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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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Postcard from the Queen Victoria Market

I’ve always been a fan of farmers’ markets back home. As a California girl, I’m blessed with a vast amount of local and organic produce at my disposal, and I’ve always held to the steadfast belief in shopping locally when you can. So, it came as no surprise that one of my favorite activities in Melbourne is exploring the Queen Victoria Market.

Melbourne is known for many things, a melting pot of different nationalities, the culture and music capital of Australia, its expansive gardens that can be found throughout the city, and even its wide array of markets. The big daddy of Melbourne markets is the Queen Victoria Market, located in the CBD.

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Established in the 1850s and spanning 17 acres, it is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. I find myself perusing the stalls more and more these days, realizing that I can find just about anything from souvenirs and postcards to fresh produce for significantly less than I can at a local grocery store. I was especially ecstatic to discover that my favorite fruit, avocados, are relatively cheap at the market when they are so expensive everywhere else.

In addition to everything sold in the stalls, there is a great variety of delicious and cheap take-away food to choose from. One of my favorite things is grabbing a few Turkish boreks from the market and finding my way over to the beautiful Flagstaff Gardens across the street to have my own makeshift picnic.

Here was my day of shopping at the market:

1 Happy Daze smoothie (apple juice, banana, strawberry, pineapple, ice) – $6

5 postcards – $2

1 spicy lamb borek – $3

1 spinach and cheese borek – $3

2 avocados – $2

Total: $16

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The market is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I would recommend avoiding weekends; there were more than a few times of almost being knocked over by determined market-goers, and it was so crowded that you could barely move in some areas. Other than that, enjoy the best place to do your shopping for the week, and one of the best experiences Melbourne has to offer.

7 ways to spend the winter months in the city

It’s easy to get down in winter, with cold and overcast weather, shorter days, and lower energy. I’m about to go into my second winter thanks to the seasons being opposite in Australia (thankfully those are California and Australia winters), so I thought it would be good to write about how I keep busy on winter days since I’ve had a lot of them lately. Here are the ways I spend my days in Melbourne, before spending my nights working at a cozy bar in the city.

Grab a good book and head to your favorite cafe 

There are few things I love more than layering up in a warm sweater, finding a cozy cafe, and getting lost in a good book while sipping on my daily caffeine intake. Especially, when the coffee is as good as it is in Melbourne, and the cafe atmosphere just as phenomenal. I try and hit a different cafe every day because there are too many good ones to choose from.

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Explore the free museums 

Melbourne is similar to Washington D.C. and London with the amount of free museums you’re able to find around the city. There’s nothing better than spending your day looking at funky art, classic masterpieces, or a more avant-garde exhibit. I’ve explored the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square, which is a unique and interactive museum focusing on the history of film, music, and video games in Australia that is definitely worth checking out. I’ve explored the Ian Potter Centre, also in Federation Square, which has an aboriginal exhibit, as well as a new temporary 1980s exhibit if you want to go check out some neon, crazy patterns, and clothing right out of Saved by the Bell.

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Yesterday, I explored the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), which is my favorite museum by far. The layout of the exhibits and choice of displayed artwork was incredible, and I’ll be back very soon when their new Monet exhibit is installed come mid-May. Keep in mind these were all FREE museums, my mind is blown at the amount of art you have at your disposal anytime you want in the city.

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Lunch, window shopping and people watching on Brunswick St. 

Brunswick St. is one of my favorite places in Fitzroy. There are numerous little locally owned shops up and down Brunswick St., and delicious and affordable warm cafes to spend your afternoon in. I also enjoy people watching on Brunswick St, located in one of the “coolest” neighborhoods in all of Melbourne, because the fashion and people in general are so unique and interesting.

A second favorite if you’re looking for lunch and a cool cafe atmosphere is the popular Degraves Street located off of Flinders Lane. Although this is the famous street to experience cafe culture in Melbourne, I’ve found that also means very crowded and usually hard to get a table, especially on the weekends.

I prefer to mosey down Centre Place laneway, right across the street from Degraves, because it still has the atmosphere with less of the bustle and friendlier service.

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Dymocks Books and the State Library of Victoria

Dymocks is my favorite bookstore in the city (Readings is my favorite if you’re in St. Kilda), and the State Library of Victoria is my favorite library in the city, so depending on which atmosphere you like better I would recommend one of those to get your fill of warmth and books.

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Dymocks is located on Collins St. and it is literally a candy store of books for book lovers. They have so many categories to choose from, and they have the biggest selection that I’ve seen of my favorite genre, travel memoirs. The State Library is simply the perfect place to get lost on cold and rainy days, it is right up there with the New York State Library in terms of how gorgeous its architecture is.

Walk the city laneways and arcades

Even on the most wintery of days, I still need to spend some time outdoors and not be cooped up all day. Thankfully, with the fickleness of Melbourne weather even in the winter, you can usually find 20-30 minute increments of sun at some point during the day before it gets cloudy again.

During these spurts of good weather (or even when it’s raining because I love walking in the rain), I like to explore more of the hidden laneways and arcades that are sprinkled around the city. I’ve already talked about my affinity for street art, and there is heaps of it in Melbourne. It’s pretty much an outdoor museum every time you walk down an alley. Also, walking along or across the Yarra River is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

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Dumplings on Swanston Street

For a true introduction to the Melbourne dumpling experience I would recommend first going to Chinatown for the cheaper prices and chaotic ambiance, but my favorite dumpling place that I’ve found in the city is called Dumplings Plus on Swanston St. The Pork Dumplings in hot chili sauce are great on a cold night when you need warm and delicious sustenance. And on a plus, they are very generous with what they consider to be a “glass” of wine.

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Live Music 

One of the reasons why I chose to move to Melbourne was because of its live music scene, and with good reason. You can find good live music at multiple places every night of the week. I would recommend looking at Broadsheet for music listings or Beat Magazine to see what type of genre you’d like to see, because you can literally find just about everything. And what better way to spend your winter nights than to drink, be merry, and listen to live music all night long?

Note: Although I love winter in Melbourne, I’ll be looking forward to chasing summer come September in Southeast Asia and experiencing the Australian summer in December.

Tales from my first footy match

When I met avid Carlton Blues fan, Will, through a few mutual friends last weekend, I knew I couldn’t turn down his offer to take me to my first footy game ever. I had heard about this mythical “footy” game back in the States, but had no idea what to make of it. I found it to be a mixture of a variety of sports.

The field is in the shape of an oval like cricket, tackling is allowed like rugby, you kick the ball to pass and score like soccer, but you catch the ball with your hands like American football, and it has the pace and excitement of basketball, as well as its own set of unique AFL rules. In my opinion, the best parts of all these different sports were combined to make the ultimate Australian sport, also known as the Australian Football League, AFL, or footy.

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Will and I met for a couple pots of beer before heading to the MCG arena, and let me tell you, Australians take their footy seriously. Besides maybe cricket, AFL is the sport to watch and follow in Australia. The trams are always packed on game day, and when I walked into the bar, everyone was wearing their respective team colors, scarves, and/or beanies. Thankfully, Will let me borrow his Carlton scarf so I could look like a true Blues fan.

Even with a healthy amount of rivalry and drinking before, during, and after the game, footy fans are hardly ever known for getting into fights or displaying bad sportsmanship. This goes well with my initial perception of Australians as a whole, and their general “no worries” attitude that I find so common over here. They know it’s all in good fun. However, that doesn’t keep them from shouting at refs for calls against their team, or showcasing their die hard team loyalty every chance they get, as does any good sports fan.

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When we walked into the MCG and I got my first look at the field, my jaw dropped from excitement. I’ve been to San Francisco Giants games before, but that’s about it in terms of watching professional sports live. I’ve never been to an NFL or NBA game. So, when I walked in and got my first glimpse of the huge oval field, I was a bit starstruck. It helped that it was also an open air stadium on a gorgeous day in Melbourne, and the sun was setting as the game played on.

A funny fact about the MCG is that because it is open air and everyone leaves their food behind after the game, they have quite the seagull problem. At one point, the seagulls must have been taking up a third of the field, moving only when players ran in their direction. Apparently, they sometimes put a hawk at the top of the stadium to act as a scarecrow of sorts to deter the seagulls, I don’t think it has worked very well yet.

Another aspect I like about AFL games is the halftime show. Unlike American halftime shows, and I guess even Australian rugby games, where it’s all about the cheerleading routines, for AFL halftime, primary school kids from a variety of grades come out in team colors and play pick up games on the field. It was quite adorable, especially watching the really young ones who don’t know how to kick the footy yet but are just excited to be there.

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I’m happy to say that Carlton played a great game and won the match against the Adelaide Crows. The Carlton theme song came on at the end, and all the Carlton fans stood up and started chanting along with it. It has been a great week, the highlight with me finding a bartending gig after all of my job hunting, and my time at the footy match was a pretty perfect ending to the week.

I can’t wait until my next AFL game when I can experience it all over again, and hopefully next time be able to sing along to the Carlton victory song when they win again.

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Postcard from the streets of Melbourne

I’ve spent the last week and a half job hunting, walking through every street, nook, cranny, and alleyway, or so it seems. But everyday I wake up and walk some more, and I’m always surprised with what I find, there’s always some hidden treasure to find in Melbourne.

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Today was probably the most intense I’ve had in terms of job hunting. I walked for 8 hours straight, skipping lunch and grabbing take away coffee so as not to waste time. I had quite a few impromptu interviews, even one instance where they put me behind the bar to prove that I could make Australian style coffee. I made it to 22 places, spanning 4 neighborhoods (most of which I walked), and I was able to drop off 13 resumes to those places who were in fact looking for staff. Clearly, I’m determined to stay in Australia, which I can’t do without acquiring a job in the next couple of months.

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Today was a day of walking down many dark alleys, some of which didn’t smell all too great, trying to find certain recommended places, some of which didn’t even have signs on the outside. All to find “the” places to go in Melbourne. I felt like some places purposefully list the wrong addresses, so that they can truly weed out the “real” cool kids.

And yet even with Melbourne’s hidden ways, I somehow found every place that was on my list today. At one point having to follow a random group of grungy looking girls through an unmarked doorway and up some stairs, hoping that it was the place I was looking for, and it was, oh it was so beautifully the place I was looking for, the epitome of hipster paradise…of course, I immediately asked if they were hiring. At other times, I found myself walking up 6 flights of graffiti covered stairs to make it to one of the best rooftop bars in the city and drop off my resume. Today has been an adventure, to say the least, but that’s Melbourne for you, and that’s what I love about it.

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Besides my blatant American accent, I feel like I belong here, at least at this time in my life. If I was a city, I would be Melbourne. Eclectic, all over the place yet having a methodical planning system to its madness. A little bit hipster, a lot artsy, and obsessed with everything music related and good coffee. Stylish in it’s own unique sense, energetic and always kept busy, yet never losing the laid-back vibe that is at its core. Different neighborhoods that make up the pieces of its personality, its versatility. Colorful. Hidden laneways and staircases that lead you to something beautiful, artistic, or at the very least intriguing. Architecture that cherishes the past, yet also funky modern buildings resembling the exciting present and future.

And I’ve realized that Australians, both the girls and the guys, are some of the most gorgeous (inside and out) people I’ve met, it must be in their genes or something.

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The strange feeling is the one I get when I think of the possibility of staying here, that is, for good. When I lived in Florence for a summer, even with how much I loved the city, I knew I had to leave it and finish my degree back in the States. With Melbourne, I could see myself living here for awhile yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have moments of missing Cali, especially springtime in San Diego, my favorite time of the year in that beloved town. I miss every one of my friends, and everyone who is carrying on with their own lives back home, but there’s something about Melbourne that sits so perfectly with me, at least for now. Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon phase of discovering my new city, we’ll see if I still feel this way in 6 months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I still do. Maybe it’s okay to consider the idea of home to be the place that’s making you the happiest right now, and today I find myself happy here.

Some more pictures from today’s walk, to give you an idea about the streets of Melbourne.

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Tomorrow I’ll be grabbing lunch with a friend and exploring more of beachy St. Kilda, Thursday is ANZAC Day, and I got invited to my first ever footy game this weekend, so I’ll be looking forward to sharing more about all of those things and more in my upcoming posts. And, I’ll soon be writing about the beer culture in Melba, and my adjustment to living without my favorite IPAs (popular in the States, but not so much in the land down under).

Happy (almost) ANZAC Day!

Over drinks with an Aussie friend, I was talking about my birthday and how it usually falls around Memorial Day weekend. She looked at me blankly, clearly having no idea what I was referencing. Oh right, Memorial Day is an American holiday. It’s so strange when you make those realizations when abroad, that aspects that are such an institution in your culture, such as public holidays, aren’t recognized in other cultures. Although I must say, one of the best Fourth of July’s I’ve had was actually in Florence, Italy (you can read about it here).

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As I explore more of Melbourne, I keep coming across signs for the upcoming holiday in Australia, ANZAC Day. ANZAC day, from what I’ve researched, seems to be a similar holiday to Memorial Day in the States. There are ANZAC eve celebrations at local pubs, but also more somber events such as the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance.

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ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Sadly, in ethnocentric American classrooms, I never heard much about wars fought by Australians and/or New Zealanders, and so I find it fascinating learning about that history now that I’m immersed in the culture.

ANZAC Day started from the first World War, after over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. It’s celebrated on April 25th because that’s the anniversary of the first day of major military action by the Australian and New Zealand forces in 1915 (when Australia had only been a sovereign nation for a mere 13 years). It has since become a day to remember, not only for those who gave their lives in the first World War, but also for any others who have died for their country in the subsequent wars since then.

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A few days ago, after exploring the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens, I ventured over to the Shrine of Remembrance and the Eternal Flame that is always burning. I walked into the visitor center and read all about the history behind ANZAC Day, afterwards finding my way into the crypt, and I even stumbled upon a memorial service that was going on inside the Shrine for a fallen soldier. I paused when I realized what I had walked into, respecting the moment of silence, and feeling a wave of emotion come over me when the unfamiliar military call was played.

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I eventually made it to the top of the Shrine, completely alone with no other tourists or school groups disrupting my time for reflection. I was glad I was able to pay my respects to these fallen soldiers, no matter if they come from a different country than my own. It reminded me of visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City last year, and the feeling I got from visiting Auschwitz a couple summers ago; the respect and rush of emotions that go out to those who perished in both.

For this year’s ANZAC day, I’m hoping to attend the dawn memorial service to pay my respects, and maybe even bake some ANZAC biscuits for my housemates to celebrate the day.

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How are you planning on spending ANZAC day?

And my favorite place in Melbourne is…

The Carlton Gardens.

My place of peace in the city. I’ve noticed myself drawn here almost every day since I first discovered these gardens a little over a week ago when I first arrived. Back in San Diego, my favorite spot was the Black’s Cliffs, with views of the calming ocean tides below and the freeing paragliders above.

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After spending over a week exploring the nooks and crannies of Melbourne, I can say without a doubt that my favorite place is the Carlton Gardens. I come here to find my happy place, to read, to write, to sit and be inspired by the simple things in life. I like the fact that I’m surrounded by a lush greenery and peace amidst the skyscrapers and busy pace of the city outside my little bubble in the gardens.

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My oasis is the Carlton Gardens.

Being alone vs. being lonely as a solo female traveler

The sounds and smells of the city surround me as I walk the streets. Someone’s performing at an outdoor stage around the corner for the comedy festival that’s in town, the scent of Malaysian food wafts towards me as I cross the road, a street musician plays the riff of one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, ironically enough called, “Never Going Back Again”.

The tram whirls past me and comes to a stop, a mass of bodies push past me, I jump on just before the doors close and I jolt to another part of the city. Aimlessly I wonder the streets as I go, looking for work or something intriguing to catch my eye or take up my time for today.

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This is how I spend my days, alone in the sprawling city of Melbourne. It’s something I’m adjusting to. I’m used to always having someone to call or to hang out with. I’m used to all my friends and family back in the States being there for me in person, or at least in the same time zone.

I’ve always been extremely independent, but to call me a relationship person would be an understatement. I haven’t been truly “single” for more than a couple months at a time since I first started dating in high school, and even then, I’m usually dating someone casually before another serious relationship begins. I realize that even though I may cherish my temporary alone time, I don’t really know how to be alone for a long span of time. How to revel in that aloneness, appreciate my singledom, my freedom. And what better way to learn than to fly across the world, having a grand total of two friends in the city, forcing me to be left alone with my thoughts for the majority of my Aussie days.

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After almost 23 years, I’m finally learning how to be alone. I don’t know if it’s from living in as vibrant a city as 24-hour Melbourne (bars and clubs don’t even close until 6am), but however much I constantly find myself alone, I rarely catch myself feeling lonely. Perhaps I’ve finally learned the art of how to be alone without being lonely. How to appreciate this time completely for myself, and know that it’s okay to take a step back from the busy pace of life and finally figure some things out.

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Of course, this doesn’t stop me from walking into random hostels to learn how to play poker, not knowing a soul. Nor does it keep me from finding myself spending nights at rooftop bars, having dinner parties with people I barely know, or even just drinking beer and watching TV with my new housemates.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or the day after, or any day that I wake up in this foreign place, but I know that it’s exciting, it’s new, and the possibilities are all mine to choose.