I can hardly believe that I have spent almost two months in Australia. Time has absolutely flown by, and it’s been a completely different experience from South America. I carry enough memories with me that will have me smiling for years, and I feel that it is only now that I am truly a traveler. Here are some of my recapping thoughts:
Everyone is everyone’s mate. Australians are such incredibly kind people. They are open, inquisitive, and absolutely eager to meet new people and share. Every exchange comes with a little chitchat, friendly faces are everywhere. They’re so relaxed and happy, it really rubs off on you and it wasn’t long until I was afflicted by a similarly cheerful disposition.
Animals, both cute and lethal (sometimes both). I’ve been lucky enough to see so many incredibly weird creatures in the wild here, and even got to pet and hug and feed a whole bunch of them. If I wasn’t watching thousands of penguins march up a beach, I’d be cuddling a koala, or engaged in a fierce staring match with a furry nasty looking spider in the bathroom at 4 in the morning. I saw a Tasmanian Devil roar and had a kookaburra fly down to ogle my lunch. It’s honestly the most incredible array of animals, and I couldn’t get enough of it. No snakes though.
The personal touch. My major motivation for going to Australia was to visit Kelvin for the first time ever. People I’d meet would express pity when I told them I was spending 3 of my 8 weeks in Adelaide, but I honestly don’t see it that way. Sure, it’s not the most exciting city in the world, but I enjoyed myself every day I was there. And there’s an intangible quality that comes with hanging out with one of your best friends, talking crap like you’ve done for years. A great pitstop, especially around the Christmas period when I really appreciated being around someone familiar, and being accepted into his and Lia’s families with no reservation.
On that note, I want to thank the various people who took me in, met up, showed me around. Obviously Kelvin and Lia with their great families and friends, but also David in Dunedin, Sarah in Melbourne, and Rachael & Krissy as well as Marcus in Sydney.
The differences. My first experience with backpacking was South America, and it’s been pretty rough adapting to the Australian way. Here, it was necessary to plan – to book hostels in advance, to arrange transportation weeks early. The low point of this was when I spent 3.5 hours on the phone to change two of my flights. I didn’t enjoy that rigidity at all, and I look forward to being a wanderer again in Asia.
Escapism. Many backpackers here are only visiting Australia on their travel, maybe with a detour to New Zealand. The work-stay visa is a strong incentive to hang around here as long as one wants, and the majority of people I met didn’t ever want to leave. It’s easy to see why: a backpacker gets paid well and lives comfortably, in the most relaxed country in the world, with all the comforts of Western civilization, and completely absolved of the responsibilities and realities of ‘real life’.
Stuff I miss. In the South America wrap-up I mentioned what I should have brought on this trip. This is a list of things I couldn’t bring along (for obvious reasons) but that I miss. The number one is clearly friends & family, but after that it’s a little more personal: AA drink, Beer nights at De Zotte, my apartment, proper milk, the New Yorker, and hagelslag.
$$$$$. I think this marks the first time I’m using profanity on this blog, but fucking hell Australia and New Zealand are expensive to travel in. The euro has dropped 40% against the Australian dollar, so it was easily four, five times as expensive as South America. A shock to the system, because unlike almost every other traveler I met, I am not working.
Tunes. Out with the salsa and reggaeton, and in with the punk-rock and alternative. The best music I heard in the last two months is obviously the new Kanye West album (if that’s not your album of the year as well, then your thinking is wrong), but Kelvin had me listen to Dead Letter Circus (loud stadium rock), Birds of Tokyo (a less preachy Snow Patrol) and Gyroscope, three great new Australian bands, as well as Two Door Cinema Club who are not Australian but still really awesome, like Phoenix on speed. Click the names to check out a sample. And the absolutely best new thing I’ve heard comes courtesy of Lia and is Angus & Julia Stone. ‘And The Boys‘ is a hauntingly beautiful song that I can listen to forever. It almost makes up for the horror that is Art vs Science’s ‘Parlez-Vouz Francais‘ – the worst, worst song ever and a stain on Australia.
Left is right, right is wrong. It took me 27 days before I finally looked the correct way when crossing the street. It’s been impossible to shake the ‘left-right-left’ routine that’s been ingrained since childhood, and often I would cross a road directly into oncoming traffic. No accidents, thankfully, but I just couldn’t get used to the left-sided traffic. Never mind driving around in New Zealand with the gearstick, rear view mirror, and indicators all in the opposite place of where you’d expect them.
A simple moment. Walking through Hobart on my last day there I had a very simple, but striking, realization. I’m in The World’s Most Boring Town, but it’s not so bad when you know you’re leaving that day. It’s chilly and drizzly, but I’m Dutch so I don’t care. My biggest concern that day is that I have to buy some new socks. I miss my family and friends back home, but I know it’s not long until I see them again. And then the clouds break up and the sun bursts through and a great song comes on and I look up and suddenly I feel completely free. It’s 1 o’clock on a Tuesday in Tasmania and I don’t have a care in the world. There’s nothing to do, to plan, to scheme, to force. There are always hopes and loves and fears and worries, but they’ve got nothing to hold me back to.
It was the most elating sensation, to fully realize, to truly feel that complete freedom. And I’m so lucky that I get to do this journey and be this free. Since that moment, there’s been an extra spring in my step and my smile has gone a little bit wider.
I’m six months into my travel, and if I look back I can scarcely believe just how many unbelievably great things have happened in that time. I have roughly four months left, and I look forward to it with the greatest excitement.
Here are, in no particular order, my favorite photos from the last two months.