It was one of those whimsical decisions that only makes sense after you've done it. I'd just graduated from university and had no idea what I wanted to do next. Going to Australia on my own for three months suddenly seemed the perfect solution: It would be both an adventurous challenge and the chance to think everything through. So I flew into Perth, Western Australia. And virtually the first thing I did when I arrived was to call Peter and split up with him. As crazy as it sounds, I needed to go to the other side of the world to do it: I wasn't there to watch him fall apart, knowing it was my fault and still caring about him. And because I didn't feel wracked with the guilt I would have felt at home, I got over it far more quickly (as did he). I was free to fall madly in love with Australia, and I stayed, traveling all over Australasia for the next six years.
I think I have to be honest at this point and confess it wasn't only Australia I fell madly in love with. I might have been Peter's girlfriend when I flew into Australia, but six months after arriving I was Philip's wife.
I'd been in Australia for two weeks when I met Philip. He worked at a theater company where I'd landed a job, and it was love at first sight. I immediately recognized Philip, a spellbinding, charismatic, risk-all outback Romeo, as one of my Soul Mates. (Well, cats have nine lives, who's to say we are limited to a single, solitary Soul Mate?) He wasn't afraid of anything, and when I was with him, life was exciting and full of possibilities. We fell deeply and passionately in love. Although we got married very quickly, we clicked so powerfully together it felt the natural and right thing to do. Neither of us had really done much traveling, so we set off to explore, experience, and discover together. We spent six months driving through the hot, red outback in an old Holden panel van, living on wild fruit, swimming with dolphins, wrestling with spiders. We trekked through craggy outposts of India and Nepal, spent weekends snorkeling in the coral-studded waters around Vanuatu and the Solomons, took crazy surf-trips to Bali, and sailed boats down the muddy Mekong in Vietnam. It was amazing. And in the end, maybe that was the problem: Man cannot live on thrill alone. After six years of wonder and discovery, I was all amazed out. I'd had one brief visit home in all that time. I missed my family and friends; I missed normal old England. I missed Marks & Spencer's potato chips; I longed to sit in a pub on a damp autumn day (Australia doesn't do seasons) and pretend I cared about soccer; I was desperate for a colorful argument about politics and the chance to browse through some decent weekend papers (man leaves change on convenience store counter was about the level of reporting in Australia). It was time to come home, and as much as I loved Philip, he was a creature of the outback. Beautiful, passionate, and wild, he had -- and wanted -- no place in Britain, with its crowds, traffic, litter, and drizzle. I went to Australia alone. Six years later, I returned home the same way.