Australia 1: My Last 72(ish) Hours

Recap: This semester, I’m studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia and chronicling the experience to anyone who cares to read. I stay in Brisbane for a few days, then head to Byron Bay for the weekend and finally end up at my home for the next five months, La Trobe University.

G’Day from the beautiful city of Brisbane! It took a lot (33 hours of just traveling) to get here, but my first day alone was worth it all.

The goodbyes have been the hardest part of the entire trip. This moment has been a long time coming, but that didn’t do anything to soften the blows. The day before I left, I sat my family down and said that there would be NO TEARS. That this was a positive experience and I would NOT be walking up to security like a blubbering fool. But let’s be real, blubbering or not I was going to be a fool, so might as well. The Eeyore Pillow Pet did not help with the looks I was getting. Neither did the walking boot (the result of a stress fracture two weeks before I left. My timing is impeccable).

I knew this trip would be full of firsts, but I had no idea these firsts would be happening practically minutes apart from each other. First time leaving the country, first time flying over the ocean, first time being offered a wheelchair (another result of the boot), and ordering my first alcoholic drink in New Zealand. Obviously, it was coffee. Are we surprised? No. But I was very surprised I wasn’t even carded. If the drinking age is eighteen, then tell me why I turned tomato-red when I asked the bartender for coffee and Bailey’s. With my 21st birthday in one month (this is becoming increasingly irrelevant), I better get used to this.

After I successfully survived all of these firsts (and a first time through customs), my wonderful family friends picked me up and gave me the best welcoming gift I could ask for: a shower. I spent the rest of the day clean and getting acclimated to the idea of simply existing in Australia. After celebrating a birthday that evening, we drove to the top of a hill that looked over the city of Brisbane. If you think this looks nice, I can promise you that the picture doesn’t do it justice. We came around the corner and my jaw dropped. There were so many more lights, and they all glowed. You could tell the city was alive before you ever stepped foot in it. Luckily, that’s exactly what I did the next day.

I rode into the city at 8 a.m. with Holly before she had to catch another bus to uni (her university). We grabbed coffee, and suddenly I was left on my own. Unsure of what to do, I picked a direction and just started walking, hoping I would run into the river at one point. Keep in mind that, without Wi-Fi, my phone will not access data, so if I wanted Google Maps, I was S.O.L. Thankfully, I arrived at the river, which was coincidentally also the entrance to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens and QUT (Queensland University of Technology). Still unsure of what to do, I just kept walking. I was like Dory. All day. And it led to some pretty amazing things. Like this lizard, which is apparently outrageously common. But it’s a three-foot-long lizard just chillin' in the parking lot. And there were these beautiful, elegant birds with long, curved beaks. But they're nicknamed “Bin Chickens” and are apparently the Australian equivalent of pigeons. Nice.

The wildlife was incredible, yes. But I’m primarily using this picture of a beautiful flower to talk about my traumatizing event from later that afternoon. I went to visit Holly at uni, and she showed me around her gorgeous campus. She had to get to class, so she thoroughly explained to me every detail of how to get home. I catch the bus, ride the bus, get off at the third to last stop, then make two rights and a left. Easy. Right. Well, after about fifteen minutes on the bus, I realized I had no idea how many stops there were total, so how would I know which stop was the third to last? So I panicked and pressed the stop button and got off on a road that I knew would eventually get me to the first right I had to make. But I had no service. But it doesn’t matter, because my phone was dead. So we’re really doing well. I walked for about half an hour in the correct direction, but after awhile I’ve gone so far and passed all of the landmarks Holly had meticulously described. That’s when I realized I was stupid. Because I was on the wrong side of the road, and I was never actually going to cross Bundah Street. So, angry at the world, I walked back, uphill, for another twenty minutes. Crossed a major intersection where everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road and found Bundah Street, practically in tears. Or maybe it was sweat, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m taking this as a positive experience. That I was able to right my wrongs and get where I needed to be, all alone in Australia with no cellular service. It might’ve taken an hour, and it might have been entirely self-inflicted, but ignore that. I only walked eleven miles with a stress fracture, it’s FINE.

Despite completely failing their public transportation system, I have had a phenomenal time here in Brisbane. I can’t wait to see Byron Bay and my home university. The next time I write, I promise I’ll be a seasoned veteran when it comes to riding buses, and I’ll have an arsenal of Australian slang to throw at you. Until then, cheers!