Travel Wrap-Up: What I learned from 3-Months Abroad

Ninety five days of travel brings some interesting insights. For me, it was all about new skills, new perspectives, and new interests.

Today I'm writing about our trip as a whole, partly to get closure and partly to share my most interesting observations. At least I thought they were interesting! Let's start with similarities and differences.

 

Things that are the same around the world (or at least in the 9 countries I visited):

-Ice cream. In every city, I constantly spotted people with ice cream cones and big smiles. From kids to adults. It just may be that ice cream is the best afternoon snack the human race has come up with so far.

-Parents and kids. Even without knowing the language, it's immediately obvious what's happening as a small child tries to run one way and a parent grabs them to bring them the other way. It turns out that little kids are pretty much the same everywhere and taking care of them is a universal human experience.

-Credit cards and the internet. My Visa worked everywhere and I went to ATMs at banks in every country and put in my card to get cash. The world is so connected now, it's amazing. The traveler's checks I remember from my childhood are long gone! Similarly, I was able to blog post from everywhere and keep in touch via the internet easily. Wifi was so prevalent, I never felt disconnected for more than a day at a time.

-People. Yep, people are actually pretty much the same. I found that even with language differences and cultural differences, folks in other countries are just like me. Everyone's just trying to do their thing, get through their day, enjoy their lives.

 

Things that are different in different countries:

-Timing. Meal timing, travel times, lifestyle - all these change depending on the country. Most notably, in Spain. Why yes, I'll have dinner at 9PM, thank you.

-Flora and fauna. The creatures in New Zealand stole my heart and the creatures in Australia genuinely scared me. In southern Spain, the air was perfumed with the scent of orange blossoms and wisteria. In Croatia, the ocean was bluer and clearer than anywhere I've ever seen. And in Iceland, my heart melted when we drove past each sheep followed by her 2 little lambs. The world is a diverse place!

-Languages, electricity, currency (Ok, you already know these, I just wanted to include them as a reminder). Surprisingly, we got by using English in every country we visited except for Spain. There, we used a combination of our (terrible) Spanish and the Google Translate app to communicate what we wanted. We needed wall adapters for our electronics everywhere and there was one type for Oceania and one type for Europe. During the middle third of our trip, we only needed Euros. These differences can put some people off, but once you get used to them, they are not a big deal.

 

How this trip affected me:

-I discovered I like learning about history when I can see it. I'll admit, I've never been keen on learning history. HOWEVER, actually seeing a spot and understanding it through its history was fascinating! Europe's history is long and extremely complex and seeing the impact of various empires in multiple places during our trip made the history come to life. Whereas before I knew next to nothing, now at least I could hold my own in a simple history discussion. : )

-The quickest way to make things better is to eat. I had a hunch that I sometimes got hangry before this trip, but traveling elucidated the truth. When things felt like they were going badly, it was likely that I hadn't eaten in a while. When I got hungry, my patience went down, my energy went down, and my temper rose. In short, I wasn't very fun. A meal made everything better! Once I realized this, we started prioritizing meals when we could.

-I like traveling to places that aren't crowded. I get pulled out of the enchantment of any beautiful site when it's too crowded. When I can't walk at my own pace or I have to weave through a crowd, I can't concentrate on being open to wonderful things anymore. Maybe this means in the future I'll seek out less popular destinations or maybe I'll travel somewhere popular only during the shoulder season.

-I'm still me. I didn't fundamentally change on this trip. I learned a lot and I saw a lot. The ways I like to travel became clearer and I know I can plan awesome trips in the future. In short, I discovered more about myself, but that didn't change me, it actually made me more me! (If that makes sense).

What's next:

I'm back in the United States (and loving the showers!) and it's time for the next chapter. This trip was amazing, but it was appropriate to wrap it up. I was fatigued from traveling towards the end and looking forward to visiting friends and family. But I also can't wait to plan the next trip, whenever that is!

So what's next right now? Now, my husband and I are moving to Denver, Colorado. We had a plan to leave LA for a long time and we're making it happen. He will be starting graduate school in the fall and I will be....Well, I'm not sure yet. I will be looking for my next job/activity/involvement this summer. I'm so excited to get to know a new city and a new region. Especially one that has a lot going on in sustainable food!

Because I will be focusing on establishing a new home base, I am taking a break from blogging regularly. I've enjoyed writing about out trip, but as my life moves in a new direction, I don't know where this blog is headed. Therefore, it's time to take a hiatus. 

Don't worry, if something really interesting is happening, I'll write about it!

Until then, be well.

Greetings from Down Under (Melbourne & Sydney)

Oops, I got a little distracted for the past 10 days and haven't made time to blog! I have been busy in large cities, so there hasn't been as much time to sit and write...until now.

Melbourne

We arrived in Australia late in the evening and got settled in our first city - Melbourne. The next 5 days were for cafes, coffee, street art, and trams. Melbourne is a spirited city of almost 5 million people, which was certainly a shock on our first day. Think about it, there are that many people in ALL of New Zealand and now we stepped out into a city chock full of students, professionals, and tourists all bustling about in the city's Central Business District. It felt like being in Time Square compared to the quiet of NZ!

One of the many arcades hidden among Melbourne's streets.

One of the many arcades hidden among Melbourne's streets.

Melbourne was easy to get the hang of. It's well laid out and there are free trams criss-crossing the city's center that come by every 5 minutes or so. When I got tired of walking, we hopped on a tram to get where we needed to go. 

Highlights for me included the Immigration Museum, the State Library, the Queen Victoria Summer Night Market, and a delicious sushi dinner. 

The Queen Victoria Summer Night Market was packed! Dozens of food stalls and live music,

The Queen Victoria Summer Night Market was packed! Dozens of food stalls and live music,

We took one day to get out of the city and visit Phillip Island. About 2 hours outside the city , this island is known for the massive colony of Little Penguins that live there and parade from the ocean into their burrows across the beach every night. They were adorable and we learned about their lives and habitats in-depth, it was a treat! I was reminded that having a good tour guide makes the experience unbeatable. I love learning about what I'm seeing and I love having the chance to ask questions, I'm so grateful for knowledgeable and talented guides -- like the one we had at the Penguin Parade (yes, that's what they call it).

Feeding a wallaby at a nearby animal sanctuary park. 

Feeding a wallaby at a nearby animal sanctuary park. 

Yum! (Disregard my spill...)

Yum! (Disregard my spill...)

I would be remiss to skip over mentioning coffee as it relates to Melbourne. This city is sophisticated and prides itself on being one of the best coffee cities in the world. We heard that baristas can make serious money - it's a profession, not an in-between job, thank you very much! Everywhere you turn there are tiny charming cafes, it's awesome. So how was the coffee? Well... I only drink decaf, so I couldn't try the top end of what was available. But what I did have was pretty darn good.  

Sydney

On Friday, we packed up and headed to the airport to fly up to Sydney. I had been really looking forward to Sydney, as do many other people - it's a more popular tourist destination then Melbourne, but that wasn't always the case. Historically, Melbourne was the place to be, a thriving city with a global eye on it. Now apparently there's some friendly competition between the two cities, so much so that when it was time to decide where the capital of Australia should be, neither city would give up the fight, so the capital was put in a small city in between them called Canberra.

The beautiful Sydney Opera House.

The beautiful Sydney Opera House.

The sight-seeing in Sydney did not disappoint! The Opera House is beautiful (we saw La Boheme!), we climbed the Harbour Bridge and it was great, and there are plenty of beaches and neighborhoods to explore. Not to mention, the melt-your-heart animals at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. On our day-trip to the Blue Mountains we had rain, but it cleared up in the afternoon. In fact, Sydney has been the only city so far on our trip that I wish we'd had one or two extra days to visit. There were a number of other things I wanted to see, but we couldn't fit them in without going crazy.

My caveat with all this Sydney praise is that Sydney was actually a lot harder to navigate as a visitor than I thought it would be. It's a sprawly city, it's not particularly walkable, and the streets can be confusing. One morning, we planned to take the subway to our destination and when we arrived at the station, the whole train was closed for the day!! What the heck?

So, in summary, Sydney required some patience. And if I had to pick one of the two cities to live in, it would be Melbourne! 

And Now...

Now we're way up north in the tropics. Here in Port Douglas, it's so humid that nothing outside will dry and we immediately start sweating when we leave the air conditioning. My hair is going crazy!  

This resort area is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, two awesome World Heritage sites. AND a place to relax by the pool and catch up on some reading. We've been going hard in two great cities, so now I'm glad to have a few quiet days. 

G'Day!