Tuesday, June 2, 2009

6 Months...

I've always been a fan of milestones, anniversaries, records, or lengthy achievements. I like knowing when something happened a year ago today or when anything important reaches the number 100. I think it's "neat" like I'm six years old again. It could be a baseball statistic, or the 100th Academy Awards. I like stats and numbers. For example, this is my 59th post since leaving home, yet it is the 62nd in the short history of this blog. Some of you know I'm a fan of the number 9 and have little quirks that go along with that number. If I were to die and go to Heaven, I would hope to receive a Ryan yearbook or life book filled with stats and milestones about me, like how many hours were spent sleeping, eating, showering, and talking to myself.

With that odd bit of info out of the way, today is the six month anniversary of my arrival in Australia. 179 days ago, on December 1st, 2008 I left Keene, New Hampshire, and arrived in Australia 24 hours later on December 3rd. Of course when I landed it was still December 2nd in Keene, NH. So maybe I should have posted this yesterday. It does get confusing.

This week I've taken some time to reflect on my experience and share how I ended up here. Life is pretty normal these days, so much so, that once in a while I remind myself how amazing it is to be in Australia. I didn't just fly down here one weekend. No, it took many little steps and some major decisions in order for this moment to happen, that is me writing this paragraph to you.

After asking some old acquaintances and doing a little digging, I pinpointed when the decision to move to Australia was made. Well I couldn't find the exact date, but it was at the latest October, 2007. One of my host sisters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island said that I often mentioned wanting to work in Australia. Also, one of my interns when working in Oregon in September of that same year said I mentioned wanting to travel there some day. It could have started then, but I have a feeling the idea evolved from a little wish to visit Australia way back during my Carnival cruise ship days.

That alone, is pretty amazing to me, the fact that 14 or 15 months after an idea popped into my head, I followed up on it. I don't think I've ever stuck with an idea or dream that long. Well, that's not completely true, I first heard about Up with People in 1998, and ended up traveling with that program in 2000. But other than that I can't think of any examples.

That brings up a question that I get asked a lot. Why Australia? I never have the same answer, and maybe I still don't know the answer. The fast response is, "I worked on a cruise ship, met a lot of Australians, enjoyed them, and wanted to check their country out." I think the deeper answer is yet to be discovered, but I'm certain that it will be known by the time this is over.

In my life, I've often had great ideas, fantasies or dreams that I was sure were going to happen, but never did for different reasons. For example, one year I was going to buy a guitar. I researched beginner guitar and looked at music books. I even went to the store and picked out a guitar to purchase. But then, I got bored of the idea and never bought one. It was too much of a hassle to learn. I still might take those guitar lessons someday. But it's been the same thing with becoming a wine expert, starting my own eBay business, learning to ride a skateboard (as a child), or teaching myself how to edit movies. They just never happened.

It reminds me of an old George Carlin concert. He talks about playing the board game Monopoly...

"I was never very good at Monopoly.... About the best thing I'd ever have is maybe one piece of property on the light blue series. Oriental Avenue. Nothing on it of course. Maybe an excavation. That's about all I ever had on my stuff was plans. Surveyors marks. All my friends had industrial parks, condominiums, shopping centers, malls! 'Oh boy Carlin you're coming down my side now man!'"

My dreams were a bit like George's property in Monopoly. With Australia, I didn't want this just to be another set of plans.

My "plans" were to be in Australia by June or July 2008. That was the original goal. But as the months went by, it was obvious that this wasn't going to happen. I had no money saved up and no clear plan on what to do down under. What was important, however, is that I had the support of my family. Without their support for this trip, I'm not sure if I'd be here. It was scary enough coming here alone. I wouldn't like to think what it would be like to go against their wishes. But in my 28 years, they've supported me in all my ventures.

On June 3, 2008, I purchased the plane ticket to Australia. That was the biggest step of all really. Before that date, the whole idea was just another fantasy. Nothing was on paper, it was just another plan. As soon as I had that ticket, it all started becoming very real. The research of my future home picked up. I started making connections and finding people who knew other people in Australia. There were still six months to go, but it would go pretty fast.

After spending a very challenging July in Breckenridge, CO working one last set up for Up with People, I returned home to really step up the Oz preparations. There were a little more than three months left to make sure I was in possession of a visa and passport, had completed an eye and dental exam, and of course had my bags packed. It was truly a great three months at home. I worked a steady job, and realized that it was the first time since my teens that I spent a three month stretch in Keene, and also the first time I was able to have Thanksgiving dinner in New Hampshire since 1999! By the time I was supposed to leave for Australia, I almost didn't want to go anymore. It was so special reconnecting with my family that part of me wondered why I was leaving again.

And truth be told, I didn't know. It was a big fear of mine that this trip would be for nothing because of the uncertainties of what would happen here. Would I find a career? Meet the woman of my dreams? Fail miserably? As someone who has lived the previous four years out of a suit case and at sea, this was going to be much different. I'd have to find a normal job, a house, transportation, etc.

And now that six months has passed, the answers are still uncertain, but I have a good idea. I can't tell you exactly the purpose, but things are good here. I've made changes, dropped bad habits and picked up good ones. I've made friends that I hope to have long after this adventure ends. To put it simply, my smile is back. I'm inspired to be healthy and to write again. I was thinking if the Ryan S Watterson of 2008 could meet the Ryan S Watterson of 2009, The 08 one would be shocked at what he saw. If this all ended tomorrow, the two reasons I just mentioned are enough to call this trip a success.

I don't know if this adventure is half over. Who knows what the next few months will bring? But there's a feeling that I might be on the home stretch. The future is unwritten and could surprise me at any time. My challenge for the time being will be to continue growing as a person. Instead of counting down the days I have left, I intend to make the most of each day.

I say it a lot, but I mean it: Thanks again to all of you who keep in touch and have helped me see this crazy idea become a reality. With the internet, it does make me feel closer, but some days the 10,000 mile gap (approx. 16,000 kilometers from New York to Australia) is hard to ignore. One thing about me is you never know where I'll end up next, therefore, I have no idea when we'll meet again, but I hope it's soon.



Enjoy some of my earliest memories of numbers...

1 comment:

- Edmund - said...

Great blog. The journey of Australia will mean more to you in life the further you become removed from it, as well. And the Ryan that arrived is not the Ryan that will leave. It is just another puzzle piece of life.