As is customary with me, I seem to fill the days and leave pockets of time completely untouched and unexplained in the great adventure this year has been. New Zealand has been discussed, the first time anyway, and I’ve made mention of my final days, but there is still so much happening and to come in the next few weeks. I know I sound like a broken record, but it truly is amazing how much can happen in a few months. I look at how I felt, the place I was in at the beginning of term, and already I’ve filled a whole new chapter in my Australian story. Hindsight is 20/20, and though it hasn’t always been easy, I owe it to the memory and experience to recall each moment for what it was.
Those close to me will have known that I met someone when I was travelling six months ago. Six months ago! Even writing it makes the memory seem so distant. At the time, it was nothing. When I travel, I feel like a chameleon. I do like to complain about trivial things, but I like to believe I maintain a fairly happy disposition. I’ve always found travel brings out the best in me, or anyone really- like a Kristy 2.0. Happier, more open, braver, more adventurous. I often do things when I travel that I never would at home, and this is something I strive to work on. Meeting people through couch surfing, facebook and other social apps is no problem for me. That is what happened with H.
I was excited to take a tour in new Zealand, but what has always given me the biggest thrill is spending time with locals. They know places the best, have secret spots, great stories, and give you a true impression of their home. H and I met and decided that we might like to see each other again. I had no plans on going back, so he came and visited me for a week to do the Great Ocean Road. I firmly believe you don’t know if you’ll get along with someone until you travel with them. I was extremely nervous at the prospect of someone coming to visit me, but it worked out well. We ended up saving a koala on the side of the road, having parrots land on our heads, ticking all the views along the coast off, and I even conquered my fear of heights to get some epic shots in the Grampians (sorry mom!) The visit timed well with moving into a new house in Melbourne. Before we knew it, the week was over and there we were, apart again.
I believe over a month went by before we agreed I’d come back to New Zealand to see his corner of the island. We had no way of knowing there would be two cyclones passing through, covering most of my visit in rain and days when he had to work. I did enjoy a lovely winery day in Hawkes Bay and I got to revisit Waiheke Island.
The thing is, you have no way of predicting the future. You take a chance and roll with it. How surprised was I to come back to Melbourne to start a short teaching contract and find out that it was not, in fact, to be. I threw myself into keeping busy with friends and wondered how this dream of a cross country relationship would no longer be mine. I read an article lately about not taking being emotional as an insult. Feeling deeply can make things harder on a person, but it also means that when you give, you give all to a person, idea, or thing. My heart was open, I tried, and I think it stands for something. Months later, we’ve talked a bit, I am over the situation, and see it as just another part of the big adventure that was this year.
After that event, the next two months were filled with lovely days. I’ve been keeping fairly busy since April and loving it. I went to Mount Macedon with Rimma one weekend. An hour north of Melbourne, she was so kind to get me out of the city for a girls weekend. We didn’t realize there were a few wineries in the region and made an afternoon of it, surrounded by the resplendent fall colours. Our airbnb was a room in a cozy farmhouse near Hanging Rock, complete with a free big breakfast! We hiked Hanging Rock the next morning then went off in search of mushrooms. Yes, just like my father does, Rimmas family has been foraging for mushrooms on a pine plantation near the Macedon area. It felt like a treasure hunt, all dark pine needles on the ground and then bam, you find one! I got way too excited and Rimma said I was quite good at it. We ended our second day by exploring an open Park that owners allow viewing on weekends and followed that with a classy picnic- cheese, kielbasa, hummus and wine straight from the bottle. It was a wonderful weekend.
I also went to the Great Ocean road again twice with Sam. Once was my first surfing lesson (I’m horrible) and the next was touring with her and her friend Veronica. I truly believe there are few things more enjoyable in this life than road trips with good people.
By about mid May, my contract at Camberwell was soon ending. I ended up meeting a local named Nick for brunch and we got along swimmingly. He took me to Holey Moley which is probably the coolest mini put location ever, and we ended our night with food on Hardware Lane and pretending we could salsa in a dark bar full of strangers. The following weekend we went out to Cathedral Ranges for a hike but as we climbed up it’s steep outcrops it began to rain and hail. Yup, the hail was when we called it quits. Still, he suggested we go to Bright for the long weekend which really excited me. I’d been wanting to go for a few months and didn’t think I’d have the chance before going home.
I am not exaggerating in saying that weekend was incredible from the moment we left Melbourne. He didn’t mind as I became DJ for the weekend and we raced past sleepy towns hiding among the Victorian hills. We stopped in Glenrowan where Ned Kelly had his final showdown, got some cheesy tourist photos, then popped into Gapsted wines where Nick waited patiently as I sampled their never ending list of libations.
By the time we got to Bright, the sun was setting, but we found our way up to the top of an old service road for our first summit views of the area. Bright is supposedly even more beautiful in autumn when all the colours are at their most vibrant, but it still reminded us of a cute New England style town. We grabbed some tapas style snacks at the local grocery then checked into our airbnb. We knew there was another couple staying, but it didn’t bother us in the least. Our host Robyn had a gorgeous home overlooking the mountains, two cute dogs, and the piece de resistance, a wood stove in the living room. After everyone went to bed it became all ours, perfect for unwinding on a winter night. There was a local restaurant that looks Moulin Rouge meets a 1930s living room parlour where we ate that first night. Absolutely delicious and right down the street.
On the Saturday, we grabbed a late brunch then rented bikes for some cycling. The area had turned an old rail trail into a cycling one so you can connect to the many tiny towns in the area. I had a bike with the hardest damn seat imaginable, so I wasn’t motivated to go too far… but we made it to Ringer Reef winery where we shared a cheese plate and Feather top winery where we grabbed a picnic blanket and sat on the lawn to enjoy a glass of red. It must have been the perfect lighting because a stranger came up to us and asked to take a photo. I would go back in an instant.
Since then, I’ve been enjoying my final days in the company of Nick and those friends who are are still leaving here. I’ve been to mulled wine fests, the Melbourne night markets, movie nights, secret bars, the botanical gardens, eating up all the brunches I can, and falling in love with Melbourne for one last time. I am thankful to have people back home who love me, but I find it harder say goodbye this time. I celebrated my 28th Birthday with a few good friends at dinner and tagged along for Nick’s roommates epic 30th the day before. It was a good last weekend in the city.
It’s a weird sensation when you’re aware of your last days in a place. You savour every cold morning, every hot coffee, every amble through the neighbourhoods of familiarity. You know the world is telling you to move on with dignity, but you still find a struggle in letting go. I leave for Western Australia Friday and that is one shining beacon amongst the other realities settling in. I spend the weekend in Perth where Rimma will join me for Canada Day! I have a day booked on Rottnest Island to see the quokkas and will get to Margaret River before my two week tour begins. I’ll save the details for my last post in the Australian adventure come end of July. Stay tuned folks.
I feel like this year has helped deepen my resolve and my outlook on life. Coming back overseas didn’t make a lot of sense to some people close to me, but I chose to go with my own intuition. This year has probably been the best of my life. Even when I was living the daily work grind, my happiness was on an endless streak. I finally jumped the gun and got my first tattoo last week. Nick came for moral support. A week later I am still jubilant about it. For me it signifies the responsibilities and expectations society has for us- work, buy the house, have the kids, settle in for the rest of your days. But you always have a choice, whether it’s going back to school, getting out of a bad relationship, or doing like me and going to explore the world for a bit. This little bird on my shoulder will always remind me to do what makes me happy. In this life, none of us get out alive anyway, so you might as well try to make your own slice of paradise for the shirt time you are here.
I continue to learn about the power of being open as well. I’ve been willing to go on dates because you never know who you might meet. I feel things pretty deeply, and saying goodbye to Melbourne this time around will be much harder, as I have good things in life I don’t want to let go. At this point Melbourne feels like more of a second home then anything. I made some permanent friends here who have given me many happy days. Then I had the pleasure of meeting Nick by chance, and that’s probably the hardest one to swallow right now. But you know what? If I hadn’t been open, I may not have come back here. Would not have the memories I have. Would not have spent my last days in Melbourne living and laughing in loving instead of listlessly counting the days until my flight home departs. So I’ll take it. The tears, the heavy heart, the rough days when reality settles in. Because it was worth it. Melbourne was worth it. They were worth it. He was worth it.
So I’m spending my last days , turning the pages and writing the final chapter, but who knows what comes next…
Love from Melbourne.