What's It Really Like To Win?
One reason to enter competitions; there always has to be a winner
"Win a trip Down Under to write about why there's nothing like Australia! See the stunning Blue Mountains and experience the Great Barrier Reef." Sound too good to be true? Yes, I thought so too. This was the message leaping off the page at me when I first read about this incredible competition by Tourism Australia. But actually, it wasn't too good to be true. In fact, it turned out to be an amazing, life changing opportunity for me.
Whether you have a job, or you're studying at college or university, you'll know how much action your email inbox gets. At uni, we tend to get quite a lot of junk emails, but when one arrived in my inbox entitled "Travel Writing Competition" I just couldn't hit the delete button straight away.
I haven't been travelling before, but it has always been something I've had my heart set on for the future. The thought of packing a bag and just setting off, often not knowing where you'll end up or who you'll meet is just too tempting. However, there is one place in the world that I've always known I've wanted to explore, and that's Australia. So when I opened the email and saw that the trip to be won was heading Down Under, it was like a match made in heaven. Travel writing and Australia, who wouldn't love that? I'm a journalism student, so it was my ideal career and travelling opportunity combined. Perfect!
I remember I was walking to crown court for another Monday morning of reporting, and in typical English weather, it was pouring down with rain. While trying to simultaneously use my umbrella as both a shield from the wind and to keep me dry, I mentioned the article to my friend. She said she wasn't going to enter. After all, so many people would be entering, so how on earth could we win? I remember thinking, in the midst of the wind and the rain, how could you not want to apply!? Granted I never thought I'd have a chance of winning either, but it's Australia, you can't pass up a chance like that just because you don't think you have a shot - someone has to win after all, right!?
To enter, I had to write 300 words on my last holiday, persuading the reader why they should go there. My last trip wasn't in fact a holiday at all really. It was a charity trek to Everest Base Camp, not your typical summer getaway ey! I focused my writing mainly on my time after the trek, which I spent exploring Kathmandu. It's such an incredible place so it was no surprise that I wasn't at a loss for words when writing why people should go there!
I say it wasn't at a loss for words, but I'm pretty sure I drove my mum mad asking her to re-read things and then ‘shhhing' her when I was on a role. I also had to sum up in one sentence what I would most like to see in Australia and why. For me, I found this the hardest bit because, well, what wouldn't you want to see in Oz?! Here's the sentence I decided on: "Exploring Australia's beautiful Green Island, having the chance to navigate your way around the rainforest as well as snorkelling along the Great Barrier Reef, would be the ultimate experience for any adventure lover and one which I think would change my life."
Article submitted, I'd written down the dates in my diary for when the closing date was, eagerly anticipating a response, although realistically never thinking I'd actually get one. I was power walking down to Uni one Wednesday afternoon when my phone started ringing. Thinking it would be my friend asking if I was nearly at my seminar yet, I picked it up and answered with a breathy hello. After all, power walking in Sheffield will do that to you!
"You entered a competition to go to Australia and write for student365.com and Fresh Direction. Well, you've won!"
Cue absolute amazement / state of shock / ecstatic happiness and a lot of that hand waving girls do when they think they might cry... I was going to Australia! Oh. My. God! Pretty sure I was on the verge of passing out as I phoned my mum to tell her the news. My dad even asked me whether someone was playing a joke on me! Needless to say, I cannot tell you a single thing my tutor said in that seminar, because all I heard was Oz, Oz, Oz!
I think, no wait, I know, that I drove everyone mad in the build-up to jetting off. I started a countdown of the days, and I'm pretty sure my Twitter followers (@HannahBryan91) could probably tell you every item I packed in my backpack. I began to take up obsessive Googling as well when our finalised itinerary came through. It was absolutely unbelievable, so action packed that even the original Action Man would be overcome with jealousy. People honestly didn't believe me when I said I was going to be diving in the Great Barrier Reef, abseiling in the Blue Mountains and surfing in Sydney. Neither could I to be honest, it was going to be a truly once in a lifetime experience, and I had no intention of wasting a single second of it.
When the date to leave finally came around, I am surprised to say that I wasn't even nervous about going, let alone with three other guys I had never met before! I just wanted to get out there and get stuck in. Always an early bird, I got to the airport a good three hours before we met anyone else so I went to grab a coffee and a magazine, desperate for absolutely anyone to ask me "are you going anywhere nice then?" Meeting everyone else was great, it just confirmed how excited I was and I was desperate to start quizzing them about their jobs and if they had been travelling before. That's another great thing about travelling, I hadn't even got on the plane yet and already I was meeting new people.
Several films and an insane amount of food later, (oh and not forgetting the 18 hour flight!) and we had landed. Hello Australia! It was then straight off the plane and straight to the surf! A surf lesson on Manly Beach was definitely the way to fight off the jet lag. It was so surreal; I didn't feel like I'd just flown halfway across the world and now I was looking at the Opera House and the infamous Sydney Bridge. We did so many amazing things when we were there, moving from the cosmopolitan vibe of Sydney to the serenity of the Blue Mountains and then on to diving in Cairns!
When it came to leave, I was genuinely really upset. It's so true what they say, that once you go travelling you get the bug and you just want to keep going. I've already planned to go back Down Under when I graduate next year, and I'm planning some more trips exploring Europe for this summer. As clichéd as it sounds as well, not only did I get to do some incredible and once in a lifetime activities, but it makes you realise a lot about yourself too.
I come from a tiny town, and going to Oz confirmed what I already thought I knew; that I definitely don't just want to see where I'm from. There's literally a whole other world out there and emerging yourself in someone else's culture is an incredible feeling of independence and freedom. I realise I sound incredibly cheesy and clichéd at this point, and I know after only visiting one place I'm no travel expert, but from my point of view, travelling is about so much more than just coming back with some amazing photos and cheeky stories to tell. Granted they're a great part of it, but the experience of going out to another country on your own, meeting new people, and discovering new things, has honestly changed what I want to do with my life. I'm a firm believer in taking every chance you get and making the most of it, so if you ever do get the opportunity to travel, whether it be to the far corners of the world, or somewhere that's only a two hour plane journey away, my advice to you... go for it!