It's always hard to say goodbye to those that you love.
My wife was stoic about it as she gave me a big hug, a kiss, some words of encouragement or something....I can't remember...it was a bit emotional, before she drove off to work leaving me for 15 days.
Our three young kids were also at home and in my care until I had to leave for the airport in a few hours. We looked at a map of the world on my laptop as I explained where Pakistan was.
"That's 16 hours away on a plane dad. That's a lot longer than the drive to Nanna's house."
Saying goodbye to these guys was the hardest. My youngest, a 7 year old girl full of life and zest and chutzpah was adamant that I couldn't go because she would miss me. My middle one, a 9 year old boy tried to hold back his tear. He failed. So did I. My oldest one, also a boy of 11 years kept coming back for more hugs.
Leaving them was the hardest thing I'll have to do on this trip.
But like I said to my wife, this is an itch I need to scratch. She gets it. Told me she was proud of what I'm about to embark on.
A trip to Pakistan. A film crew. An idea in my head.
"Is Pakistan really like we all think it is? "
Terrorists. Extremist Islam. Corruption. Filth.
Ridiculously skilled cricketers.
I want to explore the Islamic State of Pakistan.
Why is it that cricket reigns supreme here. How does a country that hasn't had a home Test match since 2009 due to the visiting team being shot upon made it to number 1 in the world and then won the Champions Trophy. What makes this bit tick.
How is Pakistan so resilient. Cricket lovers will know it has its fair share of match fixing scandals. That the big names won't tour on safety concerns. That the domestic feeder system is working well. So then how did it reach such pinnacles in the last year?
Is it something ingrained in the people? The water? Is it just the game of cricket itself that forces this inseparable bond between a nation and a game?
I handed my passport to the Etihad check in counter at Melbourne Airport.
"What is your final destination?"
[Looks of bewilderment from the guy serving me]
"You f**king sure you wanna do that mate?"
We both laughed.
As I transitioned in Abu Dhabi to a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Karachi, it happened again.
"You off to Karachi?"
[Looks of bewilderment from every Pakistani at boarding gate]
"What the hell for?"
I don't expect all of you to understand why I'm doing this, but some will. Many of you think I'm just going on a crowdfunded junket.
So to ensure I do it justice, I made a list of non-negotiables:
Embrace everything: People, culture, language, food, customs, clothing, everything.
Accept all offers to do something new.
Ask questions, then shut the hell up and listen. Take lots of notes. Ask follow questions.
Present the stereotypical Australian view of Pakistan for challenge. Let's see if we can bust some myths.
Play cricket. No, play more. Even More!!!
Call the family every day.
Be myself. No pretending or playing up to the camera.
Remember that the story you are about to tell is important to so many people who have no ability to tell the story themselves.
I walked on to the transit bus that takes you out to the PIA flight. Problem was, the aircraft was a VietJet Airlines branded plane.
"Going to Karachi?"
VietJet Airlines plane
So typical of what I expect this trip to be. Plan this, but get that.
It was 26 degrees when I landed at 4am. That well worn smell of subcontinental humidity was both sweet and familiar at the same time.
It took over an hour to get through immigration. Not that there was a problem with my visa. Just that it took time. there's no rush over here. But the people waited patiently and no one cared that my skin was a different colour to there's. Why should it matter?
When I finally got through customs, Qasim Zafar, the co-founder of Cricingif (the Company which I'm doing this trip in partnership with) was waiting for me.
We hugged it out. Between us, there's been 12 weeks of planning, yelling, stress, avoidance, more yelling, more stress and most importantly, a mateship solidified.
Dennis alongside Qasim.
I have no idea where this trip will lead or what I will experience or learn. But I'm diving head first into it and will give it a red hot crack.
Follow the trip at Cricingif.com or my social media channels:
Follow the project here:Dennis Does Pakistan