A while ago, I wrote a post about the places I wish I went in Australia, but didn’t. Being such a big country, it’s pretty obvious I’d miss out some stuff, even having visited the first time and lived there the second (in fact, I think everyone inevitably misses things out in every country, however long you’ve been there).
So, I decided I’d finally look at what I’m glad I did do in Australia. You know, in case you all thought I was only filled with regrets (far from it) and I didn’t do anything…
This is one of my top, top experiences ever, let alone just in Australia. I’m sure I’ve said it before on the blog, but this was the time when I had my sort of “epiphany” while driving back from Uluru and looking at the stars (more than I’ve ever seen) and realised that events in life are just a matter of putting things in perspective. Of course, in my day to day life I tend to forget this, but it’s a moment that’s stuck with me.
We (me, my sister and my dad) walked around the base of Uluru from sunrise with a guide telling us about the Aborigine stories and legends connected with it. It was incredibly fascinating. Aborigine beliefs are linked with nature and I have the utmost respect for their culture. Which is why you’ll never find me climbing up the rock, and will always refer to it as Uluru (not Ayers Rock).
Unfortunately we didn’t get to do the popular evening of dining under the stars, but here is where I tasted my first ever kangaroo, crocodile and emu. From the red sand and the most irritating flies to sipping champagne by Kata Tjuta, this was an experience I couldn’t have had anywhere else.
Live in Melbourne
I almost lived in Sydney. Well, I say “almost” – there were no spots to go to University of Sydney for some reason or another when I was applying to study abroad. So I picked Melbourne. I don’t know why I did this, but I’ve never looked back.
I don’t think I’d have ever known how cool Melbourne was if I was able to go to Sydney. I’m so happy that I could explore Melbourne (although I didn’t explore nearly enough!) and fall in love with its quirky laneways, its street art, its amazing bars and different vibes place to place. There is no “iconic landmark” in Melbourne like there is in Sydney or many other major cities around the world, but that’s kind of why I liked it: Melbourne is a place to wander. It’s the city you walk around and no matter how often you walk around, you find something you didn’t see before.
I am itching to go back, and have been since the day I left (seeing as I never wanted to leave! Damn degree). When I look back, I’m happy I could spend days on Brighton Beach, or eating delicious cakes in St Kilda, wandering around the Botanical Gardens, spying street art in the laneways and going out with my friends on Chapel Street or Brunswick Street. Essentially, Melbourne was an unexpected city to give me the time of my life, but it didn’t disappoint. So take that, Sydney! …I’m kidding, I love you Sydney, but I love Melbourne more. My home from home :)
Swim/Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
This had been a dream of mine for years but I never thought I’d have got to do it as soon as I did, at the age of 17. My dad and I stayed in Airlie Beach and did a tour around the Whitsundays, as well as snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. I still think of it as one of the best days of my life! I’m not the strongest swimmer (which is fairly stupid considering how many water-based activities I want to do/get better at) so it took me a while to get used to snorkelling but once I found my feet, I was mesermised.
Unfortunately no turtles (another wish of mine!) but the coral and fish were so colourful and a delight. No photos sadly as this was before the days of GoPros and I was too unprepared to bring a camera that would work underwater!
Go on a Road Trip on the Great Ocean Road
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my road trip along the Great Ocean Road was one of the best weekends of my life. Beautiful scenery and your friends is quite frankly one of the best combinations you could ever have.
We started in Melbourne and snaked our way to the Great Ocean Road sign, and from there we sat at the base of waterfalls, lunched and pier-jumped in Lorne, ran along empty beaches, walked to the edge of cliffs, explored caves and watched the sunset at the 12 Apostles. It was about a month into living in Melbourne and it was a time where I felt I had settled in and was so proud of and happy with my decision to move to Australia.
Surf in Sydney
Manly Beach is where I had my first ever surfing lesson, courtesy of my sister’s husband. It was something I had wanted to try for so long and I was truly determined to pick it up as quickly as possible. (Cue the apology to my sister’s husband who must have been very frustrated with me when he said we’ll call it a day and I refused to head back to the beach until I ended on a good note and rode a wave all the way in. I’m very stubborn.)
I managed to fit in another Australia surf in that first trip, then decided I would have to go to a university that had a surf club. Since that first Sydney surf, I’ve been on surf trips with my UEA Surf Club in the southwest of England for three years of uni life and met some amazing people through it, and surfed in Bali and California.
I’ve got a while to go to become any sort of decent surfer, but I’m always grateful to that first lesson that started it all off.
Have Aussie Friends
Before I moved to Australia to study, I thought almost obsessively about who I’d meet there, what kind of friends I’d make. There was nobody to fall back on, no other friend or student going with me, so friends were important. I was sure I’d have an awful time otherwise, I felt.
I first made a group of international friends, but somewhere deep down I felt the experience wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make friends with Australians as well. I wanted to get sucked into their way of life, the things they spoke about, the way they spoke, the tv shows they watched and basically everything. At the time I think I partly wanted all of this so I could somehow absorb the Australian-ness and be turned into an Australian myself (really, I think back then the biggest compliment you could have paid me was that I seemed Australian or something along those lines. Still kind of true.)
Anyway, I had a lovely mix of international friends who I could bond with through adjusting to this new lifestyle, and Australian friends, who took me under their wing, accepted me fully into their lives. I’m so, so grateful that I was able to submerse myself so much into their world and make some lifelong friends. I would go back to Australia anyway, but it excites me even more that I have friends there to be reunited with.
Experience Koalas and Kangaroos
I’ve always been fascinated with Australia’s wildlife, from the cuddly to the dangerous. I have cuddled a koala and it’s easy to see why I did – have you seen their adorable little faces? I had to go to Queensland to do this as it’s one of the only two Australian states (along with South Australia) you can actually physically hold a koala. But it’s slightly bitter sweet as I’m not sure where I stand now on the moral side of holding a koala. Some people say it’s stressful to the animals, and I don’t really believe in animals being put on show and interfered with just for human entertainment. Plus, there has to be a reason why the other states don’t allow it, right?! On the other hand, from what I understand, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary does a decent job in protecting koalas. And it’s all about education.
So, I’m glad I did it at the time, and it showed me what lovely creatures they are, but if I could go back in time, I’m not sure that I would hold a koala under those circumstances again. I’m interested in hearing thoughts on this as I’m sure there are some strong opinions…
Apart from this, I was extremely excited when I spotted my first wild koala, and the same for kangaroos. Kangaroos have been a love of mine since I was little, mainly because I considered them the coolest animal which shared the first letter of my name (flawless logic, I know).