International Reflections: Australia

australia-1496772_1920I’ve been away from this blog for far too long, mainly because I went on vacation to Australia! (The last almost two weeks I really have no explanation for…)

Going back, this trip was first proposed by my father, who had been saying that he had wanted to visit Australia for as long as I can remember. He was admittedly jealous when I visited back in 2013. It was after my solo trip that we devised a plan to get him to Australia within the next five years.

In the winter of 2015 I suppose he figured it was time to get moving on that plan. Usually a pretty rigid individual, he can be surprisingly spontaneous. Without consulting me, he went to a local travel agency, told them what his goal was and it all materialized from there.

Yes, a year and a half is an awfully long time to plan and then WAIT for a vacation. I love the planning. The waiting, I’m not so good at.

Since I had already visited the country before, I let him take the reins on this one. He decided that he would prefer to take a cruise ship from city to city, as opposed to flying or driving. Although this wouldn’t have been my first pick, I was on board with something new, never having been on a cruise before. After that, it was just a matter of deciding on the length of the cruise and booking it. We decided to go with an 8 night cruise that traveled up the eastern coast, stopping at Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Airlie Beach.

IMG_20170408_215206644Once that nearly 18 month gap (FINALLY) closed, we found ourselves heading to the Toronto airport, preparing for a couple of longggg flights that would get us to Sydney.

I’m not convinced that anybody really gets used to 15+ hour flights (our flight was 15 then 9 hours respectively, with a 5 hour layover) but the destination was well worth it. We stayed in a beautiful Air BnB loft right outside of Syndey after arriving at the airport the night before our cruise. Our hosts were gracious and a wealth of information.

The next morning, after sleeping in an actual bed, we felt ready to take on the world. There was a little spare time before we IMG_20170409_084853771hadIMG_20170410_102024372 to be on the ship, so we thought, why not explore a little first? We walked to a quaint little cafe not 5 minutes from our room named Tartine and had great conversation with the proprietor Anthony. He informed us that he was closing the cafe soon to open a wine bar. Since everything in the cafe would need to go, he felt no hesitation when presenting us with a small pewter statue of folk hero and bushranger (outlaw) Ned Kelly. The blind generosity of this man left us speechless as we said our goodbyes and moved toward our destination of Circular Quay, where we would find our ship.

IMG_20170410_143042693After dropping our bags off at the ship, we were able to hop back off for a little while before our departure time to exchange currency, explore the Royal Botanic Garden and get up close with the Sydney Opera House. Then, back to the boat it was. The sky was dark as we departed, and our eyes wandered across the constellation of city lights behind us as they IMG_20170410_191612620receded into the darkness.

Our cruise line of choice was Royal Caribbean and our ship was the Radiance of the Seas. The ship isn’t one of their largest, but it isn’t the smallest either. I don’t think we really remembered where everything was until the last day, but considering we’re both pretty directionally challenged individuals, I’m sure that says more about us than the ship. To my excitement, the library was on the same level as our stateroom. Needless to say, I kept up on my reading. We spent our days at sea lounging by the pool, going rock climbing, playing mini golf, playing chess, napping, IMG_20170412_122136407reading and relaxing on our balcony just watching the waves (and a few dolphins). We also ate a lot. Way too much. Dessert isn’t meant to be eaten three times a day (but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen).

Not that the ship wasn’t great in its own right, but it was the time on land that was my favorite. In Newcastle we rode four wheelers through and “surfed” on sand dunes; in Airlie Beach we shopped at a local market and kayaked to a shipwreck; in Brisbane we visited the largest and oldest koala sanctuary in existence and got pet kangaroos; and back in Sydney we got permanent reminders of our trip by getting tattooed.

As with most vacations, this one was gone as quickly as it came. But it left us with more memories than we had bargained for. Those memories go beyond what was done, what was eaten or where was visited — to the warm and welcoming people, the natural environment, the culture and the feeling a part of something much larger than yourself and your daily life.

When you travel, you are provided with a small window into another world for a short period of time. I say, go to it. You’ll like what you see.

 

 

 

 

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