We’re in the back of the ute with the lot of us, driving 80 kilometres an hour over a dirt road littered with potholes. We hold on to the sides so tightly our knuckles turn white under the thick layer of dirt that covers our whole bodies. Soon our muscles will hurt like nothing we have felt before, but now all we feel is excitement. We hit another pot hole and the ones going backwards didn’t see it coming, they get thrown into the sky like little kids but land like bags of sand. We giggle like little girls and hold on to our misfitting hats, our hair sticks to our faces in strings where it isn’t dancing on the wind. Wide smiles with bright white teeth show behind black smeared faces, eyes glistening from underneath our tangled messes of hair. We’re like a group of little kids on a holiday and our silly dads have taken us for a wild adventurous trip. It is all new to us, but we’re entirely safe. We’re young, for most of us these are the first few days alone in the big wide world and we all come from relatively well to do places.
Money bought us another week of security, a place where if things went awry we could tell someone to fix it. They were responsible after all, we paid them to be responsible. So here we are, driving 80 kilometres an hour over an old dirt road, cramped in the back of a truck with nothing to hold us there except our own hands, a strange man driving us to a place we’ve only been once before in the middle of nowhere. I bet not one of us could point us out on a map or tell you what west or east was, and some would not even remember the name of the closest town.
When we get to our temporary home we pour out on all sides like water from a fountain, wild excited chatter fills the air. Some try to call dibs on the only shower on the property, some of us talk about home, they wonder what their friends would say if they saw them now. At night we gather around a big wooden table set with overflowing bowls of potato salads, pots and pans with pasta and sauces and bowls of grated cheese. We eat until we pop and then somehow manage to fit in a rich desert. At night we hang around on the veranda, where we fill our diaries with scattered thoughts and moments and try to explain what we are experiencing on the back of postcards that are too small. In the corner, we scribble addresses half a world away. We watch the sun set behind the grazing horses and look up at the stars. Some go to bed early, others stay up and talk with lowered voices until deep in the night. Tomorrow will hold more adventures for us, but all of us sleep well because we know none of these adventures hold any danger. We’ve got a few more days of security ahead of us until we’ll be let loose to fend for ourselves. We’ll worry about that when the time comes.
We all paid a company to ease us into life on the other side of the world. I’m eighteen again when I think back to those days, and I wonder if you all still remember us or if we’ve disappeared into the big crowd of faces you see every year. I wonder if you realise how much you meant to us, even if we didn’t realise it ourselves. And then I wonder what everyone else is doing now, what their eyes would look like under those bird nests of hair today and under those stained hats that just wouldn’t fit.