When I was around 5 years old, I went on a family trip to Mallorca. It was the first time I went outside of the country, except for a few trips to Sweden, and the very first time I went on a plane. Mom and Grandma had been preparing me for weeks, saying things like “when we get there, we’ll go to the beach and it will be warm and sunny and full of palm trees”. Very exciting stuff for a little girl from Oslo who’s only ever seen palm trees in cartoons on TV.
I don’t know what exactly I had imagined in my head, but it was clear that I didn’t quite understand what happens when you fly on a plane. When we exited the plane and Mom declared “Here we are!”, my 5-year-old self immediately called her out on her nonsense: “No, we’re not. We’re still in Norway. Look, there are floors and walls and ceilings, and there’s even doors. No way we’re on Mallorca, everything looks the same. I don’t see a beach.” Mom patiently tried to explain that the reason I didn’t see the beach was because, well, we were still indoors. I wouldn’t hear any of it; to me it seemed like they had ushered me on a plane, served some food and given me crayons, and three hours later let me out again on the airport in Oslo. It literally wasn’t until we walked outside and I spotted a palm tree that I had my light bulb moment, “Whoah! So…. we’re not in Norway anymore?”
Traveling to Australia reminded me of that. I got on a plane in Oslo. Then another one in Brussels. And another one in Abu Dhabi. And stopped in Singapore where I was told they sentence you to death on the spot if you’re caught trafficking drugs (and everyone immediately starting eying each other nervously as if we were all thinking the same thing: oh my God, did someone plant anything in my bag???). And then finally, after more horrible vegetarian airplane meals than I care to remember, they let me out and told me “welcome to Australia”.
When I left Oslo it was sunny and warm; Brisbane was rainy and dreary. I looked around me in the arrivals hall and started an imaginary conversation with Mom in my head. “This isn’t really Australia, right? They’ve just been shuffling me around in one giant airport for the past 32 hours, is what it feels like. They’ve tricked us.” Imaginary Mom tried to console me: “It’s just because we’re still inside, Christine. Go outside. Get some food. Take a nap.”
So I did. And when I woke up, I saw a palm tree outside of my window.
It must be true, then. I’m in Australia!