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The Adventure Continues

Chapter 2: Campervan Living

The campervan we agreed on procuring was capable of sleeping four. This was a rather new Toyota minivan turned camper. The inside of the car could be transformed in to a bed at night and a hybrid pop up tent was secured on the roof. Again, minivan turned campervan, capable of sleeping four.

On paper, four people living in the campervan we selected was ideal. On paper, the Washington Redskins should have won 18 Super bowls in a row. On paper, communism works. Let me write not a word more of my trip without first offering a piece of advice: A campervan with four people is ideal when the four people are also two sets of couples, not one couple and two men. I don’t need to tell you how sharing a tiny bed with another guy rarely ever works, but I will, numerous times throughout this story.

Perhaps a little forethought into the whole sharing a bed situation with another guy for a month would have produced a slightly different travel plan. But, alas, I am still a travel newbie.

Our trip began in the new, but very lovely, city of Brisbane. I am a fan of modern architecture and human engineering. Some say a city like Brisbane has no history, but I say it’s right one its way to making its own. In a new city, after a couple days of walking around and a couple nights of watching the World Cup, we done as much as we could do in Brisbane.

Although the plan was to drive north, to get to the warm weather, there were a few places we had to see down south. Coolongatta is a real surfer’s paradise. Some of the best surfers in the world either visit or live there. I mistakenly left my board at home so I was forced to conquer the unforgiving waves using God’s board – the body board.

Going further south we hit the towns of Noosa and Byron Bay. Byron Bay is one of those weird hippie-posh towns. Its Portlandesque aura gives the feeling that it’s one coffee shop away from drowning in smugness. Lucky for them, Byron Bay is actually a really awesome place. Byron Bay is full of character, Noosa, is not.

During the first few nights we came to the conclusion that we were not all on the same page. One half of the car wanted to camp wherever we ended up at night, or “freedom camp” if you will. The other half wanted to camp in camper parks, full of toilets, showers, and all at an additional and unexpected cost every night.

This point was an early foreshadowing of how complicated traveling with four unique people can be. Point of reference: Imagine being with a group trying to decide on where to eat or what movie to watch or which direction to turn, now imagine that same process occurring numerous times throughout the day. While difficult, learning to cope and compromise becomes an excellent lesson in patience.

Queensland’s Coast

Hello all! Join me on my multiple part series reviewing the month I spent in tropical Queensland. Over the next few days I will post the remaining chapters.

Chapter 1: Inspiration

Not long before school was over I realized that I still had a whole month left of my visa. My disdain for letting good things go to waste, coupled with being completely finished with college, gave me more than enough reason to stick around Down Under.

The first question was where. I have a never-ending hatred for cold weather. Without a solid tan I lack any type of confidence, forced to wander the streets as a zombie. Judge if you will, but catching rays is just as much a part of my life as sleeping and eating. Melbourne, at the time, was freezing. Thus, I had no problem saying so long to my home for the past five months.

With a little research I saw the place that I would spend my last month in Australia. Tropical Queensland. Resting in the northeastern part of Australia, Queensland is popular with the super rich and backpackers alike, all looking to escape nature’s frigid and perverted grasp.

Queensland is an interesting place. Some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna inhabit the area. There are moths as big as my head, and spiders that eat the moths that are as big as my head. Between all the sharks, snakes, and crocodiles, there are enough deadly animals to start a dangerous (and extremely entertaining) militia. The world’s oldest rainforest is located here, along with one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World in the Great Barrier Reef. They have sand so fine that NASA tried to buy 100 tons of it to clean their telescope. They have waves that can be surfed for over two minutes. They have the Cassowary, a bird with a head butt so deadly Zidi Zidane would be jealous.

To reiterate: Queensland is a very interesting place.

So the destination was decided. The only question that remained was how. How was I going to see all of this insane state? Busing is a popular and affordable option, however, the reviews are suspect. The only other viable option was to rent some sort of car.

It wasn’t until one day discussing my thoughts on the trip with a friend when he said he was already planning on going. He and two other Danish friends were getting a campervan for a month to travel Queensland. He explained how they were looking for a fourth person to keep the costs down. I, being a person, quickly offered my name for consideration.

And with that, the plan was set. For the next month the four of us would be traveling Queensland’s east coast via campervan. My expectations and goals were simple: Set the world record for consecutive days without a shirt, consecutive days wearing only a swimsuit, miles rode crocodile-back, number of dingos whispered, and, of course, the world record for number of sun rays caught in a one month period.

Que the Indiana Jones theme song.

Changes in a Name

It has been a good bit since my last post. A lot has gone on, dramatic life changing events. Mostly it is the fact of having very limited Internet and being lazy on vacation. There is news to report. This blog is no longer affiliated with Old Dominion University as an internship with the English department. Thus, there will be a lot more posts with explicit cursing and gratuitous nudity. But as long as they continue to advertise this blog on their website, I will keep the nude sun-bathing pictures to a minimum.

I have started my trek home. It is a slow and winding way to go. Right now, I am in the midst of traveling through tropical Northern Queensland via campervan. I fully intended on adding a few posts tonight, but with 15 minutes of Internet left, that seems a bit too tasking for current humid weather conditions. Instead I will give the names of a few future posts:

Campervan Living

Goon + A Deck of Cards = A Backpacker’s Night Out

Going to Jurassic Park

Bhaizing

and many more traveling tales.

The Housemates

I was originally going to lump this subject in with the previous post. But as I continued to write, I realized how disrespectful that would have been. I use the term “housemates” literally, but also it includes those who spent as much time in the Retro house as they did in their own house. My housemates during my time in Australia have perhaps made the biggest impact while studying abroad.

Housemates + Extended Family

The biggest question I asked myself during my time here has been, “What would it have been like if I lived somewhere else?” Living closer to the to city would have been more convenient to get down town. Living in the residence hall would have presented a better opportunity to meet more people. There were times when I felt as if I made the wrong decision. Yet as I reflect, I see living in the Retro house was the best thing to happen to me.

Cinco De Mayo

Living with a group of strangers is a crapshoot. Watch any reality TV show or get a new roommate off Craig’s list and unpredictability ensues. The new roommate equation is this: craziness of stranger + size of accommodation = level of living success. With seven very distinct personalities, in a house that isn’t exactly huge, I had dubious original thoughts.

However, it only took a few short days living together to see how special this semester was going to be. We bonded quickly regardless of age, sex, political thoughts, or body odor. For one semester at Deakin our lives were intertwined.

We slept under one roof, we shared a tiny kitchen without anyone loosing fingers, we occasionally agreed on movies, we laughed with (and at) each other, we saw each other at our best and worst, and we came together to form a terrific group that unites under one name: The Autobots.

The quote of the semester came last week as our group started to disband. “Autobots… let’s roll out one last time.”

It’s sad to say good-bye to friends made during a semester abroad. It is an emotion harder defined to say good-bye to the people that I have shared nearly every Australian experience with. Whether it was exploring the city, sitting in the living room playing Warcraft III, giving me inspiration for the blog, or catching some rays, there was always a roommate there. I came to Melbourne from a fairly small family, and five months later, I leave with six new siblings.

The First Supper

Last Day In Melboure

Today, as the title suggests, is my last day in Melbourne, Australia. This is also my last week for officially blogging for ODU. I cannot wait to wake up tomorrow and start my Queensland expedition. I am ripe with anticipation. At the same time, saying farewell the place I’ve grown so accustomed to is never easy.

Last week I wrote a good-bye letter the #75 Tram. However, I unjustly left out a few other aspects of my everyday Melbourne life I took for granted. So on this final day, I wish to formally bid adieu to the following:

The Walk To/From Deakin

Four days a week I made this trek that was too short to tram and too long to walk. My daily plans revolved around the walk. I refused to make the walk more than once a day. Therefore, the entire day’s school-related activities fell between the walk to and from Deakin Uni.

The Bottle-O

This local “convenient store” is situated just a few short steps away from the house. Being most convenient on the weekend (or after a long day of classes), our house became valued customers. I once thought their prices to be heinous, only to realize they have some of the most average prices in Australia.

Deakin YMCA

Surprisingly, this gym reminded me of home. Going to the gym provided a comfortable routine in my life. What’s more, seeing the majority of patrons concentrate on the bench press/bicep curls, gave a feeling just like any American gym. While I won’t miss paying $22 every two weeks for a membership, I will miss the friendly staff that took the time to almost remember my name.

The Nightrider

This late-night bus is the awkward cousin of the tram. Businessmen ride the tram with their briefcases and parents take it with their children for a day in the city. The tram is respectable. The Nightrider, which operates until 5am on the weekends, is not.

Typical Nightrider rides consist of, but are not limited to, 16 year-olds trying to pawn (allegedly) recently bought boxes of wine, Dr. Phil-esque relationship discussions, sharing of Hungry Jack’s or Maccas fries, or big group sing-alongs.

Even with all of the outrageous antics of the Nightrider, there is always one given, making it home safe and sound.

Packman Steve

I strongly believe packing/moving is the worst invention in the world. The notion even trumps algebra and stubbing a toe. I am unfit for packing. I have no sense of climate change, pack too many socks and not enough boxers, and always leave my favorite shirt behind. To make the situation even more confusing, this time I am packing two suitcases going two very separate directions.

Suitcase one, my biggest piece of luggage, is U.S.A. bound. Rather than lugging around my box on wheels throughout my travels, I decided to send it home. As an added bonus, it is cheaper to send the suitcase home instead of paying for all of those checked baggage fees.

Suitcase one is being shipped via the Australia Post’s sea mail. Sea mail is hilarious and great. I’m pretty sure beloved suitcase will be traveling on a Titanic sized ship, and will go to the bow, and will sing “My heart will go on” in a near perfect bravado. Soon I will drop suitcase one at the post office, and in 2-3 months, hopefully see it on my front doorstep.

Suitcase two is more of a duffle bag. The duffle bag will be accompanying me to Queensland and so on. While the bag is going to be filled predominantly with shorts and t-shirts, that does not make the job any easier. At the time, I always believe that I am packing my best clothes. Upon arrival, I look in my bag to find nothing but ill-fitting pants and horrendous shirts that could double as a picnic tablecloth.

Once upon a time I was good at packing. When my sole responsibility was to pack my toy dinosaurs and fireworks, it was fun. There is a slight sense of lingering excitement as I clear out my room today. I know I will forget my lucky boxers, but I will only find out on the next part of my adventure.

Facebook has recently come under a great amount of scrutiny. It seems like people either love it or hate it. I fall somewhere in the middle. Obviously, like 98% of my fellow college students, I waste a disgusting amount of time perusing “The Book.” Yet even with all of its shortcomings, Facebook has revolutionized studying abroad.

Before I ever left for Australia, I knew my roommates. By creepily stalking them on Facebook, I was able to make judgments of their character (luckily, most of the judgments were wrong). Facebook allowed us to get to know each other weeks before we ever met face-to-face. When we were finally all together, I already knew who liked John Mayer or The Simpsons, or who really wanted Facebook to change back to the old layout.

I am not a girl. I cannot extend my right arm while holding a camera and snap a perfect group photo. I do not own a purse. I hate adding extra bulk to my pants (reference “The Passport Wallet”). These facts plus more explain why lugging a camera around all the time is impossible.

One would think that I would be out of luck when it comes to having photos of the great times in Australia. One would be quite wrong. Having four girl roommates means having four cameras. And with the “tag” feature on Facebook, my time in Australia has been documented four times. If my science is correct, that makes the pictures 4D.

Pictures are also a great way to stay up to date with friends from home. When homesickness strikes with its powerful fists, I can live vicariously through some acquaintance’s new album.

Sadly, my time studying abroad is almost over. In the months here, I have made some great friends. Besides looking cooler, having all of my new friends on Facebook will make staying in touch one “like” click away. Of course no friend will be left behind with the obligatory “happy b-day” wall post.

I have made preliminary travel plans to visit some study abroad friends some day. And you better believe Facebook will be the primary source of communication for said travel plans. It is easy, familiar, and free.

There is a debate going on in the Facebook world about how it’s best utilized. Is it a digital soapbox to stand and complain about work/finals/relationships? Is it a battleground for who can post the best “text from last night?” Or is it an awesome place to stay connected with friends from around the world? I choose all of the above.

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