My son informs me he has plans to drive to Australia in a campervan when he’s older.
Once I’d finished explaining to him that it was in fact logistically impossible, I started thinking about how I would react if his adult self does decide to up and leave around the world.
Will I be proud of his adventurous nature, offering seasoned advice and helping him book the best flights? Or will I be afraid to let him go and try to change his mind?
When I was 19 and announced I was off travelling for a year, in a bizarre attempt to deter me from my plans my mother began collecting newspaper cuttings of every accident, murder, or national disaster that occurred over that side of the world, storing them in a blue folder labelled ‘Reasons not to go’, or something to that effect.
It didn’t work. Six months later I was onboard a plane to western Australia.
She might have had reason to worry – I probably wasn’t always the most sensible traveller. Within the first few weeks I’d met two others heading in the same direction as myself and decided to travel along with them in their dilapidated Land Rover.
We drove down the coast of western Australia stopping at various towns and by the end of the week we were on the South Coast Highway to Esperance; a daunting 480 kilometres with little in between.
The surroundings were remote and cars passed infrequently. It was late in the evening and dark outside when my two male companions told me they had something to show me and pulled over to a rest area.
I hesitantly climbed out of the Land Rover, suddenly extremely nervous. They turned out the lights of the vehicle and we were thrown into complete darkness while our eyes adjusted to the light. Alarmed by my sudden horror-film like surroundings, I wondered how on earth I had come to be in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black with two relative strangers. This would be my sticky end. I felt stupid and naïve having got myself into such a dangerous situation.
I eyed them suspiciously searching for a clue – a sudden movement, a knowing nod of the head, the sound of a knife being sharpened.
I envisioned my poor mother back home, shaking her head and clutching her blue folder saying ‘I told her so!’ as she cut my picture from the newspaper.
So consumed with fear was I, that I hadn’t looked up to notice the truly breath-taking sight, a sky full of thousands of stars glistening like cut crystal.
I’d never seen anything like it. I was dumbstruck by the enormity of the sky and, in a moment of profound revelation, realised how huge the universe was and how tiny I was in relation.
I guess when it comes down to it and your child decides to up and leave, you just have to believe in them and their instincts, that you have instilled in them the strength to figure things out by themselves and that the experiences they encounter will be life altering – hopefully in a good way.