Saturday, July 3, 2010
Boarding the ship Sylvania in Liverpool at the age of twenty-one, and heading for America, was more of an emotional upheaval than I ever anticipated. Watching my family standing on the quayside, waving, slowly shrinking as the ship pulled further and further away, brought on such a mixture of excitement, sadness, fear, and panic that I was tempted to jump overboard and swim back to land.
I had the promise of a secretarial job in Washington D.C., and temporary accommodation in a downtown hostel, but supposing something went wrong? What was I thinking? I didn’t know a soul in America. Was I crazy? Why this urge to exchange my comfortable life for travel, anyway?
It would be over eighteen months before I had answers to these questions.
Gradually, as land disappeared and the mood of everyone on board lightened, my adventurous self overcame my faint-hearted self and the journey became easier to bear. I soon realized how very little I understood about life, about people and their countless differences. Many of those passengers attached themselves so firmly in my mind that some would end up in my stories in years far ahead.
Passing the Statue of Liberty and finally setting foot in the USA all felt as though it were happening in a dream. But it was real, and things were looking up. I even had a couple of new friends—two girls in the same boat (pun intended), heading for the same Washington D.C. hostel.
To cut a long story short at this point, things didn’t turn out quite as expected. Do they ever? The job didn’t materialize; the hostel was awful (no air-conditioning in sweltering heat); and money was running short. What to do. What to do?
Tune in for more next month and read where two of us moved to next. Nope, it wasn’t Australia :-)