I got some good news from home a couple weeks ago: two people very close to me are getting hitched. (Congrats, guys!)
This followed shortly after news and a save-the-date email from another friend who’s also tying the knot later this year. Obviously I’d love to be there for both of the big days, but regrettably there are a number of factors getting in the way.
Firstly, of course, is that I’m 10,000 miles away from home. I could not be much further from home than I am here in central Maine, literally almost halfway around the world. People ask me all the time how long the flight here was, what the time difference to Australia is, how tough the travel is from Down Under to here.
Truthfully, the 13-hour leg from Brisbane to Los Angeles isn’t all that bad. The domestic tuna-can flights from LAX to wherever my final destination is are generally the awful ones. By the time you arrive on the east coast of the U.S. from the east coast of Australia, you’re looking at almost 24 hours of travel. Especially if you’re like me and allocated five hours between arriving and your connecting flight, because LAX is the most miserable place on Earth and you don’t want to get jammed up in a 400-person-long security line.
So with that in mind, if I’m flying back it’s got to be for a considerable length of time. Due to all that international date line mumbo-jumbo, the flight back from Australia has me arriving the same calendar day I left (sweet, right?). But the journey from Augusta to Brisbane would see me lose a day.
If, hypothetically, I was flying home for a Saturday wedding, I’d want to leave on a Wednesday morning (my time) to arrive by Friday (Brisbane time). That would put me in a state of extreme jet lag for the festivities (although you can always drink through that). So, for those not counting along at home (read: everyone), that amounts to about three days’ total travel time.
The second hitch is that I’d need to take at least a week off work to accomplish all that. If I left on the hypothetical Wednesday morning, I’d need three vacation days at a minimum just to get me there, and that’s assuming I was back in Maine by the Monday to go straight back to work. I’m in the first year of my job here, which means I simply don’t have the luxury of those days off.
Even if I did have enough accrued time off up my sleeve, three days of travel for a couple of days at home would physically ruin me. It generally takes me about a week to shake jet lag coming from Australia to the U.S. and get my body clock back somewhere near where it needs to be. It’s a little shorter of an adjustment period going Down Under from here, but if I did both of them in the space of a week I’d probably start having flash-sideways nosebleeds and ending up in parallel realities like on Lost.
Fourth of all (is that a saying?), and probably the most damning, is the cost. When I lived in Brisbane, I used to spend HOURS on flight websites trawling for sub-$1,000 deals to get me back to the U.S. Nowadays I’m not even brave enough to look at them, due to the crippling blow my savings account took when I moved out here. So I’d go research a hypothetical trip home, just to explain what it would probably cost me for said airfares, but I’m currently in the fetal position crying.
For argument’s sake, let’s say it’d be $US1,500 to get me there and back. That’s two and a half months’ rent, seven and a half months of car repayments, two years of phone bills… you get the point. I’ve said more than once that my financial situation is somewhat different to the way it was back home (which, don’t get me wrong, is both perfectly livable and gratefully accepted), and for the time being it just doesn’t accommodate huge outlays like that.
I hope this doesn’t all read like some sort of passive-aggressive explanation of why I can’t come home for assorted nuptials; I do have an overarching point here. And the weddings weren’t the only trigger. I’ve had a handful of people back home asking me when I’m coming back for a visit too. (Much like an episode of House, M.D., my blog posts are extremely formulaic. Anecdote, explanation, apology for rambling, FINALLY THE POINT, poignant self-reflection, shitty joke to wrap it all up.)
As I was flying from Brisbane to LA on November 24, my immigration flight, I looked around the cabin of the big ol’ plane and the thought struck me: I don’t know when I’ll next be making this trip across the Pacific. Since my first visit to the U.S. in 2008, the 13-hour journey was almost something I could set my watch (well, my calendar at least) by, an annual occurrence. But now that I’m here, all the things I mentioned above combine for a fact that I have mixed feelings about – I don’t know when I’ll next be in Australia. That’s a strange thought.
I can say with certainty that it’s not going to be this year. In fact, any earlier than my first anniversary out here would feel like a cop-out, like I was cheating by running back home so soon after immigrating. It might not even be in 2015 because, as I said, I need available cash and plenty of vacation time to even consider it.
In a way this makes me a little sad. I obviously would love to see my family without shitty Skype connections in the way, and catch up with all those whose lives I’ve missed since I took off. But then I realize I’ve got so much ahead of me here and that I have absolutely no idea what’s waiting for me in the months and years to come in the U.S., and that’s plenty to be excited about.
(Oops, forgot the shitty joke to wrap it all up. Uh…I’ll let Jack Handy do that.
It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
There. That oughta do it.)