After checking out of my Melbourne hotel and leaving my bags in the lobby, I took the tram to Chapel Street for breakfast. While I ate, I loaded more data on my Aldimobile card after reaching the max data for the month. The hotel that I had been staying at had such a weak WiFi signal; I mostly had to use my phone data. I heard the WiFi and cell service was terrible in Australia, but I had no idea it was that bad. I would go on to discover that most WiFi was so bad, I couldn’t even play a 30-second video.
I walked to a health food store to buy the all-natural deodorant that I’m used to wearing, Schmidt’s. I almost had a heart attack when I noticed that it cost $20! That same deodorant in the U.S. costs about $6. I knew Australia wouldn’t be cheap, but sometimes it was simply painful.
I took the tram to Jucy, where I had reserved a rental car. The girl working there showed me the white Camry. It was a beautiful car, but the new models are wide. Australia drives on the left side of the road, and I didn’t realize the wheel would be on the right side of the car. It makes sense, but it took me a long time to get used to opening the door on that side. The inside of the windshield had a neon arrow pointing left that said, “Stay Left.” I had to pull out of the small, gravel parking lot, and I was sweating with nerves. To put the car in “drive,” I had to use my left hand since all of the controls were on the left. Even the seatbelt went the opposite direction.
I drove just a few minutes down the road and parked on the street outside of the hotel so I could get my luggage. Not being used to parking the car on the left side of the street and the wheel on the right side, I bumped the curb a little bit. I looked around to see if anyone noticed. Then I quickly got my bags and put them in the trunk and started to drive through downtown to start the Great Ocean Road.
It was a four-lane street. Suddenly, I realized that I was supposed to be driving in the left lane and passing in the right lane. In the U.S., we are supposed to keep right and pass on the left. It felt strange driving in the “passing lane.” There was a lot of traffic, which I was grateful for because it helped me not feel pressured to go fast.
I made it past the city, and the traffic cleared up on the highway. Just as I was getting relaxed, it started to rain! I accidentally turned on my turn signal instead of the wiper blades because they’re also reversed. It took me weeks to get that one straight. I can’t tell you how many times I turned on my wipers when I meant to turn on my turn signal.
It started to get dark outside after a couple of hours because it was winter, and the sun went down around 5:30 pm. I pulled over at a McDonald’s in Torquay and booked a hotel on Orbitz.
It felt so good to be on the road again. A car represents freedom to me. As soon as I could get my license when I was 16, I got it. When I first started my travels, I drove 16,000 miles in six months from Los Angeles to Alaska (and beyond). Now that I had a car, I felt free to go anywhere. In the first month in Australia, I had to rely on walking, expensive Ubers, and public transportation. Now, I could keep my stuff in my car and go wherever I wanted. I love that feeling.
The next morning, I wasn’t feeling very well. My knees were hurting very badly, and my heart was skipping a lot. I’ve seen a cardiologist a few times before, and I know my heart skips, but there isn’t anything they can do. Some days it’s much more noticeable, making me feel tired.
I drove to a small restaurant on the beach, The Salty Dog Cafe. I ordered the “eggs benny” with salmon, and it was so mouth-watering. I devoured the food while enjoying the off-season and the lack of crowds.
I walked along the beach and then drove to a lookout point. It was overcast, but the ocean was and cliffs were still pretty and calming.
Torquay is the birthplace of Ripcurl and Quicksilver, so it makes sense that they have a museum dedicated to surfers. I walked around it and loved learning a bit about surf culture and its history in Australia. I don’t have the nerve or the skill to surf, but I think people who surf seem so cool. After exploring the museum, I talked with a woman at the visitor center about things to see along the drive.
As I continued driving along the coast, I stopped periodically to take pictures of the beautiful lookout points. Most of the area has high cliffs directly off the ocean, so you can stand on top and watch the waves crash below.
I made a stop at the Chocolaterie where they give tours. There weren’t enough people for a tour, so a girl working there told me she’d give me whatever flavors I wanted to try. I tried around eight types of rocky road, and they were all delicious. I took a break and ordered a chocolate drink at the cafe. The girl who took my order enthusiastically asked if I was from Canada. I explained that I was American, and she was bummed. She said she always confused Americans and Canadians and thought this time she was correct. I told her it’s ok, we can sound very similar, depending on the areas where we’re from.
I continued driving the coast and made a stop at a lookout area that had a path to follow. I followed it down a hill to some incredible views! The next place that I wanted to stop at was a gin tasting bar. I didn’t arrive until 5:30 pm, and they closed at 6:00 pm. I walked towards the front door and sitting outside were two older men, an older woman, and a two-year-old. The door was open, so I walked inside to the small bar.
After I ordered the sampler, the group of customers outside was getting up to leave. One man asked me where I’m from. He said he’s been to the U.S. (Washington and Detroit). His cousin lives in Detroit and bought five properties for around $50,000 each, and now they’re worth $500,000. The man appreciated the downtown area. He said the city spared no expense when building it decades ago because it was in the heyday, booming with the auto industry.
Once that group left, it was just the bartender and me. He appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, was attractive, tall, and was from the U.K. He met his girlfriend when he was in Banff, Canada, working as a ski instructor. Then his visa ran out, and his girlfriend is from Australia, so they moved there so she could finish her degree. He has a degree in Marine Biology and is working as a bartender to buy time until his girlfriend finishes school. Their goal is to move to New Zealand. He told me about visas and how difficult it is to get them in Australia and New Zealand.
We ended up talking about politics, and while I didn’t always agree with him, he was fun to talk with because he was educated on the topics. The conversation was productive. The guy mentioned climate change and how western societies can’t do very much to impact it because they’re not the largest polluters. However, he felt that western societies could be a good example for other nations, like Asia, by showing them things to do that will help curb climate change.
It was well past 6:00 pm and was now dark outside. Our conversation was so engaging that it kept going, even as the guy silenced his phone when his girlfriend called repeatedly. I told him about something that happened to me that day that was really eating at me. I explained that a friend had posted a picture of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) from a new documentary on her Instagram. I commented on the photo and asked if that was AOC’s expression when she realized that she won the audition to be a congresswoman. I also pointed out that I felt she was unqualified for her position.
The friend who posted the picture lives in Los Angeles and works in the T.V. industry. Many of her friends are far left. Immediately, I started getting replies on my comment from her friends – all of them bashing me. One woman pointed out that Trump was not qualified to be President. I told her that I wasn’t sure how that was connected because I didn’t mention Trump. I was talking about AOC and how the Justice Democrats held auditions because they wanted to find someone they could finance to run as a congressperson. AOC was selected after her brother nominated her. That’s how the 29-year-old went from bartender to congresswoman so fast.
I was so confused as to why someone would mention Trump. Just because I didn’t think AOC was qualified, didn’t mean it had anything to do with Trump. But America is so polarized; everything seems to go back to Trump. Another woman replied to my comment, “This proves even women can be misogynistic.” Wait; what? Confused even further, I asked her how that’s misogynistic. A good argument would be saying that they didn’t care what AOC’s background is, they think she’ll do a good job anyway. That’s a fine opinion. But me pointing out the fact that she won a casting call is accurate. That alone shouldn’t be debatable.
My friend had to jump into the comments and said she didn’t want to have to defend me when she admires me for what I’m doing with my life. Frustrated, I explained that she shouldn’t have to defend me because I didn’t say anything inappropriate. She ended up deleting the post.
I told the bartender about what happened and said it really bothered me because not only have I never been accused of being misogynistic, I’ve been told the exact opposite. But these strangers felt they knew me because I didn’t agree with them and didn’t support a female candidate that they supported.
The guy told me, “She’s being misogynistic by not allowing you, as a woman, to have your own opinion. What, all women have to agree? That’s misogynistic.” The guy explained that if he is debating someone and they resort to name-calling by using “ists” and “isms,” especially early on in the debate, he stops debating them. He told me that it’s useless because they’re arguing at a fifth-grade level.
Finally, at 7:30 pm, we said our goodbyes. I was relieved that I was able to talk with him about the situation because it was making me furious during the day. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to make a documentary about this topic. What happened to civil debate and discourse? I have more friends who I disagree with on political issues than I do friends who I agree with. We’re mostly able to have discussions and see the other person’s point of view. Their politics don’t define them as people.
I really like his explanation that people who name-call, using terms like misogynistic, simply aren’t worth talking to. I’ve thought about that conversation many times, and it’s always a helpful reminder when I encounter these people – I just stop debating because it’s not a healthy debate.
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