I’m back after a bit of a hiatus from this whole travel blog thing. Sometimes when you are packing in a lot of places and experiences to a very little amount of time, you would rather soak up every moment living those experiences rather than processing and filtering it for others. I finished up my fast-paced travel schedule over a month ago. In the time since, I’ve been focusing on settling into life in Wellington, New Zealand. But I am finally ready to relive the highs and lows (and share lots of pictures) of the last 2 ½ weeks of my trip with Carly.
So we are taking it back to Melbourne, our last stop in Australia and our first stop where we had to deal with awful weather and experienced the unrivaled bond of travel friends.
You always take on a risk traveling somewhere during the rainy/winter season. Up until this point, we found that the forecast often fell in our favor and that by taking that risk, we were often rewarded with cheaper accommodation and quieter attractions and landscapes. Our luck ran out in Melbourne…
We arrived by plane on the eve of July 4th. Feeling especially patriotic with being so far from home, we were definitely excited to find a party or gathering that would make us feel like we weren’t on the other side of the world. While there had been advertisements for such an atmosphere in Sydney, we found no such thing in Melbourne.
We checked in to The Nunnery, a hostel that was once a convent. The history of the building lent itself to the theme in more ways than one with religious paintings and crucifixes displayed throughout as well as a list of “commandments”, or hostel rules. It was situated in Fitzroy, a neighborhood that had very PNW hipster vibes.
We set out to explore the area and find anything that resembled a 4th of July party, even if that was just a really good burger and beer combo. We failed at that, but did end up at a Texas BBQ restaurant called “Fancy Hanks” that was having an American “Meet Up”. We did meet quite a few Americans who were also over on a working holiday visa. It was nice to chat with them and get any tips and pointers on setting up a life down under. We also met quite a few non-Americans who just wanted to be part of the festivities. Things we learned: 1) imported North American beer is extremely expensive (so flirt with any and every guy who looks friendly enough to buy you a drink because $15 AUS for a can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is absurd and $8 for a can of PBR is insulting) and 2) nothing will ever compare to a party celebrating America’s independence than one that takes place in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
On our first full day in Melbourne, it poured. We had every intention to make the best of it despite the weather and set out equipped with rain jackets and umbrellas to meet up for a free walking tour. Just 10 minutes in to the walk to get to the walking tour, we were already soaked. So we bailed and found a café to get a coffee and a muffin and attempted failed to dry off. We were wet and miserable, but I insisted we find the famous graffiti alleys. After a quick photo op at each one, we set back to The Nunnery where we put our shoes and socks in front of the space heater and watched Netflix. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat and take a rest day. Once we were warm and semi-dry again, we did some window shopping and wound up at another café that may have been more Portland than any café in Portland. It was the best spot to kick back for a bit and people watch, which had quickly become our favorite pastime on the road.
We got back to the hostel only to be invited by our roomies to go out for a bite to eat and a drink. We could have easily said “no” since we had just come back from being out, but I figured “why not?” So we quickly turned around and joined three Canadians, who happened to all be from the Toronto area and were all traveling alone. Through the usual get-to-know-you small talk, we learned each one’s story. One girl was a 19-year-old traveling Australia on her own, whose quick one-liners and stories about her family won us over. Another was a twenty-something philosophy PhD candidate in Melbourne for a Women in Philosophy conference who also did burlesque on the side. And lastly, we there was a guy who had just finished up his medical residency and was at the start of a 3-month round-the-world trip before starting as a doctor in New Orleans. Each one was super interesting and easy to talk to. It was like we were instant friends who all managed to meet on this rooftop bar on the other side of the world. Over the next couple days, we explored new places, saw new things, ate, and slept in the same room together. There is a weird dynamic to the friendships you make on the road. They are as intense as they are short. And as each one of us parted ways, it was like there was huge void in our lives even though that person was a complete stranger a mere 48 hours prior. But that is what makes traveling so special. Each place you go is unique not just for the place itself, but the people you meet in that exact moment in time.
We were lucky enough that the weather cleared up a bit for our second full day in Melbourne. So we decided to see what the Royal Botanical Gardens were all about. I can only imagine the scene on a summer day, but that day we had most of the grounds to ourselves as we wandered from indigenous trees to bamboo forests.
After the gardens, we thought it would be nice to see Finding Dory since we were in fact in Australia. We found a theater, but we were shocked when we were told it was going to be $24.50 a ticket for a matinee showing. We awkwardly grumbled that we couldn’t afford that and walked out. It was in that moment that I questioned how anyone could actually afford to live in this city.
That afternoon, we said goodbye to the sassy 19-year-old, and as it was Carly’s and my last night in Australia, we decided to celebrate. But since going out to a bar was so expensive, we walked down the street to the corner Asian Mart and bought a $5 bottle of Australian wine (ok, we bought a few) and had a party in our room with the MD and the PhD. It was all fun and games until the next morning when Carly and I were up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight to New Zealand. Lesson learned: super cheap Australian white wine is not to be trusted any more so than cheap wine back home. I spent the entire 45-minute shuttle ride to the airport willing myself not to be sick and clutching a plastic bag just in case. The only thing that got me through was the feeling that the van full of middle-aged couples would be a little judgmental towards the 25-year-old who can’t keep her shit together at 7:30am. It was definitely not the state I wanted to be in when starting my new life in New Zealand…but you live and you learn. New Zealand, my final destination, was just on the horizon.