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!
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
The only concerns I had for my last week in Australia were my final exam and soaking up as much of Perth and Fremantle as I could.
We take the Mandurah train line to get to and from Perth, but we had never actually been to Mandurah. Some friends and I changed that Monday when we hopped on the line to Mandurah to explore the waterfront. It’s a cute town set with a walkway along the shore and shops and restaurants. After a stroll along the water, we got some tasty fish and chips from the closest thing to a diner I have seen in months.
Tuesday was spent studying for my final the following day mixed in with some blogging. I ended up being well-prepared for my final, so I am actually not dreading the revelation of my final grade. I celebrated the end of finals with Sierra, Jordan and Lynn by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the movie passes we had won at the very beginning of the semester. The movie was great, as suspected, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. That night, we had our final Murdoch University Village dinner in the form of chicken curry, which was absolutely fantastic.
The first half of Thursday was spent in the Media Arts Center’s television studio for my own personal practice. However, I have absolutely nothing to show for it because technology hates me (really, it does). However, my sorrows were lifted with a delicious half-price caramel and banana waffle from a restaurant in Perth.
Afterwards, Sierra, Nicole and I decided to be extra touristy and take a tour of the Perth mint, which is Australia’s original and was established in 1899. The gold pouring at the end reminded me of watching glass blowing in Venice.
The night ended on a high note, quite literally. Sierra, Nicole and I went out with the pancake Friday crew to a karaoke lounge and it was one of the best week nights I had spent in Australia. One thing to know about me is I love to sing and I constantly have songs stuck in my head, and being able to scream tunes shamelessly with my friends was much needed and extremely fun.
Finally, Friday came—our last full day and night in Perth. We spent it by going to the Fremantle Markets for lunch. That night, we headed out to The Court, which is a club we went to one of our first nights out in Perth. Dancing the night away is one of my favorite things to do, and doing that with my study abroad friends made me feel so lucky.
Saturday is not easy to think about because it was our last day in Australia. Sierra and I cleaned in the morning and headed to the Fremantle Markets one last time with Brian and Nicole to devour anything that caught our eye. It was a sentimental last Saturday afternoon, or should I say, “arvo,” as the Australians do? Fremantle has to be one of the most unique, fun places to explore and I am so thankful I got to experience it over and over again.
My friends told me I was going to miss the plane because by 4 p.m. I had still not started packing. One of my hidden talents is packing last minute, though, and I proved my friends wrong!
Because we had to leave the village at 3 a.m., Sierra, Nicole and I decided to stay up the whole night and we did that by taking on Northbridge one last time. I love Northbridge because it is always buzzing with people and the energy coming from the streets and clubs, and it is always able to throw a smile on my face.
We went to Mustangs to watch a band Nicole fell in love with the previous week (or should I say the guitarist of the band). I had no idea what to expect from the band and I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything from Taylor Swift to The Killers played by them. I was jumping around like a five-year old high on sugar all night and I loved every second of it.
I could not have asked for a better last night. Luckily, our friend drove us home and we got back an hour before we had to leave, which gave me the perfect amount of time to shower, eat and drag my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, the rest of the crew that we went out with that night pulled up to the village right before we left, so I got to say a second and final goodbye to them.
And with one last hug and a stream of tears, the craziest, most wonderful months of my life were done.
I would not have started my last full weekend in Australia any other way than having a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes drenched with Nutella and syrup. I am so going to miss my Friday mornings filled with my favorite breakfast food and the kind folks who prepare it.
I spent my Friday afternoon with Nicole and Sierra in Perth. We had a bit of a photo shoot between King’s Park, which overlooks the city, and the Central Business District. I have given a sampling of my work below.
To finish the eventful Friday, we celebrated Jordan’s 22nd birthday by going into the city and it felt just like old times.
Saturday brought beautiful weather and a fantastic road trip to The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park about two and a half hours north of Perth. The best way I can describe The Pinnacles is a desert of limestone formations. There are many theories as to how these formations ended up there, from the wearing away of lime-rich sand dunes to the petrification of a forest.
There is a short walking trail in the park, but the best way to see the limestone desert is the road that goes through the area and allows people to park and wander about the rocks. My friends and I had a fun time running in and out of formations, trying to decide what they looked like.
Brodie scheduled an AIFS farewell lunch for us at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat buffet in Fremantle on Sunday. The interesting part about this buffet is servers come around again and again with the options until you flip over your coaster to the red side, signifying that you are finished. I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Although I came for the various meats, I could have consumed the lasagna they served all day. It was a delicious feast and it was great having almost everyone together.
Sierra and I took our location as an opportunity to take some photos around Fremantle. We found some great street art in the side streets, as shown below.
My last full weekend in Australia is one for the (scrap) books. I took so many photos, which I had wanted to do for a while. Now, it is time to get serious about my last final exam!
Perth. Study. Fremantle. Study. This about sums up my second to last week in the Land Down Under.
I took my plans to visit these two cities as much as possible seriously: I was in one of them almost every day of the week. Brian, Sierra and I visited Perth Monday to make an appointment for Sierra’s tattoo and then went souvenir browsing. I say browsing because we simply scoped out the prices of souvenirs and decided we would check Fremantle the next day.
My first final was on Tuesday, and it went fairly well. There was a series of practice quizzes throughout the unit, and our tutor said not to expect the quiz questions to be on the exam. Not knowing how else to study, I used those quiz questions as flash cards and reviewed the lectures. I am lucky I did not listen to my tutor, because many of the questions on the exam were exact copies from the quizzes. Now I am awaiting my grade less nervously than anticipated.
That night, a group of us went to Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle to devour half-price nachos. They were absolutely delicious and I am so going to miss half-price nacho Tuesdays. Of course before that Sierra and I souvenir browsed again and decided to wait to purchase items yet again.
Wednesday was tattoo day! I got my closest friends to come for the important mark in Sierra’s life, so it was me, Brian, Sierra and Nicole in the parlor. Afterwards, we visited Toastface Grillah, a gourmet grilled cheese place I found on Google that had awesome reviews. The shack, I’ll call it, is hidden around the corner from the shops of the Central Business District and is not easy to find if you don’t’ know where to go.
Toastface has a handful of grilled cheeses (although I think they were more like paninis) for under ten dollars. It was packed when we got there, and we had to wait for seating in the hip, plant and pillow-decorated outdoor eating area. I ordered a grilled cheese with roast beef and horseradish, and it was absolutely worth the wait. A lot of flavor was coming out of a very small place!
Surprisingly, I did not go into Perth or Fremantle Thursday and actually stayed on campus for the day to study, blog and relax. The week flew by and my last full weekend in Perth arrived!
I just returned from—dare I say it again—one of the best trips of my life. Brian, Sierra and I ventured around Thailand for seven days to do so many incredible things, from bathing rescued elephants to grabbing sushi from a local market. I have to say the best thing from the trip was seeing my plans turn into reality as well as my confidence in navigating one of the most culturally and linguistically different places I have ever been all by myself. I feel nothing but proud of myself for handling the whole trip, with little input but large encouragement from my friends, and gratitude that I was able to explore a small part of Asia. If I never left America again, I would not be able to complain.
Since I won’t be posting about day-to-day activities of the trip for a while, I laid out some of the things I noticed during my Thai explorations.
1. Bangkok is not pedestrian friendly
Unlike many European cities where you can walk between famous spots fairly easily, there is no walking from humongous and ornately decorated Buddhist temple to the next in Bangkok, unless you’re prepared to do a very large amount of walking.
Also, people warned me that the only way to cross the street in Bangkok is to walk into the traffic, and the cars will simply swerve around me. I pictured the scene from Mulan when the grandmother walks across the bustling street with one hand over her eyes and the other holding a lucky cricket. However, I do not believe running in front of the traffic is completely necessary, most of the time.
2. Bangkok is not automobile friendly
I have never seen so much bumper to bumper traffic in my life. If you want to drive in Bangkok, you better have exceptionally high patience and no where to be, because just getting from one side of the city to the other will take over an hour. Your best bet is to hop on a motorbike or the BTS (sky train).
3. BTS is the best
The sky train (basically the subway, but above ground) is reliable, cheap and easy to figure out. It is also clean and seems to run almost all the time with very little issues with service. Why does every major city have better public transport than NYC?
4. English is not popular
I was shocked by the amount of people who did not understand English. However, this is Asia, not western Europe. The people who did know enough English to communicate with me, though, were usually willing to help.
Tip: Have the address you need to get to in the Thai language or the taxi driver will most likely not be able to read the address you show them.
5. I felt safe
My grandparents will like this one. We originally planned to holiday in Bali, but we know several people who got mugged there and had unpleasant experiences. I expected Thailand to be slightly sketchy, but not as bad. To my surprise, I was completely wrong. I was never out at late hours of the night, but I always felt safe in Thailand, even when the sun went down.
6. There is more to Thailand than Bangkok
I knew Thailand has beautiful beaches and waters, but I still always pictured Bangkok as the country’s main attraction. However, a good tour and a single day in Bangkok is all one needs. There is so much wilderness in Thailand to explore; just going to Bangkok gives the country no justice.
I could go on and on about my scratch-of-the-surface observations about Thailand, but that will have to wait for my later posts. Khob Khun Kaa (thank you) Thailand, for welcoming me with your beautiful sights, mouth-watering food and friendly people.
A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.
I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.
Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.
I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.
My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful. It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.
Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.
Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?
Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?
I believe I just encountered the most relaxed weekend of my semester here so far. My weekend consisted of a mix of homework and night adventures in Northbridge for some time away from my piles of work.
However, Sunday ended up being a great day to experience some Australian culture: I attended an Australian Football League game. Australian football/Aussie rules/footy is played on an oval field with a whopping 18 members per team trying to kick the oval-shaped ball between two tall goal posts. Players can kick, throw and run with the ball. My best way to describe it is a mix between American soccer and football.
Apparently AFL is hugely popular in Western Australia specifically. It is usually more difficult to enjoy a sport while unaware of the rules, but I had a fantastic time spectating and rooting for the Fremantle Dockers, despite the rain that fell most of the time. On the bright side, we won! For some reason, I only had a slight idea of attending an Australian sporting event while here, and I am not sure why I did not make it more of a priority. I am so thankful that Murdoch University Village snatched some student-priced tickets!
To end the night (and put off homework), my roommate and I enjoyed some churros and hot chocolate for dinner at San Churro, which is where I ate for my birthday. I was not planning on going out, but I knew that the next 10 school days would be a scramble trying to complete two projects and two papers before my next scheduled trip, so I thought I would treat myself. Can you guess where I am going next?
Wizards assemble! My busy weekend started Friday with a Harry Potter-themed pub crawl to which I won tickets through a company called Blue Elephant Promotions. This company successfully runs crawls through the UK and Ireland, and decided to bring them to Australia, which I think is pretty cool. My crawl started at seven (there were multiple time slots), which is a bit early to be out on the town, so it definitely was not as energetic as it could have been. Regardless, I received a hand-made wand and completion certificate, tasted magic-themed drinks and got to be surrounded by people decked in Harry Potter apparel, so it was still a pretty magical night.
It only took 21 years and moooo-ving across the world, but I finally made it to my first music festival, Groovin’ the Moo. This is a three-weekend travelling festival that spans all of Australia to let the whole country come enjoy the beautiful vibes and pure talent provided by the performers. Something that I didn’t expect when I moved to Australia was to find new music and fall in love with it. When I found out my new discoveries were going to play at the festival, I knew I had to go. There were several bumps in the road from the start, but I made it there with my roommate and had the time of my life. The best part was that I was front row for my three favorite new artists and got to meet one. There will definitely be another post coming about this incredible time.
To end the weekend, Sierra and I visited the Freo markets for the first time since the first time we went, which was all the way back in February. Our friend Shelby is really into crystals and their energies, and I talked to her a lot about her beliefs over the Southwest trip. I have been wanting to restart my crystal and stone collection, so I thought this was the prime time. She brought us to a few crystal shops and advised us to pick a stone with which we connected. I almost did not get anything, but then I saw a bag of gemstones meant for people with the Taurus zodiac sign and felt like it was the perfect option. I am excited to learn more about crystals and the belief system behind them!
Random luck brought me to something I never imagined I would participate in Friday night. Determination drove me to finding a way to GTM on Saturday, which turned out to be one of the best days of my whole semester. Curiosity lead me to purchasing some crystals at the lovely Fremantle Markets on Sunday. All these things added up to giving me one of my favorite weekends in Australia yet.
A week during which I planned to be checking things off of my to-do list turned into a week of work accompanied by a lot of play.
Monday served to be a day of class, homework and recuperating from the amazing Southwest trip from which I just returned. Tuesday was about the same, until my awesome friends told me to meet them at 6:30 and ended up forcing me to go out to eat. I actually had never been pulled out for dinner by friends before, as any other time this could have happened, I would have used the homework excuse (which I did try). It actually ended up being a festive night at Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle, where I was finally able to try its huge plate of half-priced Tuesday nachos. They were some delicious nachos!
I intended to do volunteer work while abroad, but every scheduled event was during class or I had plans or no way of getting there. I was super stoked Wednesday, because I would finally get to volunteer some time at Rockingham Regional Environment Center at a small cost of skipping my recorded lecture. The volunteers in charge had us busy with our hands all day, as we transplanted grass to the amphitheater on the grounds and then cleaned up some of the dead wood along the center’s walking trails. Not only do I love volunteering my time, but I love the environment and anything outdoors, so it was the perfect day. I am so glad I got to help revive the center!
I promised Jordan I would go out with her Wednesday after having such a great time the previous week, and she was not letting me out of that, either. So Wednesday night, Jordan, Nicole, Lynn and I headed back to Raffles for a girl’s night out. Once I hyped myself up to go, it was an incredible time.
The week ended, or the weekend started, with another round of chocolate and Nutella pancakes Friday morning after a nice exercise session. I really have come to love the people who generously donate their time to make a bunch of hungry university students delicious pancakes every Friday. I always eat my pancakes with one of the volunteers who always has something to joke about. It truly is something I look forward to every Friday; first it was the pancakes, and now it is the people and the pancakes. Today was extra special because an older gentleman just moved into the village and brought bacon and cooked up some blueberry and banana compote that I got to try. It was definitely a successful morning!
Per usual, I ate too many pancakes and retreated to my bed to listen to music before starting the day’s tasks. I had motivation to get some stuff done due to the fun-filled weekend I had ahead.