Sunday, July 14, 2013

Let the Adventure Begin

Travel update #1, brought to you by my over tired self writing on the plane from Toronto to Vancouver... and posted from the Sydney airport thanks to their wonderful free wifi. 

This is one of those moments when my life doesn’t feel like it’s real. I’m currently sitting on an Air Canada 777 from Toronto en route to Sydney Australia (and then to Melbourne) with a brief stopover in Vancouver. Yes, that’s right, Sonia is finally going to Australia!!

For those of you who know me, or just happen to read this blog, this is probably not a surprise to you. This trip has been an long time coming; the paperwork process started back in September 2012, and it has been a content list of things to do since then. But it was all worth it in the end of course! However what only family and good friends know is that this has been a dream of mine since somewhere around grade 11 when I learned that exchange programs were actually not as impossible to achieve as I had previously thought. This has been one of those huge dreams of mine that I worked towards from that point onwards, knowing that I needed to keep my marks high and stay involved. I have to say, sitting here in the airplane with the setting sun outside of my window and the adventure of a lifetime just ahead of me, all of that hard work was more than worth it.

My check-in at the airport earlier this afternoon was definitely an adventure to say the least however. Here I was thinking I was so organized with my folder full of organized paperwork and tickets, boy was I wrong! Word of warning to anyone getting a work or study visa for another country: if you renew your passport after you have gotten your visa, it will not be transferred over to your new passport. You would think it would, but no, it does not! How do I know this you might ask? Well being a good little citizen I renewed my passport a few weeks ago because it was due to expire less than 6 months after I would be returning to the country. The problem was that I applied for my Australian visa with my old passport about 2 months ago, because I was told to do it months in advance because of processing time. Other word of advice: getting an Australian student visa from Canada is incredibly painless, it takes about an hour to fill out the form but you get your visa within a few days if it’s done properly! So I get to the airport with all of my visa paperwork and ticket information, and for some reason when they’re scanning my passport there is no visa showing up. New passport problems-it wasn’t connected to the old one. And normally you get to keep your old passport, in which case they would have been able to scan that one and all would have been well, however I got some new employee when I renewed my passport and she insisted that it needed to be shredded. Thank you passport Canada for that one. Luckily though, because most Australian visa’s are able to be done online, the people at the airport desks can actually put through a new visa for you right then and then, problem solved! Hopefully. I don’t want to jinx it by saying it’s all good until I’m standing on the other side of Australian customs at the airport. Problem number 2, go figure, was overweight baggage. It is so bloody hard to pack for 6 months in just a few suitcases! I had accepted the fact that there was no way I would be able to get it all into my one allotted checked baggage and would need at least 1 or 2 more, but I had not planned on them being overweight. Thank goodness I ended up getting a wonderfully helpful ticket agent who helped me manage the weight between the bags which took the extra charges down to a much smaller sum. Not to say it wasn’t a decent charge, but some battles you just can’t win!

Okay, so check-in adventures aside, I finally made it to the gate to catch my flight from Ottawa to Toronto. Somewhat ironically security was an absolute breeze to get through. A combination of an very efficient security crew and the fact that I have become a master at packing/dressing to get through security as painlessly as possible (leggings and a long shirt means no pockets or metal). I can’t actually remember the last time I flew to Toronto, or had a flight that short for that matter so it was pretty entertaining to start descending about 15 minutes after we had reached altitude. Gotta love short hops on efficient planes! Had a few hours in Toronto to browse the shops (so many more than Ottawa) and stretch my legs (the extremely long flight to Sydney looms ahead of me) and get some food which was quite nice. You forget to eat sometimes in all the last minute packing and it struck me all of a sudden why I felt like i was about to pass out at 6pm, I hadn't eaten anything since early in the morning! It’s a good thing that I didn’t have to talk to many people until I got food in me though, I tend to get “hangry” (hungry angry) at a certain point and having to make polite small talk with people usually does not bode well. I did have two wonderful older ladies sitting next to me though en route to vegas (you go girls!) who wanted to hear all about what my future life was going to be like down under.

That actually got me thinking, what is my life going to be like down there? I actually don’t have an answer for that one. Which is kind of nice actually, the promise of a blank canvas full of possibilities that are yet to be decided is amazing! I’ve had some many people tell me I must be so scared or nervous about going to a foreign country all alone to a life that is a completely strange concept to me. That question always catches me off guard because that is the exact opposite of what I have been thinking and feeling! I guess that’s just my personality, but excitement and happiness have always been the dominant feelings as my departure date got closer, not anxiety and fear. I would be lying to say there wasn’t a whole lot of stress and craziness leading up to it, but hey everyone needs a little bit of chaos sometimes. It’s when people ask that kind of things that you realize some of your more dominant personality traits; independent, adventurous and determined seemed to be what everyone was always telling me about my attitude towards all of that. I mean yes, I’m going to be on the other side of the world from all of the people I love and am used to seeing all the time, but it’s not like I won’t be able to talk to them. Skype is an absolutely wonderful invention, snapchat fills in the hole for people you can’t text and of course there’s always e-mail and facebook! We are so blessed to live in a time with so many means of communication. Now all of that is not to say it isn’t hard to leave everyone behind. There has been quite a few tears shed and countess tight hugs the past weeks that were difficult to say the least. But, as I tell people, it’s not like I’m moving there forever, I’ll be back in January! You won’t even have time to miss me before I’m back. 

However now I have to give into my ever drooping eyelids and try and take a nap. So this is the end of the surprisingly long first travel update! I will try my best to get another one done on the flight to Sydney, considering I’ve got 15 hours to kill that shouldn’t be too hard. 

Also as a side note, being the photography junkie that I am there will probably be many pictures posted on here both with and without posts to accompany them. I find most of the time the good old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" is dead on. Once I have gotten settled in Melbourne and will have all my camera cables and such I'll upload the ones from the trip over!

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