Back to reality. The Western World, the real world.
Moment of truth. Was it the right choice to leave Finland? This is where it starts. Am I going to like it here? Everyone loves it here, there’s no doubt about that, but what if I don’t? What if this is not for me?
Or, for better or for worse, what if it is?
When I first got here it is safe to say that I was feeling a little out of place. It was weird to be back in the real world. My lovely little backpacker’s bubble that I’d come to love so much was burst by reality, and I found myself thinking do I need to bring back the old Anna now? The official me who wears makeup and dresses nicely, nicely as in officially, and is constantly pondering what to wear. I just need to get this and that (and what not) and then I’ll have it all…
… nope. No way I’m going to go back to that just because. Why bother wearing makeup when it’s 30+ degrees, and why would one possibly want to sink back into that consumption hysteria? Hold your horses, and money, and breathe.
I’ve never been one of those who hates cold weather and just needs the sun and the beach. Maybe that’s why Australia has never been a ‘must’ for me. No, I’ve always tilted towards the US and Canada. I love the four seasons, snow, winter and Christmas being especially close to my heart, so I’ve had my doubts about this being the right place for me.
South-East Asia turned out better than I’d even dared to hope for, which made it tough to leave. I wasn’t even going to go there at first, Australia being the adventure, but I did, and just look what happened: I loved it and would not have wanted to leave. It was tough to leave not only as I’d had such a good time there, but also because I knew that it meant that the carefree, super cheap days were over and it was time to face reality.
I have to admit I was feeling a tiny bit reluctant to it.
Sunday, November 13. That’s when I arrived in Perth, so it’s already been more than ten days. I was picked up at the airport by Dylan, my friend from Perth who I met on exchange in Kingston, Canada, in 2013, and we went straight to one of his friends’ birthday party. Was I tired after my flight and wanted to go back to his place instead? No, not at all. As usual, I hadn’t looked into anything (yet) and thus had no idea about the city, and it was only 4 pm, and I was 100% open-minded, so why not go to a pool party? It was great to catch up with Dylan, and fun to meet some of his friends and to get a glimpse of everyday life in Perth.
Quite an okay first day in Australia, if you ask me.
So I’m staying at Dylan and his sister’s house. They bought it about half a year ago and are still renovating, but I have my own room with a super comfortable bed, in addition to which there’s a fully equipped kitchen and a clean bathroom, so it’s really nice, really, really nice. Pure luxury after ten weeks in hostels, to be honest. They are absolutely wonderful hosts, too, so it’s almost too good to be true. Bryanna even borrowed me her bike for the three weeks that I’m here so that I’ll be able to get around easily, so I’m really being taken care of. Feeling super blessed for that. People here really are just as nice and friendly as everyone says, so yes; what’s said about Australians does hold true.
That being said, it’s taken some time to get used to no longer being surrounded by backpackers. When staying in a hostel there’s always someone to hang out with, someone to go for dinner or visit the market with or why not sign up for a tour, anything, really, while staying with locals who work during the weekdays (naturally…) leaves you in your own company. So… what to keep myself busy with for three weeks?
Take me back to Asia!
No, just kidding. It wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad at all.
Ten days later I can say that it’s been different than I thought, although I can’t really say what I was thinking, but it’s been good. It’s taken some time to get used to, a full week, but it’s definitely been good.
What, then, have I been up to? First thing I did when I got up on Monday morning was to sign up at a yoga studio nearby. They offered an introductory month for only 49 AUD, which converts to a little more than 30 EUR. I was missing my daily yoga practice that I’d gotten accustomed to during the retreat and figured that I needed something to keep myself busy with during the days, so it was perfect. I’ve been taking classes pretty much daily, it’s been like my own little yoga retreat. Exhausting, but good, and I’m making progress, so what’s better than that?
In addition to doing yoga, Dylan’s given me heaps of recommendations on things to do during the days. I’ve spent a lot of time just walking around the city, exploring different neighborhoods, hanging out in parks and going to cute little cafes here and there to catch up on my writing while treating myself to a good coffee in order to get over that disgusting long black I had on my first day here (my regular black filter coffee has had to step aside – long blacks are not for me!). I’ve come to love just sitting in a cafe while scribbling down my thoughts and sipping on a good coffee, all the while watching the world pass by. I could keep myself busy with that all day, everyday. If only…
One night I went to watch Dylan’s rugby practice, and another night we went to his girlfriend’s place for a Brazilian barbecue organized by her housemate whose parents were visiting from Brazil. I never thought I’d care enough for meat to comment on it, but the food was so good. Goodbye, vegetarianism? Whoops!
On Wednesday we’d planned to go to Dylan’s parents’ house to assemble some IKEA furniture. I learned to drill (yes!) and was actually enjoying putting together the furniture (whaaat?). Here I am, in Australia, setting up IKEA furniture in a garage while enjoying a hot cup of fresh ginger tea and some heavenly delicious, almost-healthy sweet treats made by Dylan’s mom, and I’ve never been better.
Never have I ever enjoyed myself more.
Thursday was dedicated to some serious shopping. The yoga studio offers heated classes only which means the practice is super sweaty, so I really needed to find a pair of proper yoga tights and a water bottle. I’m not a big fan of shopping so I went to Waterfront, an outlet mall located in the city, and was super happy to find what I needed there. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around Elizabeth Quay, where I also had the best vegetarian burger I’ve ever had. Guacamole and halloumi, my two favorites… Ah!
Friday morning I met up with Dylan at his favorite bakery for breakfast to go. Apparently they make the best donuts in the world, so we ordered a few of those as well as two different kinds of croissants and two flat whites, and sat down in the grass in the park across the road. Located just a five-minute walk from Dylan’s place, Hyde Park is a lovely little oasis right next to the city.
Sitting there in the sun on an early Friday morning in the middle of November, enjoying a healthy little carb overload (because: Friday) with a good friend who you haven’t seen in three years but who you’re finally able to catch up with in person, just like you’d always said you’d do, eventually, well, that’s a pretty good feeling. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was actually there – it is the little things in life, right! Turns out I was, and a feeling of gratitude washed over me.
Also, when have I ever just hung out in a park…? That’s right, never. Why?!
By the time we’d finished breakfast it was already getting warmer. I was pleased with myself for having been out through the door that early in the morning, and did not want to go back to avoid the risk of getting stuck inside, not even though I was wearing way too many clothes.
When I first got here it was super hot. Tuesday was the hottest day so far with the thermometer pointing at 37 degrees. Much surprisingly, two days later it was down to 17 degrees, and I was freezing. For the second time within a week (the first time having taken place in Cameron Highlands) I needed to bring out the one and only set of warm clothes that I’d brought with me. Although it was hot in the sun, I found it chilly in the evenings, and sometimes in the mornings, too, which was the case on this particular Friday. I’d left the house at 6.50 am wearing a t-shirt, a sweater and a jacket, long tights, thick socks and my sneakers. I was fully equipped and ready to take on the cold.
As mentioned, I did not want to go back to the house, so I decided I’d have to survive the day with what I was wearing. Naturally, I ended up spending the whole day walking around the city, most of the time in the sun, and didn’t get back until 3.30 pm. I went to King’s Park and a boat shed by the river, a super popular photography destination for Asian tourists (and me). It was super hot, but I had a nice day exploring the city.
Lesson learned: the weather can change at any time, so never come unprepared.
On Friday night we met up with a few of Dylan’s friends at a popup bar on the southern bank of the river. It was a cool venue with an urban, laid back atmosphere and an awesome view of the skyline. We had a few glasses of wine, after which we drove back into the city to go grab something to eat. After dinner we stopped by a cute little cafe for a waffle (which totally reminded me of Spin Dessert Cafe in Kingston!) and also Dylan’s favorite secret rum bar, which was really cool. So many favorites that I was being introduced to, how awesome was that!
Saturday was nice and chill. I got to meet Célia, Dylan’s girlfriend, who spontaneously exclaimed that we should go camping on Monday when she was off about 10 seconds after she’d gotten into the car, i.e. met me. “Sure, I’m in!” Never mind that we’d only just met.
In the afternoon Dylan and I went to yoga, after which he had a buck’s party (the Australian equivalent of a bachelor party) to attend. I spent my evening trying to finish up my writing on Malaysia, and once Dylan was back we went down to Beaufort Street for a little late night snack, a cup of tea and some churros.
On Sunday we’d organized to meet up with Rob, another one of my Australian friends from exchange in Canada. Last time I saw him was in San Francisco in June 2013, so it was great to catch up. It’s funny how I used to hang out with these people on a daily basis (or, most weekends) over the course of four months and then all of a sudden everyone was gone, and even though we haven’t really talked too much over the past three years it’s as nice as it ever was when you finally meet again. I love it!
Sunday afternoon was spent at a music festival at Cottesloe Beach. Dylan, Célia and her friend Natasha all had tickets, and I’d decided to get one, too, although I didn’t know any of the bands that were playing. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who likes to go to festivals or even concerts (although maybe that’s changing?), but they’d told me the music was kind of Jack Johnson’y, so why not give it a shot?
It turned out to be a super nice day, so I was really glad I’d joined. I really enjoyed the music, it was a lot better than I’d expected, and the venue was just awesome. Add to that the people, an absolutely beautiful sunset (my first one in Australia viewed from the beach) and just the overall ambience of the place (never mind the freezing cold sea breeze!)… That was the first time I got a feeling that this is going to be good. I made the right choice coming here; this is going to be so, so good.
What a feeling, and what a day! I went to bed with a happy heart that night, hoping for Monday morning to come as quickly as possible so that I’d get to write it all down.