All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand – Dorothea Mackellar, My Country
This was it. My last few days in Australia after two years of living the life I only used to dream about. And then it was back to Canada. It’s confusing and exciting and bittersweet to feel like you are both heading home and leaving home at the same time. On one hand, I was anxious to give up my free and nomadic lifestyle. On the other, I was stoked to reconnect with my friends and family. That is the curse of the travel bug, you’re always leaving little bits of you around the world, and you’re never really sure where your place is once you stop moving.
I have a complicated relationship with Melbourne. I love it. I love the big-city feel, mixed with the laid-back vibe. I love that you can walk Melbourne’s CBD in an hour or two, and then go to the surrounding suburbs for a different atmosphere every few blocks. I had a pretty hard time when I lived here for 5 months. It was a bit of a struggle just to get by (FYI backpacker friends, trying to find a job in the winter is no easy task).
But Melbourne has a funny way of intoxicating everyone who comes to visit her. Quite often by literally intoxicating them, not only are there more bars than you could ever drink at here, but some of them are so cool, it’s just an experience to walk through the doors.
The Yarra River runs straight through the city, pointing the way to the massive MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).
Fun fact: I once snuck into one of the rowing clubs along the river to use their washroom during an over-long picnic in the park.
I don’t have a lot of words for my last few days here. They were filled with sun and joy and the sensation of trying to see and experience something one last time before it’s too late.
I didn’t. Melbourne holds too many fond (or ridiculous) memories for me to recount them all. Hell, even the tram tracks make me laugh.
- This is because one time I was crossing the street, got my shoes stuck in a track, and face-planted hard in the middle of an intersection. “Losing Your Feet” indeed.
Carlton Gardens will always be a favourite of mine. Most of the time I would join all the other fitness-minded people and go on a jog. Sometimes I would just stop off on my way from work and bask in the sun.
Don’t miss out on seeing one of the “most Australian” things in the country. For real. The fountain has platypus’.
And when you spend enough time in a place, you start to notice the little things. Like this kid:
Copping it hard in the face, from a turtle. That’s a pretty accurate summation of Australian wildlife.
At night, all the possums come out of the trees and try to coerce you into giving them french fries. It usually worked.
The botanical gardens are free to enter, and if you’re a plant nerd like me, they are simply magical.
Of course, you can’t spend any time in Melbourne without becoming familiar with Flinders Station – the hub of all public transit in the city, right in the heart of the CBD. I’ll never forget my first day in town, hopping off a trap and just being overwhelmed. Melbourne isn’t massive on the world’s scale of big cities, but after you spend a year in Western Australia, it feels like a total maze.
Two years is a long time. But, it also went by way too quickly. Australia is a beautiful country in so many ways, but it is so vast and varied there is really no way to put it into words. The poem “My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar does a better job than I could.
There are two places I think about most often, two places that really took hold of my heart. Both for their scenery and vibe, but also because of who I was during my stay.
Broome, such a small dot on the map, a teeny tiny town in the middle of nowhere, that is the gateway to the Kimberley. Here I let everything go and had the time of my life. The town itself was cute and the beaches are phenomenal, but it was the people I met, and all the fun we had that will stay with me longer. From spontaneous midnight beach parties, to sitting and watching the sunset, or watching the moon create a staircase on the ocean. I was free.
Melbourne was a totally different experience. I had to really learn to stand on my own. To be frugal in the extreme, and to take joy in wandering a city when I couldn’t afford to do anything else. But I also learned the value of friendships subbing in for family on the road, and how important it can be to someone to just shout a beer. I also met my constant companion for the past 2 years since then, and for that I would have changed nothing at all about the experience.
If I’m ever back in town and you need to find me, I’ll meet you at the clocks
I know I’ll be back in Australia, probably more than once over the course of my life. There will always be a subtle pull in my heart to go back to the sunburnt country, and find myself at home once more.