drinks and food at regular intervals. 6.5 hours later we landed in Dubai. A quick trip around the airport whilst the plane was refuelled, restocked etc and then we were back on the plane and heading for Brunei. We landed in Brunei 6 hours later and stopped off for 2 hours. I wanted a cup of coffee and they only accept their own currency, so I had to change some sterling in Brunei dollars. Then back on the plane for the final leg to Melbourne. 6.5 hours later we arrived, in the dark in Australia. The baggage was unloaded very quickly and I sailed through customs and immigration.
I bought a cup of coffee and waited for Heather’s husband Geoff to collect me. He had volunteered to drive me to their home in Wangaratta, 350 miles away and had got up at 3 in the morning to come to Melbourne to collect me and drive me back. What a star!
Geoff found me and in about three hours we were in Wangaratta and I got to meet Heather in person. It was as if we were carrying on a conversation, rather than meeting in person for the first time. We know each other and nothing was strained. We hugged and the chatting began.
Heather was half way through her course of chemotherapy and was feeling very tired and weak understandably. We sat and chatted whilst Geoff prepared meals. Heather’s friend Susan kindly volunteered to drive us out for an afternoon. We went for afternoon tea to a place called Beechworth, where they have a wonderful shop that sells honey. Not just honey, but hundreds of different flavours of honey. Of course I had to buy some to bring home. Then to a cafe to have coffee and scones. Yummy.
The following day Susan took us out again for afternoon tea to Glenrowan. I had my photo taken next to Ned Kelly, an Australian bushranger who was apparently very controversial. We had scones with cream and jam again. It was lovely to see Heather outside, even though she had to tow her oxygen cylinder with her.
Me with Ned Kelly
On the Friday we all set off at around 7am to drive to Melbourne again to the Alfred Hospital for Heather’s appointment for her third round of chemo. We arrived and she was seen by the doctors who were pleased to see her, even though one doctor did express surprise that she was well enough to attend. (I did think he could have kept that thought to himself). I sat with Heather and chatted whilst the treatment was going on, ably assisted by Alfred bear.
Heather and I in the Chemo Unit
That night we stayed with Heather’s son and daughter-in-law just outside Melbourne. We were fed and entertained by Rhys and Sonia on Saturday too. Heather was very tired after her treatment and we just sat and chatted, or she dozed in the chair. We watched a couple of dvds and in the evening we had Chinese takeaway.
Sunday morning we set off again at around 7.30am to go to Melbourne Airport to drop me off and for Heather and Geoff to drive back to Wangaratta. We said our goodbyes and I began to the check in process at 9am. I found some breakfast at McDonalds and then went through immigration and security to the departure gate to await my flight.
The first leg of the journey set off from Melbourne to Brunei and took 6.5 hours. We had a 2 hour stop over at Brunei and I was grateful to be able to walk around and stretch my legs.
Model of Royal Brunei Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Brunei Airport
The next leg took me to Dubai, another 7 hours.
Dubai Airport – Costa gets everywhere!
The next segment of my journey took me to Heathrow Airport where I landed at 6.30am on Monday morning. I had to wait ages for my case to appear on the carousel, but it eventually arrived. I then went through the nothing to declare channel. I was stopped by a customs official and asked where I had been, had I bought any drugs or alcohol, was I carrying anything for anyone else. All the usual questions. I said I had bought nothing but some honey. They seemed to be ok with that and I went through into the arrivals hall to be met by Kelvin.
Kelvin drove home via Lymington, the Wightlink ferry and home. I was really happy to be home, but also really pleased that I had made the trip.
I had stepped right out of my comfort zone, but had enjoyed the experience and thoroughly enjoyed meeting Heather and being there for her to support her in some way. I am looking forward to her coming to visit the Isle of Wight in 2016.
I learned that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was. I am so pleased that I made this trip.
If you would like to be able to step out of your comfort zone, but are not sure where to begin, contact me for a free chat on how I can help you.
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