Did I see a Kangaroo? Yes! But I was in a car. The Melbourne Zoo was about exotic as I got. But that was never really my goal. For me being in a big city is just as adventurous as going to the Outback. The “concrete jungle” if you will.
Above all though, this was a business trip. I’ve worked more hours per day in the last month than I have in quite a while now I’ve graduated and have the full day to do what I please. But that’s not to say I didn’t see the city. I had a blast exploring everyday, and don’t think I went to the same place more than once or twice.
One thing that made exploring the entire city possible was trams. Being able to get just about anywhere in a 10km radius without having to think about it is awesome. Not dealing with parking, not dealing with cab drivers, and not dealing with traffic.
Before arriving I read nothing but bad things about the MyKi system, but it was great to me. According to everyone I’ve talked to though I’m a bit of a sucker actually paying for it. But I think most residents have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about it…something about it costing billions and having a very very rough first couple of years.
I’m not a person that likes new things. So riding the tram for the first time was quite an ordeal for me. I think it’s about the only thing I did that day once I worked up the courage to do it. However, by the end of it all I had a reasonable grip on a 5-6 lines that were in my direct vicinity and was even giving directions to people sometimes!
Melbournians can strike up a conversation with anyone, and they will. It always made me feel great when someone would converse me on a tram or in a restaurant; since that’s something I’m not very good at doing myself. It made me a lot more comfortable doing the same in return and I definitely met some cool people because of it. Apparently Crocodile Dundee’s cousin being one of them.
The friendliness of the people is definitely reflected in all areas of the city. There are certain noticeable differences to the States. Skateboarding is definitely not a crime, and it shows. Things like murals are encouraged in some areas (I wouldn’t call it graffiti in most cases). Just about every sentence ends in “no worries” (you’re welcome) and everyone is your mate. In general it just seemed like a very progressive city. It’s much like anywhere else though, that the further away from the city you get the more this changes. We ended up about 700km away from Melbourne when we went down the Great Ocean road and wound up in some pretty “bogan” (the Australian “redneck”.) areas. We drove through plenty of one-stoplight towns.
Staying for as long as I did worked out well. It was great having days where I could work (or do nothing) and not feel guilty for not seeing the city. I really felt like I was living there. In fact some days I had to remind myself that I’m a tourist and it’s okay to stop and take pictures or turn around in the middle of the footpath (sidewalk) because I’m going the wrong way.
I tend to not want to be seen as “that dumb tourist” when I’m traveling. After living in very tourist-driven cities my entire life I know how frustrating it can be for people who live there. However I would catch myself getting annoyed at school group blocking an entrance or something similar and have to remind myself I’m probably annoying someone else twice as much.
One of the personal reasons I’m traveling is to become more comfortable and confident with myself. Traveling definitely forces you to do this. But staying by myself also provided me with a safety net I could rely on. I always had some place to be alone. To push myself over the next cliff I think I need to start staying with other people when I can.
I like (or so I tell myself) the idea of staying in a hostel or a shared space. But I have a few more requirements than the typical “after college traveller”. I need to be able to work up to 8 hours a day which means I need a solid WiFi connection and a safe environment for my electronics. It also means that I’ll likely stay in one place longer than the average person so I can work and not feel guilty. This makes it difficult to find someone to travel with, so I think the only real option is to hope for the best with a private room. It will be like meeting my college roommate for the first time. But this time I’ll actually talk to them!
I’m going to Portland next and I’ve already booked a private room in someone’s house. They will be there the entire time along with two other people who are renting rooms in the house. I’m very excited and I think it will be a great experience. It should give me the best of both worlds: still traveling by myself and being able to set my own schedule but at the same time I’ll always have access to contact with other people.
I think I did well with what I packed, and the only thing I found myself missing was a pair of portable headphones to take around the city or transit. My large bag (now even fuller and heavier) and clothes definitely were nice since the washing machine in the apartment was very small. I’ll probably bring a mouse with me on my next long-term trip but I was able to get by without it. And of course my satchel was with me the whole way.
I could definitely see living in a suburb outside of the city. You could very easily live in a suburban neighborhood but only be 10 minutes from the “city centre” which I think is great.
Next time I come I’ll likely do that now that I know how easy and convenient trams are; and I’ll stay with someone. Other than that I don’t think I would change anything about my trip. I’m very happy with everything I saw, everyone I met, and everything I did.