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To Australia and Back: Two Sisters Connect Down Under

To Australia and Back: Two Sisters Connect Down Under

eileen koala australia .jpg

Why Down Under?

In December, 2017, after spending more than a year fighting breast cancer, my sister had her last chemotherapy session and texted me:  “Bucket list: cuddle a koala. You in?” It took me about two seconds to text back, “Sestras down under.” (Sestra is the Czech word for sister and one we use to identify each other.)  

In the moment, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. My one and only sibling (who lives in Washington, DC) wanted to adventure with me.

Then reality hit.

Can I stand to be on a plane that long?  What is my husband going to think? How can I leave work for that long? How can I afford this? I had already committed. I needed to make it happen.

That one text inspired a shift in me that has forever changed my life.  We used an Australian travel agent who offices in California and told her what we do and do not like.  We also gave her our “must do” items, which, thankfully, were almost the same.

eileen camels.jpg

When the itinerary was set, we were traveling to Sydney, Cairns, Ayers Rock, Hobart and Melbourne, taking 10 flights in 18 days to achieve this.  As we were presented with options, my mindset shifted. It was highly unlikely that I would ever have this chance again and I needed to make the most of it.

I am afraid of heights and the deep ocean, but I would never again have a chance to climb the Sydney Bridge or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.  Sign me up. I’ll figure out a way to overcome the fear when the time comes.

It made me think of all of the things I have chosen to pass by because I was afraid…afraid I would fail, afraid of what others would think, afraid I wouldn’t be good enough. I decided that 2018 was going to be the year I overcame those fears and did not let them hold me back.  

I joined Women on Adventures and began hiking, not knowing if I’d like it or be good at it. I started meeting other women and stepping out of my comfort zone. I was 53 years old and it was time to stop thinking and start doing.

The sestras’ mantra in Australia became, “Just say yes.”  My knee-jerk reaction is to say “no” and survey things, oftentimes missing out on the opportunity.  So I said “YES.”

eileen snorkle australia.jpg

It allowed me to steal a ride on a Melbourne trolley, determined to find the fairy penguins.  I ate kangaroo. I rode a camel. I hiked in freezing cold weather to see a sunrise (I am not a morning person).  I told my sister how much I loved her, how much I cherished our time together, and how much I look forward to our next adventure.  I felt the deep love she had for me as she held my hand snorkeling and gently covered me while I was sleeping.

I learned to my core that I can do hard things.  I learned to laugh at myself A LOT. And most of all, I learned to be just a little more present.

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