All posts by Mimi McFadden

Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.

Bathing at Brighton Beach

I remember seeing pictures of the Brighton Bathing Boxes before I arrived in Victoria. Being a person drawn to colorful and quirky things, I knew immediately I had to go see them for myself. There are 82 total bathing boxes on Brighton Beach, a tourist and historical attraction, they are still a sight to see. They have kept their original Victorian build from the 19th century, and even with the lack of amenities such as running water or electricity, you can still buy one of these babies for a little over $200,000 – the only catch, you have to already be one of the wealthy local residents of Brighton.

I’ve been meaning to take a train to Brighton for the last two months, but there was always a reason, mainly that it’s winter and either rainy or cold most days and the beach does not sound like the best place to go when you can’t feel your fingers.

Well, I finally made the 20-minute train journey to get to Brighton! The bonus, that it was at no extra cost to me. Brighton Beach Station is the last stop you can get to with a valid transportation (Myki) card before it starts costing extra money to travel around Victoria.

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It was a beautiful blue skies, although cold, weekend, so I thought perfect, I’ll go on Monday on my day off because the weather is finally decent enough for bundling up and walking on the beach. Hey, at least the pictures will look good with some color in the sky. Instead of the bright blues skies I was expecting, I woke up to the densest fog I’ve ever seen in Melbourne – BUT at least it wasn’t raining!

I had a ridiculous weekend, working 13 hours on Saturday only to go out dancing with my new housemate until 3am that night, and then working a 7 hour shift the next morning, and finishing off with an intense Bikram yoga class – I may or may not have almost passed out a couple times in the sauna-like room, due to my exhaustion and slight delirium.

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So, when I woke up on Monday to horrid beach weather, I surprised even myself that I still took the trip to Brighton Beach – although I took my sweet time to finally get my butt out of bed and out the door.

I love train rides, even short 20-minute ones. I popped in my earbuds and took in a different side of Melbourne and the surrounding areas whirring past while listening to Mumford & Sons, my go-to epic journey music. When I walked down to the beach from the station, there were even glimmers of blue skies in between passing clouds. I walked around a bend and suddenly all the little beach boxes were there glistening in the partial sun.

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Believe it or not, it was my first time feeling sand beneath my bare toes since arriving in Australia, and it was definitely the prettiest beach I’ve been to over here, although maybe that’s not saying much since Melbourne isn’t known for its beaches. Combine that feeling with exploring all the colorful bathing boxes, and I would say that I had quite that satisfying day off.

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My tips on staying healthy while traveling

One of the biggest challenges I came across when I first started traveling was how to stay healthy while living abroad. Through setting simple goals for myself and focusing on the three aspects I find most important to a healthy lifestyle (food, exercise, and well-being), I think I’ve finally found the perfect balance that keeps me feeling awesome and happy, no matter where I might be in the world.

Food

Food is something that is personal to most everyone. When you’re traveling and everything around you is different, it probably seems easiest and most comforting to stick to what you know. Unfortunately, this usually means universal fast foods and corporations, such as McDonalds or Starbucks. Food is one of the best ways to connect with the culture you’re visiting, and there are so many great new flavors for your taste buds to try located throughout the world, it would be a shame to pass those up.

Flavors that will be completely new to my palate are the delicacies I will be trying in Southeast Asia, such as duck embryos in Cambodia and snake blood in Vietnam. I’ve always lived with the philosophy of trying everything once – although the grilled tarantulas in Cambodia may be even too far for me, I’m not the biggest fan of spiders.

Working bartender hours, it’s sometimes hard to keep a balance of healthy eating in my life, especially with free beer constantly at my disposal and a free pub meal with every shift. Luckily, I’ve learned how to reign in my self-control since starting work, and I’ve found a balance to my eating habits now that I’m used to the land down under.

The key I’ve found to staying healthy while traveling or moving abroad, is taking advantage of the local markets, such as the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne. You’re able to find not only organic and fresh foods, but you’re also supporting local business. More often than not, you’ll also find the local specialties to the region you’re visiting at the market, and thus become even more immersed in the culture. Triple win.

And the nice thing about markets is that they’re universal. Every place I’ve traveled, whether the sprawling city of Paris, or the Tuscan countryside, has had a market of some kind.

And remember, don’t forget to splurge on your favorite foods now and then. For me in Melbourne, this includes dumplings and even Pie Face at times. My general rule is to keep everything in moderation, even the food that may not be considered the best for you but makes you happy eating it.

Exercise

Everyone likes exercising (or not exercising) in their own way. Although I love sports such as basketball and volleyball, you will never see me willingly want to go for a run or choose to run on a treadmill at the gym over tackling a difficult hike outdoors and getting my vitamin D for the day. Depending on how long you’re staying in one place really decides what type of exercise will be at your disposal.

No matter if you’re constantly on the go or staying a little longer in one place, public transport is a great way to stay in shape with walking to and from stops. I’m within 2o minutes walking distance to my waitressing job at a cafe, as well as a few minutes away from the nearest tram stop. Add that to my love of just walking around Melbourne to see the new art installations around town, and I must walk at least an hour and a half every day.

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Having a daily routine or “on the road” workout that you stick to is also beneficial. Since coming to Australia, I’ve undertaken the goal of doing at least 300 sit-ups every morning when I wake up, and I stick to it. It’s easy when I dream about laying on the beaches of Thailand in a bikini. And a strong core is something I can always value growing up as a lanky, tall woman with balancing issues.

If you’re able to stay in one spot for awhile, be proactive about finding an activity you like and would want to sign up for. For instance, I love yoga. Recently, I emailed all the local studios in Melbourne and found out which ones do a work-study program. Basically, I volunteer at the studio in order to get free yoga classes, and most importantly, I’m able to keep up my yoga practice while I’m on the road and only have a backpacker’s budget.

If you are more on the different city every day boat, focus on the active and adventurous sightseeing activities. One of my favorite things to do in a new place is hiking. It’s one of the best ways to explore the natural settings around you, and it’s a perfect way to immerse yourself in natural beauty, find peace and stress-free moments in the sometimes stressful life of traveling. I also love taking bike tours when I get to a new city, in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to see a city. One of my favorite memories from Europe is still the bike tour I went on in Amsterdam, riding through Vondelpark and around the beautiful canals.

Luckily, Australia is huge on nature reserves and gorgeous landscapes, beaches and views. Southeast Asia is going to be even more of an adventure, trekking through jungles in Vietnam, learning how to surf in Bali, and getting my scuba certification in Thailand. There are more than enough activities to keep me fit and active on a daily basis, and I’m sure that can be said for anywhere you travel in the world.

Well-Being

A strong mind and healthy well-being are key to a happy life. Again, for me, yoga has a huge impact on my psychological and physical well-being. Don’t lose your passions and hobbies just because you’re traveling or constantly on the road and they’re not as easily attainable. After a long week, when I do get a day off I like to just chill out at a cafe with a good book and coffee in winter, or lay on the beach during summer. Relaxation and simply taking a little time for yourself is just as important for keeping a healthy lifestyle while abroad.

Don’t lose contact with your loved ones at home, especially if you’re away for an extended amount of time. If you’re lucky enough to have internet connection, unlimited Skype minutes are only a mere $8/month for the country of your choice. Music is another passion that keeps me happy and balanced. I’ve been lucky enough, or maybe it’s just because I live in Melbourne, to have access to a guitar at every place I’ve lived thus far, and I plan on buying a cheap ukulele when I get to Southeast Asia. And thankfully, I can write lyrics wherever I travel.

Even when in foreign lands, remember your passions and the little things that make you tick. Find ways to still include them in your life abroad, or maybe even find new ones that are unique to the place you’re visiting, it makes all the difference in your overall happiness, and acts as a way to ground you even when you’re thousands of miles away from home.

Be free.

It has been quite the week. It started with losing one of my jobs suddenly, to acquiring another job just as quick, having my computer fail on me unexpectedly (hence, my absence from the blogging world), and finding out it’s going to cost $620 to fix it. I also moved across town and began exploring my new neighborhood, I even started volunteering at a yoga studio, and I thankfully have been working twice as many hours at my bartending gig in the city.

With all this change and slight chaos in my life in the last week, I felt myself becoming more and more stressed out as things started to unravel, and my life seemed so unpredictable and far away from home. Needless to say, I stopped myself from this downward spiral of worry, and paused to reflect, I’m living my dream right now.

Moving abroad is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and I’m actually doing exactly what I want to do with my life right now, which is a feeling I’ve never completely felt before with all the pressures of adolescence, and the “correct” path of going to a 4 year university instilled in my American mindset since I was little. It’s the first time I’ve broken off the path of what society deems to be the “American Dream”, expanded my perspective of what my life could encompass, besides just worrying about  hitting all the generic milestones at the appropriate ages.

That in itself is an invigorating realization. And as long as I keep living a balanced life, no matter where I might call home today or tomorrow, I’m going to be just fine.

I’m not saying moving abroad is everyone’s dream, the road can be long and even lonely at times when you’re so far away from your loved ones and the comforts of what you’re used to, but it’s a dream that is 100% my own and it challenges me in a positive and passionate way every day.

Today, I challenge you to find a dream that is all yours.

And to always remember…

be free.

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Adventuring to the edge of the world

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When I stepped off the plane in Dublin, I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into? Traveling to Ireland all by my lonesome, not knowing anyone, and staying in a hostel by myself for the first time. These were the thoughts of impending doom swirling around in my head as I made my way closer and closer to the city, imagining my roommates were going to be some sort of coke addict junkies.

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When I arrived at the hostel, the door was locked. Apparently it was a buzz system, so the guy at the front desk had to buzz you in. He buzzed, I pulled. Nothing. He buzzed, I pushed, a little too late. Nothing. Finally, he buzzed a third time and I stumbled into the hostel. The gruff Irishman at the front desk barely looked up or acknowledged me; and I was a sight to see, with my glasses, volleyball sweatshirt, and hair matted down and frizzy from the plane ride.

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He had already marked me off as an annoying American, who clearly had no idea how to travel. I made my way to the desk, struggling with the suitcase, which I realized had become way too heavy in the last couple months of traveling through Europe, and somehow managed to trip over it and almost fall flat on my face. I caught myself, smiled, and told him my reservation. With what dignity I had left, I made my way to my room on the third floor, only to realize that the stairs were my only option after the elevator made it clear it wasn’t coming. I struggled with all the energy I had left to get my massive suitcase up the stairs and into my room. I looked around and sighed, knowing from the belongings splayed out on the bed, I would be living with guys.

Even with my instinctive initial prejudice, I lucked out with Aussie Tony. He was my roommate for the week, and he was an awesome guy to room with. We connected immediately with our love of music, he introduced me to the friends he had made in the hostel so far, and we all went out for an epic night of barhopping and live music our first night in Dublin.

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One of my favorite experiences in Ireland was when Tony invited me to come with him on a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, or the edge of the world as it’s fondly called. And believe it or not, it really does feel like the edge of the world. It was so windy when we jumped off the bus, but the beauty of where we found ourselves overcompensated for any discomfort from the piercing cold wind.

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We wondered around the cliffs, making sure to get to the best view on the other side of the “Do Not Go Beyond This Point” sign. Let’s be real, the best views are always where you’re not supposed to be.

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The edge of the world is definitely something to see and experience for yourself, I don’t think the pictures quite do it justice.

How to spend a day in Geelong

Geelong may seem like just another stop along the way to the Great Ocean Road, but I found it to be an endearing seaside town, a perfect escape from the big city for the day. Once the wool capital of Australia, Geelong has just the right amount of history, beauty, and small town charm to make me want to come back someday soon.

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If you’re coming from Melbourne, for a mere $15 (roundtrip), hop on the V-Line train and enjoy a beautiful hour-long ride into North Geelong station.

Coffee & brunch at the Pickers Union Cafe

First stop, two of my favorite things, coffee and food. Located next to an old wool mill, you’ll find the adorable Pickers Union Cafe with vintage and handmade furniture and an eclectic vibe. Try their popular “smashed avo” (literally toast with smashed avocado and multigrains on top) for a healthy start to the day. When you’re done with the expertly crafted coffee of your choice, head over to the Geelong Vintage Markets that are right next door.

Peruse the Geelong Vintage Markets

One of my favorite parts of the day, was looking into the Geelong Vintage Market stalls, not sure what quirky discovery I would make next. The old and classic jewelry was gorgeous (and cheap!), and I especially liked the book stalls that included a wide variety of genres and tastes.

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Stroll along the waterfront

Depending on how active you want to be, you may end up wanting to take the train or bus into the main part of Geelong, but as I’ve mentioned before, I love walking with great views. Walking the waterfront from the markets to the pier was one of my most beautiful experiences I’ve had thus far in Australia, especially since it was completely deserted along the path, and the off-and-on rain made everything glisten. It took me a little over an hour to walk from Rippleside to Limeburners point.

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It’s a great place to have a walkabout, that is, just think about life, or at least appreciate it. One of the cool things about the waterfront is the 104 bollards that line the pathway. Each one represents a different part of Geelong history, and they are a hilarious way to mark your walk. Each one is crafted uniquely and has so much character, it was fun to spot as many as I could and take pictures as I went.

Stay warm at the Geelong Gallery

I was originally planning on seeing the National Wool Museum (sounded random enough), but after walking in and realizing it cost money for entry, I thought the free Geelong Gallery was a better choice, and probably more interesting.

It was a great collection of art and although on the small side, I found it much more manageable to appreciate all the individual pieces as opposed to the sprawling National Gallery in Melbourne. Plus, it was a warm place to hang out, after just walking for an hour along the cold waterfront.

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Walk the pier at sunset

One of the most photogenic places I’ve found in Australia, the pier in Geelong at sunset. It was stunning when the pastel colors took over the sky, the bay filled with sailboats, and the Cunningham pier to walk out on and experience the view from multiple angles.

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I wasn’t sure if taking a day trip to Geelong would be worth it, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found in this overlooked gem by the bay. I would recommend a day trip here to anyone who needs a break from city life.

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Finding a ruin bar in Budapest

There is so much to love about Budapest – except for it being the place where I experienced the most anti-American sentiment. I knew from researching the city beforehand that it would be one of my favorites in my journey through Europe. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to (Florence is still number one in my book), and I love that it’s an even more hipster alternative than Berlin. There’s a huge student population in the city, as well as very public displays of affection by the locals – the aftermath of living under the iron curtain of communism for so long is overflowing love in the present.

The thermal baths were glorious, except one incident where we accidentally wandered into the men’s changing room and were yelled at by an old Hungarian man. The architecture was lovely, and the history of both the Nazi and Soviet occupations was incredibly interesting and heartbreaking to learn about. Clearly, I loved the enchanting city of Budapest.

One of my favorite experiences in my whole trip through Europe was finding a ruin bar in Budapest. Ruin bars are the new thing for the young twenty-something indie crowd in Budapest. As the name suggests, they’re bars located in random ruins around the city. I gathered a group in the hostel, and asked if they wanted to go exploring with me to find one of these cool ruin bars.

The one we found our last night looked like it was an old communist house, it was awesome. Getting there was exactly how I had imagined, going down a closed off sketch street completely in rubble that smelled like piss, only to find an amazing bar in a dark corner of some random street in Budapest.

There were so many nooks and crannies, different rooms that had the most random and quirky decorations every direction I turned. There were four different bars, two outside, two inside, TV Screens playing random scenes, a DJ that only played off the chart chill indie music, hookah everywhere. At one point in the evening I was sitting in the front of an old car from the 60’s that was cut in half, the lesbian couple was in the back part of the car a few feet away from us.

 

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the name of the bar (they don’t really do labels), but still to this day, it’s the coolest bar I’ve ever been too. Similar to finding the secret bakeries in Florence, finding your own hidden ruin bar is the thing to do when you visit Budapest.

Postcard from the banks of Geelong

Feeling the urge to explore more of Victoria besides Melbourne, I took a day trip via train to Geelong on one of my rare days off last week. It was well worth the trip. I found Geelong to be a gorgeous seaside town perfect for an escape from the big city for a day.

One of my favorite parts of Geelong was walking the waterfront, where I spent a little over an hour strolling alongside the sea from Rippleside to Limeburners point, staying just long enough for a perfect view of the sunset.

The waterfront is lined with 104 of the most random bollards along the pathway, each one representing a different part of Geelong history. It was fun exploring and taking pictures of as many as I could find.

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My day trip to Geelong was just what I needed, with life getting busier lately in Melbourne, it was a perfect place to wind down and gain some perspective.

My experience visiting Auschwitz

The Holocaust.

I remember reading the Diary of Anne Frank around the same age Anne was in the story, and experiencing an incredible amount of empathy for a girl who was my age, but had the misfortune of being born into the wrong place and time. I’ve seen most movies about the Holocaust, from Schindler’s List to The Pianist, and read more than a fair share of books on the subject, and I’ve realized that it is always going to be one of the many violent events in our history that I will never understand. It’s a subject that affects me with a great amount of sadness whenever I learn more about it, but it is also something that I think everyone should learn more about and pay their respects to.

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One of the more profound experiences I’ve had in my life was visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland.

It was an intense experience walking into all the barracks and streets of a place where so many horrors were witnessed. It was sickening that so many atrocities were allowed to take place, that all the murders, torture and experiments were kept so well hidden for so long. It was a lot to wrap my mind around, that we as humans could commit such things based on someone’s race, appearance and physical deficiencies. It really makes you think. There were a few in my tour group who couldn’t complete the tour, they had broken down into tears after seeing the shoes and human hair piled up in a case.

I feel like going to these types of places with a tour group can sometimes bring out the worst sides of fellow travelers. It no longer becomes a place where a tragic historical event took place, but just another place to take too many pictures of to post on Facebook, and to say that you’ve been there done that.

There were a few in my tour group who were actually taking pictures of the wall of human hair, who were posing and smiling in front of gas chambers. These were the same people who, instead of listening to the history behind the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, were running around and jumping on top of the memorial taking pictures of each other.

To each his own, but to me, that is such a disrespectful way to visit a memorial, to take a moment to cherish the lives of all those who died.

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Even though it was a sad day, I’m glad I was able to pay my respects. Walking out of Birkenau, after just seeing the remnants of what used to one of the largest gas chambers in existence, I coudn’t help but think how lucky I was that I was able to walk out of those gates and back to the bus, when so many people never got the chance to do the same. So many innocent people who never wanted anything more than to be able to see the other side of the gates that enclosed them until their death. The ride into Prague was a quiet one, everyone taking their own time to comprehend the extent of what we had experienced.

Yes, this was definitely one of the most profound  and sobering experiences I’ve had in my life.

Melbourne tourist attractions, to go or not to go?

Melbourne may not have as many of the world famous sights as other parts of Australia, such as the Opera House in Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef up in Queensland, but there is always something to do in the city and I’ve found it to be a pretty great city to live in (actually voted one of the best cities to live in the world). Let’s be real, I love it here.

I’ve already reviewed most of the free activities to do in Melbourne, but as to not overlook the ones that do cost money, I have a few touristy experiences to share from my first month in the city.

Melbourne Zoo

Compared to the San Diego Zoo, one of the best in the world, the Melbourne zoo may not seem like much, but if you have time on your hands and you’re looking for a place to spend the day, the zoo is not a bad idea, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Going to the zoo is always a bittersweet experience for me. On one hand, I love animals and going to see so many unusual ones up close, but at the same time it makes me sad, seeing all these living creatures that inhabit such small enclosures.

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I was invited by an American friend whom I met in my RSA course (Responsible Service of Alcohol – a necessary certification for bartenders in Australia) a few weeks back, and I must say we had a great day at the zoo, and it’s worth checking out if you have the money and time, but it’s not necessarily something I would do again. Honestly, I’m much more excited to see some of these animals (i.e. elephants!) up close and personal in the wild when I visit Southeast Asia.

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New animal I saw: African Wild Dog

Favorite animal to watch: Meerkats (hilarious)

Best part of the experience: seeing the great variety of kangaroos

Price: $26.10

Overall tourist attraction rating: 3/5

Note: Thank you to Jeff for graciously offering to pay for my zoo admission and inviting me to partake in the Melbourne zoo experience with him. 

Eureka Skydeck 88 and the Edge Experience 

This was one of those attractions I looked forward to even before I got to Melbourne, because I love gorgeous views (as you can tell from my Postcard from the top of the Empire State Building). I mean, who doesn’t, unless maybe you have acrophobia. Eureka Skydeck is the tallest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere, and even if you are afraid of heights, this experience is not the least bit scary. The elevator took a matter of a few seconds to get to the top, and the majority of the top level is completely enclosed.

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I actually experienced this attraction on a date with an Italian guy I met while grabbing lunch in St. Kilda last week. I had been thinking of going to check this out in the next week, now that I actually have an income, but I was waiting until I got my first paycheck. Instead, Andrea surprised me by taking me to see the best view in Melbourne after a lovely Italian lunch alongside the river.

Just the views from the Skydeck itself made the experience worth it, and we lucked out with the weather, going on one of the most beautiful, 75 degree days in Melbourne.

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The second part of the attraction is the Edge Experience. You’re put into a (slightly claustrophobic) glass cube and at first the glass is clouded, but after being projected 3 meters from the building, the glass clears instantly and you have a 360 view of the city. It was particularly fun laying face down on the glass and contemplating just how far up you are.

Even still, I don’t believe for the added price of the Edge Experience that it was worth it. For one thing, you’re not far enough out from the building to really get the best view of the city, and the glass was a little scratched and beaten up from so many people, making it less clear to see through than the actual windows at the Skydeck. I would say experience the Skydeck at least once, but pass on the Edge Experience.

Best part of the experience: The view of Melbourne on a beautiful day

Price: Skydeck – $18.50

The Edge – $12.00

Overall tourist attraction rating: 3.5/5

Note: Thank you to Andrea for offering to pay for my admission to the Skydeck and the Edge Experience. 

AFL game at the MCG

By far my favorite costly experience to have in Melbourne is going to a footy game. I’ve already written about my love of AFL in Tales from my first footy match, but I had to include it on this list because besides being a way of life for locals, footy is also a huge tourist attraction for those who are visiting Melbourne (where footy was first established).

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I went with an Aussie friend, and the whole experience has been one of my favorites in the last month. From drinking beer at a local pub dressed in our team colors before the game, to actually watching my first AFL game at the MCG while enjoying hot chips and hot dogs. If you’re traveling to Melbourne, pick a team and jump on the footy bandwagon. It’s an experience you won’t regret paying for.

Best part of the experience: Having a local Australian explain the rules of AFL and share his love for the game with me.

Overall tourist attraction rating: 4/5

Cost: $26.00-$36.00

Note: Thank you to Will for getting my AFL ticket free of charge for me, buying multiple rounds of delicious Aussie beer, and taking the time to explain all there is to know about footy. 

Clearly, I lucked out in experiencing these costly attractions for free (thanks to generous friends), but I still think that some of the best tourist attractions in Melbourne are the ones that come with a free price tag.

However, now that I’m working not one, not two, but possibly three part-time jobs, I’m hoping to soon be able to afford the attraction in Melbourne that I’m looking forward to most, and on my bucket list for the year, hot air ballooning over the city at sunrise.

Escaping from a salt mine in Krakow

As a way to incorporate my past travels that took place before I started this blog, I’ve decided to start Throwback Thursdays, where I’ll post about past adventures that I’ve had in other parts of the world.

I backpacked through Europe a couple years ago, and one of the most unique (and unsettling) experiences I had was exploring the salt mines in Krakow, Poland. Here is my take on the Medieval city.

Krakow, the land of cobblestones, horse drawn carriages and post offices in old school buggies. Honestly, I hadn’t heard much about Krakow before visiting, but I found myself enamored by the relatively small and historical city. My most notable story by far was exploring the salt mines, the oldest in the world and in operation for 700 years.

It was pretty amazing, discovering another city far beneath the earth. It’s seven levels altogether, the first level was about 400 steps down, we only made it to the 3rd level and that took 3 hours. It is a massive testament to the strength of human intellect and what we are capable of. I would not recommend going down there if you’re at all claustrophobic, however.

Once you get to the first level with a tour guide, it’s impossible to simply get out whenever you want. Part way through the tour, half of our group broke into a run to try and get to the elevators (a big no-no in the salt mine – and being that I was in the group that didn’t know about the plan to escape the salt mine, we were constantly left with the blame for the rest of the tour).

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Once our three hour tour was finished, it took another 45 minutes of waiting in lines for the two elevators that take you up to the top level in a swift 45 seconds. The elevator was another experience in itself, they squeeze eight people in a small lift with hardly any room to breathe, the only thing protecting you from falling far below are shaky wooden planks that you can see in between when you’re going up.

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I don’t think Poland is as big on safety requirements as the States. The lines themselves were a clear sign of that; hundreds of people were lined up in a small tunnel for almost an hour with no way to escape if there was an emergency. Thank god I survived to tell the tale. After spending much longer underneath the ground than we had originally planned, we went off to enjoy the rest of what Krakow had to offer for the day.

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It may not have a hundred famous sights as many of the other cities I’ve visited in Europe, but it has a charm about it that remindes me a lot of Florence, Italy (my favorite place in the world), especially the main square with street art and performers everywhere. Taking a taxi home that night, looking out at the city of Krakow, our driver started randomly blasting Backstreet Boys with the windows rolled down…yeah, Krakow is pretty sweet.

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