May 1, 2013

Adventure Is Out There!

Leaving Australia I knew was going to be hard for me.  Thankfully it started raining at the Brisbane airport so I didn't have to walk away from the sunshine.  The succession of flights home was nothing short of annoying.  I had an 18-hour flight from Brisbane to LAX airport, then a 4-hour layover before leaving LAX to Phoenix, Arizona.  Then from Phoenix, I had a connecting flight to Chicago.  Then from Chicago, a connecting flight to my current location: Philadelphia.  Right now I am blogging from my hotel before leaving for my final flight home to New York.  I can't believe that I actually studied abroad like I had always dreamed and I furthermore can't believe that I am now so close to returning home.  I am going to miss Australia without a doubt; I made so many friends, learned so many things, and had numerous adventures.  However, I do not think that my travels end with Australia.  I now have a burning desire to travel everywhere.  I do not know where I will go next but I know that adventure is out there and it's waiting to be found by me! 

April 25, 2013

Hostel Environment

With only four days left in Australia, I'm starting to get more and more excited to return home to my family and friends.  At current, I am spending my last few days in a hostel titled "Backpackers in Paradise".  This is the first time that I have ever been in a hostel, so truly I did not know what to expect when I arrived.  Apparently, you bunk with strangers and share bathrooms, showers, cooking tools, and stories.  My hostel, in particular, seems to be catered towards a 'party' crowd.  Not to say that I don't enjoy parties, but I don't enjoy parties.  I like getting up at six in the morning to go running, spending time near the ocean, walking/exploring the city, reading, and then coming back to the hostel to sleep around ten at night.  But everyone at Backpackers in Paradise seem to like a different schedule of sleeping until noon and getting drunk until three in the morning.  Again, that works for some people, sure.  But I like my mellow agenda.  I think with my final four days, I will try to finish some of my projects (for my online classes back home), spend as much time in the sun and next to the ocean as possible, pick up a few more souvenirs, and possibly do a few more inexpensive excursions (the Botanical Gardens of Surfers Paradise, attend mass at the Greek Orthodox church in Bundall, and try out a few more intriguing restaurants).  I loved being here in Australia, in all honesty.  Right now I am just eager to leave because I am missing my sisters, brothers, parents, and dogs (mainly).  But I think after a week or so of being home, I'll wish that I was back in Australia soaking up the warmest rays of sun and enjoying the therapeutic sounds of waves beating against golden sands.  Australia stole my heart.

April 14, 2013

Sydney, what a beauty

Flying into Sydney was like arriving in a small European village.  All of the streets seemed cramped and just wide enough to accommodate the size of a vehicle.  Small shops, cafes, and restaurants lined the brick streets of the city.  My hotel was snuggled between a quirky eatery and a historical estate of some significant family.  Wandering through Sydney (using a cartoon map) was stimulating to the senses.  I came upon the famous Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the New South Wales Art Gallery.  Running up the steps to the Opera House felt like it should have been accompanied by some epic soundtrack.  I had always wanted to come to Australia, and there I was standing in front of one of its key identifying features.  I was happily surrounded by culture, beauty, and the excitement of a big city as mo-peds, bicycles, pedestrians, runners, and cars whirled around me.  The Harbour Bridge stood majestically behind the Opera House and was definitely worth trekking across.  The Botanical gardens had mazes upon mazes of different trees, flowers, plants, shrubbery, and statues which were all just so fascinating to look at.  Admittedly, my favorite part of Sydney was attending the Art Gallery showing.  There were six floors of different types of exhibits by famous Australian artists.  I became fascinated with the third floor's arrangement of "We Used to Talk about Love" where I came across a piece by Grant Stevens called "Crushing".  This video piece was just so captivating and moving that I had to search for it online when I returned back to my hotel.  Sadly, there is no official recording of it anywhere outside of the Gallery (I did however attach a link below of a youtube recording I found).  Overall, Sydney was a much needed cultural shock and certainly a place that I'll never forget!


April 11, 2013


Last weekend, I spent three days sailing the Great Barrier Reef on a boat named "Wings".  I was able to snorkel and see different parts of the reef along with the accompanying variety of coral, fish, and crustaceans.  One time I spent a full hour longer than everyone else on the boat out swimming and diving and looking at fish; I almost was left behind!  I guess I was just mesmerized by the fish that I was seeing.  Unlike in other places I have been, the Great Barrier Reef fish seem confident and not at all scared of a human presence.  Fish were swimming all around me as if to boast their colours.  The coral and plants below swayed with the tide.  I even spotted a sea turtle that swam right up to my goggles and surfaced for air right beside me.  ...The ocean is really something magical.  Being out on the ocean for days on end felt like an entirely different lifestyle.  You live without shoes and you let the salt in the air fill your lungs and settle in your hair and on your skin.  Towards the end of the trip our boat hit rough weather with waves that passed over the windows and flowed across the decks.  The captain was sipping rum and the passengers were getting seasick.  I was loving every moment of it though.  As the boat tossed about, I kept wondering what it would be like to live in a boat on the ocean.  The sun eventually made its way back through the storm clouds and as it beat back down on my skin, I couldn't help but fall in love with the ocean.  A life-long romance, I'm afraid.  I think for the rest of my life I'll be trying to find my way back to the ocean. 

March 17, 2013

Same name, different girl

Two days ago I jumped out of a perfectly good plane.  To clarify, I went tandem skydiving at 14,000 feet (Australia's highest jump elevation).
I woke up at four in the morning to get ready and shuffle quickly to the Bond University bus stop for my transport shuttle to Byron Bay (site of the skydive).  The entire ride towards Byron Bay, I could feel my heart rate increasing.  I was excited for sure, but my stomach was completely knotted.  Suiting up for the jump was a little nerve-inducing because all of the certified skydivers were making jokes:
"Does this strap go here?  I wouldn't know, I'm just the bus driver, really."
"Can't wait for my pills to kick in"
"It's my first jump too"
Looking back, I know that these guys were actually just trying to lighten the mood.  But at the time, I kept thinking, "please, PLEASE be joking".  Aussies have this way of telling jokes where they don't crack a smile or give any inclination that a joke has been made.  Sometimes, it's hard to distinguish a joke from a truthful statement.  I was betting my life that these Aussies were in fact, big jokers.  ...I'm glad that I won that bet.  Flying up in the plane was fantastic.  The plane kept climbing in elevation and I could only see clouds and ocean out of the window next to me.  Suddenly the plane door flew open and the guy in front of me dropped out of the plane and out of view.  ...And then I followed.  I tried to scream but all of the wind just dries out your mouth and so I kept my mouth closed.  And I guess because I couldn't scream, I focused on everything else.  I noticed just how beautiful and peaceful everything seems from far away.  I saw cars in the distance meandering down country roads totally unaware that I was watching.  Sun, sky, ocean.  As I came in for my landing I sighed in relief that I had done something that dangerous and survived.  I weirdly also felt invincible and like nothing from that moment on could ever scare or intimidate me.  I really do think that Australia has changed me.  I hardly recognize the girl that I was because the girl I am now is so much more focused, fearless, and alive.  You can call me by the same name, but I swear I'm just slightly a different girl.

Check out my jump!

March 12, 2013

Colour me surprised!

Running has always been a passion of mine.  Before leaving for Australia, I had even taken the time to research running events that might be taking place near/close to where I would be situated.  Unfortunately, because of the hot summers that Australia has, there were to be no half marathons or full marathon races.  However, every so often, there are shorter races in the form of 3 or 5 kilometers.  One kilometer is roughly .62 miles.  I happen to be a long distance runner, but I can take enjoyment from the shorter, fun runs as well.  This past Sunday, I participated in the Bond University's Running Club Colour Run.  The course was designed to have people fall over and get pelted with paint, which was something that I had never experienced before.  At the end of the race, there was a water balloon fight and a BBQ.  I ran with a few friends and suffered the consequences of wearing white!  All-in-all, Sunday ended up being quite colourful!

February 25, 2013

Australia, I'm in love

These past few weeks in Australia have seemingly flown right by.  Maybe it was the unexpected summer showers, the surprising sunsets, the bustle of classes, or the ease of settling into one's schedule that made the time pass as it did.  I suspect that the weekend excursions to the Springbrook Rain forest and Moreton Island further aided in the flight of the days.  Springbrook's rain forest seemed untouched and truly cinematic.  Although when I ventured there, it rained unabashedly, I was still able to distinguish the many natural wonders.  I loved seeing the waterfalls, tree canopies, thick vines, lizards and snakes, feeding the birds, exploring the glow worm caves, and scaling the wet rock surfaces of the forest.  Being far away from my university for some reason made me feel more relaxed and like I was exploring something truly magnificent.  Away from the city lights and the constant sounds of cars I was able to breathe some much needed fresh air!
The following weekend though, was much more enjoyable because the rain held off and provided for the most pleasant sunshine.  On Moreton Island (slightly off the Gold Coast and farther north) I camped for two days with my room mate, Amanda.  We were treated to a 4x4 tour that bopped all over the island to the best viewing spots and activities.  Lucky me, was seated in the front seat and had the luxury of viewing everything up close and personal!  I got to learn about Aboriginal dream time stories, snorkel near some ship wrecks, swim with the dolphins, sand board down sand dunes,  hike to the oldest lighthouse in Queensland, cook in a camp, swim in a blue lagoon, and jump over waves in the bluest ocean ever known to man.  I honestly never wanted to leave this island and strongly considered grabbing the nearest provisions and running for the woods.  However, I was struck with reality and the need to return for school on Monday.  ...I took so many photos and videos before leaving because I knew that I'd never be able to accurately or justly explain the beauty of Moreton to the rest of my friends and family.  Australia, I didn't think that I could fall in love with a country, but maybe I was wrong!