An American in Aus
I didn’t expect Australia to be much in the way of culture shock, and it wasn’t really. I found it to be a hipper, healthier, version of America with kangaroos. Australians, however, are very different from Americans. They are a friendly, tanned, seatbelt-obsessed bunch. Get in the car with one of them and the will instantly have a minor panic about your buckling up. They are also verychipper, which I attribute to the excellent coffee on every corner. Every cafe, shop, or taxi I patroned, I felt like I made a new pal.
I have been known to get wrapped up in the mindset of wherever we go. After visiting Japan I wanted to wabi-sabi our entire apartment, throw out our bed frame, and cover the walls in tatsimi mats. Australia was no different. I adopted favorites mannerisms and phrases to add to my melting-pot persona.
While in Aus, I ordered flat whites in lieu of lattes and asked people “how ya traveling” rather than “how are you?” I stocked up on Australian paw-paw ointment, which my friend said is in every respectable Australian girl’s handbag. I even slipped on a pair of Ugg boots at the end of a day of walking around freezing Melbourne and had to stop myself from buying them. The fluffy sheepskin on my popsicle toes impaired my judgment. I was momentarily convinced that I alone could bring them back into fashion if I just styled them right.
Sitting in a Melbourne cafe with my avo smash, and blonde hair, sipping my flat white, most people around thought I was Australian. Until I spoke.
That Aussie accent is perhaps among to goofiest to the American ear. Ten days into our trip I was still laughing when they say, “heaps and heaps” and “AWE-some.” I even heard a parrot chirp, “Gooday Mate” and hours later I still couldn’t shake the smile.
This was my first visit to the East Coast of Australia. We went to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, which can also be described as the hip city, the beautiful city, and the chill city.
I got to visit an old girlfriend, my former roommate in New York (also named Anna), and make a new one. It’s rare in this world to find kindred spirits but within meeting of Lee, a female magician with lavender streaks in her long, dark hair I had a sense I found one. Lee gave me caramel-filled chocolate koalas and Tim Tams, introduced me to her two pet bunnies, and showed me the photos she just had taken in South Africa of her in a full-on fairy costume. (Her unicorn costume is in the process of being made). Soul mates are out there people - you just have to wait until you find them!
Each night we were in Melbourne I was behind the stage as Josh did his show. (Usually unwrapping a few of the aforementioned chocolate koalas.) But during the day we were out together exploring. Fitzroy, CBD, Northcote, Windsor - I walked miles and miles everyday, averaged six coffees, and popped in and out of the many Australian shops I don’t have at home.
The Great Ocean Road was a dream destination of mine. I’ve drooled over photos of that epic cliff with giant slabs of stone in the water, as if placed by God himself for us to just marvel at. It was a three hour drive from Melbourne. That seemed like an odyssey to the locals, but when you’ve spent twenty-four hours on a plane getting to Australia, three more is of a hop, skip, and a jump.
A lot of Melbournians haven’t made the journey in several years, or ever - so it was easy to convince them to make the trip. Josh got a fan-letter from a young kid in Australia a decade ago, and took the time to write him back. Ten years later, that kid heard we were coming to Melbourne and offered to take us anywhere we wanted to go. That’s what is amazing about this community of magicians - they all have hearts of gold. Lee agreed to come along so I wouldn’t be outnumbered by men. And so three magicians and a travel blogger embarked on a day trip from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles.
Some places you’ve dreamt about you finally see, and as much as you wish you felt otherwise - they underwhelm you (The Colosseum). And then some places you see, and it’s so much more than you thought it would be that you almost tear up. The Twelve Apostles is the latter. Whatever you have to do to make it there in your lifetime, do it.
So charmed was I by Melbourne, that I talked smack about Sydney before getting there. I was convinced there was no way it could compare, then I started the walk from Congee to Bondi on a beautiful “winter” day (72 degrees and sunny). I stared out at the shimmering sea that was fifty shades of blue and took it all back. I had to find myself a few times on that costal walk, and had to stop for a photo every hundred feet. It just kept getting more scenic.
We quickly nicknamed Josh’s friend in Sydney, Ian, the BHE. Best host EVER. He was a seasoned pro at showing people his city: from picking us up with a welcome sign at the airport, to driving us around to all the best vistas, to taking us out on his boat for a full day of whale watching and cruising through Sydney Harbour. I can’t imagine a better way of seeing the bridge than cruising under it at sunset on the bow of a private boat.
Our time went too quickly, as it always does, and as we boarded our plane to Brisbane we only had one thing left on our Australian agenda: koalas.
Josh and I are mildly obsessed with animals. So we spent our one day in Brisbane at Lone Pine Sanctuary, one of the only places you can cuddle koalas in Aus. On top of koalas spanning the ages of baby to retirement, the sanctuary also had a field full of kangaroos, platypus, dingos, Tasmanian devils, and wombats. I had never seen any of these animals, let alone got to cuddle them. The little koala I got to hold, Indigo, felt like an overweight baby dressed in a grey, velour jumpsuit. He stared me in the eyes and didn’t move a muscle as I talked to him like I would my infant nephew; cooling an octave higher than my actual voice. Afterward we fed and petted kangaroos and I even laid down for a quick nap next to one.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip happened over lunch at the canteen, when an old man wearing a bucket hat was starring us down from a few tables away. Narrowing his eyes, he finally motioned to us and when he had our attention pointed to Josh’s plates of fries and asked in his thick, posh accent, “excuse me but the chips… are the soggy or are they crisp? We burst into laughter and brought him one to sample. (Soggy, he decided.)
When I think of all the places we’ve been this year (seventeen countries already) Australia doesn’t stick out as the most exotic, or unusual, or even exciting. But something made it among the most special. It could have been the people, or the incredible hospitality, or the dreamy floral prints of Mister Zimi, or just those Caramello Koalas. Whatever, it was, in my book down under is pretty AWE-some.