For the last 6 months I’ve been living my big dream of traveling and living in Australia long-term. Whether I’ve been on the road, working, hosting visitors, or going it solo, I have so much to be thankful for in my experiences thus far.
This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the USA, and for the first time in my life, I won’t be spending it with family. While I’m physically in Australia, my heart and mind are half-way around the world in Virginia. With my 6-month Australia anniversary coinciding with Thanksgiving, I thought it was only appropriate to reflect on and share the first 6 months in a mindset of thankfulness.
I’m thankful for my first week here.
I began the journey in Sydney and stayed at the same hostel my youngest sister and I chose four years ago. Starting things off in familiar surroundings helped make the leap I had just taken seem a little less daunting. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city all over again. And within a few days I’d set up an Aussie bank account, selected an Aussie mobile service provider, applied for my Tax File Number, appeared on national television, and met my future flat mate. Not too shabby for the first week!
I’m thankful for spending a couple of weeks each in Melbourne, Adelaide (Radelaide!), and Brisbane (Brissy!).
I have very different memories and feelings about each city and was most surprised by Adelaide. Doubters wondered what I could possibly do there for two whole weeks, but I really enjoyed my time there (not including my epic one-month-in meltdown). I fell in love with Brisbane and would have extended my stay had a job interview not brought me back to Sydney unexpectedly.
I’m thankful that my dad raised me to love sports and that this love extends to Aussie sports.
I intentionally designed travel plans for the first six weeks around four sporting events! My Queensland Maroons won their games (State of Origin champs for 5 consecutive years!) while my Brisbane Lions lost both in Melbourne and at home.
I’m thankful for the beautiful sights I have seen outside of the cities and that I saw them early on — while I was still mindful of but not as concerned about the budget.
First, there was the 3-day tour from Melbourne to Adelaide, which included the scenic Great Ocean Road drive. Following two weeks in Adelaide, I joined a 6-day Outback tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs — including Ayers Rock/Uluru. And a month or so later, Brooke invited me to join her on a 2-week road trip. We kicked things off in tropical north Queensland and made our way south back to Sydney. Over the course of 17 days, I gained lots of Aussie driving experience, slept in a tent 13 nights, learned more about Aboriginal culture, had my first diving experience at the Great Barrier Reef, watched whales play at Hervey Bay, visited the beautiful Fraser Island, and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty (and food and beverages…) of the Atherton Tablelands.
I’m thankful that I’ve tried new things.
I ticked an item off of my bucket list when I sang in
public front of four other people at a karaoke bar on my flat mate’s birthday. I’ve eaten crocodile sausage, an emu burger and emu prosciutto, kangaroo steak and “kanga bangas” (‘roo sausages). Not everyone is keen on eating “Skippy“, but it’s an inexpensive source of protein that is extremely low in fat and high in iron. Perhaps more shocking to others than my liking kangaroo is that I don’t detest Vegemite. In fact, when I had it on toast with cheese, I kind of liked it. Can’t believe it? Watch the videos to see my reactions to trying Vegemite for the first time.
I’m thankful for the relationships I have developed and the people I have met in person — mostly thanks to initially meeting on Twitter.
Before I even arrived Jack and I had plans to see a Brisbane Lions match together, and Brooke and Alicia had offered some Aussie travel advice. As soon as I touched down in Oz, James and Darren became fast friends. I’m thankful to Darren and his family for hosting me in their home on more than one occasion and adopting me as a member of the family. I met Jade, Bob, and Rob of Vagabond3 in Melbourne; Adrienne, Kristin, Bobbi, Jeremy, and Dimitri in Brisbane; and Dan, the brother (and brother-in-law) of two travelers I met 2.5 years ago in Istanbul! In Cooktown, I met Willie and Judy of Guurrbi Tours. And in Sydney, I’ve met heaps of additional travel bloggers through Twitter and Sydney Travel Tribe: Adam, Lauren, Anna, Hannah, Dina & Ryan, Chris, Ian, Tony, Caz and Craig, and I’m sure a few others I’m accidentally omitting! And of course I have a few friends I didn’t meet on Twitter, like expat Andrew and his wife and son, who hosted me for an early Thanksgiving meal this past Sunday.
I’m thankful that the transition from traveler to temporary Sydney resident and employee was relatively easy.
Within a week of concluding my travels to set up camp in Sydney, I’d moved into a flat in the Inner West suburb of Petersham and accepted a job at an organic food store in another suburb of the Inner West. I didn’t expect to live in the Inner West, but I am so incredibly grateful that I do. It’s close to the city via train or bus, and it has a feel and subculture all of its own. From Petersham, I have reason to go to the city or beaches, but if I didn’t live in the Inner West, I probably wouldn’t have come to explore it.
I’m thankful to work for a store that provides healthy and delicious food to its customers, including me, with my spiffy, shiny employee discount. Overall I work with really pleasant people, and while the customers are a mixed bag, they entertain and amuse me daily at the very least! I can enjoy two free coffees a day (decaf mocha with rice milk, please!) and a free meal on break. I love that I get to wear sneakers and comfy clothes to work. And a few times, I’ve chatted with a celebrity while ringing up their groceries.
I’m thankful for visitors from home.
Grayson, a friend since 2003, is an expat living and working in Japan for the foreseeable future. He took a week of his limited holiday to visit Australia and we spent a few of those days exploring Sydney. I thought I’d get to play tour guide to him. Turns out he was the one teaching me! Two weeks later Nicole, one of my best friends in the world, came to visit for two weeks. It was our fourth time being in another country together, and she fell hard for Sydney. And just a few weeks after Nicole’s departure, my parents came to visit for a week. It was the first time in Australia for both of them, and my mom’s first trip abroad!
Did I mention that all of my visitors stayed for FREE at my flat? Who’s next?!
I’m thankful that Australia has provided the playground I needed to explore my interest in food further.
I don’t have to look back at the first six months to know that many of my experiences have centered around food. I mean, if going to the Good Food & Wine Show in week 2 wasn’t telling of the weeks to come, I don’t know what is
I have a food tag on my blog so I can easily locate those posts. On Twitter, I have a list dedicated solely to foodie bloggers and restaurants/cafes. On Flickr, there’s an entire album for my Sydney Food Adventures. And of course, I’m on the EPIC mission of having No Macaron Left Behind at Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie when I board that plane to fly home.
Last, and certainly not least, I’m thankful for the many lessons I’ve learned or had reaffirmed in the last six months. I planned to share several with you, but apparently I’m still sorting through them myself and will leave you with just one or two for now.
A fear of failure has kept me from attempting several things throughout the course of my life. I was such a model student from kindergarten through grad school that the thought of trying something and not succeeding really bothered me. Thankfully over the last several years I have adopted Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying of “Do one thing every day that scares you” as one of my life’s mottos. Without question, one of the most fun experiences I have had in Oz was my first time at karaoke. It may sound silly, but I had been incredibly intimidated to try it for years. I would never have guessed that standing up in front of new friends in a small room and belting out boyband pop and show tunes would have given me such an incredible sense of freedom. In that moment, I didn’t care how awful I sounded and neither did anyone else.
When I first started my job, I felt like I was in elementary school. There were so many things to learn and any training I was going to receive was going to be on-the-job and on-the-spot. I was expected to make mistakes to learn the ropes. It was really challenging for me to feel so incompetent in front of customers who just wanted to purchase an item that wouldn’t scan or the mystery herb that even they didn’t know. When I finally allowed myself to own being the newbie, I felt more free to make a few mistakes and learn and grow from them. I’ve learned how clearly competency (at work or life in general) is a HUGE value for me. I’ve revisited how frustrated I feel when I don’t know the answer because I love learning and being a resource to others (hello, career counselor!). Now, I’m learning how to be patient with myself. When I am patient and kind to myself, others tend to be also. They’re often more forgiving of my mistakes than I am of myself.
THANK YOU for reading my blog and sharing in my dream and adventures. If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about some things you’re most thankful for at the moment.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home ♥
Featured image courtesy of pinksherbet via Flickr Creative Commons