On today’s episode of me sorrowfully yearning to be back in the land down under, I take you to Queenstown, New Zealand. I had no idea I would be so moved by this energetic city, but between the extremely kind people, breathtaking views and endless list of adrenaline-pumping activities, a piece of my heart lives in the “adventure capital of the world.” This trip took my Pop Pop and me on a bus ride through The Remarkables mountain range and over it via private airplane, on a boat on the Milford Sound where we saw seals and dolphins, on my first helicopter ride, and more. Just watching this video puts the largest smile on my face, and I hope it gives you the slightest idea of how incredible New Zealand is.
Whitmanythought 1: I hope to return to New Zealand and see the rest of this magnificent country!
During my semester in Australia, I was lucky enough to have my best friend and traveling partner visit me for a week with one of his best friends. Per usual, we made the fullest of our time and explored three cities: Sydney, Cairns and Queenstown, New Zealand. Some of our adventures took us up a 1949 Danish sailboat, a World Heritage rainforest and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef! I have not yet released my blog posts about this incredible trip, but here is a visual of all the exciting things I got to experience with my Pop Pop.
Whitmanythought 1: I remember finding this song and instantly connecting with the lyrics and overall message to live life to the fullest and to take it all in while you can, because you won’t always be here. Rest in peace to the artist of “The Nights” and beautiful, talented soul, Avicii.
Whitmanythought 2: Cherish the memories you have and seize all opportunities while you can!
I spent a weekend on Rottnest Island, which is a little paradise just offshore of Perth. When I was there, I referred to it as a “playground,” which makes sense because it offers so much for all ages to enjoy. People can take advantage of its secluded coves, crystal-clear waters, reefs, and surf breaks. The main way to explore it is the miles and miles of bike paths that cross the land. It boasts two lighthouses and pink lakes. And of course, it is one of very few homes to the quokka, an adorable cat-sized mammal that has been marketed successfully as a companion for selfies with its endearing smile and willingness to get up close and personal with tourists.
There are so many beautiful things to see on land, but even more to discover on and under the water! Being the water-lover that I am, I did not have the heart to cut out enough aquatic footage to fit into my previous two outback videos, so I made one just dedicated to H20.
In this video, you will see all sorts of beautiful water creatures such as fish, sea turtles, reef sharks and one of my favorites, dolphins! I will take you gliding through the waves on a catamaran and diving under them into the coral reefs off the Northwestern coast of Australia.
Whitmanythought 1: All I can do is smile when I watch this
This video features many clips of of quad-riding along the coast of Coral Bay as the sun set, which was an incredible add-on that only my friend group did, some aboriginal artwork sighting and waterfall climbing at Karijini National Park and a whole lot of smiling.
As I said last week, I took an abundance of video during my nine day Northwest outback trip and I could not just throw away the footage, so I made several videos. This is the second video in my three-part outback trip documentation. Let me know what you think!
Whitmanythought: I would sleep in a van all over again if I could just go back to this trip
At this time last year, I had just gotten back from a 9-day trip to Australia’s Northwest outback. The trip was planned by Murdoch University’s study abroad and exchange office in tandem with the company Australian Adventure Travel and I was fortunate enough to get a spot on the trip along with about 40 other students.
We got to see so many amazing sights, from bluffs that dropped right off into a roaring ocean and gorges that snaked through red rock to old indigenous wall carvings and new animals of which we had never heard. We explored so many beautiful places from beaches and national parks to reefs and caves. We had early mornings and late nights. We ate surprisingly tasty food and had many laughs.
On the other hand, almost everything that could go wrong on this trip went wrong. We ended up getting stuck in a three-day cyclone which made us leave the trip early and cut us off from exploring everything we could. We definitely roughed it by sleeping in damp tents and sometimes not even having access to running water.
All of this combined, though, is what made this outback trip so memorable, even if some of it was uncomfortable. I mean, who gets to say they got stuck in a cyclone in the outback of Australia? I captured so much footage from this trip that I actually made three videos for it: two containing video from my above water adventures, and one video dedicated solely to my underwater explorations.
The time I have been so excited for since I first started rolling out videos from Australia is finally here…I am posting my videos for public viewing! I have had some of these videos completed for over a year now, so you can imagine how much suspense has built up to show people my experiences through motion picture.
The first video to my “Oz Through Sara’s Eyes” series is about orientation week, or “O-Week.” This is a week prior to the start of classes, when students are learning about the rules and expectations of dorm and university life. The week also included many trips, such as a beach visit,a night tour and a wildlife park adventure.
It has been exactly one year since I landed in Perth, Australia to study abroad. When I realized this, I could not believe the anniversary had snuck up so soon. It seems as if I have been in a state of longing for clear waters rolling onto sandy shores, ginormous waves crashing on towering rock cliffs and warm air embracing my skin for more than a year. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about the happiest and freest semester of my life and I so wish I could go back to experience that alternate universe one more time.
My life is so much different one year later: my late nights out with friends turned into late nights at my internship, shopping for bathing suits has turned into buying professional-wear and lounging under the sun at the beach has turned into laying in my bed reading for class (I read for class in Australia too, don’t worry). However, cooking for myself reverted back into having a meal plan on campus and not having to prepare every meal every day, so that is a plus! I am not planning cool trips to new continents or packing a bag for a week-long outback trip. Instead, I am trying to find a weekend I am free enough to have a friend visit me in New York. I am not saying anything about this is bad; it is just different.
Studying abroad really was like living in an alternate universe, if the above descriptions did not portray that enough. However, it was more like an elongated dream; one that would eventually have to become a well-scrapbooked memory. Although my life is nowhere near as adventurous as it was a year ago, I am so thankful for what has come since leaving from Australia and what is to come in the future (more travels, please).
One year later I can say I still live with the essence of my past life. I have remained more confident in my own decisions, which I really had to learn as I was making travel plans down under. I have continued to be extremely mindful of the people I surround myself with and stand up for my beliefs instead of letting others silence them. Finally, I have continued to learn to take a break. Whether it is putting on a face mask and lighting a candle or journaling, I make sure I take time to reflect on the day and evaluate the progress I made on my daily and weekly tasks. Although I came to Australia with a deep understanding of who I am as a person, I now can better express that to others.
I really do wish I could go back and to Australia and relive that enlightening, beautiful semester. At the same time, I don’t think it would be the same. My semester in Australia came and left, and now I can let the memories live on to remind me how full of pure ecstasy that semester was and to let that time shape how I live in the future.
Whitmanythought 1: Seriously, please let me go back
Whitmanythought 2: I have friends studying in New Zealand and Australia this semester and I wish I could visit them
This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.
To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.
Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.
I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.
To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.
There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.
Long time, no blog! I cannot say I am pleased with myself for not posting in so long, but you know, life happens. And by life happening, I mean I have been home from Australia for just over a month. I considered the options for first blog post after I got back from my Australian adventures—tips on transitioning back home, dealing with post-trip depression, what I learned while I away—the list goes on and on. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy or pretentious, so here are my responses to questions I’ve repeatedly received.
“So you’re actually going to be in America, Miss World Traveler?”
I cannot tell you how many times I heard this phrase or something similar. Yes, I was just traveling the world, but I did not forget where my home is! To be honest, exploring the world is still so important to me, but coming home to sweet New Jersey in summertime was the best timing possible. I do not want to be anywhere else than the Jersey Shore with my family and friends for a summer full of beaching, water-skiing and fun before I head back to Hofstra to begin my senior year of college.
“How was transitioning back to reality?”
Despite popular assumption, coming back was super easy. I luckily had a job lined up as soon as I got home, quite literally. I walked in my door at 11 p.m. on June 25, and started work at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Jumping into work and a schedule made it simple and necessary to transition myself back to home life.
“What was your jetlag like?”
Luckily I slept/cried for almost the whole duration of my first two flights, and stayed awake for my last, so my sleep pattern was not too far off. Waking up early the next morning for work was easy and I almost flawlessly transitioned into Eastern Standard Time. Of course I was tired, but my sleep schedule was nowhere near backwards like some people thought.
“How sad are you to be back?”
As cliché as this sounds, I am sad that my adventure is over, but so thankful I have heaps (still using popular Australian terms) of memories to look back on and new friends to outlive these memories. Like I said, there is nowhere I would rather be in the summer than New Jersey with my friends, family, awesome job and of course, my pets. If I returned in winter, it may be a different story…
“Where to next?”
People who know me know I will go anywhere I can if I have the chance. I plan on staying in America for quite some time to finish my undergraduate studies and earn some of the money I blew through back. However, the next large trip I want to take is a cross-country road trip through America. I feel like I have seen more of “the world” than I have of my own country, so I’d like to focus on that.
Coming home after living in another country for months can be a huge change, but I think it is all about perspective. Yes, I was upset to leave the new life I created while away, but I had so much goodness waiting for me at home. It has been a beautiful and crazy ride, and I plan to continue my journey of world and self-exploration one day at a time.