One common question people ask me when they discover I’m an Aussie living in a small Austrian town is: “How did you end up here?”
And the answer is, of course, a love story.
Right? Who wants to read the story about the girl that travelled the world and met her soulmate along the way?
Because it’s bullshit, right?
But then it happened to me.
And it still surprises me. I’m a romantic at heart, definitely, but I’m far too practical to believe in things like love at first site, fate, destiny etc.
And to a degree I still don’t. I would much rather believe in timing, coincidence and good luck. But it still doesn’t change the fact that in June 2013 I shared 24 hours with a guy I’d just met, and by November, I was living with him in Austria, on the other side of the world from where I’d grown up.
Me at 20:
- I don’t need to go travelling
- I could never travel on my own
- I want to live in Melbourne all my life
Me at 30:
- If I don’t go travelling again soon I will DIE
- I would much rather travel on my own
- I’m completely open to the idea of living somewhere else
So, I’ll get to the point. The love story. But not with too much fluff.
In June 2013 I found myself in the cute riverside town of Porto, in Portugal. Unbeknownst to me I had arrived just a few days before Festival Saint John, Porto’s biggest night of the year. And it would also turn out to be the biggest night of my life. I changed rooms three times in my four night stay, in a cacophony of errors on my behalf.
I found Thomas in one of those shared dorm rooms. Cute and with an Austrian accent to die for, my limited conversations with him led me to believe two crucial points: a. he had a girlfriend, and, b. he was too young for me.
Yet on the last night, I discovered that both my assumptions were incorrect. And at midnight, when we all went down to watch the pyrotechnics over the river, there were fireworks, both literally and figuratively.
The two of us stayed up all night together, and all the next morning until it was time for me to catch the bus to my next destination. I remember feeling sad as the bus pulled away and I watched him disappear. Though at that point it was no more sadness than I’d experienced when leaving any other memorable European town.
We kept in touch via Facebook and even Skyped a few times. He was keen to meet up with me again. I was… well to be honest I had two spare weeks so I thought, what the hell, a holiday romance could be nice and it’ll probably be a cheap way to spend my time. Yes, I was a true backpacker.
He met me at the bus station in Zagreb. With no mobile phone (my phone was stolen in Russia) and no easy way to get in contact with him if anything went wrong I arrived at the bus station and just hoped he would turn up.
He did. We spent a magical week in Italy and Austria. Yes, magical, I actually wrote that, and it’s true. By the end of that week we’d both decided that we wanted to make a go of it and I waved a firm goodbye to the commitment-phobe, freaking-out Debbie of the past. After a second rendezvous in Istanbul at the end of my trip our plans were still solid and we decided that a visit to Oz was the obvious next step for him.
A month after I arrived home, he arrived in Melbourne, fittingly on the day of the AFL Grand Final and I whisked him straight to a pub in Hawthorn to enjoy the full Aussie atmosphere of the day. He spent four weeks with me in Australia, meeting my friends and family and ticking off the local fauna. Koala? Tick. Kangaroo? Tick. Echidna? Tick.
Then it was decision making time. Since I wasn’t working and our research showed it would probably be easier for me to get a Visa in Austria, I ended up, only six weeks from when I arrived back in Oz after my trip, back at the airport, hugging my parents a tearful goodbye.
I didn’t know how long I would be gone, or when I would return, but for once in my life, I was sure that I was going in the right direction.