And home again: end of my first trip to Australia

Was that really (only) five weeks in Australia?

It was.
Not enough time, and maybe too much.
but I wouldn’t change a second,
even when I was throwing up on a boat full of people all by myself.

Australia, you’ve changed me. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. From your vast landscapes and stunning views to your strange animals and wonderful people, you haven’t stopped opening my eyes to new things.

If you’ve  been following this blog this past month you know I’ve been trying to keep up with telling you all what this trip has been like, all the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve met and the things these experiences have made me think about. I think I caught a lot of it… but honestly. I think I didn’t write about more than I did write. And looking back, having had a trans-pacific flight to distance myself, I feel I need to write at least this one more thing about it all.

Melbourne, from Eureka Skydeck

I’ve been hearing about, thinking about Melbourne for years. There’s an Amanda Palmer song (From St. Kilda to Fitzroy) that I had on repeat in my head as I road the tram (and yes I rode it from St. Kilda to Fitzroy one day). With its hipster, art scene, hippy vibe it felt like somewhere I would love to stay and live. Culture and opportunity ooze throughout the city and it just felt so easy to get around. My first few days were ups and downs.
Up. Excited about being in Australia. I mean kangaroos hopped along the highway and were just about the first thing I saw when I got there. How much more Australian could something be? And then, down, having a weird sort of mental jet lag and getting lost trying to find a dance class. Trying to balance working and traveling.
UpDown. Work was an excuse to not get out there. But it was also good for the nights because I had something to do.
Up. Lily got back into town and there was a wonderful whirlwind 3 day reunion. We hadn’t seen each other in 2 1/2 years, but really, when you’ve got one of those friends where you just click back together? yeah. that. I could have easily spent a few more days hanging out, dancing, stretching and leisurely discovering Melbourne… but I was off to

Sydney Harbour Bridge & The Opera House

While Melbourne was a bit cool, I stepped off into Sydney in shorts and pulled out the sunscreen. Up. I felt like I was in a movie walking through the big city and old streets. The Opera House. On a whole I felt both underwhelmed and overwhelmed by it. And I just couldn’t get over the sight of it. Everything in Sydney made me feel happy. Maybe it was the sun. Down.
An awful roommate situation at the hostel, a 4-bed dorm with 3 friends + me… but (up) it couldn’t kill my mood.

I was traveling and seeing things and dancing. I did a two day dance intensive and ended up with private pointe lessons. It was awesome. Then there was the 6+ mile hike I did from Spit to Manly where even though I was hiking by myself I never went more than 15 minutes without seeing someone or feeling like I was walking through someone’s backyard. And yet… I also felt like I was really in nature. I found a hidden beach and sat on a cliff looking out at the turquoise sea. There was something calming about being alone in the city, like I could just stop and watch it pass by at any moment or I could let myself get caught up in the ebb and flow. Like stepping in and out of time.

Byron Bay

Coffs Harbour. Up. Erin picked me up, only a year since we’d last seen each other in Scotland. I think she was even more excited for me to be there that I was. She had so much to show me even in her small town. It was good to see her again, but I realized how different we are and how we move at completely different speeds. Down. So while, I think that put some strain on what we did, overall it was fun to see Coffs and Byron Bay and just drive through Australia even if only for a little while.

Oh, Cairns. We had a tumultuous time.
First, your weather was miserable. For being “dry” season you were awfully wet. But the weather was also warm and sunny… so very tropical. The city itself had little to offer, but even there I was able to find some like-minded adults just taking ballet for the fun of it. Up. The day trips around the city though were gorgeous, full of walks through the rainforest and scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef, complete a morning full of sea sickness and then an afternoon with a run in with a giant sea turtle and a fish the size of my torso. Then back on the boat I sat down next to two lovely individuals who were about to start their sophomore year at the university of Oregon. Sometimes it’s such a small world.
Down, and down again.
In between all of that I curled up in my single room, feeling homesick and wondering how I would manage until I got home because traveling and pushing myself to be out there and more extroverted was taking its toll. Plus, my birthday was coming up… I was about to turn 27, in

Down. I spent my first two days holed up in the hostel, working. And hiding. Then wondrous things started happening. If you’ve been reading my blog you’ve already heard the play by play.

Our host (Neil) & Amanda Palmer
Amanda, on the phone with Neil (who’s in the UK) talking with the children.
Mali Sastri singing on Wednesday night at the house party in Lutwyche, Brisbane.

Tuesday night: (planned) Amanda Palmer house party where I made three new friends, Ellen, Tegan & Neil, who have given me reason to return to Brisbane, which I didn’t think I’d have because it wasn’t on my list even until the concert dates changed. And then we’re there and Amanda invites me to the second house party. Up again.

Wednesday night: (unplanned) Amanda Palmer house party, completely different from the first but wonderful. I spent the evening hanging out with Mali, who happens to be a musician and an old friend of Amanda’s and lives with her in Boston in the Cloud Club. Then Amanda sang me happy birthday just because. (up) And I got to split a cab with her and Mali and a few others back to our respective hotels.

Thursday afternoon (unplanned): hanging out with Mali and talking about art and life and how things end up ending up the way they do and travel and getting caught in ruts and making things happen and generally just the kind of awesome conversation that feels like a mental hug because you know you’ve found a new friend and a kindred spirit.



Up again and again.

Amanda, just before diving into the crowd during Bottom Feeder at The Tivoli.

Thursday night (planned): I sat on the sidewalk and watched people show up for the gig, saving spots for a friend of mine from twitter. We’d never met but my description of my clothes was enough to help her spot me right away. Hugs and pictures and rejoicing because even online you keep talking to certain people because they’re your friend, even if you’ve never met. And then, once you do, it’s brilliant. And the venue doors open and we’re front and center. Drinks and birthday wishes and the concert starts. The show was great and the energy up in the pit was so good. After I kept running into my new friends. I bought merch and got in line to have it signed, scanning for Ellen because she was saving my spot and I had her stuff. My name is yelled by three people. Only one of which I knew. The others were like ‘hi, we just know your name, come get at the front of the line with us.’ what? okay.

Amanda and I, post show.

When Amanda saw me she stood up and gave me a hug and chatted for a minute she thanked me for a letter I had written her. Up. Then I spent the next half an hour or so being pulled (sometimes literally) from group to group as people who had met me that week wanted to talk to me. At the end of the night after many many hugs and some photos were taken, Mali and I walked back to a deserted train station and caught the second to last train back to our part of town. Up/down.

Down because it was all over…
but I haven’t really come down yet. The sum of it all has only half sunk in. I feel alive, like I’m running at life. And, the things that happened on this trip aren’t over just because I left Australia. I have new friends to keep up with and make future plans with. And I just may have found someone to do a artistic collaboration with. So much up and down… but whichever way things were going I had to keep going because I was traveling.

Travel doesn’t afford you the luxury of luxuriating in the down, letting it envelope you. You can let it, but it’s much harder than when you are at home. At home you feel if you’re down that you have no choice but to roll around in the feeling, that life stops happening for you and you just go through the motions. But when you’re experiencing, creating, out of your element, even in the down there is a forward, maybe upwards tumbling running spiraling path that you’re on, and wherever you’re at in life you have to own it.

And right now, up or down my heart is full because I think this year is the first year I’ve really felt that everything is coming together. Just keep saying yes,
or no if you need to,
keep doing things that scare you.
If you don’t do something that scares you every so often you don’t know what you’re capable of.
If you don’t have a way to get into and out of your own head then you get stuck.
My heart is full.
My head is full.
And I think a lot of things are about to happen because of it.


Author: Monica

punk rock ballerina. writer. adventurer.

3 thoughts on “And home again: end of my first trip to Australia”

  1. good your back in one peice … & well done on the track oft travelled downunder.
    followed this brief sojourn with much angst given my own current train wreck, read state of wretchedness (ask amanda or superkate on local brisvegas goss and gory pics)
    next time your get the urge just holler & will offer some tempting tidbits that may tickle the tourist in you.
    one of the many oddball things i hammered away at in former times was wordsmith, professionally or course, for an online travel mob ( circa 1999 – 2001, that was after the 300,000 clicks or so riding solo, by motorcycle round the world ;) . pz & prost – ivorytickler (aka Ozbiker aka ????? )

    1. Thanks for following :) Hopefully soon you’ll be out of your current state soon. I’ll definitely reach out the next time I’m down in Australia (and there will be a next time)!
      Riding solo around the world by motorcycle would be a seriously cool adventure. Is any of it up on the ‘net to read about?

      1. ta .. would not wish the alice cooper look on anyone. RTW solo journey used to be up on Edreams till they were bought out in 2003. HorizonsUnlimited were kind enough to host some of it for a decade or so but forced to asked Grant, the owner of the site to take it all down due to copyright & identity theft issues. if you bump into amanda she’ll might update you on the grunty side of it all, we travelled together briefly in 2001, on ‘the motorcycle’, before she went down to the adelaide festival as the bride. also educated her in the art of chook therapy, chasing waterfalls, dirty wordsmithing & brewing beer in Myanmar :) etc etc. cheers.

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