After dropping off the key to my rental car, I continued walking around downtown Melbourne. I bought a coffee, something the city is famous for, and a pastry. While sitting in the small café, I made sure I had a few things booked for my last ten days in Australia.
I walked to the clock tower, where I met Linda. Linda and I met on the ten-day adventure tour through the Kimberly Region. She was 28 years old, from The Netherlands, and had a working holiday visa in Australia. Back home, Linda was a travel agent. She found a job in Melbourne as a travel agent and was settling into a life there.
I was so happy to see Linda again! We hugged hello and then walked to an outdoor restaurant. We sat at a small table under a canopy in the busy laneway.
Linda was beautiful. She had long, light brown hair. Her skin was so clear and smooth; I wanted to know what her skincare routine was! It was nice seeing Linda in the city in regular clothes. We had spent most of our time together in dirty hiking clothes.
I told Linda about the last two months and my experience driving along the east coast. When we parted in Darwin, Linda planned on doing a campervan relocation to get to Melbourne and wanted to do it with a small group of people. That didn’t work out, and instead, she did a group tour to see the Northern Territory and the center of Australia.
Now that Linda was in Melbourne working, she was hoping to settle for a little bit. Unfortunately, she had already been taken to the hospital in an ambulance when she dislocated her knee. It was the same knee that got out of place on the third day of our tour. At that time, she was able to get it back and feeling better. In Melbourne, she was at a party, and her knee got so out of place, it was actually crooked!
Thankfully, the hospital was able to fix Linda’s knee, but she had to do physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it to keep the knee cap in place.
Linda told me how she met up with the guy she partied with when in Darwin (since he lived in Melbourne), but they didn’t hit it off as well as they did before. Instead, she was on dating apps and recently went on a date with a guy who had some potential. It was fun listening to her dating stories because my dating life was non-existent.
I had a great time catching up with Linda over a meal. She had positive energy, and we had a fun time reminiscing about our time in the outback. The outback is a special place where we slept under the stars, hiked in gorges, swam in natural pools, and made new friends.
It was time to say goodbye, so we parted ways. Linda stayed in Melbourne for a couple more months and then traveled to Tasmania and the east coast of Australia. Then she returned to The Netherlands at the start of the Covid-19 closures.
The next day, I packed up because I needed to check-out of my hotel and get on the evening ferry to Tasmania. I no longer had a car, and I had to continue paring down my stuff. I left my sleeping bag at the hotel, threw away some food, and took my remaining bags to the lobby. I asked if they could store my luggage for a few hours, and they agreed.
Next, I took the tram to The Kettle Black to meet an old friend and co-worker, Daniel. It was the same restaurant that we met at five months earlier. He worked nearby and was on his lunch break. I ordered the same incredibly delicious pancakes that I ordered the time before.
Daniel was in his 30s, about 6’1”, and had short, dark hair. He left the company we both worked for a couple of years before me, got his MBA, worked in South Korea for almost two years, and was now living and working in Melbourne.
I was so happy to see Daniel and to catch up! Daniel said, “The last time I saw you, I think I told you that you shouldn’t drive around the entire country. And here you are, having just driven around the country.”
We laughed, and I had a lot of explaining to do. When we met five months earlier, I had finished a three-week house sit in Ballarat and was still figuring out how to spend my time during the six-month visa that I had. Daniel had been living in Melbourne for about eight months at that time. I didn’t even have a rental car back then but was contemplating driving around the country. The only problem was that I had no idea how I’d do it.
Daniel said he was interested in hearing all about the country and what I liked the most, so he could plan future trips. He wanted to know why I liked Perth so much. I explained that it’s because it’s isolated, it’s not crowded, but it’s clean and sunny.
I talked and talked to Daniel all about my experience, going in chronological order. He is a fantastic listener. Daniel was engaged and enthusiastic, making me get excited to relive all of my favorite moments and laugh about my mistakes.
I talked through most of the lunch and realized that time was running out, and I wanted to hear about his life over the last several months. The last time we saw each other, he had a toddler, and his wife was pregnant with their second child.
Daniel told me about the birth. His wife had their first child very fast, so they were hopeful for the same with their second. Unfortunately, the baby was breached. The hospital wanted to do a C-section, but his wife didn’t want one because then every birth after that would require a C-section.
The doctors insisted on a C-section, but Daniel and his wife insisted on natural birth. After talking with the hospital director, they were allowed to do a natural birth but had around 18 people in the room for safety. Everything worked out well. His wife and the baby were doing great.
Daniel liked living in Melbourne. He planned to vacation around the country so he could see other parts too. Daniel had to get back to work, so I walked with him to the building. It was raining outside, and I used my umbrella to help cover both of us. I didn’t have good rain shoes, and they were quickly soaking wet. I hugged Daniel goodbye and hoped to be able to meet up again one day.
I hopped on the tram to a bridge and got off. The rain stopped, and I walked across the pedestrian bridge that connected the city as I reflected.
Meeting with Daniel filled my heart with such joy. It felt like only a couple of weeks had gone by. We ate at the same restaurant, and I ordered the same pancakes I did five months prior. It was so great to catch up with him and see a familiar face. I loved telling him all of my stories and having him be part of it.
As I walked back into the downtown area over the pedestrian bridge, I was beaming. The city was such a big part of my beginning in Australia. Back then I wasn’t sure how much I’d see, where I’d go, or what it would be like. It was so familiar, yet I was different. I had experienced so much over five months on the road. I ended up walking right past a bar on the river where I had spent an evening talking to some young businessmen about politics.
Just past the bar, I stopped on the walkway. It was below another bridge, and I had taken a picture there the first time I was in Melbourne. This time there was daylight, and I took the same image.
I climbed the stairs and sat down at Federation Square. The sun came out for a little bit, warming my frozen, wet feet. I looked around and tried my best to soak up the city.
I thought about how I spent half the day with Linda the day prior. She is someone who I didn’t know the first time I was in Melbourne. Five months later, this Dutch girl was living and working in Melbourne. Meeting with her and Daniel felt full circle to me. It represented new friends that I’ve made on my travels and familiar faces that I’ve been able to catch up with too. It was poetic.
It started to rain again, and I walked across the street to briefly check out St. Paul’s Cathedral. Next, I wandered through the streets until I was back at my hotel. I ate some delicious ramen soup across the street to warm up.
Then it was time to get to the ferry. I walked to the hotel lobby to get my bags, changed my socks and shoes to a drier pair, and ordered an Uber.
I talked with the driver for the 25-minute ride. I was sad to say goodbye to Melbourne, but I was also excited to see Tasmania. I had heard so many good things about the island. It would be the final Australian state for me to see. It would truly complete my Australia journey.
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