Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 322 (132)

Flight to Uluru

Monday 24th January (2005)

Let’s see now, I’ve not written anything at all for the past five days. For someone who sits and writes this daily journal religiously for at least two hours every night, that’s quite an unusual and protracted length of silence all of a sudden. Why? I have a very good reason and we both now feel that the time is right to reveal all. In each country that we visit, we try to find something special to take back home with us. Well, we came up with something special here all right, and it’s not something that we can send home with all the other parcels either. Two of us left, but it will now be three of us returning home. Yes, that’s right, we are going to have a baby. I should probably point out that this was not a planned pregnancy and we’ve been dealing with the shock waves over the past few days, hence the temporary suspension of journal entries. Indeed, the past few days have not been easy for either of us, as we’ve slowly gotten to grips with the news. I can’t easily put into words all the feelings and mixed emotions that we’ve just navigated through but I can explain some of the issues that we’ve had to think about. Firstly, if our calculations are correct, we were both taking Doxycycline (anti-Malaria medication) at the time of conception. This caused us some great concern, especially when we learned that this particular medication brings with it the risk of birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Secondly, we are currently half way around the planet (just about as far from home as is physically possible) with our flight schedule not returning us home for another six months or more. Another concern has been Sandy’s age. At thirty-seven, she isn’t ‘very’ old but old enough for us to have to think about some of the risks associated with pregnancy at that age. Additionally, we have no ‘home’ of our own to return to, and no job either. We were planning to return back to the UK and live temporarily with John & Lisa in the hope that I would find employment relatively quickly. Although I’m sure John & Lisa will have no problems with us returning to live with them initially and in the short term, we couldn’t possibly impose to the point of living with them with a baby. Our plans for after our travels were very much up in the air and although we had been thinking loosely about various options, we really didn’t have any idea of what the future was going to hold for us. And now? Well, let’s just say that we’ve had to take a long, hard, look at the situation. Over the past few days, we’ve considered all the options open to us and we now have at least something of a game plan for the next few months.

Naturally, Sandy and I are both thrilled at the prospect of becoming parents. Initially, however, I think we were both a little scared. But why were we scared? Well, it’s a huge responsibility, of course, but more than that, what do we know about being parents? The initial shock brought with it fears and concerns such as those that I listed above, which we’ve devoted a lot of time and thought to over the past few days. Having had time for things to sink in a bit, though, all the positives are now starting to come to light. Sandy and I have an awful lot to be thankful for. We have a stable and happy marriage; we’ve both enjoyed life to the fullest and have travelled the world, lived in several countries on different continents. We have a large and very loving family that spans the world over. And yes, damn it; I’m sure we ‘will’ be great parents! All those years of being a professional auntie and uncle (which is what many of our twenty-three nephews and nieces call us) must surely have given us some degree of understanding of children. I’ve watched my brothers and sisters and in-laws all go through the process of raising children and that is a wealth of knowledge and experience for us to fall back on if we need to. Oftentimes, unplanned pregnancies will alters people’s lives greatly and I frequently hear people tell me that having children is the biggest change in their life and that it was very much more so than they expected. I’ve heard told of how having kids has meant changing their lifestyle beyond recognition and a few have even told of how this was not what they expected or even wanted. If I look at our situation, however, we were already aiming for a huge change in lifestyle one way or another. We had no concrete plans for what direction to take with our lives after this trip. We knew that we would have to find a place to live and start our new, post-travel lives again anyway. Therefore, starting a family is no more or less of a change in lifestyle to what would have happened had Sandy not become pregnant. Ergo, this is probably the best time for us to start a family anyway. We’ve started before with nothing, a couple of times, and we can do it again. Yes, we are older now but we still have our household contents and furniture sitting locked away in Sandy’s mother’s basement so we wouldn’t be starting from absolute rock bottom this time.

So, having finally come to the conclusion that we are both pleased with the situation, we now have to turn to thinking about logistics. After all, we are still on the other side of the planet, we still have no home and I still have no job to return to. I’m extremely lucky to be equipped with a skill that is portable, frequently in demand and, hopefully, that is still capable of drawing respectable income. Sure, we would probably make do if this was not the case, but it certainly can’t hurt either. A number of practical issues immediately face us, and employment once we return home is not the primary one at the moment. I’ll worry about that in the months ahead but right now, we have to prioritise. More important is the fact that we are six months or more from our scheduled return home. In six months' time, Sandy will be very pregnant and it cannot be a good thing for a pregnant woman to be carrying large backpacks around with her, not to mention the stresses and strains of the travelling lifestyle. No, we need to accelerate our return home. So, do we turn around and book a flight immediately back to Europe? Well, that’s really not necessary either. We’ve both decided that that we can still enjoy visiting a select few of the remaining destinations on our planned itinerary as we make our way back to Europe. Chiefly amongst these are finishing off visiting Australia, New Zealand, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands and Florida. We have to pass through or near these places on the way back to Europe anyway and with a few adjustments to the flight dates and routing, we can still have much of our cake and eat it too. I called the airlines the day before yesterday and they confirmed that we are able to make the necessary adjustments to the itinerary without any problems. The nature of our round the world ticket ensures this. They will charge us for the privilege and we still need to book the necessary dates but it should all be possible. In making these changes, we are by definition no longer going to be visiting some of our originally planned destinations. For the most part, these will be islands of the South Pacific region: Fiji, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Tahiti, although we will connect through Tahiti on the way to Easter Island. We have separate tickets for those flights and it remains to be seen if they are refundable for not using them. We will also be passing up on visiting Chile, Machu Picchu in Peru and Mexico. On the plus side, however, our accelerated trip back home will mean a huge savings. By not spending money on visiting these places, we will hopefully be able to return back home with somewhere between €10,000 and €15,000 in hand, as opposed to nothing more than the contents of our backpacks and the need to polish off my resume.

As I type, here on the plane on the way from Cairns to Ayers Rock (Uluru), nobody else yet knows of our good fortune. We are keeping it a secret until we return to Melbourne in a couple of weeks. In a couple of days, we will be flying to Perth, were we have an appointment to speak with a doctor. We’ve done some research on the Internet about the Doxycycline issue and we’re not nearly as concerned now as we first were but we still feel it necessary to go over this and other prenatal issues with a professional. We want to be in possession of all the facts before we break the news to the rest of the family and I want for us to be able to do that whilst in the company and familiar surroundings of family too.

Taking a step back and looking at the larger picture, we can’t help but feel that fate is somehow on our side. We’ve really enjoyed our lives overall so far and have repeatedly had some very good fortune. For example, we were in the Middle East after the war had climaxed and settled down; we were standing on the twin towers a couple of months before they came down; we were in Thailand just ten days before the devastating tsunami struck. We seem to have magically missed all the bad things that have happened in many of the countries around the world that we’ve visited. To top it all off, we’ve been blessed with the good news that Sandy is with child and we were even mysteriously upgraded to business class on this flight just before boarding. Is someone trying to tell us something?

One of the things we’ve been thinking about over the past couple of days in particular has been what to name our new child. We’ve thought about this in the past and the unspoken agreement between us has always been that Sandy would name a boy and that I would name a girl. We believe that December the twenty-fourth (Boxing Day) to be about the time of conception. Should we call the child tsunami? No, it will likely be Joey-Alexander, Joey-Anthony or Timothy for a boy and either Stephanie-Doreen-Elizabeth or Jennifer-Elizabeth-Doreen for a girl (Doreen is my mother’s name and Elizabeth is Sandy’s mother’s name). These are the names that we’ve both liked for many years but we still have time to change our minds.