The Final Leg
Roughly sixth months ago, I was sitting at home, counting down the days until my arrival in Australia. Now six months later, here I am, sitting at home, counting down the days until my return to Australia. It’s strange being home, although minus the tan, it’s as though I never left. Was it all a dream? Did I make it all up in my head? Are we living in the matrix?
There’s no way to know for sure.
But I’m fairly certain the answer is no. At least, the container of Tim-Tams (Australian cookies I smuggled home) in my cabinet is telling me: “Yes. Australia is real, and you were actually there. Now eat me.”. So I’ve come to the conclusion that my semester abroad was too good NOT to be true. And not without further adieu, I present: THE FINAL LEG OF THE JOURNEY.
Finals were finals. I studied the notes, read the books, took the exams, slammed my head against the walls… the whole kit and caboodle. It was fine, you didn’t miss much.
Saying goodbye however, was more difficult than all my finals combined. I’ve never been particularly good at goodbyes… I mean, it’s exhausting; hugging someone, promising to keep in touch, crying on their shoulder, being pried off of them by multiple people… Letting go is hard ya know? It’s not like the last day of sleepaway camp where you know you’ll see everyone again next summer. It’s truly the end of a magical group of people all being together. Of course I’ll stay in touch and see them from time to time, but the late night hangouts? The shenanigans? The weekend adventures? Sadly, those will stay in Australia.
So we all say a teary goodbye to Townsville, and I vow to come back to Australia someday (I know, I know. That’s what they ALL say, but I’m DIFFERENT ok?). And that’s it. We return to our respective countries, states, homes. But I wasn’t ready to leave. Not just yet. Not when there was just so much more to see and do. So I embarked on my own journey, beginning with a scuba diving trip through the JCU dive club.
Spending a week out on the Great Barrier Reef doing 4 dives a day was simply magical. Stunning coral, massive schools of fish, and sharks sharks sharks! Nothing makes me happier than being reminded of how much beauty there is in the world. Ahh yes. The ocean.
After spending a day in Cairns following the dive trip, I flew to Bali, Indonesia, with nothing but a backpack. (It was a pretty big backpack). My first stop was Kuta, the touristy “party hub” heart of Bali. I spent the following morning surfing and strolling down the famous Kuta beach. After eating Nasi Goreng (traditional Indonesian fried rice), my travel buddies and I decided that we had had enough of the constant noise and overly aggressive vendors. We packed our bags and took a bus to Ubud, an artsy village in central Bali. We chose to stay in a cozy homestay where we met several other travelers who joined the party. Over the next four days, we tried our best to explore all that Bali had to offer: the Balinese art museum, several holy temples, rice terraces, coffee plantations, traditional foods, and of course, shopping. Everything was so cheap that I ended up spending so much money! On my final day in Bali, we woke up at 2am to hike Mt. Batur (an active volcano) at sunrise. The view from the top was was well worth the hours of hiking, sweating, and coughing blood. Being on the highest peak in Bali, we were able to see the entire island, as well as the neighboring islands in Indonesia. After spending another several hours hiking around the craters at the summit, I concluded my time in Bali with a well deserved massage.
The next stop? Thailand. I spent the first two days in Bangkok eating, shopping, and eating. I strolled down the famous Koh San Road, ate Pad Thai made fresh on the street (multiple times a day), and did quite a lot of bartering before taking a night bus down to Southern Thailand. Once I reached the South, I took a ferry to Koh Tao, an island famous for it’s scuba diving. I met up with two more friends and spent the next three days in absolute paradise; diving, eating on the beach, partaking in the night life, going to drag shows… Oh, how I miss you, Koh Tao! From there, we took an overnight ferry over to Koh Lanta, an island on the Western side of Thailand, and by far my favorite location. Koh Lanta was a slightly more laid back version of Koh Tao (which is saying a lot). I got the chance to ride a scooter around the island, as well as slack line on the beach! I certainly felt the most at home there, and I nearly had tears in my eyes when I had to depart.
The final stop? Singapore. Despite being a dramatic change of pace from the rest of Southeast Asia, Singapore has to be one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. I stayed with a close friend I made while studying at JCU (she was on exchange as well), so I got the “insiders” tour of Singapore. We spent several days exploring all there is to see and eat in Singapore. My new favorite food? Sambal Stingray! We walked miles around the city which to me, felt almost futuristic. I was astonished by how crowded, yet organized Singapore was. Even in the train stations, which are absolutely mobbed, people queue up in perfect lines to board the train. Quite the contrast from Chicago… We took a ferry to a nearby island called Pulau Ubin, where we spent the day mountain biking! So what if we walked our bikes most of the way…? WE TRIED OKAY?!? And oh! The coolest part about Singapore? THE AIRPORT! They have a butterfly sanctuary! And a huge winterland! What more could you want in an airport?!
So there you have it! My journey in a nutshell. Returning home after such a wild adventure was rough to say the least, but I know that this is the only start of my independent travels. Because you see, when I was in Southeast Asia, I caught the travel bug (no, not dengue fever). I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to the countries I’ve been, and met the people I met. It was truly a life changing experience. I have a new found sense of independence and a renewed love of travel. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to study abroad and to deliberately place yourself in unfamiliar territory. I’ll admit, I had reservations about leaving Wesleyan to study in Australia, but it was without a doubt, the best decision I’ve ever made. Stay tuned for my next adventure in………..