One great step, Bali 1987

Do you remember your first steps on foreign soil? For some its the moment they realise “there’s no place like home”, but for others its like coming home, and often the start of a much longer journey.

I remember my first trip overseas well. We’d travelled a lot when I was a wee lad, which probably contributed to both my uncanny ability to adjust to my surroundings, and a slight sense of restlessness – always wanting to be in the “next” place.

At twenty years old, my first time alone on a 747 was something I’d been planning in my mind for at least 5 years. I was green by name and green by nature, and so stupidly excited that I did all those embarrassing, nervous things that infrequent travellers do that just make you cringe. I took photos on the plane, I savoured every soggy meal of chicken or beef, drank the galley out of complimentary Kahlua and milk, and gazed dreamily out of my allocated port hole, even when there was nothing to see.

Stepping out into Bali’s sun, from the top of the steps my first thought was “wow those engines have got some steam in them!”

By the time I reached the tarmac below I’d realised the engines hadn’t been the source of the extreme heat wave, it was the hot sticky air of a tropical afternoon. Melbourne can be hot in summer, but it’s mostly dry heat, so I was in no way prepared for this humidity – after all I was wearing my favourite Faberge stretch jeans! Well it was 1987.


By the time I was in the terminal and heading through customs I was so sweaty that my arrival card was disintegrating in my hands. Later at my B&B, it took me twenty minutes to get those jeans off. I don’t recall ever seeing them again, they either went to the bottom of my pack never to resurface, or were left behind to make way for the obligatory “Bali tapes” from Kuta’s famous strip of tape shops.

Summoning the courage to finally drag my young self out into a busy foreign street and engage with my surrounds, I’ll never forget the sweet smell in the air, the busy activity of the local people going about their day, and the excitement in the pit of my stomach.

These days I’m a somewhat seasoned traveller, but I do still get that feeling when arriving in a strange place. At the time I thought that smell was just the sweet humid air of Bali, but later I discovered that it was also the smell of adventure, something every city and country welcomes its visitors with. I can still smell it today.

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