I turn a quarter of a century old tomorrow. I’m in the Oregon countryside with my family and I’m just as happy as I was when I turned 21 in San Diego, 22 in Las Vegas, 23 in Melbourne, Australia, and 24 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Funny enough, this house in the country is actually where I first started this blog. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, my immediate future is staring at me from around the corner. That future that determines so much of how my life will go.
25 sounded so old to my teenage and younger self. To my 24 year old self I still feel young, I’m at the cusp of many an exciting endeavor, I’m also in the dark of what the next year will entail.
I decided to not go straight into an intellectually stimulating (or probably more accurate, a mind numbingly) entry level job from my college graduation.
I’ve always been a worrier, someone who doubted and second guessed things. Then I took a chance and did something I always wanted to do: I moved abroad. I did it without an idea of what job I would find to keep me afloat, with which friends I would find a new perspective, with what inspiration I would find throughout the course of my two years away from home.
And in the end, it worked out just as it was meant to. As I’ve traveled up the coast of California and Oregon for the past two months, I’ve found how much I still appreciate and love my friends I knew from college, from past travels, and the new friends I’ve met through them.
How it feels like no time has passed at all. This initial veer off the idealized path has created a domino effect in my life. My passions come back to me, knock the breath out of me, I’m in love with so many things. But that’s always how I wanted to spend my life.
To me, it shows how genuinely happy I am going into this milestone birthday, how content and even excited I am with how my life is going even though I may not know exactly what I’m doing with it, or even what I’m doing tomorrow or the next day.
All I know is that music and writing have popped up time and time again through the years, and I don’t believe in coincidence.
I want to finish a master’s degree, I want to record an album and play at open mics or on the street just for the fun of it. I want to start a stellar record collection and become even broader with my music tastes. I want to write a book, to write full time for this blog. I want to become fluent in Spanish and travel to South America, go to Argentina and learn how to properly tango.
I want to take a cross country road trip with my boyfriend in our beat up van through the States and Canada. I want to settle down in Portland for awhile. I want to teach English in Japan, and live in London just to write for a summer. I want to go to concerts constantly, and festivals as much as my bank account allows.
I want to continually learn, to grow and find out how many ways I can enjoy life in the process.
In my (almost) 25 years I’ve earned my open water scuba certification, took culinary classes in Italy, traveled to 20 countries, completely started over in 4 different cities, received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, skydived over the middle of New Zealand, traveled on my own, volunteered at music festivals in Australia, fell in love with guitar, and lived.
I’ve dealt with loss, sadness, loneliness and self doubt. I’ve gone through the spectrum of emotions and come out on the other side with a sunnier disposition and an attitude that I can face anything I put my mind to.
I don’t see why I can’t do the rest of it as well, because all of those plans I mentioned before, I truly hope to one day do.
I’m finally figuring myself out: my confidence, what I love and what I don’t, what I want and what I’m willing to do to make sure my ambitions become reality.
25 is a year to not only get things done, but to enjoy it and embrace any fears or reluctances I may have. I can only imagine it’ll just get better as I get into my late 20s. So, here’s to a quarter of a century of living, and a quarter of a century to figure out where I really want to go is where I am in the present.
As Ben Howard once wrote, “Climb out. Out enough to see the curl of the world.” I’ve taken that to heart ever since.
I apologize in advance, this is going to be one of those long-winded posts, however, I wanted to give my first travelversary the time it deserves, so here it goes.
It’s funny, Australia was never at the top of my list of destinations I wanted to visit pronto. To be completely honest, it was always a place I wanted to see someday, but there was never anything that stuck out to me about the land down under.
That all changed when I traveled through Europe. In addition to just starting to get a taste for my endless wanderlust, I met countless Aussies through backpacking all over the continent. I was intrigued by the Aussie mindset of travel as such a big part of one’s life, of gap years, and the normality of traveling the world at any age.
It was a stark difference from the mindset I was inundated with growing up in the States.
This cultural difference and appreciation of the more worldly things in life convinced me that I needed to visit Australia soon.
Although inspired after my initial European adventures, once I arrived home, I soon fell back into the swing of things. Immersing myself even more in my sorority, getting excited about my new classes, rekindling a relationship I put on hold when I left the country. The passion I felt initially for Australia slowly began to fade away and it became less urgent, it became a trip to take someday when it was more convenient.
I became closest with two women in particular in my European travels, an English and an Aussie girl. We remained in contact even when we all made it back to our individual home countries, and that’s when my inspiration was sparked once again. My English friend casually mentioned that she would be backpacking through Southeast Asia in a year and a half after spending some time in Australia.
I immediately asked if she would be keen for a travel buddy and volunteered myself to be that companion to see Southeast Asia with her. She gladly accepted, and we started planning every now and then about what our trip would consist of. I realized during this planning that what I really wanted was something more than just a two month trip in Asia, I was after a bigger challenge.
When I did more research and found out how easy it is to get a working holiday visa in Australia, I knew now was the time to make a huge leap and do something I always said I would do in my life, move abroad for a solid amount of time.
I initially planned to move to Australia for just 5 months, and then backpack through Southeast Asia and head home in the Fall. Well, I still haven’t come home, and by the time I do, it will have been almost two years since I left.
It was a hard thing to accept, that this was really what I wanted to do with my life. I had a wonderful life built up in San Diego: I had just graduated from a top-notch university, I had a supportive and close-knit group of friends, and a boyfriend I loved very much. But in between the lines, there were flaws in that perfect picture, and I knew if I didn’t leave, at least for a little while, I would find myself unhappy in due time.
So, I booked a one-way ticket, watched my relationship disintegrate as the pressure of the departure date crept closer, and found comfort in my undoubtedly supportive friends and family, who encouraged me to do what I wanted, even if they maybe didn’t understand it themselves.
And when I finally arrived and started traveling around the unique and hauntingly beautiful landscape of Australia, I realized I never should have underestimated it.
I made avideoof my year abroad when I first left Australia, as I couldn’t put into words at the time what that year meant to me. I think I’m finally ready to try and put into words the highest highlights and some very disappointing lows, the many ways I fell in love, grew as a human being, and finally realized what it means to be completely free.
Here’s a recap of my first year abroad, a year I cherish and hold dear for how much it opened up my perspective and confidence in the world.
Bleary eyed and tired from the long haul flight from Los Angeles, I stumbled off the plane, quickly made it through customs, and hopped in a Taxi to find my new place for the next couple of months.
I lucked out in finding a sublet through a friend of a friend of a friend before I left. This 3rd degree friend was traveling to the States for a couple of months just when I was landing in Australia, and she was looking for someone to rent out her room in Port Melbourne. The timing worked out perfectly.
I lived with two Aussie dudes who were into music, house parties, and watching The Voice Australia almost every night. They were good blokes and we got along well. It was a great set-up for what I needed right when I arrived.
I met up with the Aussie girl I knew from my European travels, and who was based in Melbourne, for coffee or drinks at least once a week. And, I had the luck of having a pseudo big brother of sorts. My actual big brother back home had a good friend permanently living in Melbourne with his Kiwi partner. They ended up being my family away from home, inviting me to dinner parties and introducing me to their groups of friends.
My pseudo big brother, Eric, made my transition abroad so much easier. I am so grateful that I had him there my first week to show me the ins and outs of the tram system, how to open an Aussie bank account, the best places to find cheap and delicious food, and to answer any of my other million and one questions about the differences in culture.
After my two months was up, I still had another two months in Melbourne before Asia, so I found another sublet on the other side of town in Carlton North. I fell in love, not only with the coffee shop vibe and tree-lined neighborhood of Carlton, but with my new little apartment that had the best sunrise view in town, and found myself grateful for how well I got along with my housemate.
This is when I really started feeling like a local. I had my daily coffee shop, my neighborhood for local gigs, my weekly habits. I knew where to find the best street art around Melbourne, where to go on a rainy day, and how to get anywhere in the city via tram.
The people – The amount of open-minded people I met my first few months in Australia, they really helped make the transition abroad seamless.
The culture – Immersing myself in the ridiculous amount of culture to be found in Melbourne, and realizing how many free museums there are around the city. Score.
Walking around the city any day – And realizing my love of street art.
Dating –Finding the fun in dating again. After a two year relationship, I wasn’t planning on dating anytime soon when I got to Australia, but somehow in the short span of four or so months, I ended up going on a multitude of dates with all different types of nationalities. It was a great way to see the touristy attractions around Melbourne, and enjoy good company at the same time.
The coffee – I didn’t really know what a good latte was until l I arrived in Melbourne.
Footy– Going to my first footy game with a local, and getting into footy mania while I was living there. I even bought my own pair of Carlton Blues socks. Yes, I’m that cool.
Being surrounded by creativity – Melbourne is one of the most art forward and creative cities I’ve ever been to. There’s live music to be seen any night of the week, street artists can be found in any odd spot painting a new mural, and there’s an overall appreciation of the arts.
A visit from a best friend – Having my best friend from back home visit me my last couple weeks in Melbourne, and showing her the life I had created for myself abroad. This was the only person to visit me from home during my whole time abroad. Major props.
Finding my job at Deja Vu Bar – It was my saving grace in the casual job market that can be hell in Australia. It didn’t take long for my coworkers to become some of my best friends in Melbourne.
Craft beer – Learning about Australian beer for the first time, and immersing myself in the craft beer culture down under.
Rooftop bars – Melbourne is hip like that.
Trying meat pies for the first time – I know I’ll miss these HEAPS when I go home.
Casual employment in hospitality (bars/cafes/restaurants) can be a complete horror in Australia. With the exception of Deja Vu Bar, I had never been treated worse by employers than I was when I was working in Melbourne. Not only is it hard to find full-time work, but if you’re a “casual” worker you can be dropped by your employer with no forewarning or reason.
I never realized how good I had it working at the jobs I did back home. People may give Americans a hard time about their health care system, but when it comes to the work force, the States is better at protecting an employee from unfair treatment by an employer, no matter if they’re part-time, full-time, or a casual worker. This was something I constantly struggled with, the cold side of casual employment.
I was screwed over twice by two separate employers that both put me into a dire financial situation, it was to the point of feeling like they didn’t actually see me as a human being, and it was a major negative I took away from my time in Australia.
The logic board on my MacBook Pro failed when I was half way through my time in Melbourne. As a travel blogger, you can imagine this created a bit of a freak out at the time. I had nowhere near the money I thought I would have saved for Asia at this point, and now I had the additional expense of buying a new computer on top of it.
I remember calling my mom, on the verge of tears, asking her if there was anyway I could borrow some money or else I would need to buy an emergency plane ticket home. She graciously gave me what I needed, and I was still able to go travel Asia, but it was never something I wanted to have to do, asking my parents to bail me out of a hard financial situation.
Being constantly worried about money
Due to the above two disappointments I was almost always worried about money and my lack of savings. Australia is an expensive place, and I was exhausted working two jobs and trying to still have a social life with new friends.
I also had two months of unemployment backpacking through Asia to think about, and I knew towards the end of my time in Melbourne that I would want to come back to Australia instead of going home. Clearly, it all worked out in the end, but at the time I had no idea how things were going to turn out.
The pretentiousness of the city
The one disappointing aspect I found about Melbourne was the “hipster” attitude I found around the city. Although I loved the art and creativity to be found, it also came with a pretentious side that made outsiders feel unwelcome at times.
The 18-year-old drinking age
Not to be ageist, but there’s a 21-and-over drinking age for a reason back home, and I quite like it. I don’t think 18-year-olds in bars is something I’ll ever get used to. I can’t tell you how many times I came across drunk-off-their-face young-uns puking in public, yelling at each other from across the road, breaking glass, running out into the street in front of moving traffic, and hitting taxis with their fists or purses in a drunken stupor as to why they didn’t get picked up.
I’m not saying the 18-year-olds around America don’t partake in that kind of behavior as well, but it’s not quite as noticed to the public eye, because most underage drinking happens at house parties or at home. Australia also has a very different drinking culture than the States though, so that is something to keep in mind.
My savings were’t too good during this time. Despite working more than one job, moving abroad is always going to be more expensive than you first think, and I don’t think I quite realized just how much more expensive Australia is compared to the States.
My computer failing was a big chunk of my savings out the window, but thanks to my mom, I got it up to just enough again before I left for Asia. Even still, Asia was much more of a tight budget than I originally imagined it would be, and I had to adjust to my lack of funds as best I could.
I didn’t travel the amount I wanted to with my lack of funds and working two jobs, but I managed to take a few day trips away when I could, these were my favorite trips and the travel posts to go with them.
The waterfront at night – Melbourne is a very pretty city lit up at night. Don’t miss out on having a drink on the waterfront under the reflections of the big city lights, or above them at one of the many rooftop bars.
Southeast Asia was whirlwind two months. It was the first time I started traveling with another person again after being a solo traveler for awhile, and it was also the first time I traveled to multiple developing countries since my backpacking trip in 2008 to Costa Rica.
Although traveling with one of my closest friends from Europe, we both realized how hard it is to travel in a pair after getting used to solo travel, and therefore had a few struggles along the way.
I became used to long bus rides where I had no comfort, definitely no leg room, and usually no room to breathe. I became used to sweltering humidity and the stark differences between countries even when just a few feet over the next border.
I also became used to the kindness and cheekiness of smiling locals, especially in the faces of the Khmer people in Cambodia. I became used to US$0.75 beer in Thailand, and a meal of the most delicious bowl of steaming Phở in Vietnam for the equivalent for US$1.
I loved Asia. With its vibrancy, colorfulness, and unique cultures. It was so much different than the States or Australia, and I only wish I had more time to explore each individual country. I’m already convinced that I’ll be back soon, both to revisit some of the countries I loved, and to take on some new cultures as well. China, Japan, and the Philippines are high on my list of what to see next.
It was my own fault for traveling to some of the most touristy spots in Bali, but I was less than impressed by the lascivious taxi drivers and hawkers, and the complete lack of respect found along the popular beaches and unknowing tourist traps I walked into.
Getting groped in Kuala Lumpur
It was my first time traveling to a Muslim country, so I made sure to dress accordingly in more conservative wear. Unfortunately, I still managed to get groped by a passing motorcyclist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was not fun, not fun at all.
The uncomfortable bus rides
I don’t know if I’d classify this as a disappointment as I knew pretty much what to expect with Asian cross-country bus rides, but still, they were the bane of my long-legged existence. Every bus we traveled on was different, and you never knew what to expect until you stepped on.
The worst one by far was a 10-hour bus in Cambodia, where we didn’t have seats, just a tiny compartment to lay down and share with another person. I had to curl up into a ball to be able to fit inside the compartment with my travel partner, and it was one of the only times I’ve felt extremely claustrophobic in my life.
Having my money stolen on a bus to the Thai islands
On my way to the southern Thai islands for the Full Moon Party I had money stolen from my wallet on an overnight bus. We were warned ahead of time about the notorious bus thieves that are found on the overnight buses in Thailand, so I knew to watch my stuff.
I don’t sleep on buses, so I didn’t think it would be that hard to prevent a thief from stealing from me. However, we made the mistake of putting our bags on the floor at our feet, thinking they were safe because they were covered by our blankets. Even though I was wide awake, a thief was able to take my wallet out and steal almost all of my cash.
On the next overnight bus I was on, I actually caught a thief in action stealing from my neighbor and woke him up to tell him to check his wallet as the thief ran into the darkness at the back of the bus.
If there’s any advice I can give, it’s to watch your belongings on buses in Thailand, thieving is a huge problem and plight of many tourists, especially those traveling to and from the islands for the Full Moon Party.
Not working obviously meant no income during this period, but I was still astounded with how affordable it is to travel Asia. Especially compared to Australian prices, traveling two months in Asia was the equivalent of a few weeks up the East Coast of Australia.
I still had to be careful with how I spent my money with the financial troubles I had in Melbourne before I left. I hardly went out drinking most nights, I chose to save my money for big ticket items instead, like the Full Moon Party and getting my PADI certification. I saved on the hangovers so I could still partake in early tours and walks around the city I happened to be in that day.
I realized during my time in Asia that I had changed my travel style a lot from my 21 year-old party days in Florence, Italy, where I would go out every single night to a new discoteca and sleep until noon the next day. That kind of travel, or lack thereof, didn’t appeal to me as much anymore.
Buying visas in each individual country, apart from a couple countries that didn’t require one, was probably one of the more expensive spends.
We hit 6 countries in total: Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. I wanted to see as much as possible in Asia during this trip to get an overview of where I’d want to go back to, but I think I finally came to the conclusion once and for all how partial I am to slow travel and taking my time in places.
All my preconceptions were challenged once I started traveling Asia. The countries I thought would be my favorites, Indonesia and Thailand, ended up only making me weary and disillusioned (note: I believe this is due to the areas we visited in these two countries, and when I go back I’d want to do it differently).
Instead, Cambodia and Vietnam moved in to take my favorite spots in Southeast Asia.
I wasn’t expecting to like Sydney. It’s probably due to the bias I heard time and time again against Sydney from Melbournites, and although I wanted to see the Opera House, I too thought it would just be a vapid city with looks, but no culture.
I wasn’t expecting to like Sydney, but I fell in love with Sydney. It is one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to and it’s a city that has the added benefit of being surrounded by beautiful beaches. I didn’t realized how much I missed a big city beach culture (à la San Diego), until I started living in Sydney again and started smelling the salty sea air.
In terms of vapidness, there were a high number of bleach blonde, plastic surgery types compared to Melbourne, but probably the same amount you’d find around Los Angeles. I even saw a woman carrying her lap dog in a doggy backpack once, because she didn’t want his feet to get dirty. Um, what?
But there was still a vividness and culture beneath the beauty that was seen in the many festivals I went to or heard about throughout the summer. There’s always something going on in Sydney, and it’s really hard to find yourself bored, in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard.
Sydney, dare I say, was probably my favorite 5 months out of my year abroad.
Being in Sydney for the summer
After shivering through a cold Melbourne winter and sweating through two months of humidity in Asia, Sydney was a perfect place to settle down for the summer.
Most days were absolutely perfect in terms of weather, and there was always a festival or event going on every weekend in different parts of the city. I spent so many of my days off hiking or going to the beach because the weather was just too damn good. A Sydney summer was just what I needed to end my time in Australia.
My job at the Local Taphouse and Cookie Cafe
I lucked out in finding a job at the Local Taphouse my first full day in Sydney. Between the staff, the type of bar it was and the clientele, and my job as a bartender, it became one of my favorite places to work of all time, It was also a great place to learn even more about Aussie craft beer – it was even voted the number one craft beer bar in all of Australia at one point.
I also had a job at an adorable cookie cafe in the artsy neighborhood of Newtown. It’s where I spent every Saturday morning and where I devoured some of the best cookies of my life. And I’ve tried a lot of cookies, believe me.
Volunteering at multiple music festivals
I’ve thought on and off about going into music event planning for festivals, and last summer I was actually able to see a start to that dream come true. I went to three separate festivals, which all had very different vibes and experiences. It made my summer in Sydney that much better, and all the friends and memories I met from those musical days I’m not soon to forget.
If you want to check out my experiences via my festival series go ahead and click onPart I, Part II, andPart III.
New Year’s Eve
Mainly because I went with my best friend in Sydney, camped in beautiful Byron Bay for a week, and saw some amazing live music at the Falls Fest. It was by far my favorite New Year’s Eve to date, and there are so many good memories I brought back from it.
On one of my last days in Sydney, after feeling a bit melancholy one day, I decided to finally treat myself to a show at the famous Opera House in Sydney. It did not disappoint. I saw the band, Yo La Tengo, and had a wonderful and classy evening on my own listening to beautiful music. It was my way of saying goodbye to a place I had started to call home for the last few months.
I don’t think I had ever seen a live cockroach before I left California, actually, before I arrived in Sydney. Cockroaches are EVERYWHERE. You have been warned!
Besides being a lovely seaside city, Sydney has a major cockroach problem. I stayed in all different types of houses (when I was couchsurfing), and all different neighborhoods, and it didn’t matter. There were cockroaches, no matter if you lived in a nice house or a dump.
I mean, there were cockroaches that would scurry across the street on any given Saturday night while I was walking home. Seriously, there’s no hiding from them.
It was definitely something to get used to, but after finding 3 or 4 cockroaches in my room during the first month I moved in, I got pretty used to them as well, and disposed of them as best I could.
My living situation
As opposed to the awesome living situations I had in Melbourne, the one I had in Sydney was less than stellar. It was in a really good location (Double Bay) and cheap for Sydney. I was even able to afford having my own room, which I wasn’t expecting for pricey Sydney.
However, the building itself was so old, one of my Aussie friends commented on the fact that he wouldn’t be surprised if convicts still lived in the top floors. From the outside, hands down, it looked like a haunted house out of a horror movie.
Inside was only slightly better, but every night I would come home finding the kitchen counter littered with at least a few cockroaches. See, my house was even worse than the rest of Sydney with having a cockroach problem.
My housemates were nice enough, but mostly kept to themselves and didn’t come out of their rooms, the only exception being my one housemate, Ashleigh, who was actually incredibly friendly. It all went down hill when Ashleigh moved out and one of the guys in the house had one of his friends move in.
I’m fairly certain this new housemate would go into my room at night while I was at work and do god knows what, because I came home a few times with my door wide open and my light on. And I was almost certain he was a psychopath at one point, but it thankfully all turned out okay. Needless to say, I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to that place and move on to a better living situation.
The romantic side
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of Aussie guy friends who I get along with famously, and I don’t want to say I’d never date an Aussie guy again…but really, I don’t think I’d date an Aussie guy again.
Sydney was the first time I actually started dating Aussie blokes, and I don’t know what it is exactly, but me and Aussies, we don’t mix romantically. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, or simply my own personality, but let’s just say by the time I left Australia, I was very content to be doing my own thing.
I was paid so much better in Sydney than in Melbourne, and watched gleefully as my savings slowly started to build up again. Sydney is slightly more expensive than Melbourne, but honestly not by much.
Sydney was great for pay. If you worked past 11pm, you made extra. (Um, a bartenders dream). If you worked weekends, you made extra. If you worked Sundays, you’d make even more than you did on Saturday. If you worked public holidays, you basically just paid off a flight to Fiji.
The only reason I didn’t save more was because of the festivals I volunteered at throughout the summer. Not only did I lose money on those weekends I could’ve been working at the bar, but the cost of getting to the festivals which were quite far away, took a big chunk of my savings. They were definitely still worth it, and I was still able to travel up the East Coast for 3 weeks, and have a bit of a buffer saved up when I moved to New Zealand.
I don’t know if it was due to the good weather or the increase in wages, but I spent almost every day off to its fullest while I was in Sydney. I’d take day trips of all sorts, go hiking to a new lookout, or go on another one of the many coastal walks to be found around the city.
I was bummed I didn’t get to see more of Australia, it’s so big! But I know I’ll be back again someday to see all that I missed. Here are a few of my favorite travels from my time in Sydney and the blog posts to go with them:
Backpacking up the East Coast of Australia for 3 weeks at the end of my visa
My happy places in Sydney
The Bondi to Coogee walk – I seriously don’t know how a place can be so breathtakingly beautiful
Circular Quay – no matter how touristy it may be, it still takes my breath away when I’m standing in front of the Opera House and looking out at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Newtown – the artsy, kind of hipster suburb of Sydney. They had the coolest cafes, op-shops, and street art.
There were a lot of ups and downs to my first year abroad as was to be expected. The year turned out better than I could’ve imagined, and made me believe even more whole heartedly in the philosophy that everything happens for a reason. There were so many times throughout the year where one thing different could’ve meant me coming home earlier than expected, but I’m so happy I was able to continue out my year and do it the way I wanted, for the most part.
My year abroad also opened up a lot of thought patterns on what I really want out of my life and how free I feel while I’m on the road. It made me seriously think about music event planning, but also about taking this blog to a new level and new perspectives.
Instead of satisfying my wanderlust, I’m afraid to say, it has only made me realize how easy it is to keep on traveling if I want to. And that’s a very dangerous realization.
Did I ever tell you how when I was 12, I once spent a good couple of hours writing down every single country in the world, and what order I would want to visit them in? I have a feeling my journey is just beginning.
I’ve been living in Wellington, New Zealand for the last 5 months or so, and I can’t help but be surprised at how very different my life is here from the life I led in Australia.
I finally bought a plane ticket home this week. I’ll be flying to Hawaii for a week at the end of March, and heading into San Diego, California after my tropical getaway. From San Diego, I’ll be attending my favorite Coachella music festival, and taking an epic road trip up the coast of California, and all the way through to Portland, Oregon.
From there, I’ll just have to see what happens, but there are a lot of travel plans on the horizon, which I look forward to sharing with all you lovely readers as soon as they become more concrete.
And of course, there will be plenty more travels around New Zealand before I leave.
As always, thank you from the bottom of my atlas heart for taking the time to read my blog. It means the world to me, literally.
In almost a year and a half now, I’ve been blessed with witnessing some of the best street art around this side of the world. I don’t know what it is about cities in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are so many that produce intriguing and talented street artists.
I didn’t realize how much California was lacking in this area until I moved abroad. Of course as in any big cities, there are certain suburbs that are better than others in terms of being artsy and creative: North Park in San Diego, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, Venice Beach in LA. For the most part, however, graffiti is limited to tagging and gang names in California.
Melbourne to me is the epicenter of amazing street art. Many times I would be walking to work early in the morning and come across a street artist in the process of creating a huge and intricate mural on the side of a building. In Melbourne, they have alleyways dedicated to street art, and the city seems to approve and encourage it, a big difference from how local governments look at street art back home.
I’m still seriously contemplating using the font and words from my favorite Melbourne street artist for a tattoo.
Sydney wasn’t quite there compared to Melbourne, except for maybe in the suburb of Newtown, but regardless, when you did come across a piece of art on the street, the quality was astounding.
Wellington truly is a mini Kiwi version of Melbourne, and that’s especially true with the amount of street art and murals you can find throughout the city.
A couple weeks ago, I took my first trip in New Zealand since buckling down for the Winter in Wellington and working full-time. It was to the tiny yet tourist-centered mountain town of Taupo. I was pleasantly surprised to find street art down almost every side street I came across in the small town area.
There’s something about street art that makes me happy and inspired artistically even though that type of art is far from my forte. Drawing and painting has always been an art form I admire, but never something I’ve been good at.
When it comes to street art especially, which is so different from what you find in most museums, allowing you to enjoy art outside, and usually relevant and/or politically fueled, it hits a pleasant chord in my brain and brings me joy.
My last afternoon in Taupo, before jumping on the Naked Bus back to Wellington, I wandered around the streets capturing my favorite pieces of art around town, these were the treasures I found.
The world is a colorful place when you take the time to look around.
Over the year I spent in Australia, I had the chance to volunteer at multiple summer music festivals all over the country. These are the honest stories and awesome experiences I had. Check out my other segments about my summer of festivals here: That Festival Feeling: Part I& That Festival Feeling: Part III
I heard about Meredith through a friend, my housemate actually, who became one of my closest companions in Australia. Meredith is one of those festivals that all the cool kids attend, nondescript, it’s a festival that hardly advertises, that doesn’t give away too much about itself.
You can’t simply buy a ticket to Meredith, you enter into a lottery, which randomly chooses who gets to go. The creators of Meredith wanted to keep it at the right size and not expand it like a lot of festivals tend to do once they get popular, so it has become a bit exclusive in the process, but for the right reasons.
Even with its slightly mysterious nature, Meredith is one one of the best festivals I’ve been to. It’s one of those festivals that actually provides good vibes, akin to a big group of friends getting together to enjoy themselves for the weekend. There’s a no dickhead policy, which I especially loved because dickheads for some reason seem to love being right next to you at festivals. If you are being a dickhead at Meredith (i.e. jumping on someone’s shoulders and blocking the people behind you), you can actually get kicked out of the festival.
Another aspect I love about Meredith is the bring your own couch rule. On the way there and the drive back, there were so many cars with old couches attached to the tops of vans. Unlike most festivals, you can bring your own couch to the amphitheater to have a place to rest your head, a cushion to dance on, or a comfy place to meet new friends. The couches were surrounding the outskirts of the amphitheater like a hippie fence wrangling in all the festival goers.
The age group of festival goers was a good variety as well, although there were a lot of 18-2o somethings like most festivals, there was also a good combination of late 20-3o year olds, and older career types that wanted to take a break and party for the weekend. Take our camp neighbors next to us who let us share the space under their canopy for the weekend, they were some of the nicest people I’ve met at a festival. They were a bit older, some even had kids back home, but they were a hoot and a great group to hang out with for a few days.
It was also the first festival I’ve attended where I wasn’t sweating profusely in hot weather, which was a nice change. Even though it takes place in Aussie summertime, the festival location is in one of the cooler parts of Victoria. At night, I actually had to bundle up to keep warm since it was shivering temperatures, but during the day it was pretty perfect weather wise.
The “Meredith Gift” on the last day was a great end to the festival. Described as the world’s greatest nude footrace, a bunch of naked festival goers race around the amphitheater for prizes and for the crowd’s amusement. They have female and male races, and more than a few runners fell down in the process of the race to the hoots and hollers of the crowd. It’s not a pretty site to fall on your ass buck naked in the dirt, but it was quite hilarious to watch as a spectator.
Here’s some previous footage to give you an idea:
[vimeo 100199418 w=500 h=400]
I had recently moved to Sydney at the time, so I flew down to Melbourne for the weekend. My old housemate from my Melba days picked me up, and we went straight away to buy snacks and alcohol for the festivities. We had a massive Aussie brekkie (the best) in town before taking off for the festival grounds, and soon hit the road, singing Backstreet Boys at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down.
I lucked out in grabbing a volunteer spot for this festival, simply by knowing the right people. My housemate works at Meredith almost every year, because she’s good friends with one of the coffee vendors at the festival. Our job for the weekend was working a low key six hour barista shift on Saturday arvo (afternoon for non-Aussies), from which we had free entry to the festival.
It was a great mix of bands, from indie/alternative, to subtle electronic, to old school rock, to funky disco. My favorite acts including Oliver Tank and Chic.
The whole festival was so chill – i.e the no dickhead policy, bringing your own couches, choosing your own campsite, and not really caring or checking about the drugs and alcohol you chose to bring with you for the weekend, as long as you look after one another.
Even the toilets were awesome. They were waterless composting toilets and completely green. They blew my mind. All you do is scoop in a bit of sawdust after you’re done, no flushing needed, and the wastage is treated at a remote part of the site. Pretty damn cool.
From the whole festival being in tune with the “ahhhhhhhhhh freak out!” of Le Freak by Chic, dancing and belting out Toto’s Africa with hundreds of other people in between sets, looking out and over the festival grounds from the top of the ferris wheel, eating some of the best festival food I’ve tried in my life (including prawn tacos), having some mad chills during Oliver Tank’s set on a dusty Sunday, watching numerous naked inebriated people running and falling around the Meredith Gift Track, and spending the weekend with one of my closest friends in Australia. It was hands down, some of my favorite memories out of my year in Oz.
If you live in Australia, or if you’ll be there during the time of the festival, go to Meredith! You won’t regret it.
I’ve always felt a higher love for music than most anything else in my life. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that music runs in my veins, in my family. My dad has been in a band since before I can remember, I used to love listening to him play Fleetwood Mac or Jackson Browne from his office. The chords muffled behind closed doors, but still so lovely to my ears, my dad never missing a beat.
Whenever we would take a drive around town, my mom and I listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter, or Mariah Carey on long or short car rides, singing together to make the time fly by. There was always music around, every day of my childhood, and I couldn’t think of a better soundtrack than the inspiration that came within those moments of connecting to my loved ones through music.
The inspiration that still bubbles to the surface when I listen to music that moves me.
I had a fondness for attending concerts throughout high school and college. When I went to my first proper music festival in Indio, CA by the name of Coachella, it opened up my eyes even more to what I want my life and possibly even my career to entail.
Since that festival feeling, I’ve considered going into music event management more than a few times, and I finally put my thoughts into action when I arrived in Australia.
Australia may not have as many of the big ticket artists that play at American festivals, but it’s a culture that puts heart and soul into the arts. In fact, there are a whole lot of festivals year around that prove exactly that.
The thing I love about Australian festivals as opposed to American festivals is that a lot of them are “touring’ festivals, as in the festival tours to different parts of the country (and even internationally), to play multiple weekends, allowing a greater number of people to attend.
Of course, in America, the festival sites are almost as iconic as the festival itself, such a Coachella in Indio, CA, and SXSW located in the music capital of the world in Austin, TX.
A couple months after I arrived in Melbourne, and before I traveled to Southeast Asia, I looked up when all the application due dates were for the festivals, and applied to as many as I could. I heard back from two within the next couple months, and a third one when I was in Asia.
I also received a volunteer spot at Laneway Festival, but unfortunately the organizers weren’t all the organized and only let me know a few days in advance, and so I wasn’t able to attend that one. Regardless, I had an amazing and adventurous summer that was filled with new experiences.
I have to admit, I’m a noob when it comes to electronic festivals. So many of my friends back home go to EDC in Vegas or Ultra in Miami every year, but I’m relatively new to the electronic bandwagon. I’m sure you noticed the bands I grew up with delve far away from the electronic genre. However, going to school in San Diego, and going to various frat parties, opened up my ears to how awesome electronic music really is and how versatile it has become in the last decade.
When I talk about being a noob at electronic festivals I also mean in terms of the drugs typically taken at said festivals. I’m not claiming to be completely innocent in terms of festival drug intake, but I think all those psychology classes on what drugs do to your brain made me pretty content to not be hopped up on substances all the time.
I understand how substances can heighten your experience of the music, and I can definitely agree with that in some cases. For me, however, and hopefully this doesn’t come off as too pretentious, I don’t feel the need to take drugs to have a good time while I’m listening to music. I feel like in a way, it actually takes away or distracts me from enjoying music the way I like. Also, I like to remember everything about my festival experiences and not just hazy bits and pieces, but that’s just me.
The only thing I can’t wrap my mind around are the people who stay at their campsite the whole weekend, neglecting to see a single act, because they’re so drugged up. I’ve met more people than you can imagine who fall into this category at festivals, and I think of it as a little sacrilege, but everyone attends festivals for different reasons, and I guess it’s not always for the music. End rant.
Most festivals involve drugs of some sort, whether that be alcohol, to anything from weed, and upwards of acid. Electronic festivals, however, are known for being a bit more hardcore, and I knew that would especially be the case at Strawberry Fields – a festival classified as an “indie electronic” rave in the Australian bush. Also known as a “doof” in Aussie slang.
Note: the reason for my drug tangent is a forewarning that there are a lot of drugs involved in this particular story – sorry parents and grandparents reading this. I include them because they are a big part of the festival scene, and especially for this festival, wouldn’t have been the same story without their presence.
Anyway, I digress. Without further ado, my Strawberry Fields anecdote.
Strawberry Fields was the most adventurous festival I volunteered myself for because a. I had never been to a purely electronic festival and b. I was going solo, and I didn’t know anyone else going.
The initial in-person meeting for the festival volunteers thankfully lined up with the one week I was back in Melbourne after traveling Southeast Asia and before moving up to Sydney.
As I started setting up my life in Sydney, and the festival date got closer, I realized how hard it was going to be to find a ride with where the festival was located. Although technically the festival is in New South Wales, along the Murray River, it is right at the border of NSW and Victoria. Meaning, only a 3 hour drive from Melbourne, and more like a 10 hour drive from Sydney. Hardly anyone volunteering at the festival was living in Sydney, which meant that my carpool options were limited.
I posted on the festival volunteer Facebook group with not much luck, until I noticed that another girl living in the Sydney area was in the same predicament. We soon contacted each other and decided if anything, we’d rent a car to make it to the festival. We were both adamant in needing to get to the festival someway or another, not only because we obviously wanted to be there, but because they charge you for the full admission price if you don’t show up for your shift.
Of course, she didn’t have a driver’s license, so it would be me driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time. Oh and did I mention, I hardly drive at all back home to begin with. Well…at least it would be an adventure.
Luckily, another guy ended up posting on the group, we’ll call him Steve. He wasn’t sure he had enough room for both of us, but would let us know. Thankfully, a couple of his friends bowed out and we both had a ride with a complete stranger. I soon found out that he is actually friends with the people who started the festival, which was pretty cool.
When the day of departure came, we decided to all meet at Central Station and leave from there. With just a couple hiccups we managed to all meet in the car, and a random guy also attending the festival joined us at the last minute to make it a full car.
Steve, as I learned, was studying to be a doctor in Newcastle, but exuded the complete opposite type of personality to most pre-med students I’ve met. He was the life of the party, and as I witnessed throughout the whole weekend, goes pretty damn hard at festivals. Within 30 minutes of hopping in his car, he offered to hook me up with some molly when we got there, which I respectfully declined as I really didn’t want to be rolling at a festival that I was going to completely on my own.
He smoked joint after joint on the long journey to get to our destination, but still managed to keep the conversation going and all of his random car guests happy in the process. I mentioned at one point that I was trying to figure out a ride back, when he promised he would find me a ride with one of his friends back to Melbourne, as he had so many going to the festival. Relieved I didn’t have to worry about that anymore, I was happy to start getting ready for the festivities.
We made one stop along the way to grab some food. It was apparently a famous spot for Aussies, he said he used to go there all the time on family road trips. His family house is right beside the festival grounds. It’s where The Dog on the Tucker Box monument is located, and to put it in his words, “about the most bogan spot you can find. ” It was very rural Australia, but I was loving it. That is, besides the enormous swarms of flies that kept trying to get into every crevice.
We eventually made it to his family house, where we were to wait until more of his friends showed up to caravan into the festival. His house was huge and had a startling gorgeous white exterior. Apparently, his dad built the house himself and it even had a pool which we all took a dip in. He graciously shared his beers to get things going, and we all got to know each other a bit more.
By the time his friends had arrived and had their own share of smokes and drinks, the sun was already setting, and we were all keen to head into the festival site to find a place to camp for the weekend.
Once inside, we spent ages trying to find where the majority of his friends were camping, but eventually realized they were on the other side of the site and made our way over. Now, it was clear that everyone in his group had pretty much grown up with each other, so it was a bit intimidating to be the rando that hitched a ride in his car, but I made sure it was okay for me to pitch my tent there anyway, and started to set up camp.
It was already completely dark by now, so it was a fun experiment trying to successfully pitch my tent. Luckily, the quiet guy that jumped into our car at the last minute saw my struggles and shined his iPhone light to help me out, and after a little while it was all set up and habitable.
With the tent behind me, we were ready to get to the festival and headed out to check out the art installments and stages. I hung around with Steve a bit and he introduced me to a few more friends, but I soon took off to explore on my own, not wanting to be a clinger.
That first night was pretty relaxed, I was taking it all in, dancing a bit, drinking a bit, and enjoying the music. The music hardly every stopped, maybe for an hour or two at 4am, but otherwise it was the constant fist pumping bass beat throughout the night. Needless to say, I hardly got a wink of sleep the whole weekend, but that’s to be expected at festivals.
The second day I spent much of the afternoon checking out more of the art, listening to more music of course, and meeting new friends. I found myself in the meditation or craft tent, I don’t remember which now, just that it had really comfy couches and bean bags in which to have easy conversation. I started talking to a 19 year old with dreads, who was a whiz of sorts with music acoustics, and volunteers at a bunch of the festivals. The girl next to him looked like she had been up for at least two days, and had more than a few different drugs in her system. Bloodshot eyes, eyeliner smeared, it was like she couldn’t stop talking, it was frenetic.
The guy next to her was stoned out of his mind, and could barely keep his eyes open. Yet he still managed to whip out his stash of coke and made four lines with his student ID card for the four of us in the circle. The girl looked at the coke greedily and rolled up a $20 dollar bill to get started. I again respectfully declined, as did the guy with the dreads. The girl laughed and said “I don’t understand how people can turn down free drugs, well more for me”. I watched her snort all three lines and run off into the distance, yelling something I never heard.
The guy with the dreads and I kept chatting until I excused myself awhile later to check out some more DJs. The vibes and the acoustics coming from each stage were incredible.
That night I had a grand time at the main dance tent. Dancing by myself, I ran into a few of the guys from our camp, but I soon lost them in the craziness. I shrugged, and made my way to the front of the stage. The music was so loud, it was vibrating through my whole body, I couldn’t think of anything else accept the constant beat and how awesome it was to dance to.
The guy in front of me, clearly having a good time, stumbled a bit and ran into me. He apologized profusely and started dancing with his friends, but kept making side glances back at me. He eventually took a step back and struck up a conversation with me. When he found out I was American, he couldn’t believe it. He thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and how crazy was it that the one girl he runs into is from California!
He was from Melbourne and seemed funny and cute, and strangely reminded me a bit of a guy I was dating before I left San Diego, except with an Australian accent. Anyway, we started dancing for awhile until he grabbed my hand and said he wanted to buy me a drink. I told him I was fine with just a beer, but he said he wanted to get me something “nice”, and led me over the cocktail booth.
We sipped our sweet yet surprisingly strong cocktails and made our way back to the dance floor. And that’s where things got weird. He suddenly became much more forward and kept leaning in close to whisper in my ear. He started kissing my neck, and that’s when he started biting me. And no, I’m not talking about sweet little nibbles, or even a hickey status suck, he was actually biting my neck. As in, I’m surprised he didn’t break the skin or find an artery, he was actually a vampire, it was that painful. And he kept doing it, I kept trying to pull him away and just dance, albeit a little further away now, but he kept grabbing me and trying to bite me.
I lied and said I had to go find my friends who disappeared on me, I could tell by now he was so out of it, he couldn’t see through my lie and squeezed my hand and told me to come back to him. I decided to call it a night and crashed in my tent, my neck still stinging painfully every time I touched it.
Of course I managed to run into him multiple times the next day, but we pretended like we didn’t know each other, or maybe he really didn’t remember, he was so gone.
The third day was my volunteer day. I was on “green duty”, which basically meant picking up trash and recycling, and it was the 8am shift. It had been searing hot and so incredibly dusty the whole festival, and that day felt like it had raised even higher in humidity and temperature, regardless of how early it was in the day.
I accepted my trash bag, and picked up trash and recycling for an hour and a half, at which time we had a little break, so we could get out of the heat. No one in the group was very talkative, and they clearly didn’t want to be doing their shift when they could be partying, and we were all dying from heat, so no one said anything much to each other. I do have to note, it was the most antisocial group I volunteered with out of all the festivals.
During my break, sweating profusely, I went to lay down in my tent. I noticed that most of the group from the campsite was hanging out under the canopy so I went to go join them. When I sat down, one of the girls offered me a balloon, she was dressed in ridiculously cool face paint and a Pocahontas get up. I hilariously thought she was just handing me a balloon, not realizing that it’s a popular thing at electronic festivals to do “hippie crack”.
One by one everyone in the group inhaled nitrous oxide through the balloon, and laid down on the ground to let the high take over. I let my balloon deflate by my side, hoping no one would notice, as they all sat up again. I soon left for the rest of my shift, a bit embarrassed and realizing how out of the loop I am with some of the festival drugs out there. Whoops.
I had another 1 1/2 hours to endure of trash duty, but as soon as I was done, I hightailed it back to my tent, drank a lot of water, and ran out to enjoy the last of the festival. When late afternoon hit, I made my way back to my tent to start packing. The ride Steve promised me, was from an Aussie guy I met the first day, who immediately took a disliking to me when I told him I was American. He tried to ignore me at all costs when I was hanging with the group, and made it pretty clear I wasn’t welcome.
However, it was my only option for a ride and I was desperate, so I was to go back to Melbourne with him and his girlfriend around 4pm when most people were leaving or had already left the festival site. At 3:30pm he comes up to my tent, and says in a condescending tone, “look, we’re not going to take you back to Melbourne. We want to spend the night half way there with some friends…so sorry about that.” I was just gaping at him not believing, that he was actually bailing on me 30 minutes before he was supposed to take me back.
All I could manage to say is “cool, well hopefully I can find a ride back.”. He went off on a rant about how many times he had hitchhiked back from the festival in the past. Keep in mind, he’s a burly 6’5 Aussie dude, it’s a little different for him to hitchhike, but I didn’t say anything, just watched him drive off in his pickup truck with his girlfriend.
Almost the rest of the camp had already dismantled by now, the few that were left behind already had full cars. I was stranded and knew that I had to hitchhike, something I’ve only done once, but never by myself.
I went to the info desk for one last check to see if anyone had posted anything about a carpool back to Melbourne. There was nothing.
I walked all the way to the entrance of the festival, a good mile or two, with all of my camping gear. The security guy at the gate wasn’t happy with me waiting there and told me I needed to find a ride asap. I flagged down the first car wishing for the best, and they thankfully had one spot left. I was just hoping for a ride to the little town near the festival, where I would take the train to Melbourne, and catch my flight in a couple days, but they insisted on giving me a ride the whole way.
They were an unbelievably nice group of people, something I really needed at that moment. All from the UK, all living in Australia either permanently or on work visas, all in their late 20s. They said they could drop me off at Southern Cross Station, which I was more than happy with, I would just take the tram to Richmond where I was staying with some friends for the night. But once we got into town, the guy drove all the way to Richmond anyway, and refused to let me help pay for gas. They wished me luck on my journey as I hopped out of the car, and I felt so grateful to have found such kindness in three complete strangers.
I had one day in Melbourne to catch up with friends and hit my favorite spots and eateries, and left early for the airport the next morning. Flying away from my beloved Melbourne, I remembered my favorite memories from the 4 1/2 months I lived there, as it grew into a tiny dot in the distance.
Here’s some footage from the year I went on the festival’s FB page to give you an idea of the festival:
I turned 24 on Monday, and it inevitably made me think back on my 23rd year.
I’ve gone into detail and referenced in passing how much this last year has meant to me, how much I have grown in the process, and how many new experiences I have been blessed to have. More importantly, this year has shown me how to enjoy moments. There’s a reason why one of my favorite song titles is called “Elusive”, why I talk so much about fleeting moments being the most beautiful, sad, and inspiring all at the same time.
Yoga, open-mindedness, and travel have combined to create, maybe not a completely new perspective, but definitely a wider one that I find more beneficial to live with each day. I’ve been rewarded in return with new doors open before me, a whole new cast of friends, confidence, and a type of grace that has never been present before.
I’m a fan of simple aspects that happen every day, I call them daily doses of beauty. In my 23rd year, one of my favorite things was to watch the sunset and/or sunrise in every new place I traveled. Each one containing the same structure, but holding a unique awesomeness that never seemed to fade even with how many I witnessed last year.
Take a moment to enjoy it. That’s what I’ve come away with in the last year. I don’t want my life focused on making the most money, choosing a path based on other’s opinions, or how many material things I own. I want my life to be full of moments simply enjoying it. I want the memories.
Happiness isn’t a permanent state of being, it’s a choice. I think I’m starting to understand what that means now.
From my 23rd year, here are my favorite memories of sunsets and sunrises from around the world.
San Diego, USA
Sunset. Okay, technically this sunset was when I was still 22, but I had to include it because it was the last sunset I saw in San Diego before I left for Australia. I was grabbing dinner with one of my close friends in Ocean Beach, and it was one of those moments that made me second guess what exactly I thought I was doing by leaving such a beautiful place.
But I knew I had to leave in order to come back a stronger person someday, “with grace and flowers in my hair”.
Auckland, New Zealand
Sunrise. After the longest flight I’ve experienced in my life, I had a layover in Auckland, New Zealand before heading to Melbourne, Australia. This view was from the airport waiting room. Whatever anxiety I had about jumping into the unknown, and to what this year would amount to, faded away when I saw the sun rising.
Sunrise. The view I saw from my bed every weekend morning at my apartment in Melbourne, when I woke up for my cafe job. Melbourne had the most amazing sunrises and sunsets, usually littered with the many hot air balloons at sunrise.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Sunset. A trip taken with one of my friends from San Diego, our epic two day road trip on The Great Ocean Road was one of the most scenic drives I’ve been on.
Sunset. The deep yellow sunsets in Indonesia, one of my favorite aspects of the country.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sunrise. On my bucket list for the year, seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. One of my favorite memories from Southeast Asia.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Sunset. Thailand has the best pink and purple sunsets.
Sunset. The last time I walked the Bondi to Coogee walk, the place that first inspired me to move to Sydney.
Sunset. I have a fondness for stormy sunsets, Sydney is the queen of stormy sunsets. We got along.
Tropfest – Sydney, Australia
Sunset. The biggest short film fest in the world. I went by myself and ended up making and meeting friends along the way. The sun setting over the festival before the show started.
Sunset. Terrigal, in central New South Wales, is a small little town not many people have heard of outside of Australia, yet it has one of the most beautiful beaches I saw all year.
This day was pretty perfect, starting off with discovering Newcastle, and eventually making my way down to Terrigal to watch the sunset on the beach and spend the evening exploring the town with a boy I liked.
Byron Bay, Australia
Sunrise. The first stop on my East Coast travels, I begrudgingly woke up to an early alarm to watch the sunrise on the beach my last day in Byron. It was well worth the effort.
Surfers Paradise, Australia
Sunset. I may not have been a big fan of Surfers Paradise as a whole, but with the reflections and colors that lit up the sky my only night there, I’d have to say it was one of my favorite sunsets of the year.
Airlie Beach, Australia
Sunset. Oh Airlie, you are one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The Whitsundays, Australia
Sunset. Sleeping on a boat in The Whitsundays after a day spent diving for the first time in The Great Barrier Reef.
Wellington, New Zealand
Sunset. A day trip to Days Bay and Eastbourne in the Wellington region, the first time I’ve seen the beach since arriving in New Zealand.
What are your daily doses of beauty? Where did you experience your favorite sunset?
After many technical difficulties, I’ve finally been successful in uploading my video celebrating my one year travelversary!!
In the last year, I visited 8 countries, moved to 3 new cities, volunteered at 3 music festivals, and went to an outdoor short film festival. I rode an elephant, learned how to cook Thai food, went to my first footy game, got my scuba certification, and kayaked in the beautiful Halong Bay. I tried more new flavors than my taste buds had ever known before, including the likes of kangaroo, snake blood, emu, and crocodile. I’ve had the most challenging and best time of my life. It’s hard to convey in words what this year has meant to me, so I thought instead I’d say it in pictures. Thank you to all of the people, places, and experiences that have had an impact on my year abroad. It has been one hell of a ride, may the journey continue… 😉
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney
My favorite quote from 2013, and one that I find pretty relevant to my life these days as a hopeless wanderer. 2013 was a year of change, new beginnings, and a lot of falling headfirst outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to 7 new countries, attended 4 festivals, moved to two different cities, said more goodbyes than I’d like to remember, yet have made countless more friends and opened a variety of new doors in the process. 2013 was in a word, epic. I don’t think I’ve grown more in a year previously than I did in 2013, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be even better and more adventurous. Here’s a glance at what my year of travel and spontaneity included.
January – New York, Oregon, California
I started this travel blog just before the New Year, my first posts consisted of my travels around the States for the holidays and reminiscent anecdotes from my summer in Tuscany. I started the New Year off with a bang partying under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City for New Year’s Eve.
“Last June, I walked across the stage at my college graduation with the words “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams“ glued to my cap. I found the quote appropriate, not only because my college at UC San Diego is called Eleanor Roosevelt, but because those words are what I hope to live by as a recent graduate.” – The Future Belongs to those who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams
February – California
The month of the most change for me in 2013, this was one of my final months in San Diego before moving to Oz. I pierced my belly button, donated most of my belongings, cut off a foot of my hair, and broke things off with my longterm boyfriend.
“There has been a lot to think about with my departure date coming up so soon, and my whole trip itself becoming more real than it has ever felt before. I’m proud of myself for embarking on such an endeavor, one which I wouldn’t of had the confidence or the bravery to pull off as little as four years ago when I first started college. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling selfish and even guilty sometimes for leaving certain people behind to chase my own dreams of traveling, knowing that I’ll miss out on so much in the process of fulfilling what I want to do with my life.” – Walkabout: La Jolla Edition
March – California
My final month in San Diego, I left two jobs and an internship behind and said my final goodbyes to my friends and my life in the beloved place I called home. Even though bittersweet, I was also extremely excited to take on my Aussie adventure, knowing how much it would benefit me in the long run. I lived in the moment, appreciating all those who had touched my time in San Diego, and enjoyed all that the seaside city had to offer. I also made sure to eat as much Mexican food as possible, I even had a burrito on the way to the airport.
“I’ve realized the only way to love the life I live is through passion, optimism, and spontaneity. So, this year my travel resolutions will revolve around just those things, letting go of the negative aspects in my life in the process.” – Travel Resolutions 2013
April – California, Melbourne
My big move to Melbourne and my first month in Australia was a whirlwind of new experiences, tram rides, footy games, new friends, the best coffee, and learning how to live like an Aussie and adapt to colder weather.
“The sun is gleaming through the palm trees, I’m riding alongside the ocean, the orange sky as my canopy. What a way to say goodbye to this cherished place I’ve taken for my own, a place I call home even with these restless bones.” – On leaving everything behind to follow you dreams
May – Melbourne
I celebrated my 23rd birthday and bundled up to settle in for the long hall for my first Aussie winter and my second consecutive winter coming from California with opposite seasons. I explored what Melba had to offer during the winter months… it was heaps. From museums, to hidden coffee shops, to live gigs and warm dumplings, I loved spending winter in Melbourne.
“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.” – 7 ways to spend the winter months in the city
June – Melbourne
In June, I moved across the city to a new apartment and met my new roommate, someone who would become one of my best friends in Australia. I found a second job to help save for Southeast Asia, started volunteering at a yoga studio, and used my rusty culinary skills from my time in Florence to improve my cooking. I basically lived at the Queen Vic Market and the Carlton Gardens, my two favorite spots in the city.
“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.” – Be Free
July – Melbourne
My favorite month in Melbourne. I had been there long enough that it finally felt like home, I loved my job as a bartender in the city, one of my best friends from back home came to visit, I had a solid group of friends, and a couple winter romances as the cherry on top. Perhaps it’s proof that the most fleeting moments in life are usually the most beautiful as my departure to Southeast Asia in August was coming up soon.
“Comparing where I was when I arrived and only had two friends in the city, to where I am today just a few months later, the changes are extraordinary. I’ve somehow built up my own friend base, a support system from scratch in a completely foreign place. I must say, that is one of the most reassuring realizations you can make in life; that you can start over anywhere and be more than okay, you can be genuinely happy.” – Life is a journey, not a destination
August – Melbourne, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam
My last couple weeks in Melbourne before heading over to Southeast Asia. I drove the Great Ocean Road, went wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, said my round of goodbyes for the second time this year to a city that I had begun to call home, and visited Sydney for the first time. In Southeast Asia, I traveled around to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam with my British friend I met in Europe a couple summers ago. We had our feet cleaned by fish in Malaysia, laid on the beaches of Bali for a week, explored modern Singapore, and fell into the hectic pace of Ho Chi Minh City.
“It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in Winter that Melbourne is fond of having every now and then. My friend and I decided to spend the day exploring more of the Royal Botanic Gardens in the city, because it was just one of those days you had to be outside for. We had a picnic at a place I deemed my own ‘500 Days of Summer’ spot, it was truly a perfect day in Aussie land.” – The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, a way to spend an afternoon
September – Cambodia, Thailand
In September I fell in love with Cambodia and the Khmer way of life, went through scuba certification on a deserted island in Cambodia, ate some bugs in Bangkok, rode an elephant, played with baby tigers, learned how to cook authentic Thai food, and had an amazing time in the southern Thai Islands at the Full Moon Party.
“It’s the people I meet on my travels that keep me trekking on and grounded when I feel lost, disillusioned with what I find in certain places. A chance connection on a night bus with a Welsh guy, having an enlightening conversation at midnight about our lives on the opposite sides of the world we grew up on. A friendly English girl who became our roommate in Chiang Mai. The fun groups of guys we met at the Full Moon Party. And of course my travel companion and partner in crime who has been with me since the beginning of Asia.” – Moments from the road
October – Vietnam, Melbourne, Sydney
The last stretch of Southeast Asia consisted of traveling down the coast of Vietnam. I loved the old way of life in Hanoi, immersed myself in the beauty of the limestone cliffs in Halong Bay, traveled to Hue, and lovely Hoi An, and found myself in Ho Chi Minh city again before flying back to Melbourne.
I spent a bittersweet week in Melbourne, doing all of my favorite things in the city and seeing all the friends I had missed for the past two months, before I moved for the 2nd time to a new city. My first couple weeks in Sydney weren’t the easiest and I didn’t feel quite at home as quickly as I did when I first arrived in Melbourne, but I found a job my first day, made heaps of new friends, and have since meshed much better into the Sydneysider way of life.
“There’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.” – Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy
November – Sydney
I took this month to explore Sydney as much as possible on my days off, going to a lot of festivals and art exhibits around the city, and simply enjoying the raw beauty Sydney has to offer on any given day.
“There are two things I’ve noticed about Sydney since moving here: There are a lot of people jogging everywhere and doing group exercises in one of the many parks, and there’s always some sort of festival or event going on in the city. In other words, it’s basically LA without the famous people. I’ve particularly been enjoying the latter – although I’m hoping to join the former with the communal exercise (yoga!) as I’m settling into my life here and now have a more manageable work schedule.” – Celebrating inspiration at Sculpture by the Sea
December – Sydney, Byron Bay
December whizzed by in a matter of minutes it seems. Between countless out-of-town music festivals I was volunteering at, to the realization that my time in Australia may be coming to a close in April, sooner than I’d like to think, I kept myself overly busy with work, creativity, and hanging out with as many friends as possible. It was perfect to end the month disconnecting from all things social media and camping in Byron Bay to ring in the New Year at Falls Fest.
“When I was walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I thought back to when I was 13 and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my dad at one of my many basketball tournaments in San Francisco. When I think back to where I was at that age, a decade ago now, it’s remarkable the changes I have gone through. From an anxious, hesitant little girl who had no idea what was ahead of her, to where I am today, I hardly recognize that person anymore.” – Walkabout across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
I’m still brewing up some solid goals for 2014, but I do know that I want to travel to at least 3 new countries: New Zealand, Fiji, and probably either Canada, Japan or Mexico…(suggestions welcome). I also want to see Hawaii this year to sleep on the beach, hike a volcano, and surf at sunrise.
Happy 2014, I’m ready for you.
Watch me –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDSazU1fvsg
This is going to be one of those brutally honest posts that I needed to write, not just because writing is therapeutic for me, but also because I think it’s important to document the good and bad sides of moving abroad, especially when you make that leap by yourself.
People never hesitate to tell me how lucky I am that I get to live abroad and travel so much at such a young age, how jealous they are that I was able to just get up and go do exactly what I wanted. And I’m not saying I don’t consider myself incredibly lucky that I was born in as rich of a country as America, and into a middle class family that supported me and allowed me to go to college, and grow into the person I became today, that all this good fortune led me to have the confidence to move abroad on my own. However, moving abroad is not just the bumming around, laying on the beach all day in Australia that most of my friends seem to imagine my life over here to be.
Some days are ridiculously hard, some days I just want to curl up into a little ball and go back to before I stepped on that plane to Melbourne, some days are overwhelming…I find it hard to catch my breath some days, especially in the last week settling into Sydney. Moving abroad alone is still one of the best things I could’ve done for myself and my character, because if anything, this year has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. I’ve had some unbelievable good times, and new adventures, and I’ve met so many new people that have opened up my perspective and my own goals in life.
Sydney has been a harder move than I thought it would be, and I knew from the get-go it wouldn’t be easy. Perhaps it has to do with how long it has been since a reunion with my one true passion, music & guitar. Perhaps, it’s due to my current living situation in a hostel dorm with three guys. My bunkmate, an Irishman, snores so loudly it shakes the bed, and tends to wake me up at 4 in the morning drunk and acting creepy. Regardless, I am still incredibly thankful I found a job right off the bat, or I would be in dire straits right now, but sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this to myself when I could fly home to San Diego tomorrow and call the last 6 months a good run.
But then some little bit of serendipity reminds me of why I’m here, a chance encounter with a friendly stranger just when you need it, the best latte you could never find back in the States, being a boss at your job as a bartender, and finally being an expert in Australian beer. I know what I came here to accomplish isn’t finished yet, and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye because I’m as stubborn as they come, and I know I have more good times, perhaps even the best of times, ahead of me in Oz.
I’m officially a little over my halfway mark of my time abroad, and even though I’ve said before I don’t get homesick, more and more these days, and especially on days like today, I just imagine being home with a burrito in hand, watching the waves from my favorite spot on the beach in California, having lunch with my mom and sister at our favorite restaurant, or chatting over a beer with my best friends and old roommates in San Diego.
The hardest part of my time abroad so far isn’t the uncertainty of my finances, or my housing situation, or diving into a new culture, it’s the relationships with the people I’ve met – romantic, friendship, and work related. I can’t remember a time in the last 6 months where I’ve felt that I 100% belong here, and honestly, why should I? Although Australian culture is similar to American, it’s still nowhere near my upbringing and it’s a country multiple time zones and thousands of miles away from my own.
What I’ve found to be the most disappointing part of moving abroad is that when people learn you’re only going to be here for a year, they a lot of times use it as a reason to treat you as disposable. This was especially evident with a couple of my jobs back in Melbourne that I lost without warning, one a few weeks before I left for Asia and which I was counting on for income. However, if you’re a casual worker in Australia, it’s just business and you’re not supposed to take it personally.
In terms of friendships, I’ve made some great friends in Melbourne that I look back on fondly, and I still stay in contact with a lot of these people. But again, right before I left for Asia, one of my best guy friends since I first arrived in Melbourne turned into someone I didn’t recognize anymore, and became someone I no longer have contact with.
I’ve realized that on-the-road romances are the worst in terms of feeling like you don’t belong somewhere, because they all inevitably end unless you’re destined to be part of a cliché romantic comedy, which doesn’t actually pan out in reality. I’ve never been good at casual relationships, I had enough of them in college and I vowed to never go back to that after I graduated, but when you’re abroad, mostly you’re seen as unavailable for anything more than casual because your time isn’t permanent.
I originally was planning on having this year be my year of singledom, and to only focus on being alone and enjoying my time in Australia. After getting out of a longterm relationship back home it seemed like a reasonable and sensible plan. Of course that idea is harder to put into practice when you’re on the road constantly meeting new and intriguing people, it’s hard not to find romantic connections along the way.
The last decade has shaped a lot of how I live my life today, especially when it comes to my relationships with people. After losing a grandfather and two separate friends unexpectedly at different times in college, I’ve accepted that nothing in life is permanent. In my mind, it’s best to enjoy the present, and appreciate what you have, instead of waiting on a nonexistent someday. I feel like so many people are waiting for their “real life” to begin, once they graduate, or get married, or they get that big promotion at work, but don’t truly appreciate just being happy in the moment.
But then again, I also understand why that’s not practical for a lot of people, and more often than not, they want solid proof that you’re still going to be there when the day is done.
After I was feeling a bit run down over a romance in Melbourne that inevitably ended after lasting longer than I thought it would, my roommate comforted me by saying, “you’re doing a lot better at life than you think you are”. Those are some of the best words someone can say to you, and I’d like to believe that’s true.
Everyone is dealing with their own battle every day, but we’re also our own worst enemy. In reality, when you gain some perspective, you tend to realize you’re doing much better than you think you are. I for one, know I’m incredibly hard on myself sometimes when there’s no need to be. And to be fair, I’ve only been in Sydney for a little over a week, so it’s no wonder I still feel a bit out of place.
When I moved to Australia, yes it was because I wanted adventure and to try something new, but I think it was also a way to escape from everything I felt wasn’t quite right with my life back home: my relationship, my nonexistent career, and the lack of a clear path of what I wanted to do with my life. What I’ve learned in the last 6 months is that you’re going to find shitty guys, horrible bosses, disillusionment, and still not a clue to what your future entails with your life abroad as well. Lucky you, you can find these things everywhere!
Sadly, there’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.
Before I left for Asia, I was telling everyone that I was going to try and find sponsorship in Australia to stay for at least another year, or possibly go over to New Zealand to live a year over there. I’m not saying those still aren’t possibilities, but at least today, I feel like I’ll be ready to come home after my year abroad is done. And I think I’ll finally be okay with that when the time comes. Until then, I have summer, music festivals, new friends, finding beautiful places to get lost, good beer, and travel lined up for the next 6 months in Australia, and I’m not backing down now.
As my roommate in San Diego used to say:
When life is rough, just remember, it could be worse…
It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in Winter that Melbourne is fond of having every now and then. My friend and I decided to spend the day exploring more of the Royal Botanic Gardens in the city, because it was just one of those days you had to be outside for. We had a picnic at a place I found my own “500 Days of Summer” spot, it was truly a perfect day in Aussie land.
It’s no secret that I love cities and I love gardens and green spaces, so when those two are combined and you have an oasis in the middle of a city, I am in heaven. Getting lost in the Royal Botanic Gardens is a great way to spend an afternoon in a sunny state.