The house that I was house/cat sitting for was a 15-minute walk to Brighton Beach, so I walked there one afternoon. As I approached the main street leading to the pier, I stopped at a coffee shop that my friend Matt told me about the day prior, C.R.E.A.M. (coffee rules everything around me). I ordered my regular – a flat white with one sugar.
I walked along the boardwalk, observing the statues at the pier, and then moseyed down it. The views were so beautiful, with pristine beaches and clear water. Locals threw their fishing lines into the water, and birds flew around, hoping to find dinner. It was cold and cloudy outside, so there weren’t many people around. The dark clouds in the distance looked magnificent.
After walking around, I sat on a bench enjoying the views and watching the sun attempt to push through the clouds. I used the time to book my next Airbnb in Adelaide. This time, I’d be a little closer to downtown and near a beach in Glenelg. There was a 20% discount available if I booked an entire week, and I hadn’t seen as much of Adelaide as I wanted because of all of the winter storms, so I booked a whole week.
It was time for dinner, and there was a hotel restaurant behind me. Like many restaurants in Australia, there was no table service. Instead, I ordered my meal at the register and gave a table number of where I planned to sit. They don’t tip at restaurants, so I don’t mind not having much table service. It does become a problem when I need more water or need to use the bathroom.
The young lady who took my order asked if I was American, and I told her I was from Los Angeles. She got very excited and explained that she just went there to attend Coachella (a music festival in the desert). The girl explained that it was much more crowded than she anticipated, including the road into the festival. She told me, “You must think it’s so empty here.”
The girl was friendly, and we kept chatting for a bit about the differences in our countries. I explained that I just couldn’t get over how early everything closed. She laughed, “Yeah, when my friend and I were in L.A., we were walking around at 9:00 pm, and everything was still open! We couldn’t believe it. You guys must work all of the time.” I shrugged, “Yes, we do work a lot. And we work all sorts of crazy hours, day and night so things can stay open at all hours.” The girl struggled to understand when and how much to tip in the U.S. She also wasn’t used to so many restaurants having table service.
There weren’t many people in the restaurant, but I was looking for a good table by the windows. The girl told me that I could use a table that was reserved if I finished by 7:00 pm. I agreed and took a seat that faced the window. I ordered a steak (medium), and it was super tough, more like well-done. Over the next few months, Australians would make comments about how the U.S. likes their steak bloody. It’s not that – it’s that Australia overcooks their red meat. The sauce that came with it was gravy, not steak sauce. That was the last steak that I ordered in Australia.
I walked down the street that had shops and restaurants. Then I came across a small, old-timey theater. I bought a ticket, which included a double feature. There was only one theater, and the movie playing at that time was Life Itself. It was a good movie, but it was very emotional. I decided to skip the second feature so I could get back to the cat I was watching, and could think about the movie I just watched.
The next day, the homeowners would return in the afternoon, and I’d move to the Airbnb that I booked. I was supposed to hang out with Matt, my friend who lived there, but he forgot that it was Mother’s Day and had to cancel. I walked to the beach and enjoyed a delicious brunch.
Moving to Glenelg
Once Elizabeth and Steve returned (the homeowners), we caught up about their trip and my time watching their house and cat. Elizabeth drove me to my Airbnb, and we said our goodbyes. The small apartment was in a great location, in Glenelg, near the beach. However, the hallway smelled of cigarette smoke so badly that it made its way inside. I am allergic to smoke, so I put a blanket at the bottom of the door in hopes of blocking it from coming inside.
WiFi wasn’t available, so I had to buy a SIM card for my Ipad mini. When I was house and cat sitting, Elizabeth messaged me at the end of the week that the internet company advised her that they had reached the halfway point in their data allowance. I had watched some movies on my Ipad, worked on my blog, and searched for cars. I had no idea that they had a limit of 25 G.B. for the month for home WiFi. In the U.S., our home internet and WiFi is unlimited, so I have no idea how much I usually use. Likely, it’s a lot because I don’t have cable and instead I stream shows on Netflix and Amazon. The Airbnb I was at didn’t even have WiFi. I can’t imagine a place in the U.S. not having WiFi, or having limits on it.
The next day, I walked to the beach, but first enjoyed a waffle and coffee that I saw at an outdoor restaurant. I walked to the visitor center, enjoying the thick, healthy palm trees that lined the sidewalk. The weather was finally cooperating, and I wanted to see more of the area.
I took some fliers and then browsed the museum that talked about the history of Adelaide, which was mostly about surfers and beach-goers.
Then I walked to the marine pier. It was completely empty! I strolled along, looking at all of the boats in the harbor. The bright blue sky above made me feel refreshed. It was still a little chilly outside, but the warmth and clear weather made it bearable.
As I walked along the wooden sidewalk, I passed empty restaurants until I came to one that had a couple sitting outside drinking a beer. I ordered a beer and fries and sat in the sun, soaking it up.
Next, I walked a mile and a half to a few used car lots. I was looking for used Subaru’s or Toyota Prado’s so I could gauge which might be more suitable for my drive around the country. The small lots didn’t have good options for me, so I left and called it a day when I saw that all of the other lots were further away and closed at 5:00 pm.
The next day, I took the tram to downtown Adelaide and walked around the free museums. They talked about the history of the natives and life in Australia. There were old buildings to walk around, statues, and fountains. I even found a section about gems and wildlife.
I ended up at the outdoor Rundle Mall and walked around. There were signs about their upcoming election, and I was even getting Facebook ads that assumed I could partake in their voting. One day, I passed a polling place, and there was a line outside of voters because they can vote early.
When people hear that I have been traveling for so long, they often think it’s all fun and games. The reality is that I still have to live my life, which involves things like doing laundry, cooking food, paying bills, and writing. I have to balance exploring with stuff I need to get done.
One day, I went to the post office to mail an envelope to the U.S. When I approached the counter, the middle-aged man told me that a domestic stamp costs A$1.00 and an international stamp costs A$3.00. I commented, “And people complain about our $0.42 stamps.” That rubbed the man the wrong way, and he angrily replied, “Well, they should get their head out of their arse.” I explained that I wasn’t complaining, I understood it was traveling a far distance, I was just pointing out the price difference.
The man continued his rant and added “U.S.A.” to my envelope, saying, “They think they’re the only country in the world. I’ll add U.S.A.” I told the man that the reason it didn’t include U.S.A. is that it was from a company that self-addressed it and thought I’d be mailing it in the U.S. It didn’t matter. I’ve found that when Australians don’t like the U.S., they’re often people who have never been, and are very opinionated about their disgust for us.
One day, I made a massage appointment because my right foot and hip had been hurting for days. I was starting to limp, and the sole of my foot was being rubbed raw. The massage therapist had me keep my clothes on as she began to rub my leg over the top of my jeans. She focused on my toes, ankle, and foot. The woman explained that the pain was originating in my foot.
During the massage, the woman told me about the price difference in the outback vs. in the cities. I had explained that I was planning on driving around the country. She warned me that a hotel in the outback would cost at least $125. After adding K.T. tape, the massage was finished.
I picked up Chinese take-out, and sticker-shock hit me once again when they told me the total was A$17.90 for some cashew chicken. That didn’t even include rice.
The next day, I woke up feeling like I had the flu. My body was worn down, and my legs were in pain. It felt like the massage instigated things in my body. Other than walking to the pier, I vegged out, hoping my body would recover soon.
I rented A Star is Born and couldn’t help but feel sad and lonely. I had received a reply that morning from Josh, who I met when I was in Whistler five months prior. He had left Whistler and planned to spend a few months in northeast Australia, where he grew up. He wished me well on my big drive around the country, but he didn’t mention anything about stopping in to see him when I arrived in his area. I felt rejected.
Matt, my friend who lived in Adelaide, was very attentive when I first arrived. Then his messages started to be less frequent and less engaging. He had offered to help me pick out a car, but when I asked him if he’d come to look at one, he was too busy. He kept telling me that he was working, but something was off.
The feeling of rejection was overwhelming. It felt as if nobody was interested in me. Perhaps it was the movie. Perhaps it was the reflexology I received the day prior. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t cried in months. Whatever the reason, I sobbed. I couldn’t stop the flow of tears, and I didn’t want to. It was ugly crying. The type of crying that is brought out when you feel entirely unwanted. When you’ve been discarded.
Later that night, Josh replied and included a “P.S.” and told me to come to visit him when I reached Cairns. At least he wasn’t completely trying to shut me out. I ended up having breakfast with Matt before I left Adelaide, and he explained that he was taking a class to get promoted, and things were hectic with the deadlines. Two weeks after that, he told me that he had just started to date someone. It confirmed that I wasn’t going crazy. His messaging changed, and my intuition was correct.
Pull Yourself Up
I felt better the next day and forced myself to keep living. I signed up for a morning bike tour that would take me through the mountains and a wildlife park. Lee, the tour guide, picked me up in a van. He appeared to be in his 30s, was short and stocky, but athletic. We waited outside of a hotel for two other people who signed up, but they never showed, so Lee drove us to our destination. Lee has been to the U.S. and Canada and enjoyed both of them. He had a wedding to attend in Canada in a few weeks, and he was looking forward to the trip.
After a 30-minute drive, we arrived at the top of Mount Lofty. Lee got the mountain bikes out of the van and ready for us to ride. We saw a wild Koala in an extremely tall tree before we even got started. We quickly made it to a lookout point. Lee told me how we’d visit a wildlife park and then use the bikes on the trails to get down the mountain.
It only took about ten minutes to ride to the wildlife park, and it was virtually empty because it was still early. I got a brief tour of the place with a small group. Then I purchased a bag of kangaroo food and walked around on my own. I was in heaven! The kangaroos came over to me and ate directly from my hand. One even grabbed my hand with his claws and pulled it towards him. Another one nibbled my palm.
I made my way to the wallabies and was able to feed them too. Because it was mostly empty, many of them came over to me for some food. The wildlife park is open space with a sidewalk for guests to walk around. Each animal has a fence and gate surrounding their huge area to keep them separated from other animals. But it wasn’t like a zoo. It was interactive.
I walked around and saw birds and little critters on the ground that looked like rats with feathers. They are called Southern Brown Bandicoot and Long-Nosed Potoroo. They just roam around and eat the same food as the kangaroos. I bent down and fed a couple, but many were skittish.
I made my way to the koala section, where there was a line forming to take a picture with one. As I waited in the line, the little critters came up to me, so I bent down and fed them. They even let me pet them. A woman said, “You’re like the animal whisperer.” They were so cute, even though they sort of looked like a rat.
It was my turn, so I walked up to the koala that was perched on a picture-taking branch. The woman who worked there told me a little about the koala as he ate some eucalyptus. She explained that they have poor eyesight, and the eucalyptus makes them a little bit high. The girl also told me about how the wild population of koalas has a significant problem with chlamydia. Yes, the sexual disease. Some communities have a 100% infected rate.
Some of the populations have decreased by 80%. The number one reason for their deaths is being hit by a car. The second reason is because of chlamydia.
Once my time was up with the koala, I went back to the wallabies to feed them. I loved them so much! One wallaby came over to me, and while he ate out of my palm, he let me scratch his face and neck. His eyes rolled back, and he loved it!
A woman suddenly walked over and took my picture. She said, “I don’t know you, but I need to take this picture.” She couldn’t believe how friendly the wallaby was being and how much he was letting me pet him. Maybe that other woman was right. Am I an animal whisperer? I could have fed them all day.
Unfortunately, it was time to meet my bike tour guide. I walked to the cafe where he had a coffee and a muffin ready for me. We chatted and then it was time to get back on our bikes for the downhill ride.
The trail was extremely rough and rocky. I focused and did my best to take Lee’s advice on how to ride and not crash. It was exhilarating! There was one section that Lee had us get off our bikes and walk it down a very steep section, which I was grateful for.
I felt confident as Lee encouraged me that I was doing a great job. The rugged mountains in Thailand prepared me for this, I told myself. The forest was incredible with the occasional fern. As we got closer to the city, we rode on a dirt trail that borders a street. It was narrow, and I was nervous about staying where I should.
We ended up in neighborhoods, and Lee said it was time for our “urban” riding. I followed behind Lee while looking around at the canopy of trees. We rode through a park and stopped to look at a school that used to be a mental hospital.
When the ride was over, we arrived back at the van. Someone had moved it so that it was at our endpoint. Lee dropped me off at a car dealership so I could look at a car. I was very grateful for that ride. The day prior, I felt isolated, unwanted, lonely, and sad. Signing up for the bike tour was the best decision I could have made. The animals made me forget about all of my troubles.
Sometimes it’s forced at first, but in order to live and find happiness again, you have to live. You may not feel like it. You may want to wallow in your emotions. But you have to keep going. You have to pick yourself up and force yourself to be part of this world. Eventually, it won’t be a chore.
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