Hopeless in a Hostel

It was 59 degrees with a brisk wind and heavy rains. I had just gotten off the plane and made my way to the arrivals terminal in an ill-y thin cardigan, completely underdressed for the weather. I had arrived in Melbourne. One of the largest cities in Australia’s state of Victoria, home to an eclectic art scene and famous for it’s European culture.

Five blocks later my friend McKenzie and I had made it to our destination. A small flickering sign lie between a 7-11 and Pub, it read “Nomads all Nations Hostel” We walked up the narrow stairs creaky with integrity and stained with experience. Stories to tell I assume. Buddhist graffiti art lined the walls as we made our way to temporary home. Room 204. One inside it resembled a dorm room, 6 bunk beds, a small common area, a drafty window and fire place which was used for storage more than fires. It wasn’t the Hilton, but for $25 a night, it would do. There sat a man, slightly older, late 20s I would guest, reading in bed. He looked up and said “Hello.” His accent was like nothing we expected, it was familiar…he was American. His name was Fred and he had been abroad for the past 3 years. He graduated college and couldn’t find a job in the economic downturn, so he packed his bags and traveled the world. Europe, Asia and now Australia. We also shared the flat with a Swiss couple who quietly cuddled as the rain drizzled outside our window.

Tired from our journey, we decided to spend the night in and participate in a game of trivia with our fellow hostel residents. Lesson learned. Americans know nothing. Literally nothing. My intensive years of schooling, honors, AP, college education and we could not tell you the currency in Serbia or the shortest war in World History. This game of trivia, harmless as it may have been, did highlight to me how the American education system lacks in instruction about international affairs and history. Everyone we met knew EVERYTHING about America, but I could tell you NOTHING about their country. On the brightside, I did know the name of Snooki’s baby so I mean that’s gotta count for something right? (I hope you caught on to my sarcasm there) After a pitiful loss we made our way up to our twin size cots to rest up for the day ahead.

Bright and early we made our way to Federation Square, a bustling art district stamped with European Architecture and cultural showcases. It was pleasure to see. A much better welcome than the weather we had received earlier. Our and first and only stop was the National Gallery of Victoria. Words cannot begin to describe how lovely it was, a playground for all lovers of culture and art. The 3 story museum show cased everything from European to Asian art, Contemporary art, Australian and Aboriginal art and even a show case of Theater Fashion and new exhibition of Monet’s Garden.

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 National Gallery of Victoria

 I could get lost for hours and I didn’t want to leave, except we had to. We made arrangements for an adventurous journey to Phillip Island, a nature conservation center home to the smallest penguins in the world

Every night a sunset thousands of penguins rush to shore to find their families and burrows for the night. Located 2 hours away from the city we decided to cut on bus transportation costs and rent a car to split between a group of friends. Mckenzie, my flat mate was brave enough to take the risk of renting a car in a foreign country, driving on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road. 5 fear ridden girls clenched on to each other in the back seat as McKenzie slowly pushed down on the gas and headed out the road. It seemed too good be true… and that’s because it was. We made it not 5 minutes out on the road before McKenzie ran over a curb. You see, in Melbourne, there is a city trolley that has in ground tracks built in the road. Every so often there are huge median like blockades separating trolley roads from car roads. Unlike in the states, where you turn right and remain on the same side of the road, in Australia you turn left and remain on the same side of the road, rather than switching lanes. Whilst doing this, a person was crossing the street, as in Australia you may cross intersections diagonally. While trying to avoid hitting a person McKenzie hit the curb, tearing a hole in our tire. Discouraged and in fear we attempted to change the flat ourselves to no avail. Luckily a kind mechanic saw the incident and stopped to fix our tire.

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Despite the hiccup 2 hours later we arrived to Phillip Island. The sun had set, cars were headed the opposite direction nothing could add to the disappointment we already faced. We ran up the stairs, banging of the park entrance window. Seeing the desperation in our faces, the counter girl said “20 minutes” opening the back door to sneak us in. 20 minutes was more than enough as we got to see the last of the most adorable creatures I have ever laid eyes. They waddled to their burrows, squeaking and squealing as they reunited with their families. A natural phenomenon I was grateful to witness.

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The Little Penguins..how precious?

On our way home we stopped for ice cream, laughing at the day’s adventure. It wasn’t ideal but it was our experience. No one was hurt, we saw the penguins and at the end of the day we bonded. Isn’t that what studying abroad is all about?

That evening we made dinner in our hostel kitchen and  even made some new friends. A young girl from Holland came up to me asking if I had ever been in Sydney. She said she recognized from Omalley’s Pub! You see, a couple weeks ago a few friends and I sang Don’t Stop Believing at an Irish Pub and BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN! Easily one of my best nights in Sydney and made even better because others felt our energy too and remembered the experience just as much as I did. Am I an international celebrity now?

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Karaoke at Omalley’s Pub

After dinner, I spent a few hours speaking to my flat mate Fred. At 27 he is a bit older than your average backpacker, but his reasons for leaving home were just the same. His life experience and experience abroad made for great conversation and thoroughly enjoyed hearing what he had to say. All the travelers we’ve encountered have served as family away from home. We’re all broke and lost, just looking to explore or looking for ourselves. The friendships we make are that much stronger because we rely so much on each other in our new environments. It’s not perfect and we’re making mistakes but we’re learning. I’m alive and grateful for that alone and I don’t regret a single thing. The people I’ve met and personal growth I’ve undergone, even in such a short time have been worth every penny and lonely moment. I’ve gone from hopeless in a hostel to hopeful in every aspect of this journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With that I’m done, Until Tomorrow.

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