Whilst waiting at Hong Kong airport we were both nervous and excited at the same time. Excited to be going home, but nervous that our plans would fall apart. The flight to Melbourne was uneventful and when we arrived I may have ran off the plane. We went through the automatic immigration points and waited what seemed like ages for our bags. There’s nothing like being on edge at an airport that will draw attention to you. Mark walked to oversized to go search for our snowboard bag while I waited for all 4 of our bags to arrive. As I’m standing there waiting I see a group of people with backpacks on out of the corner of my eye. I turned slightly towards them before whipping my head back to face the other way. Did I or did I not just see my cousin Scott walking with a group of people? I was so unsure and paranoid that we got this far only to be found out here. I kept my eye on ‘Scott’ as I ran through all of the things we would need to say to him so he wouldn’t tell anyone we were home, and then I had to try to work out who would be picking him up and then I was standing there wondering if it was him, where had he been? No one had told me he was going away. And then during all of this I lost track of him as I was grabbing some of our bags off the carrousel. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t even sure it was Scott, and all I had to do was keep my back to the exit and then take my time getting the rest of our bags, which would allow him enough time to get through customs and leave. Turns out I didn’t need to take my time because once Mark finally returned with our snowboard bag I had already picked up all of our bags and as we made our way through to the customs officer we were sent left which meant we had to wait for something. In the end, we were in line with a group of other people, the officers brought sniffer dogs through to check we weren’t smuggling who knows what and then we were waved through, finally back home. We had estimated it might take us a while to get through customs because we had been away for so long so we had just booked to stay at the hotel across the road and after finally managing to push the luggage trolleys across the road we checked in, turned on the TV and listened to a consistent stream of news, mainly just listening to the Australian accent. The next day we were up early, picked up a hire car, loaded it up and drove to the Great Ocean Road. We still hadn’t told anyone we were back and we were using this time to reacquaint ourselves with Australia and enjoy a couple of days to ourselves (because over a year together obviously still wasn’t enough). Our first stop was Port Campbell so we could go check out the 12 Apostles (I don’t think there are 12 anymore though) and as soon as we got there it started pouring rain and the wind was so strong it whipped at your face and made it difficult to see so we retreated to the pub, had a parma and woke up the next day bright and early to go check out the 12 Apostles. Making the most of the clear skies we drove to Ottway National Park to go for a small walk before stopping by Bells Beach to see the quality of waves, as Mark put it. We arrived at an Air BnB in Torquay and chilled out there for a while so that we could plan the next few days of surprises and catch-ups. Our original plan was to go into the city on Friday night, stay at a hotel, go have dinner at our favourite restaurant, Sud, and then wake up early on Saturday to surprise our families. We realised that this might not be possible due to the fact that my parents had appointments all day Saturday so we changed our plans and decided that we would leave the next morning and drive straight to my parents office to surprise them before going home to surprise Mark’s parents. We pulled into the car park at my parents office and organised ourselves. Mark had to camera ready and after scoping out to make sure they weren’t walking around outside anywhere we briskly walked into the shopping centre and straight into their office where my mum was sitting at reception. It’s safe to say she was surprised to see us and we went out the back to wait for my dad to get back. About half an hour later he came back and went straight to his office, not out the back like my mum expected so while he was sitting at his desk we walked in and surprised him. He was just as surprised as my mum although his reaction was completely different. A quick “what the fuck” was exclaimed before he asked what we were doing back. He explained shortly after that he had just seen a post on our Instagram about us being in Canada and then we were there in front of him. We sat around for a while having a laugh before we had to race off to go and surprise Mark’s parents. We arrived at home and knocked on the door to receive no answer. We called the house phone, no answer, called both of their mobiles, no answer, knocked again, no answer. Unsure about what to do we drove to Mark’s cousin’s house to surprise her and then we figured we could use her help in tracking down his parents. We should have stopped there because everything just wasn’t going right. We got to Sarah’s house and we could hear someone home but no one was answering the door. Eventually her mum answered, surprised to see us, but also to tell us that Sarah was at work and she was there babysitting. We went inside, met Sarah’s son for the first time and employed Mark’s aunty to help us track down his parents. She couldn’t get a hold of them either so while we were waiting Mark’s dad called me back and in a panic I asked him if he was at home or work because I needed some paperwork that had been sent to the house. He told me he was at home and as I went to say goodbye he proceeded to ask me what we had been up to and what our plans were. Eventually we said goodbye and I ran back inside to tell Mark we had to leave. We said goodbye to his aunty and drove back home. We knocked and again there was no answer, we called the house phone and again no answer which was when Mark went searching to see if he had packed house keys over a year ago. Turns out he did so we went inside and Mark yelled out hello. His dad came out of his room expecting to see Mark’s brother and instead was confronted by Mark standing there holding their dog. After saying hello we asked where his mum was and so his dad went to get her, telling her she had to come out because there was someone here and she had to quickly see them. She had been just about to shower so she came out in her robe to find us standing there. She yelled at us that this wasn’t funny and we shouldn’t do this to her, she had turned around and walked off before coming back to give us hugs and kisses. We sat down for a while before racing off to go to my parents house where my brothers would be getting home from school. We walked into the house to find James sitting on the floor of his room, Oliver sitting on the couch and they were both shocked and surprised to see us that we hung around until Chris got home and we surprised him too. He quickly took a photo and sent it to his girlfriend who then immediately messaged me asking if it was true or if it was an old photo and he was being an asshole. I replied it was true which caused Chris’ phone to start ringing with her crying on the other end. It had been an eventful morning and afternoon and by the end of all of it we decided it was time to let everyone else know we were home so we uploaded a video and turned our phones off for an hour so we could enjoy a cup of tea and teddy bear biscuits. When we turned our phones on there was an influx of messages and so we set about replying to them all before heading back to the city to check into the hotel and go eat. Our favourite restaurant is owned by my uncle and normally we would call to book a table to make sure we didn’t miss out so we called a booked a table under another name for 2. When we walked in he was so shocked to see us that we stood in the middle of the restaurant hugging, at which point a table at the back was trying to see what the fuss was. That table was filled with my aunty and cousins so we quickly joined their table and had an amazing night catching up with them all. Even though we planned everything in advance and changed a few things last minute I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did. It was amazing to be able to spend our ‘first’ day back home surprising people.
After an intense first day back home we spent the rest of our time home catching up with friends and family and when our last day arrived we couldn’t believe how quickly 3 weeks had gone by. On our last day we spent the afternoon at a wedding and then the night at James’ 18th birthday celebrating with him and saying goodbye to family and friends again, although this time promising we would be home before Christmas (a promise a part of me would like to break but also a part of my would like to keep). We had originally only planned on staying home for a week or so but are so glad we extended it so that we could be there for James’ birthday. We had told him back in October when we said goodbye to him in Rome that we wouldn’t be there so it was nice to be able to stay that bit longer.