“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
Have you ever made a spontaneous decision to move 15,868km away from home? Seems like a crazy decision for a 21-year-old to make, right? It may have seemed crazy, but that trip defined who I am today.
I was only 21 when I decided to become and au-pair overseas. In fact – it was a partial decision and I was talked into it by a friend. Make a profile she said. You don’t need to make any drastic decisions she said. Somehow, within a week I had found my host family. A wonderful Italian/Austrian couple with two beautiful children who were only 3 years and 8 months old.
Before I could really comprehend what was happening I was flying into Vienna, a wonderful historical city where sadly, I spent more time in the hotel room than venturing around outside. Luckily for me I spent a night with a girlfriend who had just moved to Austria as well, I remember drinking copious amounts of wine, ice skating to “The Land Down Under” and spending the night conversing in the strangest and creepiest pub I think I have ever seen.
A week past and soon enough it was time to meet my host father, who quite kindly offered to pick me up a couple of hours away from their home. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to my fear – I was so young, what if something bad were to happen? I soon noticed how lucky I really was – I picked the most amazing, caring, understanding family and after a good month I finally found my feet. I started feeling confident in my surroundings, making friends, started my German course and started to travel around the countries on weekends.
I fell completely and utterly in love with my little Tiziano and Esmeralda who I cared for daily. No matter how much drama, or how many tears they shed, I woke up every day craving their cuddles and excited to see what they would learn or what they would teach me about life.
I will never forget Esmeralda (who only spoke Italian and German) turning to me and saying “fuck” just to see my reaction. I will never forget Tiziano taking his first steps and into my arms. I will never forget Esmeralda trying to cut my hair with real scissors because she wanted to be a real hairdresser, or Tiziano’s smile when you’d kiss his cheek 6 times in a row.
Although I fell in love with my new family, I also fell in love with different Countries and my new friends within Villach. I spent some amazing times exploring Countries like Italy, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland and Slovakia.
Although I travelled to these countries during this time, I spent majority of my trip in Italy and Austria where weekends were spent upon Mountain tops enjoying the snow or wondering the streets and enjoying the view in front of me. I also had the opportunity to spend days riding motorbikes around Italy and enjoying their summer house on the beach.
Villach itself was the most amazing, serene, laid back city I have ever seen. The scenery was incredible and I will never forget the 360-degree view of mountains, the walks by the farms or the sunsets over the river. There are multiple lakes that glow during the summer where we spent entire days drinking beer and playing volleyball. We would swim these lakes daily and I would be just as excited as I watched it turn to ice during the winter.
I cannot tell you how quickly 6 months goes when every day you wish it would slow down. And although I was getting excited for my next stint across Europe, I was scared about saying goodbye to my new life.
I was starting to consider living here permanently; I started looking at rental properties, had a job offered to me within an incredible international day care centre. I even contacted people regarding my visa and enquired about everything A to Z regarding the move.
I honestly believed I was going to stay long term until I realised that staying would jeopardise a relationship with my nieces, I realised I wouldn’t easily attend my sister’s upcoming wedding and to be honest, I couldn’t see my life without weekends with my family back home in Australia.
With that being said – leaving Villach was one of the hardest days of my life. It was the day I left the place I called home for 6 months – everything I experienced during that time was so incredible. I had the chance to do so many things and I won’t ever forget them; I had the chance to go camping in Switzerland, I had a kiss upon the Eiffel tower in Paris, I relaxed by the sea in Croatia, went rafting in Slovenia, I partied and survived Bratislava, fell in love in Austria, ate like a King in Italy and went swimming in one of the biggest natural pools in Budapest. I saw 8 Countries and 17 cities and made some incredible friends along the way! Those people I met will never forget and I will keep them close to my heart forever. I cared for those 2 children who I watched grow, and I still feel slightly lost without their happy faces and laughter.
Although I was devastated to be leaving such an amazing place, I was looking forward to the next month where I toured on Contiki with my sister, saw 5 countries and yet again had the chance to meet more like minded people.
Contiki lived up to all expectations. There is definitely such thing as contiki cough or contiki relationships, and you definitely make life long friends who will remain like family.
I had the most amazing time and ate snails in Paris, drank wine in Beaujolais, got drunk in Spain, gambled in Monaco, threw money into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, walked in ancient ruins in Pompeii and sadly, got food poisoning in Corfu
Contiki ended very quickly and before I knew it the whole 213 days has passed. I started walking through the very same airport that I entered all those months ago, and I couldn’t believe it was now to say goodbye
I went overseas to find myself, but in the end, I found so much more than that.
I guess all I can say is thank you to all of you that made my time away so special, thank you to my host family who made me feel so welcome and really allowed me to explore all of the places around me, my villacher friends who made every weekend one to remember and especially my Contiki family who made the last month something I could never forget #noregreta