I am not one for keeping up on current events (Mike does enough for both of us), but you can be sure I followed the hostage situation in Sydney earlier this week. Just a couple weeks before, I was walking very close to where it happened. I wish it had turned out better but am so grateful it wasn't worse. We feel a connection with that country that I hope we never lose.
It's safe to say that Australia most likely ruined us from ever traveling again (while at the same time giving us this intense desire to see more of the world). It was as near to a perfect trip as you could possibly get, and I'm fairly confident in saying that nothing else will ever quite match up.
It's not that Australia is the be all, end all, nor the ultimate vacation getaway. It's just that, for us, all the stars seemed to align, and everything just seemed to work out.
I keep trying to tell people how awesome our location was, and no one seems to get it. Anne and Nate literally could not have lived any closer to the beach. This is the view from their balcony:
And of course, now I'm just feeling super frustrated because even though I'm showing a picture of it, it's too bright, and you can't hear the crash of the waves or smell the salt or feel the ocean breeze. But let me tell you how amazing it was. We could say, "We're going surfing now," grab the boards, cross the street, and we were there. When we were done, we could cross the street the other way and immediately hop into a hot shower. No parking, no driving, no planning. It was just there. (Besides the beach, they also live next to the Corso, a strip mall with unlimited access to fish-n-chips, souvenirs, groceries, peachees, and other necessities.
And for all of this, we paid the grand price of . . . nothing. I just don't know how you beat that.
If we had had to spend our entire vacation on Anne and Nate's beach, you wouldn't have heard us complain (Mike, I'm sure, would have gone snorkeling every single day). But part of the reason the trip was so amazing was because of the variety of activities we got to do. We spent a lot of time on the beach for sure, but we also went into the city and got away into the country. Mike played rugby with the locals, and we even dressed up one afternoon and went to a concert at the Opera House. It was just a perfect mix of things to do.
During the course of our trip, we went on a jet, ferry, train, and bus. We drove in a car. And we walked. If we'd been limited to one form of transportation, we wouldn't have seen such a big slice of Sydney and the surrounding areas. We wouldn't have driven north (and later, south) along the coastline. We wouldn't have seen Sydney's skyline from the water. Taking a variety of ways to get places made the trip interesting.
sublime point lookout (near wollongong)
There is no substitute for having people who know their way around. There just isn't. It takes away the stress and fear and makes everything go so much more smoothly. Anne and Nate were the perfect tour guides. And even though they weren't with us for every minute of the trip, they were always available to give directions, suggestions, and advice.
You might not believe this, but Australians are just really laid back. Which makes traveling there really easy. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing. You can ask for help from just about anyone. It was actually really entertaining to just walk along the beach and watch all the people. There was quite the array of beach attire, but everyone just sort of seemed to go together.
Time of Year
Originally we were going to do this trip in January, but then we thought, Are we crazy? I'm so glad we changed our minds because going at the end of spring was infinitely better that being there during the height of summer. The temperatures stayed almost entirely in the 70's and 80's and the vegetation was gorgeous.
royal botanical garden
Maybe it was the time of year we went, but the weather cooperated beautifully almost the entire time. There were a few light showers here and there, but they never slowed us down, and most of the time, we appreciated them. Even the mornings that seemed cool turned out not to be bad at all once we were in the water.
sydney opera house
Staying with family meant that we could go, go, go, and then when we got tired, we could come home and crash. We could stay up late chatting, eat leftovers, or take a nap. It offered the perfect balance to what could have been a crazy-exhausting trip.
early morning swimmers
You have to admit that if you're going to see another part of the world, going somewhere with an awesome accent is a pretty great bonus (especially when they're still speaking English). Before we'd even left the Sydney airport, the customs official had called someone "mate," and Mike and I both went a little giddy.
42 wallaby way, sydney (actually manly wharf)
During the course of the trip, Mike and I frequently said, "Clark, you are a pleasure to have along." And he was. Truly you've never met a better baby. But he was still a baby. There were moments when it would have been inconvenient to have to bring him with us except that . . . anytime we wanted to do something baby-free, we would just put him down for a nap, ask Anne to keep an ear out for him, and go gallivanting around like we didn't have any children. (Thank you a million times, Anne!)
Mike and I enjoyed this getaway (understatement of the year), but we both admitted we would have gotten sick of each other if we hadn't been able to break up the time with family. It was just so nice to have other people to talk to, a place that felt like home, and kids to help us not miss our own too much.
In the weeks before the trip, I spent a lot of time worrying. Leaving three of your children for 10 days? Scary. Taking a six-month-old with you? Scary. Flying halfway around the world? Scary. Swimming in the ocean, driving on the wrong side of the road, trying new things? Scary, scary, scary.
A friend of ours recently went on an Alaskan cruise, and just a couple days into it, she broke her leg. I know it's kind of morbid, but I kept thinking, If I broke my leg now, would the trip still have been worth it?
But I didn't break my leg. And everything did work out. I'm so grateful Mike and I got to have this adventure. We will always remember it.
It was definitely worth it.