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.
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!