Admiring Sydney's skyline

How Australia changed my life

Whether you have met me in person, read my about Dani or saw this photo on Instagram, it’s no secret that Australia has a big portion of my heart and that this country changed my life.

A lot has happened there that shaped my life and soul. This country helped me discover and accept myself, my sexuality, what it means to love, be proud of yourself, be grateful for your life and for what Mother Nature offers us. It also taught me what it means to suffer, have constant panic attacks, cry heavily for days and make really tough decisions.

Before going there for the first time, I knew very little about the land down under. Yes, I had seen pictures of the Opera House, kangaroos and koalas but it wasn’t a place high on my bucket list to visit. Even though, back then, there wasn’t a long travel bucket list in my mind because the travelling bug was not part of me yet.

Slowly, things started to change when the possibility of visiting my sister in Australia came up. It was going to be my first trip out of Italy and alone because my sister was already there. 

Picture an 18-year-old guy from Southern Italy with a terrible less than basic knowledge of English, who flies alone to the other side of the world to celebrate Christmas on the beach with his sister! That was me in 2013. Everything was new, mind-blowing and crazy for me. I remember going to the airport 6 hours before the flight just to be sure not to miss it. Or when the hostess gave me the immigration card to fill out and every question was totally terrifying!

When the plane landed in Sydney, everything still felt completely surreal. I didn’t realise where I was until the Opera House appeared. Some of my friends make fun of my immense love for her. They think it’s just a brick building from the 70s. However, to me, she was proof that I was actually in Australia! The opposite side of the world, a full 24 hours and 16,000km from home.

Sydney Opera House at night

The two weeks there went very fast. There was too much to see and experience before leaving. Animals hopping around, landscapes that went over my wildest thoughts, beaches 3 times the size of the Italian ones, people speaking a language I was not comfortable with at all and celebrating Christmas in shorts and t-shirt felt beautiful but also weird.

After those two weeks and many tears cried, I got back to my life in Italy. Little did I know that this trip would start a long process that changed my life. 

From university to a new universe

After having enrolled at university, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable there. So, this is when the idea of going back to Australia for a bit had arisen. At first, I was very nervous about it and overthinking this choice, but I still went with it. 

The plan was to stay there for a year to improve my English, photography skills and gain some work experience in a foreign country. When the day to leave came, there was excitement and fear in my soul. My English was bad and I didn’t really know what was going to happen there. 

However, two weeks into this new adventure and I had cancelled my return ticket to Italy! It was a very quick decision but one I don’t regret making. I knew this Australian adventure was going to be longer and more important than first thought.  

In fact, that year turned to almost 3 and my whole self and life went through some of the biggest and most important changes I’ve ever experienced.

Accepting myself changed my life

One of those changes was discovering and accepting myself and my sexuality. I can clearly remember the thousands of thoughts and feelings that were going on inside myself. Being so far from my previous life, alone, and in a country that felt so accepting and free, unlocked something that had been kept inside me for too long.

What finally made me realise that was experiencing the Mardi Gras parade. I didn’t know anything about it, but as soon as I saw countless people – young and old – the police force, the military, businesses and the government all coming together to celebrate love, that’s when I thought Australia was the right place to let myself free. 

The Sydney Mardi Gras that changed my life

I didn’t have to explain or justify my choices to anyone. Sydney was allowing me to feel like it was okay to be myself. This is where, after a lot of thoughts trying to deny it, I told myself “I think I’m gay”. 

Gay, a word I had put a lot of weight on and that felt scary to say or link to me. Everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly. Even now, it’s still a daily process which, no matter how challenging or hard might feel, I wouldn’t change at all.

Finally, after having watched countless coming out videos and read stories about them I, also, had experienced it and blossomed into a new me. It felt like a massive rock had left my soul and without it, my life changed.

Shortly after having accepted this side of myself, love came into my life. Another big change for me! Loving someone so much who at first was a stranger to me, giving him all of myself, kissing him for the first time and sharing my daily life with, were foreign feelings to me.

The time spent together was intense, unique, meaningful and also challenging. I cherish many beautiful memories of this time because it was a major breakpoint from my past life. Just like with anything significant in our life, along with those great moments, there were some heavy ones too. 

I suffered, had constant panic attacks, cried heavily for days and made really tough decisions. But it was all worth it.

Time to leave

In 2018, it was the time to leave Australia and close this long and important chapter of my life. As usual, this decision didn’t come easy or quickly. Leaving this country where so much had happened really felt like leaving a piece of myself there.

Throughout those 2 and a half years living down under, I met some amazing friends, moved houses countless times, found myself, felt extreme highs and lows, slept under billions of stars and saw places I couldn’t get enough of. 

Leaving Sydney sign

However, trying to find a way to stay there more permanently was impacting a lot my mental health. Going through visa over visa, keeping up with immigration changes and my confusion about what goals I really wanted to achieve were challenging my mental health. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t the right time for me to settle down and commit to this country. My desire for freedom was too big and my body was telling me that through more and more panic attacks.

Still, when the day to leave the county came, I cried a lot. I started questioning and overthinking everything that had lead me to make this decision. But it didn’t change as it was the right one. Even though my eyes were sobbing during the entire flight to Singapore and I kept seeing things that reminded me of Australia, this choice marked the beginning of a brand new life chapter for me. 

A chapter that only happened thanks to the time spent in this country. It helped me find strength, courage and desire to explore what Mother Nature is sharing with us. Especially because Australia often feels like my comfort zone. So it’s hard to leave but doing so pushes me into living incredible adventures and recognising my worth and capabilities.

Travelling to discover yourself

Deep down, along with Australia, travelling changed my soul and life. And it still does. I will never stop saying how travelling, alone or not, abroad or within your country, is one of the best things you can do.

After the time spent in Australia, a rollercoaster of unforgettable adventures followed. Some of these crazy (for me) adventures are:

  • Spending my birthday in Thailand with the owner of the hostel and people I had just met;
  • Moving a couple of times from Laos to Thailand with a kinda broken foot;
  • Meeting through Facebook a fellow Italian in Singapore and ending up in Kuala Lumpur and then Langkawi;
  • Crossing the Mekong River on a journey that seemed endless but very eye-opening;
  • Living one the best years of my life in New Zealand.

I will talk more about all these experiences on here soon, but I just want you to remind you how powerful travelling can be. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it’s a bit challenging to travel due to the pandemic going on in the world. It has really stopped our world and limited our freedom.

However, travelling is not only living adventures on tropical islands or moving to the opposite side of the world. For sure, there are many perks to that but travelling also brings important changes to your soul, teaches you valuable lessons about yourself and challenges you to get out of your comfort zone. And all of these can happen anywhere.

So, until we can go back to safely travelling and exploring our beautiful world, try to travel within yourself. Do things you never thought you could and challenge your comfort zone. Start with simple things. For example, it took me 2 weeks to create a profile on Fiverr to find translation jobs. My self-beliefs were putting me down and I was truly scared to do so. Translating? Me? That’s crazy! I’m not capable to do so! However, I kept challenging and working on these thoughts and ended up creating one!

Will I actually get jobs? I don’t know!

Will it become my new biggest passion ever? Maybe!

But I still made it to the end and travelled from the person I was before creating the profile to a slightly new and less scared one.

I hope this post will help you take a small step of travelling towards the version of yourself you want to become. It can feel challenging and, believe me, I struggle with it on a daily basis. But small steps can lead you to an endless and beautiful journey.

Do you have a place that means a lot to you, evokes strong emotions or has changed your life? Have you ever had a memorable solo experience? Let me know in the comments!

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