The weird and wonderful.
Although I had grown up with Toronto always looming in this distance, I had never really lived in a big city. A place with a downtown and neighbourhoods (suburbs) and rooftop bars and nightlife on a Tuesday. For someone who had just spent the past year falling in love with rural Australia, it was a shock to the system. Melbourne quickly stole a piece of my heart.
During my first scattered hour in town, trying to navigate the traffic, find a hostel, and say rushed goodbyes to my companions, I remember having three distinct thoughts:
- There are so many people everywhere, and cars, and trams, and so so many people.
- I am going to get quite lost. Often.
- I may need to update my raggedy wardrobe if I don’t feel like always being the obvious backpacker.
My five months spent here were chaotic and fantastic and horrible. The experience was as changing as Melbourne’s infamous weather patterns. The city itself is ever-changing, there is no possible way to discover it all.
One moment you are in a stunning art-deco arcade lined with whimsical gift shops and chocolatiers.
Or passing by some (often confusing) street art, live performance, or magician.
You might find yourself crossing something off your bucket list.
Or you could end up in the You Yangs, forgetting there is a metropolis only an hour away.
I love that this is a city where back-alley wanderings are encouraged. To find a stunning display of talent decorating the walls, or a secret bar hidden away from the main streets.
And then within a 20 minute walk, you can find great natural beauty at a park, or a moment of serenity and reflection at the War Memorial.
Not everything went well for me during those few months. My jobs never seemed to pan out, and quite often I was broke, unemployed, hungry, tired, worried about everything. I wondered if I had ruined my entire trip by coming here, I was afraid I was stuck, I was afraid I couldn’t get home, that I was wasting time by not being able to experience the city properly.
However I learned that when you travel, your friends become your family. You look after each other and get lost together and have little tea party picnics in the park because no one can afford a cafe, that it is part of the experience and sticks with you longer than anything else.
Maybe I experienced the city in a lot of ways many tourists wouldn’t have.
I learned that Melbourne is a city that wants to lift your spirits – as you walk down the street and hear phenomenal live music, or watch a painting come to life on a building, take in a free festival, watch the possums play in a garden, enjoy a free meal, get lost and explore the different suburbs and really just let the city sink into your bones. Melbourne was a challenge, but it was beautiful.