Perth looks super pretty from above.
So, holiday time. It feels strange. 12 weeks ago I had this crazy idea, and 12 weeks also seemed like plenty of time to organise an extended holiday. So I procrastinated for a couple of weeks then finally bought a motorbike, quit my job, and started preparing in earnest for a trip halfway around the world.
It turns out that organising a trip halfway around the world is actually quite a lot of work. Most people who do similar things spend 6-12 months preparing: I did not let this faze me, because clearly all those other people were Doing It Wrong. Or something.
It rapidly became clear that they were, in fact, Doing It Right. Mealtimes turned into exercises in form-filling as I shoveled stirfry into my mouth; I normally live off a staple diet of vegetables fried with chilli and oyster sauce, a meal which I call “stir fry” to the disgust of anyone who can actually cook. I can however prepare it in about 4.3 minutes while filling in a visa application with the other hand; a critical part of the recipe is filling the house with chilli smoke, which I can assure you has done amazing things for my housemate’s asthma.
Learning experiences on the form-filling front included discovering that: despite advertising them prominently on their website, everyone at the RAC looks at you funny if you ask for a Carnet de Passage en Douane, the magical document that lets you transport vehicles across borders. As it turns out, there is a wise man called Jonathan deep in the bowels of the RAC who knows about the Carnet, and you must visit him personally in his lair in Joondalup in order to receive his blessing. I tried to pay him in elven gold, but he only took credit cards. Which is unfortunate, because the elven gold would probably have been significantly cheaper.
I can also confirm that the Russian Embassy in Canberra does not in fact accept cheap photocopies of your official Russian invitation letter when applying for a visa. Something that in retrospect I perhaps could have predicted, but hey. I received my visa and passport back from the embassy two business days before my flight left for Korea. Learning!
As the date loomed, it became very clear why everyone else spends six months prepping for this sort of trip. Every spare moment was spent working on the bike, dealing with the good ol’ Department of Driver and Vehicle Services, searching for unmarked Russian roads in Google Maps, buying things on the Internet, learning Russian (to the despair of my extremely patient teacher Evgenia), booking accommodation, getting extended visas, doing battle with Telstra, dealing with customs agents, selling my stuff. Doing battle with Telstra again. Sleep became optional, and my colleagues became used to sleep-deprived-Patrick stumbling around the office, particularly around the time I unadvisedly decided to give up the caffeine.
All this culminated with this morning; by then my stress and caffeine levels had reached the point where everything I looked at was gently vibrating. For very complicated reasons involving ANZ, who I will never deal with again, and Easter – I mean, really? Who
has Easter in April? – I needed to finalise the sale of my car and produce the money I will be living off for the next six months two hours before I left for the airport. I was achieving previously unexplored heights of quiet panic.
And… nothing really went wrong. I went and washed the car, did battle with Telstra one last time (just to say goodbye), met the wonderful Jamie, sold him my car, received a cheque for more money than I have seen for a very long time, banked the cheque, shoveled lunch into my face, went home, threw all my things into boxes, had a brief and not-so-quiet panic looking for business cards which I had cleverly packed into my helmet an hour previously and headed out the door. My amazing family rocked up with everything I’d forgotten the night before and vacuumed my room while I ran around shouting at inanimate objects, so the person who moves in next probably won’t die of some terrible disease unknown to medical science.
Which brings me to sitting on a remarkably pleasant Malaysian Airlines^W^WAirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur. The awesome guy sitting next to me is part of a large Shell delegation to Perth, and offered up his window seat after I kept craning past him to look at the view. I made discrete inquiries as to whether he or his colleagues has ever worked for Freescale, or perhaps design advanced electronics for the US military… but the flight has thankfully remained free of conspiracy and headed towards Malaysia. I assume.