Down Under

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Somewhere in the Outback, Australia, Spring 2003

My memories of Australia are a bit fuzzy. It’s been seven years after all.

I remember boarding the plane in Paris CDG on December 31st and thinking I would spend New Year Eve alone, thousands of feet above ground. I remember arriving in Hong Kong on January 1st and staying there for a week before catching another flight to Auckland, New-Zealand, where I had picked Feng up who had just arrived from Canada.

We had bought a really old car in New-Zealand. It had bad brakes smelling of rubber and a crack in the windshield but we still managed to drive around both islands for a couple of months, before flying to Australia. The two countries were very different but I liked them both. They were like two siblings with different personalities: New Zealand was the mature older brother, phlegmatic, practical and outdoorsy; while Australia was the younger sister, outgoing, sunny and sometimes irresponsible.

Around Queenstown with the car we bought, New Zealand, Early 2003

My English wasn’t very good at the time and it was my first time backpacking in the English-speaking world. I had struggled with both Kiwi and OZ accents. I was also new to the “backpacker industry”, predominant in Australia. Tons of twenty-something Brits take a gap year before going to university and spend time in Australia on a working holiday visa. Some parts of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney were almost 100% British—they were working in restaurants, bars and hostels by day and drinking their money by night.

Australian hostels were one of a kind too. We had previously traveled extensively in China and Latin America, two places that were still not that popular with young backpackers. There were few hostels and accommodation tended to fall into three categories: family hotels, university rooms or cheap dilapidated hotels.

In Australia, they were tons of backpacker hostels, ranging from old converted houses to huge modern buildings. Forget about privacy when you are sleeping in a 12-beds dorm and sharing the bathroom and the communal kitchen! It was an interesting atmosphere though, with lots of booze, lots of drugs and lots of everything else you can imagine. Some travelers on working holiday visa simply took up residence and lived in a dorm instead of renting an apartment. Some dorms were entirely populated with these working travelers and, at times, it felt like sleeping in someone else’s house.

I turned 20 years old upon arriving in Sydney. A day before, on March 20th, I dragged Feng to the huge protest in Sydney to condemn the war on Iraq, the day after the invasion had begun. I can’t believe it’s been seven years… and that protesting is still relevant today regarding the current situation.

On December 5th this year, we are heading to Australia once again, until mid-February. We need to travel badly, like two junkies looking for a fix. We need to escape Canada and the cold winter. We need the freedom and the carefree life of those who hit the road. I don’t know where this trip will take us. We have no plans, as usual.

We just bought the tickets a couple of weeks ago, almost on a dare. It took us the whole evening to figure out the best itinerary and we decided to fly the Pacific route through L.A. We also picked Quantas, because we wanted to fly a big plane. You know, a big plane like… er… the A380.

And of course, later that night, we heard about the first Quantas incident (emergency landing blahblahblah).

I’m not even worried. Ready or not, we are going on December 5th. Follow us Down Under soon!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

23 Comments

  1. I’m impressed! Two and half months travelling…
    I’ve never been very good at travelling. I’m always nervous. Canada last June was probably my biggest adventure (apart for settling in Ireland) and that was quite a well organised trip!

  2. The big announcement! Oh how I envy you. I have a smaller announcement, but I think I would keep it for myself until the last minute. It’s a little one compared to your 2-month vacation, but at least it’ll give me a break in between dissertating and giving talks.

  3. I know exactly what you’re talking about when you mentioned Australian hostels full of Brits. Holy cow, it’s like a rite of passage to spend that gap year in Australia. I was there a decade before your first trip, but it was the same, even back then.

  4. Wow I’m so excited for you guys!!!! How amazing and to escape prime crappy weather here!!!! I guess you guys must both have the ease of taking a long vacation!!! I plan on trying that out one day, doing a 6 month leave or something like that..

    Until then, I’ll just soak up your photos and see everything Summer style during our cold winter here!

  5. I wished I could go on a vacation that long! I’m always amazed at how you guys manage to do it… esp on the parts of expenses.

    Anyway, good luck in hitting down under! It’s so near to me here but I haven’t had a chance to visit it! Ouch!

  6. @Poem – Both can be found when you are a travel junkie!

    @Em – It’s scary the first time but it gets easier, trust me.

    @Cynthia – Understanding their accent or their way of life?

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – It doesn’t matter for long long you take a break as long as you take oe 🙂

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you!

    @Gail at Large – I wonder if it’s still the same today considering OZ got expensive and the ecoomy is not doing so well in the U.K. We will see!

    @khengsiong – Thank you!

    @Jennie – Oh we will get parts of it in February I’m sure!

    @London Caller – Yes, I thought of that but the plane ticket was much more expensive and not so convenient. It’sd already a long trip for Canada!

    @myriam – Hi and thank you! I can’t wait 🙂

    @micki – I’m looking forward to long sunny days, for sure!

    @expatraveler – It’s not always easy but when we can, we do it. Travel junkies, I’m telling you!

    @kyh – Well, money can always be saved. Travel is our drug so we don’t mind making other sacrifices.

  7. Hi Zhu,

    You guys are SO lucky! Wonderful news 🙂
    Like junkies needing a fix; I am feeling like that too!I am not jealous but when I see my friends in France go somewhere, I feel like I am stuck in the mud…

    I may have a chance next year( I will know in January if/ if not),but until then, there will be nothing much.
    Money is tight,expenses are numerous and the whole world has changed for us since this year…

    I am trying to peruade D to do 2 or 3 days in London next Spring!That won’t bee too bad.

  8. Hi Zhu,

    Down Under!! I am so happy for you guys: I am sure it will be quite a thrill :D!

    I wish you guys the best of trips; and A380…seriously? Boeing is so much better lol…

    Anyway, have the time of your life, girl!

    Cheers

  9. G’day Zhu ;D You have been a borned traveller ya…cool to be Downudner isn’t it? I was in Sydney/Melbourne visiting my best friend in 1989 (she migrated there) and Bibiana visited Meilbourne two years ago.

    Now, that’s a pretty LLLLLLLLooooong Holiday 😀 So fun, so cool and yes that’s what life is about…live life to the fullest 😀 Have fun my dear friend and yes will follow your awesome trip.

    Cheers & Hugs
    Betty aka Shionge

  10. Lucky you! To be honest, I need a long trip myself too. Next year, I’m planning to go 3-week honeymoon trip and I just can’t wait! But down-under is a little bit too far for me. Let’s see where we go!

  11. woot! i want to go to australia too. it’s s-u-m-m-e-r down there. and when you flush a toilet in the southern hemisphere, the water swirls backwards! how cool is that?

  12. Awesome! I “heard” from my American sources (guess who) earlier that you were going on a holiday, lol. I need a bad fix too, I’m going to Mexico. Chad is going 2 months to India and Pakistan. LOL

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