I haven’t talked about this so I will mention it now, travel in Australia is very different than in SE Asia. Probably the biggest difference is we speak the same language. Also, there is no haggling; the price is the same for me as it is for people who live here. Taxis use the meter without me asking, the water is hot when I want it to be and I can drink it straight from the tap, the coffee is really, really good and there is whole wheat bread. Buses run on schedule, streets have signs, garbage is picked up regularly and traffic laws are obeyed. It’s different and it’s a welcome change after 6 months in SE Asia. I was tired, burned out, frazzled and losing patience, not a healthy combination when traveling so the ease of travel in Australia is a welcome break.

I’m staying in hostels, they cost about $30 a night. I sleep in dorm rooms with bunk beds (always try to get a bottom bunk) and bathe in shared bathrooms, sometimes the cleanliness is dubious. Every hostel has a kitchen I can cook in, though I have to fight for a spot at the stove come dinner time. Sometimes a free breakfast of instant coffee, white bread, jam and bananas is included in the price, if you’re lucky. Meals out are expensive, an average of $20 an entrée or more so I do my own food shopping and have to carry it with me in a soft insulated cooler bag whenever I travel onwards. I try to keep the meals simple so I’m not lugging too much stuff around from place to place. I eat a lot of pasta, ugh. Grocery stores are pretty much the same as at home with a few minor differences. They run out of vegetables a lot, often I want some broccoli and the bin is empty, this would never happen in the ever overflowing horn of plenty that is North America. Also, and this was tragic, they haven’t figured out turkey bacon yet, so disappointing.

I met a lot of people who are in Australia to work and save money. I find that hard to fathom as it’s so expensive here but apparently the wages are good so it is possible. Most of these people are young travelers probably on their first trips. I can see the appeal in that, it’s an easy country to travel through, the prices are set, the food is familiar and the streets are properly labeled to coincide with your map so it’s not that different from the U.K., America, Canada and Europe, where most of the folks I meet are from. These kids are finding jobs picking fruit and veg, working on cattle ranches, doing some skilled labour and sometimes even working in McDonalds (with a starting wage of $20 an hour I can see how that might be bearable). I hear various messages, some people say it’s the best thing they have ever done, that the people they work for are fantastic and friendly, that they feel a part of the family and that they are learning new skills and are well cared for. Others say it’s miserable, lonely and the opposite of everything I mentioned above.

If I had more than the slightly over 2 months I have in Australia I would buy a vehicle and travel the country that way, but time and the fear of breaking down alone in the middle of the outback have deterred me from this approach. It wouldn’t be a huge money saver either from what I can figure. Camping costs around $15 a night from what I’ve heard and I would also have to buy all those supplies (tent, sleeping bag, sleep mat etc). If I had more time I could have spent it searching out like-minded people who already have vehicles and gear and who need travel buddies to share the costs of gas, food, lodging etc. but I don’t have that time. And, in my mind at least, that could take a lot of time, especially the part about like-minded people. I don’t want to be stuck in a car with someone who grates on my last nerve after 2 days. So I am traveling by Greyhound bus. It limits where I can go and when, but not that much and I don’t have to worry about car insurance, gas and selling the vehicle when I am done.

Oh, and there’s Koala Bears here!

Australia 2012 104

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