Friday, January 31, 2014
The path to publication - (1b)
Ever since I could write sentences, I've kept a diary. At first it was far from inspiring, simply a record of daily life. A typical entry was 'Got up. Breakfast. Fed chooks. School.' and so on. Then I found one entry when I was ten, a little gem surrounded by chooks and schoolwork. 'Had a fight with my sister. Dad had a good talk to me about sharing. I feel closer to Dad now.' The difference was that I had included my emotions, for a chance, my inner journey. Years later I continued my daily diary routine, and when I finally took the big step of moving to London on a working holiday visa, I was excited to be able to write about. 'How long are you going for?' people asked as the departure date loomed. 'I'm not going to be restricted to a set time,' I replied, carefree. 'Maybe two months, maybe two years, who knows?' What I meant was that if it didn't turn out like I hoped, then I didn't want to feel like I had to stay away 'just because' I had an arbitrary time limit. But at the same time I didn't want to feel like I had to come back quickly either. At no stage did I ever suspect that my flippant, 'don't pin me down' response was nowhere near the truth - and in fact, I would live overseas for six years. I suppose that if someone had been able to look into the future and tell me that, I might've thought twice, and not done it. Ignorance however is bliss, and off I went, landing at Heathrow during the busy week leading up to Easter, staying in a cheap but very nasty hostel for a few days until I thought I would be on the news for a hostel disaster story akin to the Great Fire of London given that all my roomies smoked and thought it was fun to play with matches in a pokie crowded dorm room up three flights of narrow rickety stairs. Mindful of my previously declared two month minimum, I decided to book a trip to Scotland. Around the corner from my horrible hostel was a Top Deck travel agency, so I wandered in there. I'd heard of them so I thought they would be the first reputable group I'd dealt with since arriving. What I didn't realise was that they weren't just an agency, they were the central Top Deck base for all of London. Not only that, but as we got chatting they agreed that my hostel was not up to scratch (I had wondered if perhaps it was me, and I had unrealistic expectations of the backpacker world) and promptly recommended a hostel nearby where their road crew stayed between tours. I was convinced; if it was good enough for their road crew it sounded good enough for me. I went around and checked it out, was told there was room at the inn - well, hostel, wrong religious holiday for that phrase - in two days, just in time for the Easter long weekend which had booked out most of the city already. I didn't end up booking the Scottish tour, but I did move in - and ended up staying there for a year. Yes, that's right, a YEAR. Again, if I'd had a fortune teller I might've shortened it somewhere along the way, but it kind of just happened and suited me. I got to keep my bed (even though it might be in a different dorm) when I came back from trips to Europe, but wasn't paying rent while away. I got to stash my extra gear in their attic free of charge, and I got to live in what felt like an oversized share house, with only 45 of us and the siblings running the place making it feel like home. We also got to have kitchen parties, front step parties, dance on tables, and go out to the pubs along Earls Court Road with determined regularity. It was not just a place, it was a lifestyle, and for the first time since I'd set my sights on university as a means of escaping my country town in high school, followed by my degree and working in public then private sectors as a lawyer, I felt like I was off the grid. The working visa helped. It stipulated that I could NOT work in my regular profession. No law. I could've worked as a paralegal, assisting a local lawyer, but that would've involved a commitment to working month by month, and I relished the prospect of upping and leaving for a trip through Europe every month or two that was permitted by working in random administrative jobs. For once in my life I wasn't in a job that required me to be responsible. I was having fun, meeting lots of people simply in our kitchen as new bodies arrived from all over the world and decided to stay in our hostel for a night or two, and meeting others who became one of us known as the 'long termers'. I wrote feverishly in my journal. That was another first - I didn't simply have a list of chores and boring things to write about; instead every day was an adventure. I had incidents, characters, dramas, the whole gamut. But the problem was, I was having too good a time. And somehow, around the three month mark, I started to forget to write in my journal every day. Then I forgot completely. And unbeknownst to me, I still had 5 years and 9 months of adventures ahead of me. That daily journal would have been very handy. Within the first 12 months, something happened that meant I was no longer doing random, unimportant, unthinking jobs and having a raucous time in the hours I wasn't at work. I got a job as a European tour manager. I could party during work time, it was part of the job, but I was also responsible for fifty clients and ensuring we provided all that was promised in intinerary. Quite often a tour would represent two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of clients' money, invested in the 'promises' set out in the company's glossy brochures, and it was my job to make sure they got it. I had found a way to party, travel, be paid (not exorbitantly) for it, but also returned to a job with massive responsibility. I was glad I'd had the mental break of my London year off the career path. It was game on.