See Ya Later ‘Straya

Well folks, it’s done. My time in Australia is over. And after 30+ hours of planes and airports, I’ve made it to my hostel in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Before I talk about anything else, I got to say a few things about my time in Aus. In case you didn’t notice, I had a wonderful time the last 4 months. Yeah, there were tough times, but that’s life and would’ve happened anywhere. I met wonderful people and saw amazing things. I mean, how awesome is it that for months my morning runs included kangaroo sightings? And that I spent my days playing with the two cutest little boys? And all the great sights- the Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Tasmania, etc. And let’s not forget diving along the Great Barrier Reef!

Goodness knows I couldn’t have done all of this without the kind and generous people who gave me a helping hand along the way. There are too many people to list, but you guys know who you are. I appreciate you, truly. I hope to one help wandering travelers as y’all have helped me.

There’s a week of stuff in Australia that I still have to post about, so expect that in a future #ThrowbackThursday post.

I want to quickly mention how fantastic my flights between Sydney and Port Elizabeth were. First I flew 14 hours to Abu Dhabi with the airline Emirates. Now, I always just book the absolute cheapest option, without paying much attention to the airline. And I had never flown Emirates before. Little did I know, they are a “Luxury Airline.” And boy, did I feel it!

First of all, I was the only person sitting in my row of three seats. It sounded like my seat mates didn’t show for the flight, but whatever the reason, I was able to streeeeeeeeeeeeetch oooooooooooout 🙂 I lifted all the arm rests and laid across all three seats. And I’m short enough to make that work. I was so comfortable, I slept for 10 hours with minimal disturbances.

We also got 2 meals and several rounds of snacks/drinks. Lemme tell you what, the entire time I was wondering if First Class felt this good!

After a 4 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, I hoped on another Emirates flight to Johannesburg. And would you believe it, the middle seat on my row was empty. And then the kid who was sitting at the aisle seat moved to seat closer to his friends (big school group traveling together) and, yet again, I had a row to myself. Livin’ the good life over here 🙂

When I landed in Johannesburg, however, it was time to run. Literally. I had less than 90 minutes to get from my plane to the next. Doesn’t seem too hard, expect that I also had to stop at immigration, pick up my checked bag, go through customs, and re-check my bag. Not an easy task. Involved quit a bit of running. But I made it! And so did my luggage! I got some help from a porter, without whom I likely would have missed the connection. And then just a short flight, 90 minutes, to Port Elizabeth.

Whelp, I’m quite tired. I apologize for any gross grammatical/spelling errors. Maybe I’ll come back and actually proof read this later. But now now, cause sleep.

I’ll check back in later y’all xxoo

#ThrowbackThursday Dash’s First Trip to the Climbing Gym- February 24

Pretty close to when I first arrived in Woodend, Juddie told the boys I rock climb. Once given this information, Dash would ask “Is that good climbing rock?” nearly every time we saw any sort of largish boulder or rock wall. It was very sweet! And then he started climbing the banister in the kitchen. So I took him to one of the rock climbing gyms in Melbourne. And we had a blast 🙂

The day started with grabbing a babycino for Dash and a hot chocolate for myself at our favorite local cafe, Il Caffé. We then hopped on the train to Melbourne.

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I don’t know what it is, but I love sitting on trains and ferries drinking hot chocolate

Once in the city, we took a tram and then walked a bit until we arrived at Hardrock Climbing. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the place opened later on weekdays than weekends, so we got there before opening. But no worries! There was a big open courtyard nearby and the two of us ate lunch and raced from one end to the other until noon.

Once in the gym, Dash was a perfect little student, attentive and focused

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Dash learning about climbing shoes and harnesses

Of course, the sillies came out soon enough!

Dash really liked pulling on the ropes so I couldn’t take my eyes off him. But we were there to climb, and climb he did! Dash was so excited to get up on the wall. He didn’t go very high, usually asking to be lowered when his feet were about five feet off the ground. But after some practice and encouragement, he went much higher! He didn’t reach the top of the wall, but that’s not the point.

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Thanks so much for the awesome climber who took this picture! Him and his friends were very encouraging of Dash and his first day of climbing. 

It was a really great day. Definitely one of my fondest memories of Dash, his excitement to try rock climbing and his bravery in climbing higher.

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Love this cutie ❤

Sydney & Scuba

Hey all! Sorry for missing last Friday, I was waiting on photos, which I think was totally worthwhile. I wrote this while riding the train from Cairns to Proserpine on Friday. Hope you enjoy the writing and the photos! 

Man, I needed the last week. I spent 6 days straight in the near constant presence of the wonderful Hanna and it wasn’t until she left that I realized- I wasn’t exhausted. I barely had a minute to myself and yet the continual interaction with another human didn’t tire me out, rather, it energized me. I forgot what it felt like to be around someone I am 100% comfortable with, someone I don’t have to ever act around or worry about judgement.

And beyond the comfortable companionship, Hanna and I had a blast. Last Saturday we went to a Koala Sanctuary. It was more of a small zoo that focused research on finding cures for koalas with chlamydia. But it had a range of native Australian animals- kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, birds, emus, dingoes. For all that I don’t really like zoos, we had a good time wandering around the property.

We spent a LOT of time talking to the Cockatoo. It may only say one phrase, but like Groot, the one phrase has many meanings 😀

Afterwards we met up with Alex and his friends at a wine tasting. We all tried several wines and then Alex, Hanna, and I headed to a bar that sold local and imported craft beers. Hanna’s goal was to try something local so she and Alex went halfsies on 3 beers. Not being much of a beer person and happy with the wine I drank earlier, I sipped each of their beers but otherwise just ate.

Alex introduced us to the magic that is a Snack Pack. French fries with thinly sliced gyro meat, cheese, and 3 sauces. We ordered two to try different sauce combinations- one with barbecue, chili, and garlic (know locally as The Holy Trinity) and one with garlic, hummus, and mayo. We walked back to Alex’s, passing around the snack packs, doing our best not to spill sauce on our shirts. I think we went to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour that night, but the three of us just aren’t good at ending conversations. One of us always has more to say and then the other two get sucked back in.

Sunday Hanna and I wandered around the Sydney Opera House and the Art Gallery of North South Wales. We took the obligatory photos of the opera house and bridge . At the museum we focused on the gallery featuring Aboriginal art. For those of you who don’t know much about the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Australian government, it’s pretty awful. I highly recommend you research it, it’s hard to describe just how terribly the native peoples were treated. Slaughter, kidnapping, forced assimilation… And to top it off, these atrocities are swept under the rug in this “No worries” country.

The gallery celebrated Aboriginal culture and brought to light the discrepancy between “white” Australia and everyone else. Art has power folks, go visit a museum.

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This was a giant poster displayed in the museum. Powerful, yes?

Sunday afternoon Hanna and I flew to Cairns, a city in northern Queensland. Early Monday morning we were picked up at our hostel and taken to the marina where we hopped on a boat and waved goodbye to land. We then proceeded to spend three days and two nights out on the water. We were scuba diving- eleven dives total for this trip. And we LOVED IT. The whole experience was better than we expected. Our room was bigger than we thought it would be, the showers on the boat had hot water, and staff was super professional, the food was delicious, there were multiple places to hang out between dives, we met some super cool travelers… I could go on. And there’s a reason they call it The Great Barrier Reef. It’s pretty neat, to say the least.

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We were greeted with cake when we got on our liveaboard. Photo credit: Hanna

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Our room! More spacious than we expected on a boat. Photo credit: Hanna

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Hanna as a majestic sea goddess (I mean, look at that hair!) Photo credit: Megan, edited by Hanna

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Photo credit: Hanna

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Shark! Photo credit: Hanna

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Swimming with turtles 🙂 Photo credit: Hanna

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Sunrise dive 😀 Photo credit: Hanna

Two of the locations we went to had the coolest geography (not sure I’m using the right word, but I use it to mean the shapes, caverns, and caves created by the coral). There were canyons, tall pinnacles, small windows into huge caverns… Hanna and I felt like we were peeking into Ariel’s world.

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Photo credit: Hanna

Of course, every now and then the topic of climate change would come up. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a a big problem with coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef (see here and here). There is even talk of bleaching events happening so frequently that recovery is impossible and the coral may soon die, causing a chain reaction accefting the entire ecosystem the coral supports. So there was a lot of “yeah, we’ll be able to tell our grandkids about how we dived the GBR before it died.” And then to see the news coming out of the States about reducing national monuments and EPA regulations… It’s just disheartening. Unless NASA figures out real quick how we can get to and then live on another planet, we have but one earth. And our actions are destroying it. Climate Change is real folks, pollution has victims. To quote a meme, there is no Planet B.

But enough politics (for now), here’s some more cool photos of the GBR.

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Photo credit: Hanna

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Before each dive we would attend a briefing led by one of the staff. They would give us suggestions on places to go, cool things to see, and how to best navigate the reef. Photo credit: Hanna

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Photo credit: Megan, edited by Hanna

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Underwater selfie ❤ Photo credit: Hanna

We made a lot of new friends on the dive boat. Mostly, Hanna and I went diving just the two of us. But twice on of our new friends joined us. Hanna and I both learned a lot from these experiences about the importance of discussing communication and leadership expectations before the dive so we’re all on the same page once under water. She and I fell into a rhythm pretty quickly with just the two of us (I mean, we’ve know each other so long and have over a decade of trust built up) and adding another person to our team definitely shook things up. Not in a bad way, in fact, we both really enjoyed the challenge. But it was a really good learning experience.

While Hanna and I very much enjoyed all the diving (and learned a lot from doing so many dives so close together), we both agreed that it would have been nice to have a bit more variety. Since I’m new to diving, I had been just finding the cheapest or easiest option, no real looking into what the best place would be, what specific qualities of different reefs may interest me. I figured, as a newbie, everything was interesting. And I was right. Everything has been fascinating. But now I’ve seen enough that in the future I want to be more particular. I want to start planning dive trips around what I want to see, like whale migrations. I also think I would like to find a liveaboard trip that involves some island hopping. Not sure if this exists, so let me know if you have any suggestions!

We eventually returned to land Wednesday evening. We went out to dinner with some of the folks we met diving but everyone called an early night- ends up constant scuba diving is exhausting.

Thursday Hanna and I wandered around Cairns and into another art gallery that just happened to have free admittance that day. This one had an interesting show exploring the experience of the Italian immigrant in the 1950s. Francesca Rosa, the artist, was inspired by her father’s life and the possessions he left behind. There were two very interesting pieces- one that put pictures of Renaissance portraits next to the photos of the male Italian immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane fields and one that put photos the artist took on a family vacation to Italy next to racial slurs and other insults pointed towards Italians. Australia has a pretty racist history guys. Actually, they have a pretty racist present. But I said enough politics soooooooo moving on!

Sadly Hanna had to catch a plane Thursday afternoon. We kept stalling, talking in the hostel instead of calling an Uber and then a big long hug just before she left. It’s wonderful having best friends who like to travel. I’m so glad Hanna came to visit me on my adventures. She helped me find my center and ground my thoughts. And in two months I’ll see her (and all my other loves back home) again.

Well, right now I’m on a train travelling towards Brisbane. I’m getting off in Proserpine, where Alex will meet me at the train station and we will drive to an Airbnb we’re staying in for the weekend. Expect more pictures of ocean views 🙂

Thanks for reading xoxo

Old Friends in New Places

LOOK WHO I FOUND

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Hanna, Alex, and myself having Golden Gay Times

Hanna and Alex, that’s who! Y’all, I can’t tell you enough how wonderful it’s been since I arrived in Sydney and met up with these two wonderful friends. Alex and I honestly don’t talk very often and we rarely hung out after high school. But when I messaged him a couple months ago to ask if he wanted to meet up while I was in Sydney, he offered up his home for me to stay in. And when I arrived last night we started talking and just didn’t stop. It’s so amazing to realize that, yes, our friendship is one that stays strong and true even without constant contact. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.

Hanna flew in this morning and I met her at the airport. I wanted to make sure I was there when she got through customs, so I maaaaaaaaay have gotten to the airport way too early. But after a bit of waiting, I saw her beautiful face enter the arrivals hall. Goodness I am so happy 🙂

The three of us spent a long time just talking in Alex’s apartment this morning. Eventually we did manage to leave, Alex to work for the afternoon and Hanna and I to walk around Bondi Beach.

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We meant to go for a long walk along the coast but ended up getting distracted by the way ocean waves crashed against the rocks. We talked about everything, the way best friends do after a long absence. Because, well, we’re best friends and we haven’t seen each other in months.

Goodness it feels good to catch up.

One really wonderful thing about talking to Hanna is I don’t have to constantly provide back story.

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After the beach Hanna and I headed back to Alex’s. He and his flatmates made dinner and afterwards Hanna, Alex, and I yet again started talking and just kept on going.

Wonderful first day in Sydney! Sending love ❤

#ThrowbackThursday February 2nd

I made pancakes that morning to celebrate Dash’s first day of kinder and those lucky boys got sprinkles!

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Like me, you can tell how much fun Orlando is having by how messy he is

Dash went to kinder after pancakes so Orlando and I played at the park. This silly boy took the wax from those little cheeses and put it on his nose!

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What a goof ❤

Most definitely missing Orlando and Dash. Sending out love ❤

Scramble, Be Flexible

You know, my attempts at rock climbing just never seem to pan out right. And not in the way that plans always turn out slightly different than expected, but in the I though I’d spend all day rock climbing for four days only to climb 3 routes Friday and 2 routes Saturday. And that’s it.

I hope one day I’ll get to actually do some decent climbing.

I mean, the climbing I did was fun. It’s just we spent 3 hours driving to the crag (Hillwood) on Saturday and after just two routes it started to rain on us. Not pouring, mind you, just a little sprinkle. But enough that we called it. And then Greg didn’t want to camp in the rain, so instead of staying in the same area as the crag we drove all the way back to Hobart. 3 hours.

Well I was pretty frustrated. And I decided to just scrap the weekend plans of climbing. I stayed at a hostel Saturday night instead.

Which was fantastic! I met a couple girls from China and we headed out to Port Arthur on Sunday.

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We stopped at a beach along the way- these girls were so fun!

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My time in Hong Kong turned me into such a beach girl. I can’t get enough of that blue water!

Fascinating place. It was developed as a penal colony in the 1800s. The prison system at the time would send the repeat offenders from the prisons in Australia to Port Arthur. So that means the inmates had already done enough crime back in England to get sent to the colonies and then continued to cause trouble. Port Arthur is a peninsula with a very thin stretch of land connecting to the rest of the island, so there wasn’t much that needed to be guarded to prevent escape. No one ever escaped from Port Arthur. They also implemented training and education programs, so a lot of inmates left with job skills and built successful lives. However, Port Arthur also did some crazy isolation stuff that was really messed up, but the education program was on the right track.

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They originally built just one church on the settlement. So all religions could be acknowledged, the building was never consecrated. After the prison was closed, some fires came through and destroyed the place. Now just the brick walls are left. It’s still pretty magnificent.

Some of you may recognize the name Port Arthur from the massacre in 1996. 35 people died and another 23 were wounded. I expected to see a lot of plaques and memorials remembering the event. And yet I saw nothing. The visitor guide mentioned there was one memorial, but we never found it. And during our tour the whole event was never mentioned.

I was messaging Daniel about how strange I found this and he responded “We tend not to have massive memorials out here. I guess every day with our gun laws we acknowledge them.”

Well shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit

Wouldn’t it be great if the US could figure that out? Because Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since Port Arthur.

Anywho, Monday I mostly chilled and watched tv. I know, I know, how could I spend a morning sleeping in and watching Jane the Virgin when I could be out exploring Tasmania? Well, one I couldn’t figure out a good plan for the day, and two I kinda needed a day to just chill. SO I took it 🙂

Majid and I headed out in the evening in search of luminescent organisms in the water. We drove out to Opossum Bay, found a place to park, and had dinner on the beach.

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I want to live in this house. Or, a house painted this color blue ^_^

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Sunsets, man. Sunsets

The sun went down beautifully, as it always does, and we walked along the edge of the water looking for glowy things. And, would you know what, we found ’em 🙂

It looked as if the stars had decided to go for a swim in the bay. Or like someone had sprinkled diamonds in the water. We rolled up our pants and started walking in the water. The flashes of light stuck to our legs and every step was followed by a stream of glowing water. I had a blast jumping in the water, watching the sparkles.

We eventually headed to Goat Bach to spend the night at. Unlike Opossom Bay with it’s calming lapping waters, this beach had no land protecting it from the full strength of the ocean. Large waves crashed onto the shore. And sometimes the white foam glowed. I was stunned. And, of course, the stars were out in full force, the Milky Way showing off. An absolutely beautiful night 🙂

I don’t have any pictures of the luminescence or the stars because my camera just isn’t good enough :/

Today (Tuesday), began with watching the sunrise.

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How amazing is that pink????

Majid and I headed back to Hobart pretty early so I could meet up with Jimmy and Patrick, two guys I met climbing last Friday. We drove to Hartz Mountains National Park and climbed Hartz Peak. The views from the top are amazing.

Or so I’m told ^_^ It was a biiiiiit cloudy at the top…

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Jack, I’m flying! (but actually the wind was super strong and right after I took this picture Pat almost fell)

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Pat, myself, and Jimmy! Happy to have hiked to the top 🙂

But it was a gorgeous hike. I loved the colors of the flora, the lichen and mos growing the rocks, the green tint to the water in the lakes… It was all beautiful.

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A lot of the trail was actually these wooden boardwalks. Leave No Trace means different things in different places and this was a great solution for this area!

The three of us had a great time hiking and chatting. Good guys, these two!

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We ate a lot of chocolate to, uh, keep warm. Cause it was cold. So chocolate

Thanks for reading ❤

Hobart, Tasmania

Hey y’all! The last 3 days I have been in Hobart. I flew in early Wednesday morning. Once here, I met up with a few other travelers. We wandered around Hobart until we found the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Not only was it a free museum, it was pretty cool! I checked out the information on the flora/fauna of Tasmania, the aboriginal culture, the intersection of the English and the natives. Interesting stuff!

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This teapot, titled Lip Service, was in an exhibition called Same but Different. It featured many normal objects expressed in different forms. For instance, there were several chairs, each from a different culture and time period. This was my favorite item on display. 

Shannon, one of the girls I met up with, and I then met up with Majid, a couchsurfing host. He drove us to his place and we had a FANTASTIC time getting to know each other. Shannon and I sync up SO CRAZY WELL. It was a little ridiculous. She plans on traveling around the States in a couple years and I will most def meet up with her.

Thursday Shannon and I went to Fern Tree and started hiking around Mt. Wellington. We did quite a bit of wandering around the mountain and, after much bonding, made it to the top. I gotta say, I’m quite pleased with my layers. Through the cold and wind atop the mountain I stayed warm in my North Face long sleeve shirt and Columbia fleece. I only started getting cold after sitting for over an hour. And I’m pretty sure if I had put on my rain jacket I would have been fine.

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The top of Mt. Wellington! You can see Hobart and the surrounding suburbs in the distance. Photo cred: Shannon

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Would you just LOVE to be soaring above this view?

This morning Shannon, Majid, and i woke up before 6am to drive back up to the top of Mt. Wellington for the sunrise. We were well rewarded for our early morning 🙂

While it was 0.1 degrees celsius and the wind was blowing at 44km/hour, the view was completely worth it. We could take a quick picture and then stick our hands back in our pockets before out fingers froze. I did take a video of the view- it really doesn’t do justice to reality and the wind is crazy loud. But here it is anyways:

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Shannon and I atop Mt. Wellington for the sunrise. Photo cred: Majid

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Couchsurfing host Majid. Wonderful guy, he’s been driving us around and cooking us food. Thanks Majid!

After the sunrise Majid drive us back to his place. Shannon and I went for a run and then both packed for our next adventure. We sadly said goodbye (we were such fast friends) and then I met up with Greg, a local rock climber. He took me out to Waterworks, a crag basically in the city. He had organized a big climbing session that was mostly made up of students at the local uni. I met many new people, including a girl who has offered to join me for a trip to the Peninsula on Tuesday and lend me her bike on Wednesday. Oh, and she’s from Florida.

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New friend Greg belaying other new friend Caleb

We spent most of the day climbing and then headed to a pub. I’m spending the night at his place along with a couple other climbers. Tomorrow we will embark on a climbing/hiking adventure across Tasmania!

It’s been a great day, and it’s not over yet! There’s a fire going, pizza has arrived, and the drinks are cold. I’m going to stop being anti-social now and join the party. I am so so so sorry for spelling an grammar errors, this post is unedited.

Sending love to all!

 

Leaving Woodend

Today I leave Woodend.

Or really, I am leaving it. I’ve left it? Tense is confusing on trains guys. Cause that’s where I’m writing this from. The train to Melbourne.

My domestic country life has ended. I gave Dash and Orlando as many hugs and kisses I could today. And they both were wonderful for our last goodbye- I got biiiiig hugs and lots of sloppy kisses ❤

I’m going to miss those boys. Shit, I already miss those boys. I miss all the people I met out here.

The last couple of days have been full of goodbyes. Sunday I said good bye to Maria and Daniel. Monday I said goodbye to Godfrey. And today was good bye to Juddie and the boys.

Between all of that I packed my things. And let me tell you what, I hated packing to leave. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have a deadline on a paper coming up and you know you should really start working on it but you just can’t bring yourself to do so? That’s how I felt packing. Every bit of shampoo I squeezed into a 3oz container and every shirt I folded reminded me I don’t know when I’ll see these people or this place again.

So, instead of packing last night, I went to sleep. With the light on.

I finally finished organizing my things and the room that once was mine around 1:45 this afternoon.

I posted home 16kg worth of items I don’t want to carry around across 4 continents. And yet my bag still feels overly heavy. Oh well. If I realize there’s something I really don’t need I’ll just ship it home later.

Tonight I’m staying with Lita (who you may remember from my trip to the Grampians) and joining her to a comedy show. Tomorrow I fly to Hobart, Tasmania.

Here’s to new places, new friends, and new adventures. Hopefully the next three months will be as good as the last three.

Sending out love, especially to those I’m leaving behind in Victoria ❤

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Planning, Playing, and Penguins

My head is in full on planning mode. My thoughts go between lists of what I’m shipping home, hostel research, finding people to meet up with, etc. etc. Before I bought plane tickets it was overwhelming. But now that I know I have a way to get everywhere and that I’m going home eventually I am just excited- everything will work out!

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How I plan

For instance, I leave for Tassie (short for Tasmania and pronounced “Tazzee), on Wednesday and just today received confirmation from a girl that she’ll rent a car with me for the week I’m there for some road tripping. And now I’m going to message a couple of rock climbers in Tas, research places to see… So exciting!

Anyways, I’m constantly checking my phone for messages from friends or responses to my posts on public forums/facebook groups. Every spare moment is spent looking up possible trains. Or calling parks for more information. Or, or, or, or basically anything to do with figuring out where I’m going and what I’ll do for the next several months.

Between all the planning I’m spending as much time as possible with Dash and Orlando. As excited as I am to move on to the next part of this wild adventure, I am going to miss those little boys very much.

But what fun we’ve had this week! We’ve gone into the city for lunch, we walked around Mt. Macedon again, we’ve had countless tickle fights… It’s been very fun.

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Isn’t that the cutest mountain climber you ever did see? From our walk around Mt. Macedon.

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Kangaroos in front of Hanging Rock

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Dash and I made a Lego Triceratops!

On Tuesday, after lunch, Juddie headed back to Woodend with the boys and I stayed in the city to sort out a new phone and to meet up with Daniel. I met him at Southern Cross around half 4 and then we grabbed a tram towards St. Kilda, a beach neighborhood. Every night around sunset, at the end of a pier, Little Penguins swim out and hang on the rocks. Obviously I didn’t want to miss the chance to see real live wild penguins! And I didn’t 🙂 The penguins were adorable and the sunset was gorgeous. Definitely a good evening!

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St. Kilda Sunset

Godfrey’s sister Ellie and her boy friend Dianko are staying with us right now. Dianko is a chef (he owns a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio actually- now on my list of places to check out!) and made us an AMAZING dinner last night.

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“It’s just lamb chops”- says the chef

That’s pretty much been my week! Thanks for reading y’all ❤