PERTH, AUSTRALIA- Well, the day had to come sooner or later when I'd be leaving Australia, and that day is today. I'm writing this from Gate 4, Terminal 1, Perth International Airport, as I wait to board my 5:30pm flight to Bali...we'll see how much I can squeeze into this little post before I begin to cut things really close.
It's been almost 11 months since I came here on this little adventure, but in a weird way it feels like no time has passed at all. In a sense it seems that I've just pushed the pause button on the rest of my life for a little bit of exploration time around the world, but sitting here right now, reflecting on the fact that it's been 11 months since I touched down in Sydney brings about a wistful sense of nostalgia about the opportunity I was privileged to have over the past year. Before I left to go traveling, I found that I was tired of the same, predictable routine where I really wasn't exposed to anything new, and what I really wanted was to throw myself into a situation (or series of adventures), where acceptable norms and the paradigm you live in are completely different than what you know.
Looking back now, I've had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of young people like myself with an itch to travel, see new things, and just get a sense of the world we live in before settling down with real lives. I've met countless people older than me who spent years getting the adventure bug out of their system before settling down with something they really enjoy doing, which has given me great hope for someone like myself that is struggling to find their "place" in the big bad world. I have a great degree of confidence that the decision I made is one that's going to leave me in a better place in a few years' time, even if the trade-off means a little uncertainty right now.
I've had the chance to work countless jobs that have challenged me in ways I never would have expected, from faux-managing a hotel, to working on a super-yacht, to working at a vineyard, and all the little ridiculous things I did in between. Though there are always things that I wish I would have done once I've left a place, I can look back upon the last year and have a high degree of confidence that there's little I regret not doing. Let me run down, off the top of my head, my favorite moments of the past year.
One morning in my first month in Port Macquarie, I went early-Sunday-morning surfing with Jess and Jono, two of the Aussies who ran the hostel. They had just got back from a trip around the world, and are still very much travelers themselves. They invited me to join just the two of them as we drove to a secret (well maybe not secret, but inaccessible for someone without a car) surf spot...nothing out of the ordinary, but a memorable time nonetheless.
While staying with Bec and Trent outside of Byron Bay in January, Lauren and I went to one of Trent's shows and hung out with all of his friends. After we got back to the house, the boys had a shed party, which I willingly joined. Trent, Diego, and Troy had 6 kids between them, and it was an awesomely eye-opening experience to hang out with guys who had kids, but still saw themselves as people and not just parents. This probably needs a bit more explanation to make sense, but alas, no time for this.
While camping on Fraser Island, Lauren and I took a walk out of the dingo enclosure to check out the night sky- I have never seen so many colors in one sunset. Virtually every color of the rainbow represented, and something I specifically didn't take a photo of, since it would hardly be able to capture the scene. Sometimes mental images are the best.
Having a ruckus little party at Pete's house one weekend with Lauren, Clemence and Victor. Pete, if you ever read this, we put the hot tub to good use.
The first time I took a breath underwater during scuba diving class was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who's interested.
The single day I spent at sea aboard Meduse.
My first day in Margaret River, when Margot, Cher and I went to check out our new apartment. Sitting on the lookout, watching the sun set, and realizing that I would make this place my home, and that it would be in my backyard for the next two months was an amazing, breathtaking experience. We must have seen 20-30 sunsets in our time there, but none stunned me like the first.
The day our little $500 Toyota Camry, Erna (Helpin' me Erna Dolla'), blew a head gasket in the middle of relative nowhere, and we had to hitchhike all over the place to get fuel, jump the car, throw in the towel on getting the car to work, tow it to our place, get rides to work- everything going off without a hitch, due to the kindness of strangers.
This past Friday, Margot, Cher and I went to Rottnest Island, which is a small (~8 miles x4 miles) island off the coast of Perth. Once there, you feel like you are in the Caribbean, and we spent the day biking around the island, reveling in the untouched beauty and the proximity to the largest metropolis in a 2000 mile radius. We also saw Quokkas.
Despite the high percentage of fools running around this country, I've developed a soft spot for Australians and their way of life. They rarely take things seriously, if ever, and are quite fond of all things piss-related: taking the piss out of you (aka endlessly making fun of you or yanking your leg about something or other- it's a national obsession), getting on the piss (aka getting rip-roaring drunk at every socially acceptable and most socially non-acceptable opportunities), having a big piss-up (a large gathering of mates, all getting on the piss). I've rarely met a breed of people more willing to inconvenience themselves to help you out in any way; a refrain most heard is just "no dramas, mate" as someone helps you out. There's a mentality here, quite possibly stemming from convict times when all assistance felt like a lifetime away, where everyone needs to stick together and help each other out. I've very much gotten used to the incredibly relaxed lifestyle, where everyone still works hard until knock-off, but greatly values their free time. Quality of life is of paramount importance here, a mentality which I think the US would greatly benefit from.
So what's next for me? Well, that remains to be seen. I'm off to spend a month in Bali with Lauren and Tyler, and explore a completely new culture and way of life. As for my dream to backpack around the world, I'm taking things one step at a time at this point, but in a sense I've opened my personal Pandora's Box with this whole long-term travel business...it's the first time in forever where I really find that I'm comfortable in my own skin, and that what I'm "doing with my life" is something that I can be proud to incorporate as part of my personal identity. So we'll see!! Until next time.