A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
The following is a letter I just sent out to a collection of people for whom I have email addresses. I’m sure I missed some in the distribution which is why I’m posting it here. For those of you who get my blog updates emailed directly to you (that is a thing you can have done for your convenience, in case you didn’t know), you are getting the same email twice. This one has the bonus prologue, but I didn’t have enough money for a guest author. Maybe for the 20th anniversary edition I will add alternate endings.
I’ve been in Australia for 3 whole months now! That hardly seems like much since I will be here for a year total. But it also feels like forever since I left. I know some of you have been keeping up with me via the blog – a good way to get a little bit of detail on some of the things I’m doing and stuff I’m seeing. And some of you via Facebook (which is mostly just links to blog posts). And some of you have been keeping up with me on Twitter – a good way to keep track of my day to day experiences, status updates, and random observations. I have a photosite as well (these are all linked at the end) but I’ll admit I’ve been doing a pretty unimpressive job of uploading to it thanks to slow connections over here in combination with my distractability.
I recommend you check out the above resources for all your updates-on-Justin needs as well as your living-vicariously-in-Australia desires. But here is a brief summary of the past quarter for me anyway.
After stopping in Seattle to see Jason Webley’s final concert, I arrived in Sydney jet-lagged, disoriented, and with unfinished business. I spent the first week wrapping up my life back in DC, moving from hostel to hostel, not really making any friends, and wandering the city alone. It all turned around as I started to take ownership of my mental state, being more open and meeting people in the hostel and exploring the city. It also helped that I got a mobile phone and could call home to connect with friendly voices. (Seriously, thank you home base for the support and reassurances – they were critical.) I was put in touch with a connection in Sydney as well as meeting a group of locals, both of whom welcomed me and showed me a bit of the area and the culture. I spent Thanksgiving with a bunch of expats under a bridge in the freezing rain and met someone who was friends with some of my high school peers, then spent the next two days hanging out with one of my best friends from high school.
I headed on to Melbourne and met up with Leanne, a friend/former co-worker. During the weeks I explored the city by day and slept in a hostel by night. On the weekends, Leanne and I would go out and see some of the countryside. She gave me a fantastic introduction to the state of Victoria, taking me to see the fairy penguin parade on Philip Island (penguins = cute. small things = cute. smallest species of penguins = super cute!) and camping/hiking in the Grampians. The weekdays became productive-ish and I settled into a routine of blogging and sorting stuff out (like buying a DSLR, planning future excursions). I still haven’t seen much of the “sights” of the city, but I feel like I live here and I have a good sense of the layout, the neighborhoods, and the feel. The nights became a time to see free pub concerts as this city is rife with fantastic musicians and free culture.
After Christmas with Leanne’s family, she and I headed down to Tasmania for Falls Fest, a two day music festival set on Marion Bay. Swimming in the ocean in morning, art and music all day and night. And this extended over New Years, so I didn’t have the stress of having to put on a party. From there we checked out Port Arthur – a former prison colony – and Lake St. Clair / Cradle Mountain – wilderness areas. As Leanne returned to work, I struck out on my own to hike the Overland Track. The OT is a 6+ day hike over mountains, swamps, and various forests through UNESCO World Heritage protected wilderness. I packed in everything I needed (except water) and packed out all my trash. I liked it so much that I added on a 2-day side trip to explore more remote parts of the park. The beauty of traveling solo is that you end up meeting more people, and such is how I made friends from all over Australia whom I expect to be checking in with as I move from city to city.
Back in Hobart (the capital of Tasmania) it turned out I was just in time for MONA FOMA, a week-long art and music festival. Highlights included a nude tour of the MONA art gallery, 3 Dresden Dolls shows, a string quartet playing by electrically triggered muscle twitches, and a supergroup of musicians playing the Violent Femmes’ first album live. The pictures that came out of the OT and the MONA FOMA made me ecstatic that I bought the new camera. I found a whisky distillery, a museum with a great Antarctic exploration exhibit, and a friend of a friend who took me around the botanic gardens with his daughters. Then I got sick and was pretty much laid flat for most of the rest of my Tasmania time.
Back in Melbourne I hit up the Big Day Out (another rock festival) and the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival (yet another), as well as Tim Minchin vs. the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, My Chemical Romance, a flamenco show, and the St. Kilda Festival (yes, another one). Between all the live music I’ve been buying fresh produce, eating healthy and delicious things, doing a bit of research on what I want to do here in Melbourne, in Victoria, and in Australia in general, and working on my resume. Yes, after being unemployed for this long, it is time for me to start looking for a job. But it is hard to hold down a job while doing things like last week’s 5-day excursion to drive the Great Ocean Road. I linked up with 4 strangers to rent a car, stopping at scenic vistas, swimming in the ocean, and camping. It went so well I’m still hanging out with the one person who I didn’t drop off in Adelaide before driving the 750km back to Melbourne in one shot.
So that is about where I am now – in Melbourne, sort of looking for a job, sort of touristing, sort of embracing living here. The next few weeks will find me doing the same since I have tickets to about eight upcoming shows. Beyond that, I plan to buy a car, head out to the next state, see it, and repeat that process.
I’m loving it out here. The culture is more laid back than the eastern US. The people are friendly. And most importantly I’m learning a lot about myself, about self-sufficiency, about living a full life and not sacrificing experiences but managing to do it on a limited budget, about making friends, about not having much, and about what I want in life. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m happy for the lessons I’ve received so far. I miss home and I miss those of you back in the US. It is great to get emails from you updating me on your life (or skype calls, or even little one line messages). I hope that you are living your grand adventure, loving life, and soaking up all of the experiences that are being thrown your way.
I wish you well.