Thoughts From a Woman Destined to Live in Paris
I'm no stranger to traveling. I've been here and there. I've been on road trips, joined bus trips, and even shared cross atlantic flight trips. I've seen the world and I count my lucky stars each time I break out my suitcase for a new destination.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp on traveling before this adventure. I had some basic skills and traits that did help me, yet, not in the ways I thought. But man was I not prepared for the traveler I'd become as a part of this trip. Maybe it's the safety of knowing often when I travelled, I wasn't alone. It was the comfort of feeling like if I'm being a complete fool, other people are nearby and can be foolish with me. Maybe it was the security of being in the same continent as family and friends. Maybe it was knowing that no matter what, I knew someone I could call if I needed them.
I came into this experience with the sense that I'd grow as a person, a professional, and yeah sure, a traveller too. I had no idea just how much traveller growth was in store for me during this adventure.
I'm not talking about packing skills traveling (though I've certainly become more of a strategic packer with cool gadgets and an arsenal of bags). I'm not talking about checking things off a list of places I've been to (though I am guilty of that too).
I'm talking about real traveling. The type of traveling where you dive into every experience, embrace the joy of not knowing or having a set plan, try new things like staying in hostels, fake boldness when eating at a restaurant alone, walk forward confidently when you literally have no idea what you're doing, and surprise yourself in the process.
I'm talking about traveling where you just figure it out. I'm talking about traveling where you pretend you know what you're doing. I'm talking about self discovery, personal challenges, hilariously awkward stories, and moments that make the man (well, the woman).
I'm talking about traveling alone. Meeting people. Making plans. Getting to know that each day is different, yet uniquely familiar. I'm talking about going somewhere where you don't know a soul, and learning that each person you interact with as a potential new friend or someone you'll never see again. I'm talking about learning to trust your gut, find your people, and make things happen.
I'm talking about being part of the journey. I'm talking about savoring the destination. I didn't know what I was getting into when I started, but I'm so glad that I had the experience.
So yeah, maybe I'm a more experienced traveller than I realized I could be as part of this journey. Maybe I'm not afraid to stay at a hostel or eat dinner alone. Maybe I've figured out the science to getting around with different transportation systems. Maybe I've changed traveling. And maybe traveling has changed me. All I can say is that if this is what it feels like to be a more experienced traveller, then sign me up again. Because I'm happy to embrace the next journey, no matter the destination.
I've learned a lot on this adventure. Much of these nuggets of wisdom are things that have changed how I view higher education and the world. However, some of these moments of awkwardness did not teach me lessons that I could have learned at a meeting or training. Instead, they are moments where I hope that no one was looking or listening to me make a fool of myself...
Roasted chestnut incident: During my adventure in Sydney, I came across a street vendor selling roasted chestnuts. I was extremely excited to buy a bag and try them, since I had always related them to winter because of classic Christmas songs. Well, to say the least, it wasn't what I expected. Here were some of the nuggets of wisdom I took away from this moment of awkwardness.
Coffee pot conundrum: One of my first weeks here, I wanted to try the fancy office coffee pot that looked like a higher tech Keurig. After procuring a little coffee pod thing from my coworker (who was nice enough to give me one), I set off to make my cup of coffee. Here are the lessons I learned while panicking because I thought I broke the coffee pot.
Spicy Food Scene: One day before taking the train back to Melbourne, I stopped at a restaurant to grab something and take it with me to the station. I had never been to this place before, and I wasn't sure what I was ordering. I picked a rice dish with vegetables. After grabbing my food and waiting at the station for my train, I started to eat my mystery dish. It was great for the first few minutes, then...disaster struck. I have no idea what kind of spices they put into the dish, but I bit into one particularly spicy green bean and I almost spit my food across the platform. Here's what I learned in that moment of panic.
I've always wanted to live abroad. Some part of me has always known that going abroad would help me discover myself, work towards my dreams, and give me the tools to be successful.
I've heard that people who live abroad are known as better employees because they try to new things and are adaptable. I like to think that's true. Living abroad isn't always easy, but it is worth it.
Living in Australia hasn't been what I expected, but in a good way. I didn't really have any set expectations, and that helped me. I think if I came in with rigid expectations, I would have forgotten to smell the roses along the journey.
Australians are kind. They're funny. They love coffee. They're obsessed with cooking shows. Their commitment to sports and working out makes me feel like I've got a lot to learn (and miles to run). They travel everywhere. They take super cool vacations. They eat great food. They unabashedly ask about American politics. They have a great accent. They live in a beautiful country bustling with interesting and exciting people. They value history and tradition. They're by no means perfect, none of us are, but they have a way of life that makes you feel welcomed and supported. They want you to succeed here and they want to tell you about Australia. It's infectious to be in a place where everyone loves the world around them and the experiences they have. From the bustling cities to country towns, Australians know how to make you feel appreciated.
I'm very lucky to have supportive staff and coworkers who have helped me be successful. From rides to the grocery store to tips about using public transport, they've been there when I needed them. They have shared their stories, told me about their lives, and helped me see the world differently.
So, yeah. Living abroad isn't what I expected. My Aussie journey has been full of moments I'll treasure, moments I'll laugh at one day (see my upcoming Awkwardly Australian post), moments I'll always remember, people I'll keep in touch with, people who made me smile, professional experiences I'm proud of, professional experiences I never thought I'd get, and adventures that have made a difference in who I am today.
If this journey has taught me anything, it's that we should make the most from each day, because it has so many lessons to each us.
FedUni organizes an orientation for international students and I was able to shadow the sessions. This was exciting because I joined Connie, a new intern in the office. She and I participated in some of the activities and even traveled to the Ballarat Wildlife Park! I was so excited for the chance to meet a koala (see below) and spend time in such an exciting place. This was a great way to spend some of my last days in Australia. It's bittersweet that things are ending, but with a day like today and a chance to meet some koalas, it has been so incredibly worth it.
Working abroad has an almost magical appeal. Here you are in, a foreign and beautiful land where people want to pay you to spend time working and experiencing the culture and environment.
But, it's not all fun and games, as much as you want it to be. For some, myself included, you must find balance between the traveling adventures abroad, and the professional experiences you have at work.
The first thing I realized is that working is truly my priority. At the end of the day, I came here in a professional capacity to get a professional experience that will help me succeed. That is not to say I don't want the traveling and adventuring part. I just needed to find balance.
In my own quest towards balance, I realized that so many of my work experiences and opportunities were also traveling and international adventuring experiences. Something like traveling into town on an errand meant driving through an area I hadn't been to yet. Going to Sydney for a networking visit meant I could explore the city during the weekend. A presentation at campus by visiting professors from Scotland meant an incredible view into the education system abroad while I was abroad myself.
I had to find a path that worked for me. That meant taking full advantage of my weekends, tagging along when invited by a coworker or new friend, and realizing that this journey was personal. That doesn't meant that I have to do what everyone else did. It just means I have to do what I want to give myself the most joy.
It was like a game to find joy in places I didn't expect. There's joy in trying a new coffee shop or visiting Melbourne by myself. There's joy in going to the aquarium or taking in the breeze on the Great Ocean Road. Joy can be hiding in a cafe that you visit with your coworkers. There's joy in each day and beautiful photos all around us, we don't have to be abroad to see it or appreciate it.
I can't begin to put into words how this internship has enhanced my life personally and professionally. There are too many experiences to count. But, if I've learned anything during this trip, it's that we can find joy and work and play all around us. The people, the places, the traditions, the culture, the food, the job, the professional development opportunities, and dare I say it, the meetings, all hold joy. We just have to remember to look for it.
Okay, so maybe BAE is an overused term these days, but I'm rolling with it. I've fallen a bit in love with the city I've called my home in Australia during my time here. Now that I'm semi versed in the world of Ballarat culture, food, and adventures, I've got a list of favorites that I must share.
This is by no means a final or comprehensive list, but it starts to paint a picture of what I have found charming and lovable about Ballarat. I may not have tried every cafe in town (there were just too many options) but I did find ones that were fun for me and had experiences that'll last a lifetime.
The Great Ocean Road was a mystery to be before I came to Australia. I probably had heard of it, or seen photos of some of the famous "must sees" of the road. But I hadn't really put two and two together and realized just where this wonder of the world was.
My coworker (who again I need to recognize for being awesome) was taking her friend to part of the Great Ocean Road and invited me to come along. I was very excited and wanted to put some of the claims of its completely humbling beauty to the test when I saw things with my own eyes!
Well, I can confidently say that I've never seen anything like the Great Ocean Road in my entire life. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We started the day in Lorne, a town a few hours drive from Ballarat. We then went along the road to Apollo Bay, what I would describe as an idyllic seaside town. During our stop at Apollo Bay we looked around, saw some of the shops and the sites, and grabbed a delicious seafood lunch by the dock. Seriously, if I was writing the script of a movie, I would not have been able to outline a more perfect day.
After lunch we headed towards the 12 Apostles, which is so beautiful that I can't fully describe it. It was once 12 rock formations that stood along the coast looking something along the lines of the 12 historic followers of Jesus. Not all of the formations are still standing, but they still have an incredible view. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones that wanted to see this wonder of nature, and there were a lot of people out at the viewing deck when we were. It almost took a bit of the magic from the experience...(Almost).
We drove through the mountains and past more beautifully calm and haunting ocean views. We then headed away from the ocean and towards a nearby town. A few students had recommended the ice cream shop in a town just a few minutes inland, and I have to agree with their enthusiasm for the town since I'm still dreaming about the apple crumble I had.
Overall, it was a lovely day and an amazing trip. We laughed, ate ourselves silly, and honestly enjoyed the moment. I'm glad for moments like these and the amazing people that help make the dream a reality.
I am blessed to have some fantastic coworkers. They are kind, supportive, inviting, friendly, and really great people. One of my coworkers let me tag along with her and a friend as they went to the Grampians, a national park and mountain range in Victoria. We visited Halls Gap and climbed the Pinnacle.
Now, I'm not like a super intense, nature loving, hiking boot yielding, water bottle backpack sporting kind of gal. Don't get me wrong, I love being outside, but I hadn't explored the outdoorsy side of myself too extensively. That's been a big change I've seen in myself lately is that I WANT to explore the outdoorsy part of myself.
I was excited for the chance to visit Halls Gap because I am always interested in new opportunities and my appreciation for nature and being outdoors has blossomed because of this trip. I really love the beauty of a charming sunrise or the sense of peace you feel when watching the ocean come in. I hadn't realized how much I enjoy or appreciate these things, and maybe that's because I hadn't let myself take time to appreciate them and explore the beauty of the world around me.
Anyways, I joined Chelsea and her friend for a completely stunning hike. We had the perfect weather. We had the best views. The path we took to the Pinnacle was difficult, but so worth each spectacular view. The rolling hills, little towns, mountain ranges, and just perfect weather made the trip amazing. There is such a uniqueness to places like this. Below are some photos of me representing my EIU pride at the Pinnacle and more photos of the entire day!
It's easy to feel at peace with yourself and the world when you can see it from such a clear vantage point. It's easy to feel humbled by the beauty around you and use that moment to put your life into perspective. Much of this journey I've been trying to decide what I want. Not just professionally, but personally. I don't have all the answers yet, but weekend trips like these start to help me formulate them.
After our trip to and from the Pinnacle, or 20,000 steps, we went into the town at the bottom of the mountain. The area of Halls Gap is very popular in summer holidays for camping, hiking, biking and attracts travelers from all around. We stopped in the town for delicious meat pies, ice cream, and to rest our feet.
Before we started the drive back from Halls Gap, we happened across a footy oval that was literally full of kangaroos. I have not been able to capture a photo of a kangaroo yet this trip and I was convinced that I would never see one! Fear not, as I know you were waiting in suspense to find out if I saw one, but I did!
Not only did I see this kangaroo, but I pet it! Below are photos highlighting the stages of emotions I felt meeting the kangaroos. From joy to fear, I felt all the feels. (Photo of me panicking when the kangaroo moved is below...)
It was an incredible day, and I'm thankful I got to experience it.
The train from Ballarat to Melbourne is an easy and quick way to get to the center of the city, which is great news for me, and I've taken advantage of this short train ride several times. I probably have this romantic and idealistic view of the train, but it's a lot of fun and a nice way to spend a weekend.
During my last trip two trips to Melbourne, I wanted to see more of the city. Last time I was there, I felt like I only saw about a fourth of it. Melbourne is set up like a grid, so it's easy to section it off into areas to explore. The last two trips I think I visited much more of the city, which was exciting!
Some of the highlights of these adventures were my visit to the national gallery where I saw an exhibit on the history of Australian fashion. It was an incredible exhibit. I'm a bit of a nut for fashion (if you can't tell by my Instagram feed...) and I was completely enamored by the exhibit. I could have spent all day looking at the different outfits and reading about the designers who created them. It was phenomenal.
Additionally, I didn't realize there were so many cute alleys and walkways, called arcades, that are like little malls full of shops and restaurants connecting different streets and areas of the city. Having lunch at a little restaurant in a little nook of the city like that was one of the neatest experiences. I'm probably too much a food tourist, but when you have so many options and they're all delicious, how can you not be?! (And a huge thank you to a friend of a friend who showed me around town and made some suggestions on places and arcades to go to next time I'm in town!)
I still have a lot of places and things I'd like to do in Melbourne, and luckily I've got a few more weekends here to check some experiences off the list, but at the same time I think I've seen a good part of the city and grown in my appreciation of it.
For the curious travel enthusiasts, here is a list of places and activities I did on my two recent visits: