Between Andorra and this next spate of ridiculous stories, I moved back in to Mum and Dad’s. Temporarily. Again.
I gained a ton of weight, I got catfished on Tinder, I started a job in a factory, I sucked at it and I quit, I caught up with old friends, new friends, family and I got myself into a full scale war with Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.
Obviously I won and they compensated me £30 for the stress of not being able to use punctuation in their stupid online comment box.
The weeks went by so fast. At first I thought they would drag but it turned into a blur of well needed holiday time with my parents, incredible fillet steaks and much missed Indian banquets. Weirdly, I didn’t miss Andorra much at all. Being home was just too good and in the end, I was home for eight weeks before my flight to the other side of world came about.
And I actually wasn’t too keen on the idea of leaving.
Way back in September 2014 I started preparing for this trip. This was back before I even knew I was going to Andorra. When I got home from Italy last year, I knew I needed to book something to get me back on my feet and out of the country should my winter season plans fall through.
Guy and his friend Jack were planning a six week East Coast trip in Australia, and being the cheeky bastard that I am, I asked if I could join them.
It took a little deliberating on my part, but I chose not to stick to six weeks and by the time it came to booking my flight I booked it one way while the boys booked their returns. I planned to stay the year and make a real go of a settled lifestyle in Oz.
The next step was to get a working holiday visa, allowing me the freedom to work and holiday (in case you hadn’t guessed) for up to a year in Australia. It was pretty straight forward. You apply online, you fill in all your details and recent travel information, you pay your (non-refundable) fee and you get granted a visa.
Of course, nothing is ever simple with me. As I had travelled through countries such as Romania and Bulgaria they had reasonable suspicion that I may have been exposed to Tuberculosis. This was news to me, but the only way to get me cleared was to book a chest X-Ray with a very expensive private doctor in London.
The next day I hopped on the train, got my X-Ray and just twelve hours later (after the all clear on NOT having Tuberculosis) I was granted my visa!
That was nine months ago, and even after preparing myself for that massive length of time, I was still shitting it about moving across the world.
By now I had invited a girlfriend along for the ride and all four of us caught the train to Heathrow via Kings Cross, where a nice guy (or the Child Catcher, I’m not really sure) gave us free ‘tea bags.’ There’s no way that we could ever know if they were actually tea bags and not convenient pouches of date rape but Fliss’ pupils didn’t dilate too much or anything so we’re assuming they were actually Tetley.
I was able to check my baggage in pretty much straight away when we arrived at the airport, which was a relief since my snowboard bag was an awkward 12kg and had begun to give me cramp in my shoulder. We then sat down to christen the holiday in the only way we know how… with a bottle of vino.
Soon it was time for me to head through security. I was travelling separately to the other three but by the time my delayed flight was boarding they had actually managed to catch up with me and we all awkwardly said goodbye for the second time that day. I was sat (quite comfortably) in the back row of the plane with a spare seat next me, no children and no snorers anywhere near me. I watched the latest Hunger Games, the last installment of The Hobbit and the first episode of the new series of New Girl.
Before I knew it, it was the early hours of the morning and we were landing in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
I know a decent amount about Muslim countries having visited Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia on various occasions… and I knew well enough that you can offend quite easily without meaning to if you’re not very careful.
I changed out of my skinny jeans and into loose fitting tracksuit bottoms. I replaced my t-shirt with a lightweight long sleeve top and I slung my scarf over my head and around my neck to cover my back, shoulders and hair.
However, I totally underestimated how hot the day was going to be. After two hours of walking aimlessly around the outside of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from 6AM I thought I was going to die and I took refuge in a nearby, air conditioned hospital. At 9AM I made my way back to the mosque to explore the inside.
Within minutes, sweat rolled down my forehead in rivers and I stank to high heaven… not of BO but of just pure sweat. Like damp, dirty sweat. I felt faint, hungry and sick. This place was ruining me. But I kept pushing myself.
The mosque was beautiful and thought provoking. My favourite part was pottering around inside with no shoes on, my feet cool against the marble floors. It was bliss to be away from the hustle and bustle of airports and to have the time and silence to enjoy the stunning chandeliers.
But when I came across the water features, it was too much to bear. I wanted nothing more than to dive into them. So before doing anything I might regret later on, I admitted defeat and caught a taxi back to the airport.
I spent a long time trying to decide which uncomfortable metal seat I wanted to sleep on. Eventually I realised they were all just as shit as the first one I tried and regardless of how much I tried, I was never going to outrun the drilling that was going on just ten metres away from me.
My next flight was a little more comfortable than my Abu Dhabi airport experience. The plane had plenty of free seats and although it took off late, thanks to some bint deciding to stand up mid runway, I got to Melbourne at a decent time.
I picked up my shizz (thankfully sent straight to Melbourne from London with no complications) and hopped aboard the Airbus to town. Guy met me at the bus stop and helped me with my bags whilst I let the sights and sounds of Melbourne sink in. I was shocked to find myself in awe.
The buildings were huge and so close together. I guess I just expected it to feel like London, but it didn’t. It was bigger… and had an air of glamour about it.
But I was pooped…and after a quick McDonalds and a shower that turns off after your twelve minute allocated washing time, I slept. Like a log. The next day we picked up the van and the road trip officially BEGAN!
And guess what… NO JET LAG!