This week my youngest will take off to Vanuatu on her first independent holiday. I say independent because it is without any of us, her nuclear family, but she will be travelling with her beau to his family home.
Naturally, I am remembering my own first trip away. I had been dating my boyfriend for almost a year when, without any warning at all, he announced that he had overstayed his visa and immigration had been to his shared accommodation looking for him. I don't remember how long it took but his stuff was packed and a ticket home purchased in double quick time. With great generosity and huge naivety, I accepted that he hadn't known how to tell me his status and all was forgiven. He left and I stayed here to work and pursue my studies.
After six months or thereabouts, I got myself a ticket to go and see him while we waited for the immigration process to allow him back in Australia.
The airport queues were long and by the time I made it onto the plane, I was being paged, one of the very last to board. It was all a bit excruciating for me as a green 19 year old.
Some well meaning person had suggested that I should dress up for the long awaited reunion. I was leaving a cool Sydney spring and arriving in the tropics so I had worn the skirt from a summer suit with an angora jumper, swapping the jumper for the suit jacket in the plane toilet at the end of the flight. It was a special kind of madness.
I will never forget the moment I stepped into the air bridge in Kuala Lumpur. The air had a particular smell about it and the humidity was a stifling force. There were many, many security men lined up through the airport, they were mostly shorter than me (Australian men- in- uniform are almost universally taller than I am) and they all carried a very obvious shotgun.