of a Solo Traveler
I had only a few more days in Australia before I was going to fly back to America, and as I
drove out of Coffs Harbor heading south on Highway One, I thought about my travels
during the past few
months. Overall I had a really great time seeing Australia for the
first time and I was definitely glad I came over here, as I've mentioned several
times. However, my trip wasn't always rosy.
As I discovered, there's a big difference between traveling alone in your home
country and traveling alone in a foreign country.
been reading my website, you know that I really enjoy traveling alone.
That's because I enjoy doing what I like to do, when I like to do it, and I
don't like being tied down to someone else's schedule (yep, I'm a crusty ol'
curmudgeon and I'm damn proud of it). I especially love driving alone around the U.S.,
because I'm familiar with just about every region, having traveled through
all the states and having lived in many of them. Wherever I go in
the U.S., I'm within a day's drive of a friend or relative.
Indeed, visiting friends is one of the reasons I love to travel around America.
In Australia, though, I was
totally on my own,
things were a bit different, and I didn't know anyone. This
past fall before I left Bellingham, I spent
preparing for my overseas trip: getting film, clothes, books, etc.
What I didn't prepare for, though, was the prospect of being
completely alone and having to be totally self-reliant for the next four months.
really enjoyed my trip overseas and am glad I went by myself, I was surprised to discover that traveling
alone, overseas, and for a long time was a bit
of a challenge for me at times.
Fortunately, though, I'm a person who definitely enjoys his own
space, so I dealt with the solitude better than most folks probably would have.
alone definitely has its advantages because it exposes you more to your surroundings,
since your focus is
on the place you're traveling through and not on your partner. Furthermore, I
think solo travelers
are more approachable than pairs or groups, and consequently I met a lot more
people than I would have otherwise. In those respects, then, I definitely learned more about Australia and New Zealand than I would
I'd gone with someone else... and that was the point of my trip. Yeah, it's
nice to travel with someone else so you can have a "shared
experience," but on the other hand, I figured that I was
"sharing" my trip with my website readers.
I actually had a chance to visit
Australia with another person -- a cute woman, no less, whom I met shortly
before I left Portland last spring.
Traveling with another person (and a person I didn't know very well) would have been interesting, I'm sure, and the experience would've been a
lot different -- for better or worse! She was a nice person and I
think we would've gotten along all right, but overall, I'm glad that I
decided to come over here alone.
general, I had a great time traveling alone overseas, and that was
largely due to two things. One was e-mail. The messages that I received from my friends and
from people who stumbled across my website, taking a few minutes out of their
day to send me a note made a big difference, and those encouraging notes kept
my spirits up during the whole trip. I won't forget the kind messages that
folks sent to me while I was overseas, or the people who sent them.
the hospitality of the people I met during my four months in New Zealand and
Australia was overwhelming. I'm thinking back now on many of the pleasant
conversations that I had with folks in both countries, and there are just too
many to list. I was constantly amazed at how often total strangers would go out of
their way to help me. I don't know if that was because I was a solo
traveler who looked like he was lost (which I often was), or if that's just the
way folks are there. Either way, I'm glad that I chose New Zealand and
Australia as my first overseas countries to visit.
Across the Sea
year, before I left my job with Parsons Brinckerhoff in Portland, I sent e-mails
to about a dozen folks in PB offices throughout New Zealand and Australia asking
if I could drop by their office if I happened to visit their respective city. I
just picked these names from a staff list and had never met any of them
before. As testament to the good will of Kiwis and Aussies, though, I
received a nice reply from each... and some rather humorous replies, as
well. A fellow in Wellington, New Zealand wrote back suggesting that I stop in
for some "chokky biscuits" (which I later translated to
"chocolate cookies"), and a cheerful chap in the Sydney office filled his reply
with all sorts of Aussie-isms, like "Gday, Mate!" (i.e.,
"Hello") and "Just give me a bell" (i.e., "Call
To celebrate my last
entry from Australia, here's my favorite Aussie singer,
once again. This is On a Bad Day.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
following months, I exchanged several e-mails with a guy named
Peter Horn who worked in the PB-Newcastle office in Australia. From his e-mails, Peter
seemed like a pleasant fellow and I was looking forward to meeting him if
things worked out.
traveled through New Zealand and Australia, I'd only been able to meet with one PB person
because of scheduling conflicts. As I got closer to Newcastle, though, I kept in touch with Peter
and it looked like a visit might work out. He and his wife Helen even
offered to put me up for a night or two, which I thought was exceptionally kind since he knew me only from reading my website.
was just a few hours north of Sydney, so based on their kind invitation, I decided
to spend my last weekend in Australia visiting the Horns before flying out of Sydney on
into Newcastle Friday afternoon, found Peter's office and introduced
myself. Peter, as I had deduced from his e-mails, was an exceptionally nice guy
and he gave me a tour of his office. After work, I followed him
out to his house in the country where I met his wife Helen, his dog Iva and
Helen's cat. Peter and Helen were both super hosts and unbelievably
kind to this total stranger, and the next day they showed me around the beautiful rolling
foothills of the Blue Mountains, one of the most scenic areas that I visited
during my two months in Australia.
did Peter and Helen put me up for two nights, they fed me, entertained me, and
even showed me the correct way to spread Vegemite on my crackers. Getting
to know Peter and Helen was one of the real highlights of my overseas trip, and
I'm looking forward to seeing them again someday.
Above left: Peter and Helen during an all-day
tour of rolling hills near Newcastle. Like just about all the Aussies I've met,
Peter and Helen were exceptionally hospitable. I wish Americans were a lot
more like Aussies!
Above right: Riding with Peter and Helen on the beautiful backroads
north of Sydney.
Above left: A "hotel" in Australia has a pub on the
ground floor and basic rooms on the top floor. Just about every town in
Australia, no matter how small, has at least one hotel.
Above center: Roundabouts are common throughout
Australia but they freak out a lot of Americans. They're simple,
really... just yield to the traffic on your right. In fact, they work a
lot better than 4-way stops. Just remember to get off!
Above right: Heading into Sydney. Hey, only 2 bucks for a big bag of Horse Poo! Such a
the Loop in Sydney
Peter and Helen's house on Sunday morning (Peter even washed my windshield for
me -- what a guy!) and drove into Australia's largest city, Sydney, thus completing
a two-month, 9,000-mile drive around the country. Although I'd spent my first few days in Australia on the
periphery of Sydney, I didn't have much of a chance to check it out then because I
was packing up and getting ready for my drive around the country. I
was flying out of the Sydney International Airport the next morning, so I had exactly one afternoon to see the city. I figured that would be enough time
not being a real "city person," I didn't have high expectations
for Sydney. My impression of Sydney from my brief visit in February wasn't
very favorable. It seemed to be a lot like Los Angeles -- big, hot,
sprawling, and smoggy.
I headed across the Harbor Bridge
Sunday morning and drove smack dab into the middle of downtown
Sydney. Good thing this was a Sunday and traffic was light, because the
street system in downtown Sydney is really convoluted, a holdover from the early settlement
days. I quickly realized that Sydney, like Boston, isn't a great place to drive around if you
don't know where you're going -- which I definitely didn't. Melbourne was
big, too, but at least the streets there were in a grid and laid out
I drove around downtown Sydney for about 20 minutes
looking for a parking garage, too busy driving to glance at my map and figure out
where the heck I was. Finally, though, I found an underground garage
at a place called the Queen Victoria Building. Harried from the drive, I
really wasn't looking forward to exploring Sydney but figured I better, or else I'd
really glad I did.
As I walked through Sydney during the next six hours, I
discovered that it's a utterly fascinating city. The most interesting part
is a section called "The Rocks," Sydney's Old Town area which juts
out into Sydney Harbor, with lots of curving cobblestone streets and charming old brick buildings.
From the Rocks, you can stroll across the 70-year old Harbor Bridge. If
you're adventurous, you can walk up inside one of the bridge turrets for a great
view of the city. If you're REALLY adventurous and have 50 bucks (I'm not
and I didn't) you can join a guided "Bridge Walk" and walk on TOP of
the entire bridge from one side to the other. By the way, you can do the same
thing now on the bridge in Auckland.
For legal reasons, I'm sure, they
don't have these kind of bridge walks in the U.S., which is a real shame because
I'd imagine that walking on top of, say, the Golden Gate Bridge would be pretty
awesome. That's one of the big differences between the U.S. and Australia,
by the way: lawsuits. Compared to America, Australia and New Zealand
are not litigious countries at all. Folks there take a lot more
responsibility for their actions and, unlike a lot of Americans, they don't go
whining to a lawyer or judge every time something bad happens, which is a
the newer sections of downtown
also interesting. The Sydney Opera House, one
of the most famous icons of Australia, was pretty cool too. After a
few hours, I decided that I really liked Sydney.
Above left: Sydney from above.
Above center: Inside the AMP Tower, where you can get a 360-degree view
of Sydney. I don't know what AMP stands for... and neither did the AMP
Tower tour guide.
Above right: At Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, with the AMP Tower in the
Although the day was sunny and pleasant, for the first time
during my visits to Australia and New Zealand, it was a little chilly and fall was definitely in the air,
which made me automatically think of... Football Season! But wait,
this wasn't September, it was April. Oh that's right, I was in the southern
hemisphere. It's funny how fall weather makes you think about football,
even if it is April. With winter fast approaching here in Australia, this was a
good time, I decided, to head back the U.S.
walked back to the parking garage at dusk, I regretted having only a single
afternoon to visit Sydney because I could have spent a whole week there. I made one
last stop that evening, at a street-side cafe to buy a "meat
pie." In case you've never seen one, a meat pie is a small pie stuffed with meat, gravy, potatoes and
things you'd prefer not to know about, completely enclosed in a flaky crust.
Back in the U.S., they're called "pastys" (which shouldn't be confused
with "pasties" which are what female strippers wear in certain
intimate places... but not that I would know).
Anyway, I'd seen meat pies on sale nearly everywhere I went in
Australia, but for some reason I hadn't eaten one yet. The night before,
Peter told me all about meat pies, so I decided to try one. Actually,
it was pretty darn good -- better than a pasty (and much better than a pastie).
So as I walked back to my car that evening, I decided that next time I came to
Australia, I would:
Above left: The Hyde Park water fountain on a
Sydney Sunday afternoon.
Above center: And, of course, the Sydney Opera House.
Above right: Those little specks on the Sydney Harbor Bridge are
people. For about US$50, you too can climb across the bridge.
Above left: Circular Quay and the Sydney
Above center: Opera House from the Harbor Bridge.
Above right: Another shot of the Harbor Bridge
(built in 1932) and a few bridge climbers. They affectionately call this
bridge "The Coat Hanger" because... well... that's what it looks like.
Above left: The Sydney waterfront from the Harbor Bridge.
Above center: Walking back to my car late Sunday afternoon. I
stopped here and got a meat pie for dinner -- an Australian
Above right: Here's the Queen
Victoria Building. I had a great time in Sydney and wish I could've spent
more time here.
Left: Packing that night in a hotel near the Sydney
airport. This would be my last night in the wonderful country
22, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
Australia Trip >
April 7, 2002