Traveling around the world on your own, is a very rewarding and eye opening adventure which can help shape the person you are or the person you want to be.
For the past 10 years, I have traveled to about 20 countries and territories, most of them on my lonesome, and it was definitely the best times of my life. I had no regrets.
However, there comes a time during your travels when the feeling of utter solitude hits you like a brick wall. It’s that nagging feeling in your gut when all of a sudden, you miss everyone: your family, your friends, your office buddies.
You just happen to miss everything that’s familiar in your life and there is a feeling that makes you want to suddenly pack your things, take the next flight out and come back to your own familiar cocoon.
I was roaming the streets of Sydney, Australia last Christmas eve and this utter feeling of solitude hit me out of nowhere.
|Queen Victoria Building and monument|
I was roaming around Market St, the central business district of Sydney, and I was smack in the midldle of Australians’ frantic last minute shopping for presents and Christmas banquets.
Everywhere you turn, shops were full of customers out to purchase the best presents for their loved ones for the holidays. There were couples strolling around Pitt St. and Sydney Arcade seeming to enjoy the milder Australian summer.
Families were gathered around the giant Lego christmas tree built in the middle of the shopping complex. Near Martin’s Place, there was another giant interactive Christmas tree which caught the fancies of both locals and tourists alike.
If you dared visit, Queen Victoria Building, a major shopping complex in the city, you’d be surprised at the throngs of people coming in and out of the ancient building, shopping for treats.
Seeking refuge from the multitudes of shoppers and tourists, I also tried roaming around Castlereagh Street which houses the most expensive brands, thinking that people would be averse to spending all of their hard-earned dough for expensive belts, bags, and coats. Again, I was proven wrong. The area was a total chaos with shoppers.
|Display at the World Square in Goulbourne|
I finally ended at the quiet lawns of Hyde Park, where I literally hid from the throngs of people.
It was Christmas eve, and I was alone in an unfamiliar city.
I had no one to talk to and no one to eat “Noche Buena” with (it’s a Christmas banquet usually served during Christmas eve in the Philippines).
I lay on the grass and stared at the blue Australian sky, and without warning, tears fell from my eyes.
I tried to perk up by going to my happy place, but with Christmas all around me, I failed miserably.
I must have cried for an hour or so until I feel asleep, waking to a starry night.
It was hours before Christmas and I had nowhere to go, and I was resigned to spending one of my loneliest Christmases, when a tall, lanky guy in a Santa hat, approached me near Goulbourne St. and handed me a flier to Sydney’s Red and White party.
|With New Friends|
Suddenly, my spirits were lifted and there was suddenly the prospect of making this day positive. After all, Australians are known to throw wicked parties.
It was 9pm when I entered Sidebar, one of the coolest backpacker haunts in the city. The place was half-full but it was already buzzing with activity.
I met several people from around the world and there was the usual hellos and how do you do’s.
Names were exchanged and the stories of our travels and conquests flowed freely as beer, pizza, wedges etc, were finished in a matter of minutes (we were hungry backpackers after all !!!).
I met Bernd and Tobias from Germany, Lucia from Uruguay, Thiyen from Vietnam, Johanne and Marcel from France, James from the UK and all night, we talked our adventures in Australia and around the world.
By 11pm, Sidebar was already bursting with people and by then, a lot of people were a bit buzzed, as evidenced by the blank faces, and the reddish cheeks. I can honestly tell you that Australians really know how to party!!!! And by extension, visitors to the country, adapt quickly when it comes to the art of partying.
The music got only louder and the dancing more spirited as we feel the clock ticking.
I was looking around the sea of faces and the writhing bodies and a sudden warmth filled me.
There I was, more than 6,000 kilometers away from home, but I was no longer alone.
All around me were new friends whom I really like to enjoy. Every minute, I was meeting a new face and learning a new face.
Granted, after that night, I would keep in touch with only a handful of them, but I was overcome by the realization that on that night,
I was celebrating with a thousand souls, and that no matter what happens after this, no matter where we go, there was a time in our lives, when we were all together.
It was a time that we will never forget.
I could feel a thousand different emotions welling inside me when out of nowhere, the DJ started the countdown. It was 30 seconds to Christmas.
In unison, we counted down the seconds to Christmas and everyone including the serving staff joined in with a childish anticipation.
When it came, Christmas Day was welcomed with the loudest cheer I have ever heard.
Then, if it was possible, dark club went darker still, and there was a quick pause.
As if on cue, everyone, at least Aussies and British and Europeans, who are quite familiar with the song, sang “Fairy Tale of New York”, at the top of their voices.
I learned later on that the song was in fact the most played Christma song in the UK in the 21st century.
Those who were not familiar with it, just settled on watching the grinning faces of the singers and joined in the swaying of the bodies.
When it was over, the entire place burst with hugs and kisses, and sincere well wishes to friends. To everyone really, because in that moment, we were all friends.
The partying went on until the wee hours of the morning. I partied so hard, my feet were aching the next day. But again, I had no regrets, because it was one of the happies days of my life.