Writing About My Outback Experience for Gapyear.com

Australia_Uluru_582_388

I am beyond THRILLED to have my first piece published on Gapyear.com! Their website is a really incredible source for all things gap year/travel-related. After a lot of writing, re-writing, and re-living my experiences, my piece is officially up and it looks fantastic.

Not only did I get to write about my two personal experiences in the Outback, but I also got to share a handful of photos from both trips. I think my heart has found a permanent place for itself in the Red Centre. Getting to write about those experiences? The coolest. It’s a trip I’d encourage anyone to take, because there is nothing like it. I’ve never felt so big and so small in one place.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading a guide on how to camp in the Outback, here’s the place to do it. Dare you not to read it and wish you could fly there immediately. Yeah, it’s that convincing!

And stay tuned, because I plan on writing more about my Aussie travel experiences for Gapyear.com in the near future!

Happy Australia Day 2015!

 

I don’t know how long it took for Australia Day to become a permanent fixture in my life, but over time it has become an eerie subconscious feeling. Like the universe lets me know in advance that it’s approaching. About a week ago, I stumbled upon a stash of Tim Tams at Target (God Bless America). They haven’t showed up there in years, so I stocked up. A few nights later, I had a dream I was back in Sydney. I wore my new itty bitty compass necklace to work that day. Next thing I know, it’s the 26th and I’m oozing with jealousy over all of my Aussie friends and their celebrations. There’s a slight chance that I’m just jealous that they’re in the middle of summer while it’s snowing over here.

Just because I’m 17 hours behind and over 9,000 miles away doesn’t mean I’m not going to celebrate my second home! I did it the only way I could: by pre-ordering one of my favorite Australian band’s albums, eating lots of Tim Tams, hanging up the bunting from my last trip, and drinking my favorite cider (the one I bought constantly while living in Melbourne).

Oops, left my heart in Australia. Guess I have to go get it back.

(Bonus photo: How cute does my bunting look hanging up over my world map?)

IMG_7557

Solo in Sydney

Looking back on my five days in Sydney,Β  I can’t believe I actually considered skipping the end of my trip because of one little panic attack. I am so, so happy I stuck it out, because I don’t think I would have fallen in love with this city otherwise. I was glad I checked off the bridge climb on my one day here with Lauren earlier in April, because it opened up a day for wandering and let’s be honest, it was so much fun getting to share that memory with her (at night and in the rain, no less). After three straight weeks of chaos/travel, I was ready to slow down and savor Sydney.

On my first day, I settled into my tiny airbnb apartment (which I should note: I grew to love), then wandered into the city to see if I could navigate around without a. getting lost and b. relying on a map. Proud to say I pulled it off! This was my third time in Sydney, so I was really hoping I’d learn it better. I walked all the way from Surry Hills through the CBD to Circular Quay. Now as touristy as this place gets, I love it. It’s quiet, beautiful, and full of people-watching opportunities. AND HELLO, THE ROYAL FAMILY WAS INSIDE WHILE I WAS THERE. Also made a stop at Angel Place to get a nice photo of the bird cages (and there were actually some birds singing because the weather was so perfect). On the walk home, I got gelato because why not?

Thursday was just a beautiful, simple, and fun (check me out, loving the solo travel life) as the day before. I took my time walking into the city (this time with my DSLR to get some quality photos), looking at the Opera House from across the harbour (bridge side), sitting at Circular Quay looking at the bridge, watching the sunset behind the bridge, and then getting a phone call from my best friend in Sydney– which was beyond cool, because I’m used to phone calls from across the world. The subject of our phone call? Hanging out together (OMG). Real life can be pretty freaking awesome sometimes. Got dolled up- even dared to wear some bright pink lipstick, then met up with Blake and his friends. We had dinner at The Clock Hotel, drinks at Tios and Low 302, and then wound up at the casino. By the end of the night, I was so. in. love. with. Sydney. (And Blake and his friends of course). There’s nothing quite like staying out until dawn and walking through Darling Harbour in absolute silence as the city wakes up.

Took a much-needed day off on Friday. Who knew walking around endlessly for three weeks could actually make your feet too painful to walk on? Saturday was low-key, but I couldn’t say goodbye to Sydney without one last night out with Blake + co and seeing the bridge lit up from the Opera Bar/the Opera House from my favorite rooftop bar in the city, The Glenmore. SWEET HOME THE GLENMORE. I have some fond memories from this place and after a year of Blake sending me photos every time he was there, it was about time we hung out there together. On our walk back to Surry Hills, I dragged Blake to Angel Place (by accident) and was blown away by how hauntingly gorgeous the bird cages looked lit up at 2am. Thanks for sharing your friends with me, Blake. Now get yourself over to Chicago so you can stop calling me “America” and I can start calling you “Straya.”

Bittersweet. My last day in Sydney was Easter Sunday and I didn’t have my family there to spend it with me, so I spend my day at Bondi Beach. Yes, it’s another touristy spot. But I don’t have beaches like this at home. I don’t get to sit in the sand watching the waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean. With a free day to explore a new spot by myself, I had lunch at Gabby’s Cafe (I picked it because I was seriously missing my Gabby back home), walked along the shore, read some John Green, had some fruity sorbet, watched the sunset paint the sky along the horizon, and headed back to Surry Hills to pack up. I’m going to miss my little apartment in Surry Hills and all the great food spots in the area (I’ve got a new soft spot for Mr. Crackles and Mad Mex). And you can bet I’ll be back.

Sweet Home Melbourne

I’ve considered Melbourne my second home since 2011, when I spent six weeks studying abroad and loving every second of it. As a homebody, that was a huge deal– to feel like I was home. This is how I spent the rest of my week in Melbourne:

After my first day re-exploring Melbourne on my own (and catching up with Mitch), I was feeling SO ready to continue my adventure. I spent the next day hanging out with Sophie– seeing Divergent (yes, loved it the second time) and then driving to Flemington to stay in a hotel with her and some of her friends. It was a very chill evening, which got me pumped up for my next day of CBD exploring. The next night, I met up with Mitch in the city for dinner and a comedy show. Melbourne’s Comedy Festival is a pretty big deal, so of course I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see a show especially since one of my absolute favorite Aussie comedians would be in it. Hamish Blake himself. The next day, I packed up my things and headed to an apartment near Carlton/Fitzroy that I rented through Airbnb, then met up with Lauren in the city. We got to explore and wander around together– this time on my turf. Bonus? Lunch at Elephant And Wheelbarrow with Mitch. It was a blast to have these two goofs together with me in my favorite city.

After lunching, Lauren and I wandered to Fitzroy (my old stomping ground and hipster heaven), where we walked and shopped and I shared some of my favorite memories from a few years ago. Of course, our day wasn’t over yet. We headed back to our apartment to freshen up for a night on the town. First up: Cookie for Toblerones (God bless the bartender who knew what it was when I ordered it– think chocolate milkshake for adults). From there, it was on to Rooftop bar for some cider and a view of the city at night (my all-time favorite bar in Melbourne, I might add). The next day was a jam-packed one with a lot of things to cross off our list. After breakfast at the Pancake Parlour (or as Lauren referred to it, “heaven”), we accidentally ended up in Cotton On and did a little shopping. We roamed the city looking for graffiti, then met up with Sophie for lunch.

After lunching and chatting, we walked the Royal Botanic Gardens and saw the perfect view of downtown Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance (which is where Sophie and I had to say our goodbyes for this trip). Our list was looking pretty complete, so we headed back for dinner and ended up finding a really great gem called Trunk. Hello, best gnocchi in Australia. In an effort to say goodnight to our sister adventures in Melbourne, we headed to Rooftop one more time for a final cider and view of the city. The next day, Lauren was on her way back to Gold Coast and I had a rough day on my own in the city. I was really hoping I’d make it through my entire trip free of panic attacks, but that wasn’t what the universe had in mind. Looking back on the day is kind of a blur, but things settled when I met up with Mitch for a home-cooked meal and movie night. I’m really lucky to have this kid in my life. Even after crying about my panic attack, Mitch was on his A-game to get me pumped for my week ahead in Sydney (which, at that point, I was considering skipping). After lots of red wine, risotto, and comedy, I was ready.

Stay tuned to read up on my week in Sydney!

Quickie Travel Update!

Hello hello!

I wanted to check in and fill in anyone who is actually curious about my Australia adventures thus far. I landed here 2.5 weeks ago and have since visited: Melbourne, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Gold Coast, Sydney, Alice Springs, and Uluru. Yeah, just a few places. Since landing, I have: gotten a stellar sunburn, eaten too many Tim Tams, met one of my best friends from tumblr in real life, reunited with my sister (who has been studying here since January), reunited with my Melbourne friends, pushed myself to be a little more adventurous, and made a handful of friends from all over the globe. My bucket list is getting its ass kicked and I’m SO pumped about it.

I’ve only got about 9 days left and they’ll be spent between Melbourne and Sydney. Currently, I’m writing from Melbourne and I’m just about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Never have I ever felt a connection with a city (aside from sweet home Chicago) the way I do with Melbourne. Second home without a second thought.

Yesterday, I had a free day to spend by myself in Melbourne’s CBD. As soon as I got off the train at Flinders St. Station and walked outside, I had a “catch my breath” moment in the most literal way– being back, seeing a familiar landscape, and knowing exactly where I was/where I wanted to head– beyond amazing feeling. Even more amazing feeling? Writing/reading in cafes all afternoon. Ok, I’ll leave you with that for now. It’s late and I have lots of adventures to cram in over the next week and a half.

TL;DR… Destination Australia: Part Two has been amazing and leaving this time around might be even more difficult than the first time. And theΒ nextΒ visit will be a semi-permanent one.Β 

This lady is going back to Australia!

Yep, it’s happening… and it’s official! It’s been almost three years since I was last down under and if you ask me, that’s far too long (considering I refer to Australia as a second home of mine). Now that my international flights have been booked and I bonded with the Qantas customer service girl while secretly fangirling over her accent and the reality of what was happening, you might be wondering what I’ll be doing. I’ve got two big trips booked (Cairns & the Outback), plans to see Lauren in Gold Coast, plans to see Sophie and crew in Melbourne, and plans to see Blake in Sydney. Plus some assorted adventures like bridge climbing, a tattoo, a soccer game, and re-visiting old favorite places (maybe even finding new ones).

In a nutshell: four weeks, six cities, lots of friends, even more memories, and at least twice as many photos as my summer abroad.

I’ll be writing a post about the specifics of my trip as my departure date gets closer. Time to cross a lot of things off my “23” bucket list! In the mean time, here are a few of my favorite moments from my trip in 2011: