Three Days of Exploring Brisbane
Brizzzy! I’m not sure if that’s what the locals call Brisbane, but that’s what I started calling the city that pleasantly surprised me. When I first arrived in Brisbane, I thought the city lacked character and charm. The hostel was a looming, five-story building with dark, concrete dorm rooms, the city’s streets seemed to be sprawling, and it was raining. I made up my mind shortly after I arrived that I would leave for the next city as soon as possible, but the next morning, the sun was shining and the city looked a lot more welcoming.
- Travel time: 3-hour Greyhound bus ride from Byron Bay to Brisbane
- Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
- Expenses in Brisbane: $160.20
- Hostel: Bunk Backpackers Hostel
- Includes wifi ($1USD/day). $18USD/night for an 10-bed, co-ed dorm room.
So, I shook off my negative perception of Brisbane and walked ten minutes into the CBD (city business district) to a ferry stop. The city sits on a river, and I had read that the #1 thing to do in Brisbane was to take the CityCat ferry around the river. I got on the next ferry, and only later did I found out that I was supposed to pay right when I got on. I assumed a ticket collector would come around and take payments, but I actually had to pay upfront. The woman told me I was lucky a ticket officer hadn’t been on the boat – I could have been fined $300 for not buying a ticket straight away!
After I figured that out, I took the ferry north past all the neighborhoods and stayed on as it turned around to head south. Then the boat passed the Southbank stop and I realized that there must be touristy things to do there because everyone was getting on or off at this ferry stop. So I got off, too, and found a big ferris wheel and a cool Brisbane sign. Apparently tourists used to be able to climb all over the Brisbane sign for great photo ops, but the paint had started peeling and it was expensive for the city to keep fixing it, so the sign was cordoned off by metal gates. But the area of Southbank was quite cool – there were lots of little cafes, a pretty “rainforest” walk, and even a public pool / park area! The pool was pretty impressive… there was even a fake beach. I hopped back on the ferry and took it back to Riverside, where my hostel was, and hurried back before it started pouring.
The next morning, the hostel shuttle was leaving at 10:30am for the koala sanctuary. I had read online that you could take a photo with a koala, which I really wanted to do but I felt bad about using animals for a photo opportunity. But I read more about the sanctuary and found out that all the koalas were rescued and the funds from the photos ($20) helps to fund the sanctuary. So I bought the photo. Because I really wanted a photo with a koala.
Anyways, the shuttle needed at least five people to go, and while there were only three of us signed up, they took pity on us and drove us anyways. I met Sami, from California, and Dennis, from Germany, so the three of us banded together and explored the sanctuary together. I’ve gotten really used to doing things on my own, so it was nice to have company and to be excited together about all the kangaroos, wombats, snakes, and koalas. There were koalas all over the place, just chilling. There was also a kangaroo enclosure where you could feed and pet kangaroos. And a reptile center where you could see the most venomous snake in Australia - the taipan snake. It injects 40,000x the amount of venom needed to kill a rat; its venom can kill an adult male in only 40 minutes!
While I was checking out the koala sanctuary, election results were pouring in. I couldn’t pull myself away from the news coverage when I got back to the hostel. I was in a corner of the common area, laptop and phone plugged in, refreshing Facebook on my laptop as I watched the news on my phone. I cried in the shower that evening, and my mood took a hit the rest of the night and even into the next day. Sami and I split pitchers of cider at the hostel bar and I turned my back to the TV so I wouldn’t see anymore news coverage. But it was Dennis, my new German friend, who offered me some insight that night: "I went to America a few years ago.... I would describe Americans as very proud. In a good way. You may not feel very proud right now, but I think you will be proud again as people continue to fight for all the good and hope and compassion in your country." Well said, my friend.
But back to Australia. I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride here. I’m feeling good. Great, even. With every new city I navigate, all the new people I meet, and each meal I cook, I feel more confident. I feel like I’m doing something right, and I left a lot of my worries and anxieties behind in Byron Bay, which I am very grateful for. I've also realized how quickly plans can change. In my head, I have this ideal vision for how my trip is going to play out, but already my plans have zig-zagged. I'm getting better at just going with the flow.
I just had a great conversation with an Australian woman in my dorm who is from Melbourne! I haven’t even been to Melbourne yet, but it already has a special place in my heart because even before I had left, I had set my sights on Melbourne and planned to work and base myself there once I was ready to find a job. I fear that I’ve built Melbourne up in my head and that it’s not going to be as great as I am making it out to be, but I guess I'll see what I think once I get there.
So, this woman lives right in the CBD of Melbourne and her husband works in France. He is coming home for December but then leaving again in early January, and she said I am more than welcome to stay at her place in their extra bedroom while I try to settle in and find work. She said there is a café two doors down and she knows the manager, so if I am looking for hospitality work, she can help make some introductions. We talked about Melbourne, traveling, Donald Trump (that is the #1 question you get asked once someone finds out you are American), the East Coast, and national parks. She decided to take a two week holiday and come to Noosa to do hike the national parks here and kayak the Everglades.
Anyways, it was such a nice conversation and she gave me her contact info and genuinely offered me a place to stay: “I know how it feels to go from hostel to hostel, packing and unpacking, so if there’s anything I can do to help, just reach out. And I have a vegetable garden in the back – you can pick your own veggies!” That is something I love about traveling – it really breaks down any misconceptions you may have about someone because you all you have to do is start a conversation and you never know where it may go.
It's a great plan if I end up in Melbourne. But I just registered for a website called Workaway.info, which connects volunteers with hosts across the world. Typically, you volunteer a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation and meals. I've never used it before, but a girl in Byron Bay showed me some of the listings. She's used it a few times now and has always had a great experience. I just sent an email to a guy who is looking for help with his blog / social media as he sails his catamaran around the Great Barrier Reef. So I would be living and working on a boat! I also sent a message to an owner of a holiday resort in Cairns that is looking for reception and social media help. Who knows if either of these will pan out, but I'm really excited to see what opportunities might come up!