Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Back to Reality
I spent my last night in Australia drinking award-winning beer and gorging myself on all-you-can-eat sushi with my college friend Alison, who has been living in Sydney for a few years. And after a Very Long Flight, I'm finally home. Flying back to Australia is akin to time travel...you leave Sydney at 4pm and fly for upteen (12? 14?) hours and then arrive in San Fransisco at 10am...that same day. Crazy, huh?
Anyways, as you may have guessed from reading the recent posts, I had a great time in Australia. It's a trip that I had been wanting to take for years, and my old college roommater Kris and her husband Rodd were excellent hosts.
On a whole, the country on a whole was more subdued than I expected. The cities still have a strong British empire feel to them, although the birds and plants are a far more tropical to anything you'd spot in London- check out the bright purple Jacaranda tree. The Australian people enjoy meat pies and don't sound like Steve Irwin (a notable exception being Kristy's fitness trainer Spudd...I went to one of his workout sessions and could barely understand a word he said.) Australians are really into wearing sunscreen and conserving water- the toilets all have two buttons for flushing, one if you need a lot of water (i.e. for #2) and another if you only need a little bit. Lactose intolerance must be fairly common, because soy milk is available at every cafe. Food and drinks and gasoline are more expensive than in the U.S., but right now the Australian dollar is very strong and in the past American tourists have gotten a lot more bang for their buck. Although many things about Australia seemed surprisingly familiar, there were some striking differences. The natural beauty of the country is stunningly beautiful and like nothing I've ever seen before. Their sports are weird (cricket and netball and footy and rugby) and their animals are even weirder. And they eat their national animals, the emu and the kangaroo.
Australia is a wonderfully easy country in which to travel, especially for backpackers. In-country flights are dirt cheap (I paid around $80 for my round trip flight from Sydney to Melbourne) and hostels are abundant, inexpensive, clean, and safe. And there is so much to see and do! Even with the places I saw, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Almost all of the other tourists I met were from Europe, and most of them were in the midst of two or three month vacations, a habit I think we as Americans need to adopt. Talking to them about their travels made me wish I could have stayed another month and gone to New Zealand as well. I also found it amusing what aspects of the American culture have made it to Europe- my tour companions were all familiar with Ben Harper's music but didn't know what a burrito was.
In closing, if you ever have the opportunity to take a trip to Australia, definitely go. Do I want to move there? No. It's a lovely country, but so very far away from everything. Do I wish I could have stayed longer? Absolutely.