I Came All the Way Here for THIS?

I arrived in Santiago, Chile after an 11-hour overnight flight from New Zealand and just like that my “traveler” status changed.  I was no longer traveling for travel’s sake; I was MOVING.  And I was FREAKED OUT.  After just a few days here I had a revelation:  When you’re traveling in a foreign country, many of its negative qualities can be viewed as minor annoyances.  For example: Australia is expensive?  That’s okay, I’m only here for two weeks.  Hanoi is crazy, loud, and crowded?  That’s okay, that’s part of its charm.  India is dirty?  That’s unfortunate, but at least I’m not living on the streets here.  But when you MOVE to a foreign country (especially one you’ve never been to before), your eyes are open in a different way.  You notice things that would have gone unnoticed before.  You are bothered by things that wouldn’t have bothered you as a mere traveler.  And you ask questions, lots of them, to find out more about your new home.

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Bonus Country: New Zealand

On June 15th, en route from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, I had a layover in Auckland, NZ.  It was supposed to be a 3-hour layover, but upon arriving in Auckland, I found out that the flight was delayed by four hours.  What do you do when you have a 7-hour layover in Auckland?  Get another stamp on your passport and take the airport shuttle bus ($26 roundtrip!) into the city, of course!

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Hooroo, ‘Straya

I’m in my final hours in Australia, feeling both nervous and excited about my next destination, but that’s another post altogether.

This post is more about saying “Hooroo!” (goodbye) to Australia.  It’s the first country I’ve been to on this journey that I’ve felt thoroughly ready to leave.  I definitely did not want to leave India, and I was heartbroken upon leaving Southeast Asia.  But Australia just didn’t affect me in the same way and I’ll be heading to the airport tomorrow with a smile on my face.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not writing off the entire country.  I’d love to return some day and see more than just Melbourne, Sydney, and the surrounding areas.  But Aus just did not fill my soul and challenge my mind the way that Asia did.  I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a few reasons why I think Australia didn’t capture my heart in the same way as Asia.

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Sydney: Australia’s Commercial Capital

What can I say about Sydney?  My stay here has been a bit underwhelming.  It strikes me as being just a big, ol’ city with a famous building.  Aside from the coastline (which is admittedly beautiful), I find nothing very interesting about Sydney.  It has been kind of a let down after coming from Melbourne.  Also, it is more expensive than Melbourne in every way (lodging, public transportation, food).  It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that I was ready to leave after just a few days, and I have no desire to return. That said, I haven’t had a terrible time here; it just hasn’t been amazing.  Even though it seems like an extremely international city (it feels like almost everyone here is from another country), Sydney seems to lack a real culture.  And it definitely does not have that cool vibe that Melbourne has.

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Melbourne’s Street Style

Melbourne, Australia is full of incredible street art and creative graffiti.  Graffiti is legal in Australia as long as you have the building owner’s permission and the content is not offensive.  This has made Melbourne one of the world’s greatest street art capitals.

Indeed, there seems to be graffiti or murals around every corner, and most of it is extremely good.  Walking the streets and laneways of Melbourne, checking out all the brightly painted walls, was one of my favorite things to do in the city.

Here are some of my faves:

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Melbourne (aka MEL-bun), Australia’s Cultural Capital…

But shhh… don’t tell Sydney.

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On June 1st I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Australia to meet up with my dear friend, Carrie, who flew in from the States just to travel Australia with me for ten days!  We spent five days in Melbourne and these were the highlights in order of awesomeness:

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One Night in KL

En route to Australia, I had to spend one night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  One more stamp on the passport, although I don’t know that one night deserves it.  Fortunately, my friend from Elephant Nature Park/Vietnam, Vici, was also in KL at that time.  So we met up and did what most people do when they come to KL: We went shopping.

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