After 5 weeks in Australia/New Zealand, it’s time to bid farewell. Looking back, it was a rocky start arriving in Australia. After a month of SE Asia and Fiji life, I got quite familiar and comfortable with the simplicity of non-westernized culture. The first couple weeks I suffered from some unanticipated culture shock– thankfully my travel buddy, Annex2, was ever patient and understanding as I worked to manage the shift. Now sitting on a plane leaving the country feels so bittersweet – another example of the constant emotional roller coaster that travel is.

I spent the past couple days solo in the Blue Mountains, potentially one of my favorites stops in the country. Katoomba was a really small mountainous (hippy-esque) town so easy to fall in love with. The Yellow Deli served up the best green juice fresh from their community garden and Up Beet made me my first protein shake since hitting the road in early January – the town was out for my heart (or at least my tummy) the second I stepped off the train! In 48hours I managed to run to Echo Point/Three Sisters and hike Wentwoth Falls. Both had gorgeous views of the Blue Mountains National Park, which I’m told is equal to the size of Belgium – clearly didn’t budget enough time to explore enough of this beautiful countryside. What was possibly more beautiful than the local garden eats and stunning landscapes, were the people. I was lucky enough to find a friendly hostel full of long-term travelers up for good conversation, campfires, stargazing, meals, and hikes. I’ve been so humbled by the stories of fellow experience-seekers and their persistent generosity. Despite yet another bout of heat stroke, I left the mountains with a rejuvenated spirit ready to put all the Bali-recco’s I received to good use. Ready for more adventure.

Earlier this week, Anne and I decided to leave Oz early as Bali just seemed way more exciting than our plans on the West Coast of Australia. From the looks of our current flight over looking Indonesia, we made the right call. The Aussie couple in front of me was just making a big to-do about the view below… so I peeked out my window (OF THE ENTIRE ROW OF SEATS TO MYSELF – a rarity on a 6.5hours and it was oh-so-ahmazing… 16 flights in 60 days, you appreciate anything more than the usual economy lux) to see a massive cloud of dense clouds, mixed with smoke and sunlight. The flight attendant said it was a volcano… and soon enough I saw rivers of what looked to be water glowing with fire (maybe lava?! I think so) – never seen anything like it before! So cool!

Getting ahead of myself, per the usual– back to some reflections on Oz. What really resonates about this country is the friendly, easy-going, light-hearted nature of almost every Aussie I met (coupled by their delightfully alluring accents). While many lead busy “stressful” lives as many Americans do, there was this air about town, down to the individual level conversation that wasn’t stressful – that was no matter if someone cut them off driving, took 10mins to deliver their takeaway coffee, or if they worked a 10 hour day… majority of folk were happy, smiling and conversing kindly with those surrounding. I can’t count how many times a stranger offered to help with directions without our asking. And can’t describe how gracious of hosts Anne’s family were in each city we visited. I am leaving with a fresh perspective, revived faith in humanity and a strong desire to pay it forward.

A few more random photos from down under.. .

Cheers, Mates!