I wake up, not really knowing where I am.
Confused, a bit panicked, I squint around me, trying to figure out what had happened. Ah, yeah, plane. I am sitting in a plane. Middle row, middle seat. It’s loud. It’s dark. My mouth is dry like the desert. People around me are snoring or staring on their touchscreens, half-asleep or at least hypnotized, slowly bringing one cracker after another to their mouths. I feel the need to make sure that I didn’t slobber on my seat neighbors shoulder. No, no stains. At least nothing visible. Would be too late, anyway. I can hardly believe what just happened: I fell asleep in a plane. For longer than just one minute. Me, who is still suffering from this “I get wet hands and say silent prayers every time it gets a bit bumpy” kind of flight anxiety, even after many years of travelling. How could that happen?
Well, it’s pretty simple: I didn’t sleep.
And I am not talking about “oh yeah, I had to get up at four in the night and tried to sleep before but it didn’t work”-gap. I am talking about the “doing a day trip in Hawaii, coming back, having a quick dinner, taking off to the next best bar and dance through the night, hurrying home, packing rapidly in a dark hostel room and rushing to the airport bus” kind of lack of sleep. And don’t you dare to lean on anything, whilst waiting for the security check…
For the first time in my entire life, I just wanted the plane to take off. I even caught myself thinking “oh, a little bump would be nice now, it might help to be lulled to sleep”. No energy left. For nothing. Even opening my little backpack case to get out my headphones, turned out to be an immense act of power, the resistance of the zipper felt like having to catch a huge fish out of the water (not that I’ve ever catched a fish).
Whatever. That’s obviously how I manage to sleep through an eleven hours flight. So, everybody losen your seltbelts now – we’re in Australia!
First Stop: Melbourne
Let’s name it, like it is: the first days in Australia didn’t go that easy. Like when your flight is taking off in uneasy weather conditions, and you feel the plane struggeling to keep its wings balanced. This is not because anything bad happened, or because I didn’t like the country or the people, it was just an odd feeling that I fell into, and once in this melancholic “I don’t know what to do with my life”-crisis, I had a hard time motivating myself again. A bit like flying through a thick layer of clouds, turbulent and shaky, but without making any progress to get out.
Yeah, I felt lost. The country felt too big. The hostel was clean and nice and had the most luxury showers I’ve probably ever seen, but its anonymous atmosphere brought me down. So many young backpackers everywhere (I just turned 30, I am officially allowed to complain), managing their busy work and travel life, meeting for “breakki”, lunch and dinner.
I see myself standing in the middle of this cool but busy place, watching with jealous eyes, how everybody got their lives together, while my head was still somewhere in America, some things still too clear in front of my eyes, some questions still open. I knew I was going to go to Australia, and yet it came too fast, somehow.
I needed to get out – at least out of the hostel. Get my head clear. Breath. Discover Melbourne and give it a chance to find me. Find myself and figure out what I want to do (not necessarily with my whole life, but at least for the next two weeks would be good).
Big and beautiful city life
So, the next days, Anja and me take off, to explore the city a bit. And we soon come to one agreement: we love Melbourne! Vibrant, cultural, busy and skyscrapery, but relaxed and green at the same time. With a skyline, where the reflecting windows of the huge company buildings are gently being interrupted by little churches or theatres from another time.
Wandering around, in between this interesting mixture of all kinds of people and tourists, we float with the big mass through the main streets, until a little Dollar Shop catches our attention. Full of stuff one clearly does not need, some Santa hats and princessy girls crowns that say “Happy New Year”, sneak into the center of attention. No question, that we each need one of this fluffy red and white hats, a tube of facial glitter comes with them to the cashier table. And that’s when I begin to realize, how close we are to Christmas. That a new year is just about to start. That I am in Australia, on the biggest adventure of my whole life, so far. That it is 26°C and that the time difference to Germany is about ten full hours.
It took me a while to realize, that I am on a complete new continent now, and that things will change. I began to see that, the time had come to start thinking about how I want to further design my upcoming travels. In the U.S., I’d rather been busy with organizing the next three nights, instead of spending time on thinking about the next months. I knew exactly (OK, more or less exactly) where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. But for Australia, I just didn’t make any plans.
Even if I didn’t find what I was looking for (whatever that was), I’m glad I started the Australian experience in Melbourne. This really cool and busy city made me move and think. Pushed me and helped me to close the U.S. chapter for now. So, although it’s still a bit shaky in my plane, I am gonna try to lean back in my seat, get some rest and at least try to figure out what might get my head out of the cloudy section.
Whatever is out there for me, I’m still quite confident I’m gonna find it!
Melbourne – where to sleep
The Melbourne Metro YHA is to recommend: very clean, very friendly staff, not totally centrally located, but still in a nice area, and the city is within walking distance. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can get breakfast and good coffee for a fair price.
Melbourne – what to do
- walk! The city is worth strolling around, exploring, seeing and smelling the different areas. Get food and sit down for a good coffee. Take the time to have a look inside the State Library Victoria. Watch artists and see the streetart, that is dispersed all over the city.
- take the public and free (!) tram, it will bring you around the city and – on top – provide some useful information about every stop and Australia in general.
- go for a shopping day: I know, I know, we’re all on a minimalistic backpacking lifestyle and so on. BUT, sometimes you just need to go into a nice shop and buy whatever makes you happy in this moment. Even “just having a look” can be fun! Trust me…I have a pot of glitter in my bag now…!
So if you ever come to Australia – do NOT miss out Melbourne!!