This place seems so familiar, yet it’s completely different. Most shops close by 5pm and cities seem to close completely by 8pm. They speak English, but I have never used some of these words in my entire life: reckon, keen, heaps, and bloke. We break down words and locations to their initials such as: USA, LA, the OC, the IE, PCH, ASAP, LOL, RSVP
(yes, I know it is French), BLT, PB&J, FBI, CIA, USC, UCLA,
every place at UCSB (FT, IV, DP, SB…),
. Everything to them seems to end with an -ee
sound such as: Aussie, brekky, sunnies, esky
(a cooler), tinny
(small boat or beer can), boardies, mossies, bities, Brissy
(for Brisbane), and Goldy
(for the Gold Coast). Fries are chips
. Chips are crisps
. Pools are baths
. A can of beer is a tinny
(as mentioned above). A bottle of beer is a stubbie
. A box of wine is goon
(my personal favorite and sometimes the most economical way to drink in this country).
They drive on the left side of the road. They have a Senate and a House of Representatives, but their leader is referred to as Prime
Clowns & Jokers
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you..."
Minister. The Queen of England is the face of their coins (like Canada), but they refer to their currency as the dollar, not the pound. They use the metric system (only Burma, Liberia, and the United States don't), but have Ten Mile Creek (they also have One Mile, Two Mile, Five Mile, Six Mile, and Fourteen Mile Creek for that matter). They have Alligator Creek, but only have crocodiles. In fact, they have many interesting names for their creeks: Scrubby Creek, Stony Creek, Stoney Creek, Armstrong Creek, Blackfellow Creek, Easter Creek, and Christmas Creek. Speaking of Christmas, Christmas Break (or “Holiday Break” to be more PC) is in the heart of their summer, not winter. I'm dreaming of a scorching hot Christmas...
You drive north instead of south for the more year-round sun. Continental Australia has six states (seven in total with Tasmania) and is comprable in total area to the continental United States, which has forty-eight states (obviously fifty in total with Hawaii and Alaska). Some of their states have quite unoriginal names: Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia (WA alone is equivolant in size to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finalnd, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and the
United Kingdom all combined). Their phone numbers have six or eight or ten digits and I have yet to find any rhyme or reason. Lastly (for this list and the only one that for some reason bothers me a little), they say ZED
instead of Z
. I didn’t attend any pre-school classes, but if I did I think I would walk in hearing “…q r s t u v w x y and ZED!!!!”
To start my Australia trip, I flew straight to Sydney and quickly jumped on another plane to Melbourne…the San Francisco of Australia as my friend Morgan (who I was going to visit down there) told me. Before I could even board my connector flight at the domestic airport, two things hit me (these will be somewhat recurring themes, especially the latter). Everything here is shockingly expensive and Australians seem so genuinely friendly.
Let’s touch on the first. The prices. THE PRICES! I am not talking about a price shock for somebody who was on a backpacker budget, or somebody who just arrived from Asia, or somebody who is a backpacker that just arrived from Asia, but for everybody. Exchange rate aside (it was around
The Intrepid Traveler?
Taking a walk in Byron.
0.90 when I initially arrived and has since made a huge slide in favor of the American dollar…the reason why I stopped complaining), who approved these prices? Six dollars for the bus from the international airport to the domestic one? It was a five minute ride. Six dollars could get me an eight hour bus ride in Laos. Ten dollars for a magazine! Twenty-eight dollars for a book! Forty dollars for their cheapest fifth of vodka!
Now let’s touch on the second thing. The friendly Australian! The positive constant! Several backpackers I met prior to arrival and friends from home who have been to this enormous country kept telling me how nice the people are. I would always nod to let them know I heard them, but you don’t realize it until you get here. I stupidly show up to the bus taking me to the domestic airport with my Australian friend I made on my flight from KL, zero Australian dollars, and less than an hour until takeoff. With no hesitation, he paid for my bus fare (he reluctantly allowed me to pay him back later when I got to an ATM) and we were off to be
told we missed our connecting flight (it was surprisingly not my fault, but the airline’s for booking the flights too close). The airlines changed our flights for free and we had about two hours to sit around until we were off to Melbourne. My friend then informs me he is a Qantas Gold Member and I find myself eating and drinking everything I could get my hands on for the next ninety minutes in the Qantas VIP Lounge with the Olympics on the fifty or so flat screens. It was just what I needed. Food and sport!
Several hours later than expected, we finally landed in Melbourne. I told my friend thanks again and we parted ways. Not too long after that, I met up with Morgan. It was great to finally see a friend from home. The next few days were spent relaxing, watching the Olympics, wondering through Melbourne (we passed the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground where they play Australian Rules Football or Footy, along with Cricket; footy always reminds me of staying up way too late in Middle School with my dad so we could watch this sport we knew nothing about because of the gnarly pad-less
tackles and the funny refs that always did some weird hand motion when they scored), and re-acclimating myself to life in the Western world. It was a lot of fun. Melbourne is a very pleasant city and did remind me of San Francisco…trendy, outside-the-box architecture (as far as I can tell), lots of small hidden restaurants and bars, good public transportation, and weather that is too cold for me to ever live in permanently.
I had distracted Morgan enough (it was Finals Week for him when I left) so I was now off to Sydney. I was contemplating making a quick stop in Canberra (their capital), but whenever I mentioned that to some Aussie, they would always look at me quizzically and ask me why I would want to go there. Funny thing, the decision for Canberra to be the country’s capital is because it is between Melbourne and Sydney. I always thought people were joking or making it up when they told me this, but it is the truth. To me, it seems that would be the equivalent to us choosing some place like Wichita as our capital because it is between New York and Los Angeles. On
The Three Wise Monkeys
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
top of this, a recent Aussie Prime Minister chose to live in Sydney instead of Canberra when he was elected and said he would commute as need be. Need be? You are the leader of your country and this isn’t some fifteen minute drive. This is more like six hours. Again for comparison sake, this would be equivalent to the President choosing to reside in his Cape Cod summerhouse instead of the White House.
Anyways, I decided to take the bus from Melbourne straight to Sydney. I had a couple of days to get acquainted with Australia’s largest city before I met up with another familiar face…my brother! After a month in Vegas, Jamie took the Trans-Pacific flight down to meet up with me. Needless to say, I was rather stoked! It didn’t take too long for me to find him and we quickly moved hostels with the hope that our room wouldn’t smell as bad as the one I was currently staying in. Another hard thing to adapt to with traveling in Australia as opposed to Asia is that for economic reasons, you usually take a dorm room with six to twelve people in it, not just you
and the people you are traveling with, and of course pay a lot more. The next room was much nicer, had much fewer people, but smelled just as bad. It didn’t matter though. Our stay in Sydney would be short before we continued north up the coast.
After a quick nap, it was off to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge (that is another thing about Australian English, it is much like British English; they write honour, centre,
, not honor, center, and program). When I think of Australia, I think of red dirt and the Opera House. The Opera House did not disappoint. It could not be in a better location and was architecturally magnificent. Even if Jørn Utzon meant for the Opera House to resemble sections of a sphere, they sure looked like sails full of wind blowing off the harbor (or harbour
). To make the scene complete, the mammoth sized Harbour Bridge and the Sydney skyline dominated the background. It was nearing dusk, which meant that it was time to make the trek back to the hostel and that the sun was able to pull out its crayons and color (or colour
with the Opera House as its easel.
About a day later and we found ourselves in Byron Bay, or more specifically, Belongil Beach. It was just what we were both looking for…beach, sun (it was still winter for them), a young scene, and a chill atmosphere (to say the least). We luckily arrived to this popular backpacker destination well before tourist season so the prices had not gone up, it was easy to find accommodations (thanks to Bryan), and the beaches were quiet. After a week or so of relaxing (a common theme throughout almost all of my stops regardless of continent), enjoying the perks listed above, and checking out the lighthouse, which stood steps away from the most eastern part of Australia, and we were off for a very short stay in Brisbane or Brissy (correctly pronounced Briz-bin and Brizzy in Australian, respectively) to pick up another familiar face.
[Quick negative note on Byron, which has nothing to do with Byron except for the fact that that is where this event took place. Jamie and I were watching the Gold Medal basketball game (USA v. Spain) after finally convincing this old lady that it was more important
than the symphony she didn’t really care about seeing, and we were really enjoying ourselves...the US wasn’t up much, but they had the lead, I hadn’t seen basketball for months, and it was looking like the Dream Team or Redeem Team or whatever you want to call them were going to grab the gold (as they should and did). What happens when Spain narrows the lead to four with only a handful of minutes left? I am glad you ask. They cut to the Handball 5th and 6th place match!!! I would have eventually realized it was the somewhat logical move had Australia been one of the teams competing in this “sport” or maybe if it was some historical gold medal match, but it was Finland versus Russia to see who finished 5th! Australia didn't even have a handball team in China. It was two European nations with probably not an extremely huge following in Australia battling in some sport that has probably even fewer followers. Put the two and two together and how many people wanted to watch that game? Six? Seven people? I might be biased, but basketball is a sport whose international popularity seems to be skyrocketing
and they do this? Whatever. It was out of our control and we realized this.]
In our brief, but productive stay in Brisbane (Briz-bin) and we picked up another member for our badass gang, posse, band…the ever intimidating Stephanie.
We were both very happy to see her, but that didn’t stop us from throwing her on a three hour bus ride back down to Byron with us right after she spent fourteen plus hours on the airplane and several more in the airport. She was more than willing to do so though as it meant escaping the big city and posting up on the beach for a week.
Another week in Byron meant another week of sun, fun, beach, relaxing, and lighthouse. The only thing we had on our calendar was celebrating Steph’s birthday, which resulted in lots of pasta and wine (or goon). It was rough. The end of the week came way too fast (as always) and it was time for Jamie to head home. We all said our goodbyes and he jumped on a bus down to Sydney (a fun nine hour trip) and we were back up to Brisbane (Briz-bin!). It was truly
great to see my brother for three weeks since it had been almost five months from when we said goodbye last.
So Steph and I were back up in Brisbane. Off to see some long-distant relatives of mine that I had never met, seen, or talked to that took about two seconds from the point of introduction to make me feel like I had known them my whole life. They were my dad’s cousins (whatever that means they are to me), but treated us like their own children. They might have been born Yankees, but they escalated the friendly Aussie thing to a whole new level. Positivity everywhere! The Hanley’s (Kevin, Wendy, and Alyssa) and the O’Regan’s (Diana, Greg, Liam, Ryan, Aron, and Bear) took us in and showered us with food, kindness, food, wine, laughter, food, and more wine for about two weeks. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, but they kept telling me I had to stay another couple days for this party or that party. How do you ever say no to a party invite? Birthday party here. Aussie Father’s Day there. Another birthday party here.
If I had to narrow it down to
Just South of Byron
This place reminded me of an extremely small version of Laguna.
one thing I learned from my stay with them, it is HOSPITALITY. “Treat our home as if it is your own.” “Do you need anything?” How is your room?” “How ‘bout some more wine?” They are all always welcome wherever I am! To add to everything, we met Kevin and Diana’s other siblings, Bryan and Colin, and their wonderful mother, Dot, from whom we quickly learned where they all got their fun and hospitable ways. She always looked so proper and refined, yet always had something funny to say and was, well, “hip” for lack of a better word. I don’t mean hip in that she was spitting off random song lyrics, but she was able to hold the title of grandmother and seemed to know what was going on from the youth to current affairs.
Well, we had finally found the campervan that I was looking for and it was time for hugs all-around and goodbyes before we hit the road. I know it won’t be the last time we all see each other in this country.
Drive on the left,
Sit on the right,
Head out at night.
Throw on some “Peace Frog,”
Jamie and Me
In Byron Bay.
Or maybe “Come Clean,”
I’ve never driven manual,
What the hell am I thinking?
Why do I do this,
And lag all day,
I know it’ll be harder,
But it’s always this way.
It won’t make me cooler,
I’ll have nothing to boast,
But fuck it let’s floor it,
North up the Sunshine Coast…
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