EpicTrip: Australia

June 3 – 13, 2013 

Australia: it’s not really trying to kill you. Yes, the most dangerous versions of everything live in Australia, but you probably won’t see any of them in Sydney.

Sydney Opera HouseMost notable cultural difference:

So. Chill. You won’t believe the things you’ll see on Australian TV. I’m sure there are some taboo topics in Australia, but I didn’t really find them. Got something weird going on with your genitals? We’ll show it on TV. We may even help you fix it (and we’ll show that, too).

Another thing that strikes me as especially interesting is the attention to sub-cultures. Prior to a TV program starting, a message pops up for Aboriginals & other peoples: “…the following program depicts voices or images of people who are dead,” since you wouldn’t want someone to accidentally watch a program that would be harmful to them, according to their belief system.

Perhaps these two things are related?

“Walking through an Italian part of town, there’s a man singing some old country song (Cash? Jennings?) out of his kitchen window while he washes his dishes. It’s both a ‘wow’ moment and an ‘I’d love to join you’ moment.” ~ AJB

Items of Note

  • Recycling, Reducing, & Reusing Culture: Australians are more cognizant of waste than Americans, but it’s not quite as compulsory as it is in New Zealand. Most people recycle, but no one’s going to twitch if you throw things in the rubbish bin.
  • Rubbish Mindfulness: Similarly, Sydney is considerably cleaner than Atlanta (or any city I’ve been to in the US), but seeing a random piece of paper making its way around town won’t seem as out of place as it would in NZ.
  • Ease of Walking (space, crosswalks, hills / steps, etc.): I love walking in Sydney! It helps that my starting point is a superb location — right across the harbor bridge from the Opera House, but the sidewalks and crosswalks make everything accessible. Hills and stairs a-plenty, but not an excessive amount, so you’ll get your heart rate up, warm up those muscles, but not be worn out when you get to the top.
  • Ease of Public Transport (bus, train, taxi, ferry, etc.): The ferries are amazing. Coming and going from every port, dancing around each other in the bay, it’s the most beautiful rush hour traffic you’ll ever see. My #1 form of transportation = ferries, though, the double-decker commuter train makes minced meat out of the airport run. ProTip: you can use your card to purchase ferry tickets, but need cash for the train ticket machines.
  • Politeness of Traffic: Nothing crazy. Less patient than Kiwis, but the “fear for your life” meter stays pretty low. Still not used to cars traveling on the left side of the road…Tourist Crosswalk
  • Graciousness of Service Personnel: All of the delightfulness of New Zealanders, none of the BS tolerance. Similar to NZ, they’re also paid a reasonable wage and do not have to rely on tips. So, tipping isn’t really part of the culture. Table turn-over isn’ta big deal, so kick back and stay a while. Being “done” doesn’t mean a check will be delivered, so when you want your bill, you’ll need to ask for it.
  • Connectivity (Internet / Cell): It’s almost like being at home. WiFi in the condo, signals all over the city, delightfully connected.
  • Public Events: Epic. I know this doesn’t happen all the time, but Vivid puts on a light fair in Sydney Harbor each year, and this year I got to witness it. Beautiful! Seriously spectacular installations, many interactive, drawing crowds every night for just over 2 weeks. ART
  • Operating Schedules (Restaurants, Shops, etc.): lot’s of late-nite options. Expect a break (or lull in available servers) in the middle of the afternoon for sit-down restaurants, but most places are accommodating throughout the day.
  • Weather Preparedness / Accommodations (Homes & Public Areas): Compared with New Zealand, Australia is better-suited for cooler weather. While the option to open up most buildings to the elements is available, the buildings can also be closed and heated, many of which were quite comfortable.
  • Prevalence of Fire / Heaters: Some fires are available, but far fewer than in NZ. Most buildings have heaters and such, so there’s not much need for fires.
  • Variety / Quality of Foods: You want it? They got it. Except Mexican food. Everything else, though, is high quality, made with care, and far less-traveled than most US food. Got the hankering for some Mexican food and traveled a good 40 minutes to a highly reputable joint, and it was good — but not Mexican. EVERYTHING else — and I mean everything: breads, sausages, steaks, micro-brews, pastas, pizzas, roasted veggies — tastes absolutely delightful.
  • Incorporation / Respect for Indigenous Peoples: This is a funny thing… institutionally (like I mentioned before about the warning prior to the TV show), there’s a lot of incorporation and accommodation, but when it comes to living, breathing people walking around, indigenous people are more of a novelty. Performing on the pier for tourists, regarded as interesting, but definitely “other.” Not disrespected, but not viewed as vital members of society either.
  • Pet Culture: With patios-a-plenty, pets are free to socialize and dine with their owners, but they are not generally brought inside.
  • Preservation Culture: Environmental consideration is present, but the laser-focused intention to save and nurture resources is a lot more lax vs. New Zealand.
  • Public Access to Amenities (Coasts / Beaches, etc.): Just like New Zealand, public access to natural resources is a given in Sydney. Parks, beaches, coastal walkways, are all designed with public access in mind.
  • Spacial Awareness: While still polite, the hustle and bustle of Sydney is very American. With a quickened pace comes shorter patience and smaller buffer zones. People are a little less cognizant of the space they occupy or that it might be causing someone else a bit of inconvenience. If they notice, though, they’ll move to the side.
  • Coffee Culture: Just like New Zealand, really. Fabulous espresso-based coffee available at every turn! If you have a joint that’s convenient to where you’re staying, and you’ve got a few days, go ahead and get the loyalty card stamped… you may just score a free coffee before you leave.
  • Wine & Beer Culture: Yes and please. Lots of really great options, none of which include Fosters or Yellow Tail (YAY!). Micro breweries and local vineyards are plentiful. Try as many different ones as you can. You’re bound to find a new favorite! The Last Lunch
  • Cell Phone / Personal Entertainment Culture: Minimal. Everyone has a cell phone, only the tourists walk around looking at theirs. If you’re not going to watch where you’re going, stand to the side. Seriously. The entire country thanks you.
  • Smoking Culture: Not overwhelming, but considerably more than New Zealand. Probably the European influence, but you won’t have difficulty breathing when you’re out and about. You’ll see cigarette butts laying around, but not as many as you would in the States.

A Quick Note on Pigeons:

“The number and aggressiveness of pigeons (and other scavenger birds) is directly proportional to the carelessness of the people who live there. Think about it. If there isn’t enough trash/rubbish to go around, they cannot thrive, reproduce at crazy rates, survive while injured (I’ve seen about 5 pigeons missing feet & looking healthy). They are a lot like rats (or lizards or butterflies or dogs…): if there’s not enough to go around, there are fewer of them.” ~ AJB

Lunch with Pigeons

What I Learned

  • I love getting from here to there without driving. I’ve not lived in a place that allowed such a luxury, so I really didn’t know how much I enjoyed the adventure of making my way to someplace… or no place — just around. There have been times in my life when I had tiny little glimpses of this kind of action: grad school, and once when I was about 10. I always looked back on these periods with fondness, but I don’t think it ever occurred to me that my ability to move about might have been a big part of why. I see so much more when I walk. Stopping for snacks, peeking into showrooms, watching patterns in the movement of cars and pedestrians… I love it. Blue Car
  • No one sounds like Crocodile Dundee. The accent is much softer.
  • I will never EVER again travel without my DSLR. I don’t care how much room it takes up!

This is the “Pick your Adventure” part of the post.

Follow these links to the adventure stories you want to read!

 “…not once do these parents have to (or feel that they have to) tell their kids not to run out in the street or to watch where they are going… because they aren’t morons. Kids = little people.” ~ AJB

While writing this post, I realized why it’s taken me so long to do so. It’s a really emotional experience to look back and remember this amazing trip. Traveling around the globe has been both enormously humbling and immeasurably exhilarating. There are about 600 stories underlying each of the ones I choose to share with you and I’ll do my best to share those with you, too.

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!