Day 62 – Melbourne, Australia

Last day in Australia. So the end of four weeks has arrived and I said So long, Australia and Hello to New Zealand! I remember being so happy when I first landed in Cairns. Happy to be back in a Western country. Happy to see blue skies and beautiful mountains out the window. Happy to hear English being spoken everywhere I walked. I felt so at home during my first trip to Woolworth’s and was so happy to eat chicken nuggets and fries without worrying if I was going to be sick later.


I’ve learned a great deal from my time traveling in Australia. This country is huge and there is so many beautiful things to see in each part. I feel like I have only conquered a fraction of Australia and definitely have to come back to explore the Outback! Australia has also taught me things about traveling that I didn’t know before. Not only about how to find the best deals and just how far walking distance really is, but it also has taught me how to be mindful and travel in the moment. I’ve learned how to slow down and explore a place like it’s my home in a way I thought I’d known before but didn’t truly understand yet. Until now. So Thank you, Australia. Thanks for all the beautiful memories and for all the wonderful friends you have introduced me to along the way.


Enough sap. I started my last day in Melbourne with a hearty bacon and egg panini on sourdough and a delicious homemade hot chocolate from Mero Mero. I probably would’ve stayed satisfied all day long from that meal, but with it being my last day and me still having some Australian coins to spend, decided to keep trekking on.


Before I had to catch the Skybus back to the airport, I had lunch at 8bit, a busy burger joint that always seemed to be packed when I walked by. I had an order of chili cheese fries all to myself, and was so full I couldn’t even finish the last half before I had to leave. I was definitely going to be set for the rest of the day (it was barely 2pm) but at the airport, after clearing security and immigration, I spent the last of my Australian dollars on Hungry Jack’s, their version of Burger King and some m&m’s for the plane.


Air New Zealand was wonderful! Only a short 3.5 hour flight to Auckland from Melbourne but still included dinner (omg, so full!), new release movies and complimentary NZ wine! It was just the perfect amount of time to watch the new Beauty and the Beast movie and 3 episodes of Modern Family before I landed at the Auckland International Airport. With the time difference, it was nearly 0100 in the morning when I cleared Passport Control and made it outside of the airport to wait for the next Skybus to take me to the city.

I probably looked crazy taking pictures of the screen. But Emma Watson ftw!

Day 61 – Melbourne, Australia

Battling the cold with some heat @ Belle’s Hot Chicken

Today was my last full day in Melbourne before I fly out to New Zealand! I decided to continue the theme of self-care by doing things that make me happy. I explored a new side of the city that I haven’t seen before.


Fitzroy is cool neighborhood filled with tons of shops, restaurants, bars and museums lining the Main Street. I had a long walk through the neighborhood before stopping by Belles Hot Chicken for a hot tenders lunchbox with their perfectly seasoned and crisp Old Bay fries. My mouth was on fire by the time I left.


The next stop was Gelato Messina to cool off my tingling lips. After browsing through four cases with so many different flavors to choose from, I decided on a scoop of coffee gelato knowing I will probably be back tomorrow to try the chocolate sorbet!


I came back to the hostel for a little break and started to read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin. After I started to feel chilly, I thought I’d better go back to Mork Chocolate Brew House to try their famous campfire hot chocolate.


To my surprise, there was still another queue for a table (nowhere near as busy as Saturday) so I opted to stand at the counter by the window. I watched the barista prepare the countless orders of chocolate drinks as I waited for my order to arrive.


The campfire hot chocolate comes in a glass filled with wood fire smoke, topped with charcoal salt and a toasted marshmallow to stir. It was not too sweet but I would still prefer the homemade hot chocolate from Mero Mero. But it was still a fun dessert to warm up my insides from the cold.

Day 60 – Melbourne, Australia

Two months in. Today I practiced my self-care. Which apparently involves eating a cheeseburger, lots of walking, Pokemon, and quiet time. I had an epiphany on my way back to the Shrine of Remembrance. The difference between traveling and visiting a place as a tourist. After reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I would previously associate the term “tourist” as the stereotypical American with a fanny pack, hat, and sunglasses taking pictures but never seeing what was in front of them. I started to call myself a traveler and on this trip I wanted to experience each country instead of just existing here.

IMG_4343

While I have been traveling pretty quickly and I don’t wear my fanny pack, I realized I still wasn’t truly traveling in the moment. I let myself be too concerned with going here and there and seeing this and that so I could share everything on my blog. But the truth is, that pace of traveling will burn you out just like everything else. So today I stopped, I took a step back and I began to look at the bigger picture. I realized that this trip, that I have been planning for over a year is my now. I stopped thinking of this adventure as a secondary element to my life and made it my present. I have always had a problem with thinking too far into the future and focusing on the past without ever being mindful of the present.

IMG_4342

Giving myself a week in Melbourne was actually a better idea than I thought. While at first, I started to feel antsy and ready to leave, now I feel like I am actually properly traveling through Melbourne rather than just visiting as a tourist. It’s a hard feeling to put into words, but this morning walking down familiar unfamiliar streets, actually knowing where I wanted to go and blending into the crowd as a local … I felt it.

IMG_4345

On the other side of today, I wanted to focus on myself. I couldn’t stand feeling like I was missing something on a trip that is suppose to be the most exciting part of my life. I decided that today I wanted to just go with the flow and say Yes to what I want and No to what can wait until later. I walked back down to the Shrine of Remembrance, like I said. I took photos because it was beautiful but then I put my phone down and just sat on the steps. I sat there quietly and thought about all the craziness that is going on in the world.

I went to a place called Royal Stacks for lunch, which is basically the Australian version of Shake Shack. So you already know it was delicious. I walked back up the street and stopped inside Lush and am currently spending the afternoon inside the beautiful State Library of Victoria. So in retrospect, today was about familiarity and doing things that I enjoy and that make me happy. And now after all that, I feel at peace. Tomorrow will still be tomorrow, but today I am happy.

Day 59 – Melbourne, Australia

IMG_4316

I’m tired. Tired because I have been walking all day long from 0900 until the sun went down at 5pm. Tired of going from place to place. Tired because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I’m just tired. I’m not trying to complain. Australia has been such a great country to travel. I honestly don’t know when I will ever be able to come back here but I definitely want to! There is still lots more to be explored.

But at this point in my travels, I’m ready to just take a day off. I know it sounds pathetic because I am literally traveling the world while everyone else I know is back home and working, but the constant city hopping and living out of a backpack does begin to take it’s toll on you. The only thing that I think can break me out of this funk is the next country on my itinerary, New Zealand.

This morning I left the hostel in a rush and walked across the street to the Carlton Gardens for a bit then went back to the Queen Victoria Market. After lunch and some amazing roasted tea soft serve ice cream for dessert, I walked down to the Shrine of Remembrance and through the Botanic Garden for sunset.

IMG_4247

I still have three more days in Melbourne before I fly out to New Zealand, so I better relax and enjoy staying in the same city for a little bit longer. Once I start in Auckland, it’s gonna be back to lightning-fast pace, traveling from location to location pretty much everyday. The good thing is that the route is already planned and there is a variety of activities in each place. I can’t wait to share what’s in store next.

IMG_4331

IMG_4332

Day 58 – Melbourne, Australia

IMG_4301

I saw a wild kangaroo! I left the hostel at 7am this morning, before the sun had even come up so that I could make it back to Melbourne by 11am to return the car. Instead of driving six hours on the winding Great Ocean Road, I decided to go through the countryside instead. The drive included lots of dairy cows grazing in their fields, a herd of sheep in the hills and even a kangaroo!

I had just passed a Wildlife Crossing sign with a koala posted on it when I spotted a kangaroo literally hopping alongside the road. I was so excited, I think I nearly screamed. I slowed down and tried to take a picture but the kangaroo was already gone. Even though I saw loads of them in the kangaroo sanctuary, it was still so cool to see a wild kangaroo in Australia.

IMG_4309

After I returned the car, I felt like I had more stuff than when I left Melbourne. My next hostel was about 0.7 miles uphill and there were no trams on the street so I walked. By the time I made it to the Space Hotel, my shoulders were aching and my hands hurt from holding my tote bag filled with food. I dropped everything onto the floor and repacked everything into my regular two backpacks and extra tote for my food then left it in storage so I could grab lunch.

From the hostel, I walked to Chinatown and had lunch at Shanghai Street. It was a little packed so I ended up sharing a table with three other people, but I didn’t mind. The food was delicious and the fried buns were crispy and filled with steaming hot juice from the pork inside.

IMG_4312

Later in the afternoon, I met up with Amy and we walked to Mörk to try their famous campfire hot chocolate, but the place was so tiny and there were already a ton of people outside waiting for a table. One of the workers told us that they had already reached their max limit and were no longer taking names for the waiting list for the day, so we decided to leave it for another day. We walked back towards Chinatown and shared a treat. I will have to go back and get the name but it was basically a parfait with a bottom layer of biscuits, black sesame mousse, whipped cream, with green tea/roasted tea soft serve on time. It was so good that I am probably going back again tomorrow to get the roasted tea as a drink!

Day 57 – The Great Ocean Road

This morning I hired (rented) a car and drove along the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell. The Great Ocean Road is a coastal highway in South Australia that passes through woods, fields, rolling hills, and along beaches. I have been wanting to rent a car to drive the Pacific Coast Highway for some time now, and when I learned about this similar journey in Australia, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity.

IMG_4279
First stop along the coast, Torquay

I decided to go with the midsize SUV, a Mitsubishi ASX, and I love it! It took me a little bit to adjust to driving on the left side of the road, but after a short time, it was very easy. For those that don’t know, Australians drive on the left side of the road, also known as the wrong side. Which also means that the steering wheel is on the right side of the car where the passenger seat should be. The gear shift is on your left and the blinker and windshield wiper controls are also opposite. While driving in the city, I kept turning on my windshield wipers by mistake instead of signaling, but eventually I got that hang of it.

IMG_4277

It felt so nice to drive a car again. It’s hard to believe I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in almost two months. The hardest part is adjusting to the depth perception on the lefthand side. I kept checking my side mirrors because I felt like I was going too far to the left at times. On Fraser Island, we had the opportunity to drive the 4x4s, but since the cars were manual, I had to pass.

Side note. Somebody teach me how to drive manual when I get home.

Anyways, I remember during the safety briefing that one of the lead guys said, “For those of you that drive on the righthand side back home, you guys always tend to veer left.” I didn’t really understand why until I started driving on the highway. Your natural instinct is to center yourself in the lane, which back home would be the left-center, so in Australia you have to center yourself towards the right and it feels wrong.

IMG_4281

After driving for about six hours on the Great Ocean Road, I was starting to lose daylight. My goal was to make it in time to see the Twelve Apostles, which are huge rock formations in the middle of the sea formed over millions of years from erosion. The sunset was so beautiful. On the right side of me, I could see a huge valley of rolling hills and the sky was a magnificent orange color. The entire horizon was blue for as far as I could see. I wanted to stop to take a picture, but I was on a mission.

IMG_4285
I could not have asked for a better view of the Twelve Apostles

I barely made it to the car park at 5:15pm as the sun was going down. I was nervous because I couldn’t see the beach from the lot but still decided to give it a try. I started walking towards the lookout point then broke out into a run. Once I got to the end, I was rewarded by the most beautiful sunset over the Twelve Apostles. I was literally in awe and just so happy that I made it in time before nightfall. I snapped the same photo at least ten times, had a stranger take my picture and spent the rest of the time staring at the view while the sun went down. The entire road was pretty, with lots of curves and spots overlooking the ocean, but this was definitely the highlight.

Day 56 – Melbourne, Australia

Winter is here. Today is the first official day of winter in Australia. When I arrived in Melbourne, the temperature has been anywhere between 8-12°C (about 47-53°F). Which means it was time to bust out the winter gear. Backpacking and winter are two opposites, but I came prepared! Knowing it would be winter in the Southern hemisphere during my time of travel, I packed a very light but warming Patagonia nano puff jacket and lots of layers. I traded my trucker hat for a beanie and my tank tops for a long sleeve thermal.

IMG_4254

So far it’s been pretty bearable. Once I start walking around, I actually have to take off layers to stay cool. Today I started at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, which offers two free exhibits dedicated to the history of cinema, television, and basically anything picture-related.

Anyone that knows me knows that I love movies, pretty much any movie. Except horror. But I found the entire exhibit to be very interesting and informative. There was even an area for video games and they had the original Nintendo on display with Mario that you could play. So I played through the first round for nostalgia’s sake. There was also an area that was showing the footage of the first moon landing in 1969. Very cool.

After my time at the ACMI, I hopped on the free city tram to Queen Victoria Market. I was a bit underwhelmed because once you’ve seen one farmer’s market, (Seattle, Philadelphia, etc.) you’ve pretty much seen them all. Well, it was actually pretty massive and I will probably go back to spend more time exploring the retail goods, but I was getting pretty hungry and could not find a decent place to eat so I left pretty quickly and headed towards the Paperback Bookshop, but stopped for a smoothie first.

IMG_4272

The bookshop was tiny and did not have what I was looking for so I headed to another store that I found at the Emporium. One of the nice things about solo traveling is that you don’t have to have a plan. On the way to the second bookstore, I stopped because I found a cinema and decided to watch Wonderwoman since today was the opening. Loved the movie, everything Gal Gadot is worth watching. After the movie, I had lunch/dinner at the nearby food court then went to Robinsons Bookshop to buy George R. R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. I first spotted this at the airport but held out because I thought I could find it cheaper in Melbourne. It wasn’t, but I got it anyway. It’s basically a prequel to the Game of Throne series, and I cannot wait to start reading it.

Tomorrow I am checking out of my hostel and heading South to do something that I had not originally planned on doing in Australia but have actually been wanting to do something very similar for quite some time. I’ll keep you posted!

Day 55 – Melbourne, Australia

IMG_4244

Aquarium Day. Today I spent the day at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium. The doors opened at 0930 and I was one of the first people there to see all the fish. The aquarium is one of my favorite places to visit because I have a fascination with water. I don’t really follow zodiac signs, but mine is supposedly aligned with the moon and water.

I started my day by walking around the different exhibits and seeing all the different species of sea creatures. The entire aquarium was actually a lot smaller than I had imagined, but my favorite part was the giant tank filled with manta rays, stingrays, and sharks. The rays were huge! And there was even a hammerhead shark in the bunch. I literally returned to the tank, Mermaid Cove, and just sat there for a bit to watch them all swim by.

Aside from the animals, they had a 4-D showing of a little short movie with the characters from Ice Age, a cafe where I had fish + chips for lunch, and I even got a selfie with a penguin!

IMG_4246

After the aquarium, I walked to the Reject Shop, which is basically a store that sells off-brand products for cheap. I picked up a pair of headphones for $12 and they’re actually pretty good and foldable so I can pack them in my bag. I had a mid-afternoon snack back at the hostel to save a bit of money and then spent the rest of the evening watching movies on my laptop.

IMG_4175
View from the rooftop of Melbourne City YHA

Day 54 – Melbourne, Australia

Flight #15. Today marks the fifteenth flight that I’ve been on this year. And I still have at least seven more planned before I get home. That’s amazing. Flying is one of my favorite modes of transportation. It’s fast and steady for the most part and you can cover long distances in a matter of hours. It never ceases to amaze me how you can literally hop on a flight and a couple of hours later, you can be in a completely new terrain, new season, new time zone. How lucky are we to be living in a time when world travel is not only possible but so accessible?

IMG_4161

I left the hostel at 1000 and walked to Central Station to buy my train ticket to the airport. Sydney’s airport is just a short 15-minute train ride from the city center. The city’s public transportation system is really easy and clean but it can be pricey. I definitely want to come back to Sydney to continue exploring the various neighborhoods.

 

img_4172.jpg
Row 15 to Row 1 and priority boarding. Thanks for the upgrade!

The flight to Melbourne was only about an hour and a half long. The attendant at the gate counter asked for volunteers to sit in the exit row and I shot up out of my seat to be third in line. I was lucky enough to be upgraded to Row 1, aisle, which meant I got to board the plane first. Such a nice treat, thanks Tiger Air! The flight was not fully booked and there were lots of empty seats, including the two seats next to me, so I had the entire exit row to myself.

IMG_4173

After the short flight, I arrived in Melbourne. Bought a ticket to the Skybus to get to the city and got dropped off at Southern Cross Station. From there I walked down the street to the YHA, where I’m staying. It was barely 5pm but already getting dark and most shops in Australia close really early for some reason. Instead of fidgeting with my phone trying to find a place to eat, I walked to the closest Woolworth’s and bought myself some food to prepare in the hostel kitchen. Tomorrow I have something fun planned so stay tuned!

IMG_4248
I love 3-ingredient hostel meals! Smoked salmon and cream cheese on a sesame bagel. Quick and easy with minimal cooking required.

Day 53 – Sydney, Australia

I am exhausted. Waking up early this morning was not a problem. My bed is actually really comfortable even though it’s a bunk bed. Amy arrived to Sydney at 0730 and we had some instant oats for breakfast with milk this time to prepare for our Bondi to Coogee Walk. We walked across the street to Central Station, caught a train to Bondi Junction then boarded a city bus to Bondi Beach. Luckily I had someone with me to help navigate the way.

IMG_4129
Swimming Pool at Bondi Icebergs Club

We started the walk at the famous Bondi Beach. We were both surprised at how small it looked in person. Next to Bondi is a landmark swimming pool that overlooks the beach. The morning sun was shining from the wrong direction and the tide was too low to watch the waves hit the pool but the water was still really clear and a pretty turquoise-blue color.

IMG_4123
Coogee Beach

We walked for what seemed like forever around ledge after ledge and over beaches before we finally reached Coogee. It took us about an hour and a half and we were both getting hungry so we got some banh mi from a little shop for $5.50, which is amazingly cheap for Australia. We ate our sandwiches on the beach before heading back to Bondi Beach.

IMG_4125
So happy to finally make it back to Bondi Beach!

Our motivation to complete the walk back was to bribe ourselves with gelato from Gelato Messina. By the time we got back to the beach, my legs felt like they were ready to fall any minute and we went straight to the gelato shop. It was so good! Afterwards, we went to see the Sydney Opera House before catching the train back to Central Station.

IMG_4152
Did I really go to a Brazilian buffet by myself? You bet CHURRASCO I did!

After Amy left, I had to repack my backpack since I will be leaving Sydney tomorrow and heading to Melbourne. I booked the rest of my accommodation for Australia then left to go to dinner. I decided to treat myself to a nice Brazilian dinner at Churrasco. I wanted to try everything but the food just kept on coming. My favorites were the fried cheese and the fried bananas coated with cinnamon sugar! I stuffed myself to the brim and then walked back to the hostel for the night.

IMG_4139
Adios, Sydney! It’s been fun but it’s onto the next dextination… Melbourne!