IN THE early 1970s, I spent four years living in Buffalo, New York, USA with my husband while he completed his PhD. Buffalo is on the Canadian border in Western New York State, and at one stage we lived 10 miles from Niagara Falls. We visited the falls many times for our own pleasure, and to show them to friends and relatives who came to visit us. Buffalo is situated in such a way that in 8 to 12 hours by car we could be in Boston, Montreal or Chicago and we visited these and many other areas of the north-east of America by setting out as soon as I had finished teaching on a Friday afternoon. In the summer of 1972, we bought a VW camper-van with another couple from the graduate school and spent eight weeks zig-zagging our way across America and the southern parts of Canada. We also spent a couple of Easter breaks down in the south-eastern states. We saw many wonderful things and have many great memories from this time.
Which leads me to ask, how much have you seen of Australia? How much of Victoria? While your studies are important, going home during the holidays is great, and Melbourne offers you many exciting things to do, there are also some very special experiences waiting for you in other parts of Australia. It would be pity if you did not take the opportunity. Here are a few I’d suggest:
North to the warmth
Tired of Melbourne’s cold weather? Head north to the warmth. I would recommend the Cairns/Port Douglas area. While there you must take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef for some magical snorkeling or diving, and learn something about the local indigenous culture. There are many different indigenous groups scattered throughout Australia and they each have their special cultural activities.
The other big city
You should not leave Australia without having seen Sydney and its harbour. It need not be expensive to do this. It’s possible to get quite cheap airfares to and from Sydney, but traveling by coach or train would allow you to see the countryside in between. Traveling on a Sydney ferry is a beautiful adventure in itself and they will take to you places like Manly beach or Watson’s Bay, home to the famous Doyle’s fish and chip shop.
Uluru in Central Australia is another place you should not leave Australia without visiting. As Oprah found on her visit, it is a special and spiritual place. I’ll never forget seeing it change colours at sunset. Tours and accommodation come in a variety of prices.
There’s the Phillip Island penguins and the Great Ocean Road. Don’t try to rush the trip in a day. Take at two days or more so that you can take time to enjoy all the sights along the way of this twisty road. There are also a lot of other special and interesting places to go such as the Yarra Valley, the Goldfields, the Grampians, and the High Country.
Experiencing what is special and unique in Australia will probably take you outside your comfort zone. When traveling in Asia, I have often felt overcome by the crowds. I will never forget taking the gondola to the top of Yellow Mountain in China just after sunrise to find myself hiking along the top of the mountain with literally thousands of other people and policemen directing us into one-way paths to ease the congestion. In Australia, some of the very special things you will experience on your own or with only a few other people around, away from the big cities. I remember walking on beach just north of Hobart in Tasmania at four one afternoon and realizing that there was not another person around as far as my eye could see and that mine were the only footprints in the sand. I’ve seen incredible arrays of stars on a clear night when I was camping on the Bogong High Plains, far from any towns or sources of light.
But these are my stories. Good luck finding your own special experiences in Australia. They’re out there waiting for you.
Dr Felicity Fallon has extensive experience in both the pastoral care, monitoring, and general support of and the teaching of international students, particularly younger international students studying in Australia. She was the director of student welfare at Trinity College Foundation Studies Program for seven years, and president of ISANA International Education Association from 2007 to 2009.