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Turning Twenty-Fun! Woooo!

Two days after we got back from New Zealand was my Australian birthday! The benefit of celebrating your birthday on this side of the world is that, essentially, you get to celebrate it twice! Although I wish I could have been home with family to celebrate this monumental moment, I was lucky to have some friends to spend it with. They decorated our apartment, gave me a gift basket, and made sure we went out to celebrate. Jenna made me such a yummy white chocolate Tim Tam birthday cake. This was probably the best part of my birthday…you go Jenna!

My birthday was filled with picture-taking, drinking games, and champagne popping! It hasn’t really hit me that I am of legal age, but I know it will once I am back in the U.S. and can have a drink at dinner with my parents. My mom surprised me with news that her, my dad and I will be doing a bar crawl downtown Chicago once I get back and I am beyond excited! After pregaming in our apartment, we made our way to Love Nightclub to celebrate my birthday at midnight. My friends bought me a shot and it was official…I am 21!!!

My semester abroad has almost come to an end. All I have left is one final and three suitcases to pack. My time here has flown by and I feel so lucky to have experienced such amazing moments and cities since being here. My last few days here will be bittersweet as I am ready to meet up with family, but sad to leave. Only 17 short days until I will be back in the U.S. with my family and boyfriend. I am missing you guys more than ever, but I know that moment we are reunited in the airport will be so special.

Grandma and grandpa, get ready to meet up with your new travel buddy!!!!

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A Week in the Adventure Capital of the World

A short day after I was back in the Gold Coast after traveling to the Outback, I re-packed my suitcase and was boarding a flight to Queenstown, New Zealand with my best friends. Me and my roommates (Jenna, Alex, and Ashley), along with James another TEAN student, were beyond anxious to explore the beauty of New Zealand.

During our first four days as Kiwis, we rented a car and traveled across the South Island of New Zealand with the final destination of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Our 2 hour drive went by faster than most because we were in awe driving through such beautiful mountains. Making stops along the way, we came to the realization we were no longer in the Gold Coast and our 80 degree weather was something we took for granted. Every stop we made along the way just got better and better and better. The mountains, sheep, and lakes were so breathtaking I couldn’t peel my eyes from the backseat window. We were all so genuinely happy and it showed as we were all so excited about the sights we were seeing.

The next day we challenged ourselves with a six hour hike up to Roy’s Peak, a mountain standing between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay in Wanaka. Of course, on our drive to the hike, we made various stops along the way to take in all New Zealand has to offer. The weather wasn’t exactly in our favor that day, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the views.

The next day of our car travels was to the Blue Pools where we enjoyed crystal clear waters, rock towers and James jumping off a bridge. Once again we made plenty of stops along the way and this drive was my favorite. We weaved our way through lakes, rivers, and mountains with music and windows down. It was a movie-like experience.

On our final day with the car we ventured up to a ski resort and Lake Alta where we enjoyed watching a snowfall on the mountain tops. James made the hike while the rest of us sat in the warmth of the car and planned the rest of our week in Queenstown. I was extremely satisfied with our decision to rent a car because it really allowed us to explore New Zealand at our own pace and in the manner we desired. It was great to have James take the responsibility of driving and I enjoyed every sight we were able to see those first four days.

Queenstown is a tourist-friendly town with endless thrill seeking opportunities and breathtaking mountain views. The town was full of local shops and restaurants that I can’t wait to take advantage of when I visit again with my grandma and grandpa. We devoted a full day to tasting local New Zealand wines at The Winery. Sipping on various types of wine, I would now consider myself a wine enthusiast. That night we ventured out to a few bars to experience Queenstown night life. Lets just say it was pre- 21st birthday celebration that resulted in a very careful actions on the actual day. Oops! The next day was full of storm clouds and rain (even a little snow), so we decided to hang out in our hostel and socialize with a few other backpackers. I met a man from Scotland, and a woman and boy from the U.K. who helped me cure my hangover from the night before. My friends and I spent the nights in our hostel playing board and card games while watching movies…it was a cute way to spend our time.

On our last day in New Zealand, we rode gondolas up to the Stratosphere, a buffet restaurant that overlooked all of Queenstown. After a very filling lunch, we enjoyed the views and spent the afternoon reflecting on our time abroad.

Overall, New Zealand with my best friends was an experience I will never forget. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and the sights we saw. Although the weather was not what we were used to, we made the best of it and ventured into heated restaurants and stores as often as we could. Jenna had recommendation to try Cookie Time and that was probably our favorite place to go. I look forward to experiencing New Zealand in a few weeks with my grandparents as we travel through the North and South Islands!

Flyin’ Solo in the Outback

This was by far the coolest experience I’ve had in Australia and I feel so lucky to have been able to see what the Outback is all about. I really felt immersed in the Aussie culture while in middle of the Red Centre, otherwise known as the Northern Territory, which consists of dusty red desert, mountain ranges, salt lakes and gorges. With only 3 short days to spend in the Outback, I made sure to fill every moment with a unique experience. I visited the Field of Lights, Kings Canyon, watched the sun set over Ayers Rock, and rode a camel across the red desert at sunrise. Every moment was beyond breathtaking and I would do anything to live it over again!

I began my journey bright and early heading to the airport at 4:30a.m. to fly to Sydney and then to Ayers Rock. The Ayers Rock airport has one runway and two gates with only three flights arriving and departing each day. I knew that this meant I was really in the outback. I was mentally prepared for the hot weather, but it really hit me getting off the airplane into 100+ degree weather and seeing a lizard crawling across the tarmac. Since there is not much civilization in the area, everything is organized around tourists with free shuttles to and from the airport.

Once I arrived to the Ayers Rock Resort, I checked into my hotel and explored the cute town of Yulara. Since it was Easter, I bought a ticket for the Field of Light, an art installation by Uluru/Ayers Rock. This event welcomed me at an exclusive desert dune top just as the sun set on the horizon. With a selection of outback canapes (crocodile, kangaroo, prawn, and sweet potato) and sparkling wines to enjoy as darkness fell, 50,000 glass spheres gently came to rainbow-colored life. Covered under a sky brilliant with stars, the Field of Light reflected the beautiful landscape in such a surreal way. In this moment, it felt so unreal seeing the beautiful night sky above me as I walked through the desert installation and I truly felt so lucky.

Monday was a long day as I had to be ready for my 13-hour tour to Kings Canyon by 4:30 a.m. We drove through the sand hill country towards Kings Canyon, stopping for breakfast at Kings Creek Station. We continued to Watarrka National Park where we made the rocky climb to the rim of Kings Canyon to be rewarded with amazing views. The climb started off quickly with 600 steps up to the top of the canyon followed by a rim walk and descent into the Garden of Eden. Even though it was almost 100 degrees, the views made the heat worth it. I met the sweetest family the night before at the Field of Light event who took me under their wing for the day. The Ramseys are from Geelong, a suburb of Melbourne, and were on holiday for Easter. Justine (the mother), Tate (the father), Baxter and Chloe (their children) basically acted as my family for the day. We endured the 3 hour climb together, shared life stories and bonded over our hiking struggles all day. This day was probably the highlight of my trip because even though I made the journey to the outback alone, there was not one moment I felt that way because of their company.

After the long and exhausting day, I said goodbye to my second family and made my way to my hotel room ordered dinner and turned on the T.V. to relax. With only 6 channels, I was pleasantly surprised to find Friends on and I was perfectly content. I woke up early again Tuesday morning for what I was most excited for…A SUNRISE CAMEL RIDE THROUGH THE DESERT!!!!!!! My grandma raved about her experience riding a camel here so it was the top thing on my bucket list.

The most fun part was having my camel stand up because it was probably the wildest and most thrilling moment of the ride. Our camels were lined in a train of 15 across the desert as we watched the sunset. I got to breathe in the cool morning air as I rode my friendly camel, Bonnie, through the desert landscape as dawn broke over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I was able to watch the desert come to life and learn about the flora and fauna along the trail as well as learn about the interesting habits of camels. Australia has the largest population of camels and after being up close and personal with them, I can now say how uniquely cute they are. After my ride, I enjoyed freshly baked beer bread and a cup of coffee and saw all of the beautiful pictures from my ride. It was so surreal being able to have this once in a lifetime experience.

The Outback was everything I expected and more! This has been my favorite trip and I can honestly say I felt so immersed in Aussie culture. I met such a wonderful family I plan to stay in touch with, saw beautiful landscapes and animals only found in Australia, and developed confidence in my ability to be independent. This trip was probably the highlight of my time abroad and as I said earlier, I would do anything to re-live it!

Stay tuned for my adventure week in Queenstown, New Zealand with friends!

The Little Things

I am very behind on posts since I have been a jet-setter these past few weeks so bare with me as I try to catch up!

So here I am as my last month of living on the Gold Coast approaches 😦

I have been enjoying every second living in Broadbeach and it’s weekends that I am ‘stuck’ here that I realize how great this place is and I feel so lucky to have such great friends here, too. I’ve been staying busy since Fiji with my last week of classes, my roommate Jenna’s birthday, and the TEAN farewell dinner.

Midori Pina Punch from Lakeside Bar on campus

Last Week of Classes

Since the Commonwealth Games are taking place on the Gold Coast this year, Bond Uni has given us the two weeks before finals off to have a spring break and enjoy the games which take place April 4-15. This means that I’ve already finished attending my classes and all that I have left are two finals.  It was a bittersweet feeling being done with classes. Bond’s campus is so beautiful that it wasn’t very difficult for me to enjoy making the trek there. I really liked all of my professors and I was lucky enough to make a few new friends in each of my classes that I hope to stay in touch with. Ashley and I shared a celebratory cocktail from the campus bar in honor of (almost) completing a semester abroad!

Jenna’s 20th Birthday 

My awesome roommate, Jenna, celebrated her 20th birthday this past weekend and of course we had to make it one to remember! We started the celebrations on Friday morning with brunch at The Little Mermaid. We all ordered some super yummy food and took pictures in the so cutely decorated restaurant. We then spent the rest of the day by the pool relaxing before heading down to a beer garden located under our hotel called Bavarian Bier Cafe to participate in happy hour and get ready for our night out. We spent the night in Surfers Paradise celebrating Jenna making it out of her teenage years!

Springbrook National Park 

To continue Jenna’s birthday celebrations, she decided she wanted to spend her actual birthday hiking so we ventured to Springbrook National Park. Jenna, Bailey, Quinn and I packed sacked lunches, hopped in Quinn’s newly purchased Aussie car and drove an hour southwest of Broadbeach to take in the mountains. It was a windows down, music blasting type of car ride that was much needed. Once we got to Springbrook we began on the trail to see Purling Brook Falls, a horsetail waterfall on the Purling Brook which is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was so beautiful and the hike was very enjoyable! Jenna, Bailey and I tried getting close to the waterfall but because it was so windy, we felt like the weathermen in a hurricane trying to still see what was in front of us. After the falls, we drove up to the ‘Best of All’ Lookout and I would say it lived up to the name. We saw all of the Gold Coast ranging from the Queensland/NSW border to Mt. Nardi. It was such a great day and we ended it at Miami Marketta with yummy food and delicious drinks.

TEAN Farewell Dinner

Even though there is still a month left until we all leave the Gold Coast and head back to the U.S., TEAN planned our farewell dinner to take place due to everyones’ spring break travel plans. Our dinner took place at Misono Japanese Steakhouse, a hibachi grill located in Surfers Paradise. The food and entertainment was great and it was a lot of fun seeing everyone all dressed up. It’s so sad to think about how close we are to leaving, but I am so grateful I was able to have this unbelievable experience in Australia because of the guidance I received through TEAN.

Elephant Rock and Coolangatta

Since I enjoyed Coolangatta and Snapper Rocks so much the time I went a month ago, I knew I had to make a second trip. This time, though, I decided to do it on my own. I got on the bus by my apartment and halfway into the ride, a lady next to me asked if I’d ever been to Elephant Rock. Since I had not, she gave me directions and even recommended a spot to get a yummy snack. It was nice seeing a new beach and I really enjoyed the hour-long stroll I took just taking in my beautiful surroundings (and of course my snack was yummy). I made my way to Coolangatta and swam where the waves crashed into the rocks. This is definitely one of my favorite beaches because no matter what you’re in the mood for you can swim, surf, climb some rocks, tan, or follow a walking path. Once I was tired enough, I took my book out watched some surfers and caught some rays. This little day of independence helped get me in the mindset for my big trip to the Outback!

STAY TUNED TO HEAR HOW MY EXPERIENCE AS A REAL AUSSIE IN THE OUTBACK GOES!

Bula!!!!

This past weekend I took the trip of a lifetime to the Fiji Islands!!!!! This is by far the most exotic and exciting place I have ever been. It allowed me to disconnect and really be grateful for the life I’ve been living. Fiji is full of wonderful people, a unique culture, and breathtaking sights. I absolutely enjoyed every single second I spent there and wish I had so many more. I still feel like I’m on cloud 9…

I apologize, this blog post is very overdue as I travelled to Fiji March 15th. Also, I tested my video-editing skills, so look out for my video documenting everything I did in Fiji at the end of this post!

My journey to Fiji began on a Thursday night as Alex, Ashley, and I took the 2 hour bus and train ride to the Brisbane International Airport for our flight departing at 11:40pm. This would be our first trip we have done together since being here! The flight from Brisbane to Nadi was only 3 1/2 hours but because it was in middle of the night, our sleep schedules were bound to be messed up. To waste some time after going through security, Alex and I kicked off this vacation with a celebratory glass of wine! Our flight via Fiji Airways was very smooth-sailing. We were given a pillow, blanket and meal while the movie Space Jam featuring Michael Jordan played on the TV screens. I knew it was off to a good start when I was asked if I wanted a drink and they gave me Fiji water and a complimentary glass of wine!

Once arriving in Nadi at about 5:15am, we took a taxi to our resort. We stayed on a man-made island called Denarau Island located just 20 minutes from the main town of Nadi. We drove through the local neighborhoods and had a little glimpse at how Fijians really live and it was quite eye-opening. As we pulled up to our resort, the Westin Denarau Resort and Spa, all I could help thinking was ‘Wow, this is Fiji…I’m really here.’

We spent our first few hours in Fiji sleeping since we got little sleep on the flight, but once we were ready, we explored our resort. We checked out the pool, the restaurants and met some of the Fiji hotel staff who were super friendly. We walked around the island since we had access to a few of the other hotels’ pools and restaurants, too. We watched the breathtaking sunset and walked to Port Denarau for dinner. We watched a fire show and ate at Cardo’s Seafood and Steakhouse right on the water. My food was great and the live music was even better.

After my first day interacting with Fijians, there are a few things I noticed they do differently. The word ‘Bula’ is used an extreme amount of times. Bula is the national greeting that means: hello, how are you, it’s a sunny day, take your time, have a good day, hope you and your extended family are well, play nicely. But sometimes it also can mean: goodbye, buy me a drink, I’m bored, I’m hungry or I’ve run out of conversation…so basically anything and everything can be said with the word ‘bula’. But after spending only a few short days there, Bula just seemed to come naturally. Fiji time is also a very real thing. It’s used to explain everything from unexpected delays to slow restaurant service. Your tour didn’t start on time? Ah, Fiji time. Everyone is extremely laid back and there seems to be not a worry in the world.

We woke up early Saturday morning to take a visit to a local Fijian village. This experience was extremely eye-opening and really made me appreciate the amazing life I have been living. After driving up the mountain (stopping along the way to admire the views), we visited Nausori Village. This village is located inland up in the mountains secluded from any towns. There are about 150 members living in this village and they are very proud that they have a primary school and a nurse in their village. Because of this, they consider themselves lucky. The village also has no electricity and it costs the members $40FJD each way to get to town if need be. This cost is a lot for them and only on special occasions do they get the opportunity to leave. It really put into perspective for me how much I have access to that I take for granted.

Tradition is very important in Fiji and even though we were just guests for a short time, we were required to cover our shoulders and knees before entering the village out of respect. We also had to take off our shoes as we entered any member’s house. We were welcomed into the village with a traditional Kava ceremony. This ceremony meant that we were now a part of the village and would be welcomed back any time. It began with us sitting in a circle on the floor of the warrior’s house. In each village there is a chief, a speaking chief, and a warrior whose responsibilities are passed down generation to generation. The formal ceremony began as the villager ground up the Kava and strained it through a cloth into a large wooden bowl placed in the middle of the room. The men drank first and then the females. Before receiving the Kava you must:

  • Clap once
  • Yell Bula!
  • Drink the Kava
  • Clap three times

I didn’t really know what Kava was, but it is extremely disrespectful to deny the drink so I drank it anyways. I though it was basically brown water because that’s what it looked like, but after doing research I found out it is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed. So, I guess that may explain why Fijians are known to be some of the most laid-back people on the planet.

After the ceremony we were given some history of the village, a tour and then helped prepare a lunch for the farewell ceremony. The food we ate was all grown and prepared in the village. The members spread these foods out over the course of a week because it is all they have access to, but we were given it all in one meal. They played music and danced for us as we ate the food in front of them. The children danced and seemed so happy to see our new faces. The whole time I couldn’t help but feel so privileged.

To be totally honest, I did find it difficult differentiating between culture shock and comfort zone in the beginning of the trip. This really helped me put my life into perspective and showed me how fortunate I am. I know it’s so cliche to witness poverty first hand for the first time and to all of a sudden be so grateful and fortunate, but I really do feel like I have learned an extremely important lesson. My problems seemed less dire than I often make them out to be. We worry about what picture to post on Instagram or what people with think if we don’t keep up with the latest fashion trends, but in reality, none of that superficial stuff matters. It has really given me a sense of self and has helped me put a finger on what I really value.

After visiting the village, we made our way back to the resort. I had this guilty feeling going back to our 5-star resort with air-conditioning and room service while I knew there were so many people who will never experience anything similar. I wanted to make the most of my time in Fiji, though, so I made sure to reflect on how I was feeling, but not let it hold me back from my experience. It was my mom’s birthday back at home and while everyone was out to dinner celebrating I was lucky enough to talk to them. It was difficult for me to be anything but sad that I couldn’t be there with them. Later I watched the sunset on the beach and attempted to FaceTime my family, but totally forgot it was 2 o’clock in the morning, so I knew Yarko would be up. He answered and we watched the sunset together while I vented to him my feelings about the day I just experienced. I shared with him the fire show that was happening at our hotel and then we listened to the live music together. He always brings me a sense of comfort and reassures me of any worries I may be having. He, along with my family, are truly the things in life I am most grateful for.

For our last day in Fiji, we decided to take a sailboat to an island. We took a Captain Cook Cruise to Tivua Island. On this island we were able to snorkel, paddle board, take a glass-bottom boat ride, and kayak. The island was lush with palm trees and the water warm with colorful coral and fish. My friends and I kayaked off the island for a little and then I also decided to paddle board. It was really fun and definitely a balancing act, but I got plenty of compliments from others saying I looked like a pro. I think my favorite part of the day was the snorkeling. I saw so many unique fish and beautiful coral that I couldn’t believe I was swimming around. After our time on the island came to an end, we boarded the sailboat and made our way back to the port.

Fiji was a weekend full of sun and fun, literally. I was amazed by all I saw. This weekend exposed me to so many new feelings and emotions that I believe I could’ve only experienced there. This definitely gave me a new outlook on things and inspired me to live my life with that outlook. I am now trying to diminish the importance placed on things like Instagram posts, but place even more importance on the relationships I have with those around me.

If I learned anything in Fiji, it is that no matter how much or how little you have, it’s the people you share your most special moments with that will make you truly happy.

P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way

Ever since 2003 when I was cuddled up on the couch with my family (popcorn in hand) watching Finding Nemo, I’ve dreamt of going to Sydney, Australia. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge were just so alluring to me. In a way, I’m sort of like Marlin and Dory traveling across the world to Sydney. I’ve seen so many things I never expected…and yeah, maybe I didn’t meet a shark or become friends with a sea turtle along the way, but I sure have experienced so many things that are even better.

My journey across the ocean began about two months ago, and even though it took me longer to reach Sydney than it took Marlin and Dory, I enjoyed every second of my time once I got there. Sydney was full of surprises and I can’t wait to go back at the end of the semester to meet up with my grandparents.

Once arriving in Sydney on Friday, Ashley and I checked into our Airbnb which was in a harbourside suburb of the city. Our apartment was located in the upscale town, Cremorne Point. Transportation within and around Sydney is so much easier than I expected. Since our Airbnb was on the other side of the harbor, we were able to take a ferry to get there which is easily the best way to see Sydney. I was in complete awe seeing the Opera House for the first time and the view did’t get old every time I passed by it.

Our friend, Mikylah, is studying abroad in Sydney this semester at the University of New South Wales so we arranged to meet up with her for sightseeing and dinner our first day in Sydney. We met her at Bondi Beach, Sydney’s most famous beach, for the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. This walk was about 3.5 miles but it went by so fast considering we spent the whole time catching up. Bondi is home to the Bondi Icebergs, an international landmark. It is pretty neat seeing a pool right along the ocean with waves crashing in. If we had more time, I would’ve loved to swim there! We started our walk along the coast viewing beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. We passed along the coasts of Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee. We ended our walk at the Coogee Pavilion for dinner sharing a pizza and treating ourselves to gelato.  It was nice to catch up and see where the city meets the sea.

Saturday, Ashley and I made sure to stop at all the touristy landmarks. We began our day walking from Cremorne Point to the Opera House. We chose to walk there so that we could walk across the Harbour Bridge. The views from the bridge were so beautiful, I just couldn’t take it all in. This walk was about 4 miles, but once we got to the Opera House, it started to hit me that I was really in Sydney. Even though it’s just a building, it was surreal to see. I felt like a little kid wanting my picture in front of it and snapping a million pictures.

After our fun-filled day, Ashley and I took the ferry over to Darling Harbour for a sunset dinner cruise. We were served some appetizers, chicken stuffed with kale that was sided with veggies, dessert and unlimited drinks. It was definitely a recipe for a fun night with beautiful views!

Sunday morning I woke up early in hopes to see as much as I possibly could. Ashley and Mikylah took the day to see the Blue Mountain National Park, but I am lucky enough to be able to do that with my grandparents at the end of my school program once I meet them in Sydney. Because of that, I decided to see all the major attractions throughout Sydney on my own. I felt so independent! Here’s a brief list of everywhere I walked (which by the way, my phone tracked 27,000 steps for the day)!

    1. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
    2. Andrew Charlton Poolside Cafe
    3. Art Gallery of New South Wales
    4. St. Mary’s Cathedral
    5. Hyde Park
    6. Sea Life Aquarium
    7. Madame Tussauds
    8. Cockle Bay Wharf
    9. Chinese Garden of Friendship
    10. The Rocks
    11. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
    12. Sydney Opera House

 

Okay, wow that was exhausting! I started my day by taking the ferry over to Circular Quay (the ferry and transportation hub of Sydney) and walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens on my way to breakfast at Andrew Charlton Poolside Cafe. This cafe was so cute situated on the harbor with a pool attached where aerobics classes were being held. There was a baby shower going on as well and it was definitely a perfect location for one. I ordered an iced coffee and an açaí bowl they called Pink Paradise. Australia tends to use ice cream in their iced coffee instead of cream and sugar and I must say this was the best I’ve had since being in Aussie. I also really enjoyed my açaí bowl even though it was probably prettier than me hahah.

From there, I continued walking through the botanic gardens to the Art Gallery of NSW and viewed some really interesting art that is native to Australia. I was a little bummed because the main exhibit, 21st Biennale of Sydney, was still in construction so I couldn’t see it. Hopefully I can go there with my grandma and grandpa, though because it looks amazing. After walking through the art gallery, I made my way to St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was so beautiful and attracted so many tourists. From there I walked through Hyde Park on my way to the Sea Life Aquarium. There were so many street performers, including a little girl singing whom I thought was so talented.

The Sea Life Aquarium is located in Darling Harbour and is an underwater journey of amazing discovery with 12 themed zones. The aquarium is one of the world’s largest aquariums – with over 700 different species and 13,000 animals and is also home to the world’s largest variety of sharks and rays! I saw so many water creatures and fish that I didn’t even know existed. It was definitely a really unique experience. I liked the touch pool a lot, but it reminded me of Finding Dory and I almost felt bad poking at starfish and other corals but I couldn’t help myself. I think my favorite animal was the giant ray that looked like it was smiling at me. The shark cove was also really cool because I was able to walk in an underwater tunnel with sharks and rays swimming above me!

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My ticket to Sea Life Aquarium also included entry into Madame Tussauds, a wax museum which was right next-door. I got my picture with Steve Irwin, Liam Hemsworth, Justin Bieber, and many others! To be honest, it was kinda creepy because they were so realistic that I couldn’t tell which people were real and which were made of wax!

Right next to Darling Harbour was Cockle Bay Wharf. I enjoyed lunch there and then made my way to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. This was a very zen and peaceful garden that was secluded even though it was in the hustle and bustle of the city. There were waterfalls, ponds, exotic plants, and hidden pathways. Koi fish were swimming in the ponds and willows were weeping in the breeze making it a serene destination. After a lot of walking, this was a nice little break allowing me to take it all in.

After this much needed walking break, I FaceTimed Yarko as I walked about a mile and half to The Rocks. I’m so lucky to be able to talk to him as often as I do and I was honestly getting a little lonely and he always makes everything better. I love talking to him as often as I can and it definitely helps make the distance seem more like a number than anything else. The Rocks is a neighbourhood of historic laneways in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge where locals and tourists enjoy the open-air markets. I stopped at The Rocks Discovery Museum and I think it is something my grandma and grandpa would really enjoy seeing. In The Rocks is the Museum of Contemporary Art which was what I thought was my final destination for the day. There was a rooftop terrace that had beautiful views of Circular Quay which I really enjoyed.

I began walking back to the ferry when I was taken back by the Opera House again, so I decided to walk over there and enjoy it once more. I snapped some more pictures and just sat down to people-watch. By this point in the day to say I was exhausted was an understatement. I took the ferry back to our Airbnb and planned on taking a nap…too bad I didn’t have time for one. The sun was setting and I knew I couldn’t miss the iconic views of it over the harbour. I FaceTimed Yarko again and we had a date watching the sunset together.  It was so surreal and beautiful to share it with him even though it was over the phone.

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Sunset over Sydney Harbour

He watched the whole sunset with me while I recorded a time-lapse video on my GoPro (which turned out so cool I must add). Once the sun set, we were both just taking in the views…or I thought, but Yarko actually fell asleep with the phone still in his hand because it was almost 4 a.m. back home and he looked so cute. We shared stories and it felt like he was right there with me. I loved every second of it. This was probably my favorite experience of the trip.

Monday was our last day in Sydney so Ashley and I decided to take a bus to Manly Beach located north of Sydney. It was a very cute, little town and the beach was a nice place to just lay out and relax after my long previous day of walking. We got some lunch and enjoyed frozen yogurt which was so satisfying before heading to the airport back to Gold Coast.

I really enjoyed my time in Sydney and I am looking forward to meeting my grandparents there in 34 days! I have a feeling it will be such a different experience than the one I have just had because there is just so much to see and do. Sydney lived up to all of my expectations and easily exceeded them. I am also super happy to say that I DID find Nemo after traveling across the world to find him!

Stay tuned for my adventure to the Fiji Islands. Wow, I can’t believe I can even say that. I’m so lucky it’s crazy!

Exploring the Possibilities in Tasmania

I am beyond lucky to have been able to travel to Tasmania, ‘The Natural State’ of Australia this past weekend. I was completely blown away by the natural beauty of the island and was amazed by the capital city of Hobart in which I stayed during my visit. Tasmania, also known as Tassie by the locals, is home to about 500,000 Australians and about 50% of the island is preserved as national parks and World Heritage Sites. Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia and I was lucky enough to experience that first hand visiting Mt. Wellington and Mt. Field. I visited a few national parks, the Tasman Peninsula, the historic site Port Arthur, a wildlife sanctuary, local farms and shops, and enjoyed the view of the Derwent River Harbor from the wharf docks.

Even though it seems as though I’ve seen so much in Tasmania (which I have), I only travelled within a 3 hour radius of the city of Hobart. If I had more time to venture out further and travel to the west and north regions of the island, I know I would have seen even more of the beauty Tasmania holds. I honestly didn’t expect for Tassie to be as beautiful as it was and I hope that sometime later in my life I will be able to see much more of what it has to offer.

PSA: Here I go listing off everything I was able to see and do while in Tassie with my friend Alex alongside a million pictures so…grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy!

We stayed in an Airbnb in Glebe, a northern suburb of Hobart, and our host Greg and his puppy Remy were such great hosts. His house was built in 1904 and held so much character and beauty. As for sightseeing, Alex and I planned our weekend down to the minute with tours booked each day to make sure we could see as much as possible. Each tour left at 7am each day and returned to Hobart around 7:30pm each night making our days long and exhausting, but I must say there wouldn’t have been a better way to see everything.

Friday: Mt. Field, Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mt. Wellington

Waking up early was difficult, but I was so excited and anxious to begin sightseeing Tasmania. We began our day with our tour guide Nick and our small group visiting Mt. Field National Park. We spent about 3.5 hours there seeing Russell Falls, Tasmania’s most recognisable waterfall with its 3 tiered drop as well as Horseshoe Falls. We also made our way along the Tall Trees Track where high above us stood the giant Swamp Gum trees at 80 metres tall. Further up into the National Park we walked the Pandani Grove Trail which took us around the alpine Lake Dobson. We were able to soak up the wilderness and surrounding mountain air in this secluded area which was a great place for a picnic lunch.

We also visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to many rescued wildlife including Tasmanian devils, wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, and a variety of regional birds. I was able to get up-close and personal with the animals and even feed some of them!

To top off this very Tasmanian day, we then headed to the summit of Mt. Wellington (4170 ft), Hobart’s iconic backdrop. The view from the top was breathtaking. I was so high up that I could’ve been in an airplane. This experience will definitely be one hard to top (no pun intended).

Saturday: Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park

We departed Hobart following the coastline north with amazing views of Maria Island and the coastal scenery along the way. Our first stop for the day was Freycinet National Park which included so many natural beauties. Alex and I hiked about 45 minutes uphill to the world famous Wineglass Bay Lookout. During the hike we were able to see Mt. Amos, Coles Bay, and of course…Wineglass Bay. The only thing that would’ve made this view better, would have been a glass of wine and a few hours to soak it all in.

Once we hiked back down beside Mt. Amos, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in Honeymoon Bay. This natural landmark was breathtaking. With hard granite rock beneath me and the beautiful blue sky above me, the glow of the midday sun reflected off the water in such a picturesque way. The mountains behind me and the crystal clear water in front of me left me speechless. This little spot was so beautiful I couldn’t even believe it was real.

When I thought it couldn’t get any better, we then made our way up to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse which was a 20 minute circuit walk with panoramic views of Freycinet National Park. The Tasman Sea stretching further than my eye could see was so mind-blowing. In this moment, I realized there is so much beauty around the world I have yet to see and this is just the beginning of my life full of adventures.

On our way back to Hobart we stopped at Kate’s Berry Farm and Spiky Beach. At the berry farm I tried some raspberry ice cream which was delicious and a great treat after some hiking. Alex bought some strawberries, much healthier than my choice, but I’m a sucker for ice cream. Spiky Beach has beautiful sand and dark dolerite rock outcrops. A descend of sea-worn rocks on the beach creates little nooks and ponds. The water is clear and blue and the whole effect is like a storybook beach. The orange tinted rocks were an added beauty.

Sunday: Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula

Today was action packed and fast paced. We made our way to the stunning Tasman Peninsula, home to Australia’s highest sea cliffs. We passed through Eaglehawk Neck and ‘The Dogline’ and heard all the great stories of the area from our tour guide. Then we began one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks.  This was a short but spectacular track along the Waterfall Bay Clifftop. After every turn there was another breathtaking view. The walk concluded with the remarkable rock formations; the Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen.

Alex and I opted-in to stop at Port Arthur Lavender Farm next. I really enjoyed this cute farm and lunch stop. The lavender farms were vibrant and the aroma was sweet. We ordered lunch and of course some lavender ice cream as a midday treat.

We then made our way to the Port Arthur Historic Site originally built within the British Empire. We took a harbor cruise around the Isle of the Dead and discovered the violent history of the early Australian Penal system. The site ruins include a huge penitentiary and the remaining shell of the Convict Church, which was built by inmates. This was definitely a unique site to see and gave me a cultural background of Tasmania.

Our next stops were at Federation Chocolate Factory and Richmond Village. The chocolate factory was a small family run boutique chocolate stop, with a variety of chocolate flavours to sample. My favorite was dark chocolate sea salt and Alex liked it so much she bought a few flavors. We then wandered the streets in Richmond Village visiting the Sweets and Treats shop and saw Australia’s oldest bridge (built in 1823) still in use – a convict built sand-stone bridge.

richmond bridge

Our last stop was a lookout over the city of Hobart which was the perfect way to end our adventures in Tasmania.

hobart view

Food and Free Time

After each day of tours, Alex and I made our way to the Derwent River Harbor for dinner. We found this restaurant called Mures that we really enjoyed. We ate seafood and drank wine here with beautiful views of the harbor. Alex was brave enough to try Tasmanian oysters, but I can’t say she enjoyed them. We also tried this cute (but expensive) breakfast cafe on the harbor Monday morning called Brooke Street Larder. After our breakfast and coffee, we walked through the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The current exhibit was called ‘The Remarkable Tasmanian Devil’ and it was terrifying. We also stopped by a wine tasting shop because Tasmania has a national and international reputation as a leading producer of some of Australia’s premium wines. We didn’t try any though because we had to get to the airport for our flight back to the Gold Coast.

Overall, Hobart was a beautiful city with even more beautiful surroundings. I loved my time in Tasmania and wish I could’ve had more. Alex was the best travel buddy and I’m so excited for our next trips together to Fiji and New Zealand!!!

This upcoming weekend I will be adventuring around Sydney and I could not be more excited! Expect another blog post within the next week! Missing everyone at home a little extra right now 😦