I wouldn’t say that Byron Bay in the northeast of New South Wales is a popular tourist destination. I have never heard of it before I found myself there. Still, Fabio said that’s where we were going because a friend of his told him it was where we should spend the longest time of our trip together and it is a wonderful place for surfing. He had only taken up surfing in Duli Beach in El Nido with my friends from Surf El Nido, and in La Union with my friends from Four A’ces Surf School, but he was already hooked.
Byron Bay is 772 kilometers north of Sydney and 165 kilometers south of Brisbane. To get there, there are three airports within 2 hours drive.
“Ballina/Byron Bay Gateway Airport in Ballina is served by Virgin Blue, Regional Express and Jetstar. Various shuttle buses will get you to Byron Bay in around 35 minutes.
Coolangatta or Gold Coast International Airport at Coolangatta, just over the border in Queensland is served by all domestic carriers and some international ones. Various shuttle buses connect to Byron Bay in about 40 minutes.
Brisbane International and Domestic Airport at Eagle Farm on the eastern side of Brisbane, is served by all domestic and most international carriers. A light rail and buses run directly to Brisbane Roma Street transit terminal, which has a choice of buses to Byron Bay. There are also direct shuttles to Byron Bay, which take around two hours.” – Visit Byron Bay
Our flight from Sydney arrived in Coolanggatta airport, already in the territory of Queensland, and ahead by one hour, shortly before midnight. We had to adjust our time to reflect the change in time zone but had to change it back to Sydney time after we crossed the border between New South Wales and Queensland.
I found us a cottage on AirBnb in the middle of the forest out of the town center, in which the description read “frequently visited by horses, kangaroos, and wallabies,” and we were decided.
I arranged for door-to-door shuttle service and we were taken straight to our AirBnb house. We had no idea how remote the place was. We were hungry and had no access to the town because there was no public transport and it was too far out to walk in pitch darkness.
I regretted our decision to take the shuttle service from the airport and wished we had hired a car right then and there for we hired a car in Byron Bay the next day anyway. And then at the end, we had to get on another shuttle bus from Byron Bay back to the airport. I’m putting this information here just in case someone is planning to go and gets to read this post.
We hired a car from town the next day. Since we ourselves couldn’t come to the office to pick up the car and they told us it was necessary for us to go there to complete the paperwork, the car company had to come to our house, get Fabio, bring him to the office, and afterwards, Fabio came back to the house to get me. Our first stop was lunch at an Italian restaurant called Targa that we found while exploring the town’s streets on foot.
The town is lovely in its boho vibe. This is what I absolutely love about the little towns in Australia. They have all these little crafty stores, and people on the streets walking, relaxed and outgoing. There were musicians on the street. It was pretty and exciting for me. I always like finding myself in places like these. I feel both alive and at home.
Over the next days, we took road trips to nearby towns, soaking in sights like this:
It reminded me of the landscape of Scotland. Hills and plains rolling past, my daughter asleep on my lap, as we traveled by bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow in the summer of 2015.
Fabio surfed with a board that we borrowed from our AirBnb hosts.
We visited Cape Byron’s lighthouse and watched the sun set.
We had dinners in town and sometimes hung out at the park where there were street performers and people came to just watch, drink beers, and be with friends.
The cottage we had was lovely. It was constructed from hardwood and it was something we would build ourselves if we ever got around to having a cottage in the middle of the forest. We enjoyed having our breakfasts with a view of the back garden, overgrown with weeds, but beautiful with all the sunlight streaming through the spaces in between the leaves of towering, native Australian trees.
It was in this weedy garden that I also took my morning coffees while reflecting on where our relationship was headed after all these years. Many times, it had not been easy. We have had our share of nightmarish experiences, and many times, one or the other wanted to put an end to our suffering. I did not want to leave my country or marry him, he did not want to marry me either or sell his dive center in the island he loves so much and live in my country. We were both getting tired of wasting money and spending a lot of time flying back and forth around the world, my daughter in tow and unable to get an education at a proper school. We could not arrive at a compromise. We had looked at possibilities for work and study visas. I already had three Schengen visas in a span of two years, and was scheduled at the Italian embassy for my fourth. We were running out of options, and perhaps patience, and maybe even money, and more importantly, strength from the emotional rollercoaster we always had to go through, in our effort to be together. Because if there was one thing we knew for sure, it was that we loved each other deeply. That was it. I had made the decision to love him and I stuck with it.
It was in that weedy garden that I told Fabio about an idea that came to me while I was in Manila, before I left for Australia. I had realized that because I came from a terrible long-term relationship, I had forgotten or perhaps never learned, how to become a good partner. I came to Australia with the resolve that I would spend this time with Fabio as a proper girlfriend – supportive and less complaining, and always with a positive attitude. It had worked wonders. We were happy in Australia. We didn’t have a single fight except for the one in Melbourne when I snapped because I was having a hard time adjusting to my new meds, and we enjoyed every moment together.
In the evenings I read about foreigners marrying Italians and how their experiences were, just to get an idea of how it would be if I married him. I found out that Italian men are and will always be mama’s boys, and no one, no matter how good you are, will be better than an Italian man’s mom. I read that if you found a mother-in-law that you got along with, you were deemed extremely lucky. It didn’t seem so bad. Fabio’s mother is the most admirable person with the biggest heart that I have ever met. And she loved me.
And why were we in Australia again? Because Fabio, ever since he was young had told himself he would never every get married, not even if he fathered a child. He did not believe in marriage. And yet, he wanted to complete his bucket list. Apparently he had a bucket list he wanted to complete before settling down, for this man whom I met in the middle of his travels and have been traveling for nearly half his life, was on his way home.