September 30, 2018

Farewell Aus, Until Next Time Mate

Oh, Aus. Where did the time go? Fourteen months have appeared to pass by in the blink of an eye, and all of the sudden our love affair is over. I'm trying to find a way to sum up this experience and thank you for everything you have taught and given me. And the only thing I can manage is, "I can't wait to see you again mate."

Fitting in a last minute hike at Yanchep National Park.
As of yesterday evening, my Australian sabbatical tour officially ended. Just minutes before I left for the airport I was enjoying a neighborhood barbie, watching the Aussie Rules football grand final - a typical and fabulous Saturday arvo (I fully committed to assimilating to the Aussie life 😆). The realization that I would be leaving the country didn't set in until I pulled up to the Perth Airport and got dropped off at the international terminal. My plane ticket had been booked for nearly two months, but I lived in a state of denial until it was time to check my bags and give my final farewells.

Final hugs with the Harris boys 😍
A now that I'm gone, I'm trying to reflect on how I'm feeling about the departure. I expected to be sad, but I'm not. I know that it was time to get moving, I had become too comfortable and exploring wasn't my main focus. With that awareness, instead of sadness, I'm feeling a huge sense of gratitude for everything I was able to experience.

As I've already mentioned, Australia didn't help me solve the life mysteries that I had set out to discover. I didn't achieve all the goals I had set. And while this Aussie tour wasn't what I expected, it shaped me in so many unexpected ways. I have fallen in love with the Australian way of life. Good Vibes and Happy Days might be cliche slogans mass printed on bumper stickers and reusable grocery totes throughout the backpacker towns on the East Coast, but they really do resonate with the Australian way of life. I find myself more relaxed (I'm sure the unemployment helps), I've mellowed and become less prone to irrational anger. I've welcomed all the opportunities to be outdoors, and discovered that I am fully capable of "roughing it." I think the biggest thing Australia did for me, was to make me more faceted, more adaptable. And if Australia wasn't so far from the rest of the world, it's definitely a place where I could watch my years pass by. Fortunately for my mum, the location is too isolated for me to stay long-term.

I'm going to miss my blonder hair and mild tan. I'm going to miss my bare feet being warmed by the sidewalks. I'll miss hearing g'day mate on the hiking trails. I'm going to miss the people, all the Aussies willing to give with both hands. I previously claimed the Irish were the nicest people I had ever met, but I have to give that title over to the Aussies now.

Thank you Australia / Aus / Oz / Straya, whatever you want to be called. I cannot thank you enough for the experiences and memories you've given me. To all the fabulous people I've met along the way, it wouldn't have been the same without you. I hope we meet again.

As I close this chapter, I end it knowing that I will return. I'm determined to complete my full coastal circuit - I have a few thousand kilometers left to discover! So I'll see you soon mate. Don't change while I'm away.
My complete route. Details under Aus Mapped.

September 11, 2018

Meet the Quokka!

I am here today to introduce you to the quokka! No idea whether quokka is a noun, verb or adjective? You're not alone. I only discovered what a quokka is a few months back when Red told me I absolutely had to hunt down the little animals while I was in Australia. The quokka is an incredibly cute, little nocturnal marsupial that is found only in the southwest region of Western Australia. It's gained social media fame over the past few years due to a few fabulous #quokkaselfie posts, and now everyone wants a pic.

Just look at that face!

August 30, 2018

Stargazing at Warrumbungle National Park

Growing up my mom would take my sister and me to the local Augustana College observatory for an annual Christmas show, as well as random telescope viewings they would put on during the year. I have a clear memory of seeing Saturn’s rings through a telescope (which is amazing). At the time, I’m sure my sister and I complained relentlessly about being dragged to the observatory, and now, I hit up any observatory I come across during my travels. I absolutely love telescope viewings and unfortunately, they seem harder and harder to come by.

View from our camping spot in Warrumbungle National Park
So when Bean came to visit, I planned a little excursion to Coonabarabran for some epic stargazing. Coonabarabran is the astronomy capital of Australia! Due to the altitude and the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere, the area has prime conditions for star nerds. The national park outside of Coonabarabran, Warrumbungle National Park, has been declared a dark sky park which regulates the outdoor lighting in and around the park, making the stargazing conditions even better. Because of these factors, there are numerous observatories in the area offering nightly tours.  

On our last day in Sydney, Bean and I picked up our Britz campervan to take us from Sydney to Melbourne. My pit stop in Coonabarabran, six hours northwest of Sydney was 100% out of the way. After picking up Glenn (our trusty van) we headed out on what would end up being a 7+ hour drive, all for a ninety-minute telescope session… only to turn around the next morning and drive right back. So there was a lot riding on this tour. If it wasn’t spectacular Bean was probably going to smother me in my sleep in the back of Glenn.