Holidays In Australia

By Jennifer, Cultural Embrace Work in Australia Participant

Happy January Fellow Adventure Seekers!

I hope your holidays were spectacular! I have received so many questions via email and Facebook messages asking what it was like abroad over the holidays, spending New Years in Sydney, what my plan is now that the holidays are past, even questions about my New Years Resolutions having been abroad for the last three months. So I will start from the top!

My holidays were wonderful but being away from family on Christmas was definitely tough. Most of the people around me were bummed at one point or another on the big day, running in and out of our Christmas Day barbeque bash to Skype with family and answer their phones, but we did have an excellent out-of-the-ordinary celebration. We rang in the holiday with a swim in the sea, grilling burgers and, yes, shrimp on the barbie just to stereotype the day, exchanging gifts, and watching naked Santas (neighbors) run amuck down the street to quote-un-quote lighten spirits. Although we were missing our families, I am pleased to report all in all it was a joyous occasion.

But even aside from random shenanigans, great company from all over the world, Santa hats and Aussie lager on the beach, the one thing that definitely helped all of us get through Christmas time was the promise of an absolutely first-class New Years- the reason there are an extra million people in Sydney over the holiday season. Sydney has been rated one of the worlds top cities to ring in the New Year- And I will stand for it!

Friends and I spent the hot New Years Eve morning through afternoon just past Rushcutters Bay, across the water from the Sydney Harbor Bridge, with about a thousand other tent-poppers cheersing chilled beers and ice cream cones. (It felt a little like Fourth of July in The States.) Most of our group stayed to see the midnight harbor fireworks, which I have since caught on video and it is definitely worth Googleing, while a few of us went on to hit Shore Thing at Bondi Beach. Shore Thing is a yearly massive New Years Eve party featuring top DJs and guest artists from around the world, incredible light shows, count down and fireworks, and thousands of people going mad with glow sticks having the time of their life. Everything, especially the music was top-notch. Breaks in killer mixes were filled with short light shows choreographed to instrumentals by classic artists like Pink Floyd (including at the strike at midnight during the fireworks- Floyds Time- amazing). The glimpses of light twirlers on the beach also made for an absolutely eyegasmic event. (Eyegasmic is a word, I promise, look it up.)

We followed the epic New Years Eve with the noon to night Space Ibiza show in Moore Park, which featured world-renown artists from Ibiza, Spain and guests. The performances and scene was everything Space promised. And seeing the sun fall behind the park lined with giant butterfly-people on stilts, feather dancers and hundreds of body painted rave-goers dancing to music unveiled by artists for the first time was a truly surreal ending to the holidays. Positively one for the books.

Since the holidays have past, I have been working a few days a week, getting wear out of my new snorkel and fins, and traveling bit- I FINALLY made it to the Blue Mountains, about two hours west of Sydney. I had been holding out to make the trip in hopes of getting to camp, but trying to match weekends with mates was a tough task so we took a day trip instead. The mountains were breathtaking with plunging ranges and lush vegetation, rain forest hikes, troops of wild kangaroos, and at least fifteen waterfalls to dance around in. I spent most of the day behind the group with my camera, capturing everything I could and playing catch up when realizing I had not heard another voice around for a bit too long. The best part of the trip happened two hours into our first hike- at about one thousand meters up walking along an edge path, which ran next to a huge canyon of rainforest below, when a thunderstorm and light showers rolled in. It was probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. The thunder echoed through the canyon as the dark clouds came over the mountains and the rushing water over the falls became heavy. I have never had a more magnificent moment just watching and listening. We were only caught in the rain for twenty minutes or so before the sky cleared again, but the flash weather left the air fresher than I have ever breathed, and the waterfalls and forests surrounding and below extraordinarily more beautiful than I can describe. I am definitely currently rallying future camping partners. Anyone in?

Now, for a fast change of feeling, I will admit last week after all of these superb festivities had past I had a pretty hard hit when I realized I had accomplished what I wanted in Sydney and I did not have a plan in action per say for my next move. But I figured, like I still figure today, feeling stagnant in such a beautiful country and time in my life is not an option. So I have been forming a sort-of plan (since backpacking is regularly a fine line between a plan and a few ideas that might sort themselves out) and am excited for what is coming next, semi-planned and not.

I have decided to stay put in Sydney, moving into another flat with friends just ten minutes inland from my current place, for another month or so after this lease is up to work and save money for my trips to Tasmania, New Zealand, and up the east coast. (Friends and I finally booked our trip to Tasmania and are throwing around the idea of camping in Wine Glass Bay. Google Images it. The scenery is dreamlike.) After that I would like to say I am moving to the Southern Gold Coast where I will land and work a bit before making a further ascent, or hit New Zealand first before it gets really cold there, but like I have said before, plans can change rapidly depending on whims, funding, job opportunities, etc. So instead of stressing about making certain timing happen, I will guide what is to come next when it gets here.

Really, the beauty of my current situation abroad is that I AM able to stay just to the right of making a set-in-stone travel timeframe and can focus on one month or so at a time. (One-month apartment leases are fairly easy to come by, I have not locked myself into a six month job contract, and I still have nine months left on my visa = flexibility.) Also helping me ease my way into feeling more relaxed about not knowing exactly where I might be in two months is the fact I have Cultural Embraces partner-company to lend a hand with certain logistics once I do make the decision. No matter where I want to move in Australia the partner company can assist me in finding a job and living arrangements. The partner company can even assist me in setting up job training for particular fields in advance, and can offer resume guidance as well. (Australia uses a much different resume model than what America typically uses, so that help is very valuable.) I also have the privilege of resting easy knowing I have Cultural Embrace, a company run by experienced travelers behind me wherever I am in Australia. So, even though I might be a tiny bit directionally challenged when it comes to where my next few months are going, I am confident I will be gaining even more excellent experiences than I have in the last few.

And finally yes, the last few months here has definitely shaped my first ever absolutely to be followed New Years resolution (or recent development turned commitment-to-self) which I will get to. It is hard to believe I have been in Australia nearly three months, but it is even harder for me to believe what all I have been privileged to get into since arriving. Living part-time in Gerroa my first month in Oz working for Surf Camp, spending my days surfing and ending them paddling down river to get back home to camp with a friend on high tide evenings. Immersing myself in the different cultures Sydney has to offer hitting scenes across the board. And most recently spending days snorkeling and beaching it in my own neighborhood with the amazing people from all over the world I can for certain say will be friends for life. I have been very lucky and am so thankful for every opportunity I have had. So, with that said, my three-part New Years resolution: Taking in my experiences, appreciating each of their significances and details and recognizing the opportunities they present. I have learned and grown from each of my experiences listed above, and know I am where I am presently in my life having had each one of them.

So, for those of you who were wondering if leaving right before a holiday season is bad choice -for fear you might turn around and fly right back home- keep in mind the reason you are traveling abroad in the first place: to gain and grow from new experiences. Consider yourself lucky to have the opportunity to be out-of-the box whenever you can, and take every detail in. After all, it is the details that make the great stories so great.


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Flashback to our Fall API student's first days in Spain. Madrid orientation with our friends from api_granada, Salamanca guided tour, and lunch tapas (+first days of classes!)

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