A funny thing about Australia. If you were to ask either of us if it was our favorite place to visit, we would both answer no. Yet if you were to change the question slightly and ask where some of our favorite experiences have been, we would both answer that they happened in Australia. Allow me to set the record straight, it’s not that we did not enjoy our time spent down under. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. We drank some of the very best coffee from the coolest little artisan independent coffee houses that we have ever seen all over the country. Starbucks be damned, it was like returning to the distant past to the time before the chain even existed and swallowed up local coffee spots whole. The neighborhoods we crashed down in both Sydney and Melbourne were vibrant, artsy, oozing with cool (so much that we questioned if we were in fact hip enough to stay in them), and all the food and drink we consumed was interestingly prepared and fresh, albeit not exactly affordable (ie. our budget friendly). We found both cities to be refreshing and modern and while they are both incredibly different, each exuded a common optimistic groove. It probably helps the happiness factor that Sydney is set beautifully upon the harbor, the weather is phenomenal, and the public transit system is easy and reliable to navigate including stops on expansive surf beaches. Not to be outdone of course, Melbourne, while lacking in some of the natural attributes and in the weather department, has a thriving and soulful art, fashion, and culture scene. With a little more globalization and a few more decades, we suspect Melbourne will get a lot more air time on our side of the world.
Without the constraints of time, which is the likely the biggest hindrance facing visitors to Australia (it’s giant and it takes a really long time to get there) we were very lucky to be able to experience so many different facets and destinations on the continent, to the point that the trip there felt like a series of individual separate trips rolled into one. Money was perhaps our greatest obstacle (let’s be frank, it’s not a cheap place to visit), but we have become pretty adept at navigating around our budget, horse trading between dinners out, drinks in, and the occasional (sometimes regrettable) stay in hostels rather than hotels. To come all this way with all this time and to skip the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru, well, that would simply be blasphemy.
Of the favorite experiences that were referenced at the beginning of this post, for Michael it was the afternoon spent on the Great Barrier Reef. Between the two very large sharks, the thousands of colorful and funny looking fish, it was the best day he had on the entire trip thus far. I’m guessing that the fact that Jennifer stayed behind on land might have added to the joy. Hey people, we have spent nearly 24 hours a day together non-stop for months now, so a little bit of alone with nothing but fish might have been extra peaceful. And no, the day spent on land alone in Cairns, was not the highlight for Jennifer. It was surfing. Or rather learning to surf WITH Mike in Byron Bay. We went for it full on, slept in a van beachside, we were impaled by waves (now we know what it is like to be laundry inside a washing machine), we got up! and then were knocked off our big foamy beginner boards… but the most important part was we had fun…because I can assure you we did not look particularly cool while doing so (though Mike does have surfer hair now). And did I mention the drum circle? Byron Bay, you are our favorite little spot in Australia and we can’t wait to come back again soon for so much longer.
Oh and did we forget to mention hanging out with our friend Craig and the koala’s (just not at the same time)?