Mark Stoneman admits he endured a nervous wait to hear whether he'd made the cut for England's Ashes squad, but now that he's on the plane, he's ready to fulfil a childhood dream of taking part in the sport's most storied contest.
Stoneman made a favourable impression in his first three Tests this summer, without quite producing a defining performance, after making his debut against West Indies at Edgbaston in August.
Despite half of his dismissals coming from deliveries that would have troubled any player in the world, he finished up with 120 runs at 30.00 in five innings, including a maiden half-century at Headingley and an unbeaten 40 not out to seal the series in the decisive third Test at Lord's.
"I think it's part and parcel of the job at the top of the order," he said ahead of the PCA Awards in London last week. "The new ball can often do a bit more than at any other time, and I've found myself on the end of a couple of decent deliveries. I've tried to draw a line through that, and make sure that when I do get in, I try and make the most of it.
"It was nice to hit the winning runs at Lord's to finish off the Test summer," he added. "At the start of the year, if you'd told me I'd be in a position to do that, I'd have bitten your hand off. So it was a good way to finish off the summer."
Stoneman's rise to international recognition has been far from straightforward, with his eventual call-up coming after his 30th birthday, at a time when many players start to doubt if they'll ever get the chance. But, having made a high-profile move from Durham to Surrey last year with the express intention of getting himself noticed, his perseverance has paid off this year.
"It's been a fantastic year, finding some good form, first with Surrey and then with the [England] Lions, and then getting my Test call-up. Then, it was a bit of a nervous wait, but once I got that call to say I was in the Ashes, it was a dream come true. I've got everything to look forward to now this winter.
"I always believed I had it in me to represent England and obviously that was a big motivation behind the move down to Surrey from Durham at the end of last season. I guess everyone has a different path and mine took longer than others, but at the same time, it gives you a chance to learn more about yourself as a player."
Stoneman had a chance to learn a bit from one of the most experienced men in the business in recent months, after becoming the 12th player since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012 to open the batting for England alongside the former captain, Alastair Cook
"It's testament to Cooky himself that he's been around for so long and it's always been the other opener that's been changing around," he said. "His record speaks for itself, he's broken so many records, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to walk out behind him and hopefully for many more years to come."
England set off for Australia on October 28 with a significant cloud hanging over the squad following the withdrawal of Ben Stokes pending further investigation into his alleged actions in Bristol last month. But Stoneman isn't about to let the awkward circumstances ruin one of his longest-held ambitions.
"Without a doubt, as a little kid you grow up on the history of the Ashes, and what it means to both nations, and to be a part of that is absolute dream come true," he said. "I think we know what our individual roles are and, I guess, the focus has to be on what we can do to contribute towards the team, and have a positive influence on the Ashes series.