Don’t get me wrong–I love Australia. I had an incredible time navigating that country and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. Read any of my other posts and you’ll see how much I truly love the place. However, having spent a full year there, there were some things that began to wear on me. Spend enough time in any place and you’re bound to find some things that irk you.
When I left the States I was under the impression that I would be traveling through unknown territory, visiting untouched beaches and experiencing a way of life that I could never dream of. Unfortunately, for the most part, I was sorely mistaken. Australia has a very evident Western influence that I just wasn’t expecting. There are still fast food restaurants on every corner, high-end stores in every city and most people know what Jersey Shore is (although, who doesn’t, these days). I had high hopes of coming to Australia, not only to learn things, but to share things! Maybe that’s just the American in me, but they already had those bases covered.
There aren’t any Aussies
Within the backpacking circuit, at least. The first leg of my trip was up the east cost of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns. The only Aussies that I met either worked at the hostels or sat behind the counter at the bottle-shop. I met a lot of English (oh, so many English), Germans, Swedes and Canadians. Everybody’s backpacking and none of them are Australian.
Everybody’s doing it
This is my biggest gripe. There are heaps and heaps of backpackers. I thought I was going to be backpacking all by myself, hitch-hiking, getting stuck in the mud, experiencing things on my own and ending up in random places with random Aussies. What I found, instead, is that I was making friends at every stop, taking showers regularly and ending up in strange places with (very) strange English people! Americans are so focused on education and careers that none of us even think to go traveling, hence why you won’t find too many of us anywhere else in the world. Apparently, lots of people travel. And a lot of them come here.
OK, this might come off as a little racist or at least very non-PC, but let me explain. Australians, as a whole, are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are more than willing to go out of their way just to help a brother out, taking time out of their day to make sure I, a complete stranger, get myself sorted. They are a kind bunch who, more often than not, just want to lend a hand or say hello. Now, that being said, I’ve had more than a few run-ins with some far less than savory people. Sure, you’ll find people like this in any country, but the Australians bring a whole new level of intensity to it. For no other reason than being in the right place at the wrong time, I’ve had beer bottles thrown at my head, been threatened to have someone “knock the teeth out of my skull,” or just had someone ready to “smash” me because they “didn’t like the way my friend was looking at them.” Anybody who knows me will probably say, “Jeremy, you must have done something to provoke them.” No, mate, I didn’t. Whether it’s standing in line at the kebab shop or sitting at a table outside of work, there’s a certain type of Aussie who just wants to bash you.
The women (well, I don’t hate them)
I think Americans have this idea that Aussie girls are wild and crazy sultresses who are just looking for a good time (or maybe it was just me, hoping). What I discovered was the exact opposite–they’re actually pretty tame! My university was listed in the top ten party schools in America, so maybe I’m a bit disillusioned about what a “party” is but, to be honest, they just don’t stack up. Maybe others had a different experience (or maybe my best years are behind me!), but I’ve even had this conversation with other Aussies, and they’re the ones who can’t wait to get to Silicon Valley.
The money in Australia is weird. It has see-through, plastic window panes in each bill, all of which are painted funny rainbow colors. The two dollar coins are smaller than the one dollar coins and the fifty-cent coins are bigger than the one dollar coins. On top of that, $50′s are exchanged like $20′s (USD) because everything is just so expensive. And everything at the store ends in ’9′ but they don’t make one cent coins to provide me with my change. I want my cent back!
Ease of Access
When I found out that Greyhound ran a hop-on-hop-off bus service I thought I had hit the transport jackpot! “This is amazing! I’ve found a hidden gem.” False. In actuality, Australia is just plain easy to travel. There are guided tours on every corner, ready to take you to the Blue Mountains or Kakadu National Park. Pay money, get on a bus, wait, get off. Pay more money, get on a boat, wait, get off. I haven’t had too many ‘real adventures,’ if you know what I mean. I’ve seen heaps of truly remarkable things, but how many life-changing, out-of-my-comfort-zone experiences have I had? Not as many as I thought I would–because sometimes it feels like all you’re doing is moving from one place to another.