On October 3 I finally left Indonesia; after two months in the country I was more than ready to leave, but it was emotional saying goodbye to my parents who had come to visit, and knowing that I was leaving Southeast Asia and not returning for the foreseeable future was bittersweet.
After a redeye flight I found myself plopped onto the northeast coast of Australia and whoa, Nellie, I was not in Kansas anymore. Lack of sleep compounded with a strange combination of culture shock and reverse culture shock left me dizzy and confused.
Whoa, there are sidewalks! And cheese! And people stop at traffic lights! (I’m not in Asia anymore!) But why is that normal person walking around barefoot? And why do the bus drivers seem to wield the power to decide whether or not to pick me up? (What are these strange Australian rules?)
A whirlwind tour took me through five cities down the east coast in 19 days before flying to New Zealand. Here’s some of the adventures I got up to:
The primary reason I went to Australia was to do one thing: dive the Great Barrier Reef! I splurged and signed up for a 3-day live aboard dive trip and spent three solid days living on the outer reef and diving as much as humanly possible. We saw everything from turtles to rays, the famous Nemo fish, moray eels, and plenty of sharks!
Lucky for me, my friends from Small and Tall Travel just relocated to Brisbane and were kind enough to host me for a long weekend. We had an amazing time stuffing our faces at the local night market and taking a road trip to the beach where we drank more than enough wine and built sand castles topped with jelly fish.
I also spent a day hugging koalas and feeding kangaroos at the fantastic Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
Knowing that my days on warm, white sand were soon coming to an end I spent two days relaxing on the beaches of the quaint little town of Byron. I also learned how aggressive the evil little magpies could be when one attacked me for my lunch, and I had to tread lightly around the hostel to avoid the local lizards that seemed to own the place.
The “most livable city in the world” did not disappoint and I was fortunate enough to stay with a long lost friend from high school in a lovely neighborhood near St Kilda. Another friend I met in Cambodia was kind enough to show me around the city and take me to little alleyway cafes, rooftop bars, and some cool little hipster spots.
My final stop in Australia took me its most famous city where I stayed with a friend that I met in Vietnam. His house was perfectly placed in Bondi Beach so I did some sunrise yoga overlooking the ocean and strolled along the scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal pathway. I also met up with some friends from my time at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand and indulged in some delicious gelato with a view of the opera house!
My time in Australia was short and sweet and then it was off to New Zealand’s capital. I stayed with a friend from Santa Barbara who lives there now and she showed me around a few of the area’s beautiful sites. We went to a craft brewery and I rejoiced in finally having delicious beer again.
After two months apart it was finally time to fly to Dave’s home, but a family tragedy put a damper on our reunion and a pause on some of our plans. It was a tough introduction to the family but I was glad to be able to be present and support Dave through it. A few days after arriving I started my job on a hops farm and now my days are spent bent over, digging through prickly vines in the direct sun. I have never appreciated beer more than I do now.
Being ripped off by Tiger Air: I neglected to pay for my checked baggage before heading to the airport. BIG MISTAKE. At the airport the woman tried to charge me $190 for my bag. After throwing away all of my toiletries and getting a different agent who took some pity on me, I was charged only $97 for my 19kg, normal-sized bag. The flight itself only cost $50.
Getting sick: I caught a nasty cold that stuck with me for over two weeks and seriously inhibited my ability to drink all of Australia’s wine like I had planned. I mostly felt bad for staying at friends’ houses when I had the plague and sounded like an 85 year old chain smoker with emphysema.
Diving trip: Even if the diving had sucked, the food would have been worth the money alone. But despite rough conditions the dives were spectacular and I’m so glad I was able to dive the Great Barrier Reef.
Cuddling koalas: I’m not normally a fan of zoos or places that keep animals in captivity but Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was so well done that I felt confident that the animals were happy and well cared for. Holding a koala, feeding kangaroos, and seeing so many animals that I’d never seen before (wombats platypus, Tazmanian devil) was awesome!
Reconnecting with friends: It was so great to meet up with so many friends from back home or from my travels and feel like I had friends in every city. This is why traveling is the best!
Seeing Dave: Even though the circumstances were a lowlight it felt so nice to be back with Dave. When we met six months ago I never would have imagined I’d eventually be living with his family in New Zealand. Life is funny, sometimes.