Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 1: A mess of moments.

G’day. Please excuse the horrendously OTT title I conjured up for this…series? Yes, I am dubbing it a ‘series’, albeit very cautiously and optimistically.

I’m not a travel blogger. You guys know that. I have serious respect and adoration for those humans – the ones who brave the endless expenses and annoyances of journeying around the world and in doing so try new things, push their limits and explore new territories they may never have considered visiting before…and take plenty of photos and notes throughout these mad ventures, to then pour into their online platform for all to read. As if the act of travelling wasn’t busy and baffling enough, these guys actually write reviews, compile lists and recommend countries/cities/towns/hotels/restaurants and much more, all for their readers. So much love and respect for that, y’know?

Right, now I feel I’ve covered myself by virtually yelling that I am not a professional travel writer. And I’ll be listing some of my favourite travel bloggers at the end of this post, just FYI.

My recent trips have made me feel so many things; insane bravery, sickening curiosity, strange comfort, sudden alienation, palpable panic…and the most intense, almost hot joy.

While I was in Berlin (my favourite European city, I reckon) for the fourth time, I found myself going out to places I hadn’t heard about the first few times I’d visited and so somehow felt I had discovered, I was trying food I’d never come across before (still veggie, mind you!) and attempting to navigate the public transport – with varying levels of success. And before that, in Barcelona, I’d been staring up at the Gaudi houses in the city centre (and commenting, most elegantly: ‘yeah, it totally looks like this place has labia though’), eating lunch in a new pop-up vegan café while bingeing on its free WiFi, before spending the night playing beer pong (and absolutely smashing it, if I recall correctly…) while happily slurping 2-for-1 6€ gin cocktails.

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But I didn’t want to write long posts about each of these cities, giving specific details of where I’d been within the different districts or how I got around and how much money I spent on this, that and the other…

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m just going to write about specific things, moments, and some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

However, after a blur of a First Week in this country, I felt a big mess of moments would work best. Moments, and feelings.


The sudden, quickening and maddening heartbeats, pummelling my ribs from the inside as I walk through the ‘NOTHING TO DECLARE’ area at 6:31am and realise I’m just the other side of a wall from the relatives and the part of the world I haven’t seen, or been in, for over four years.


Feeling hectic in the head (sleep deprivation) and swirly in the stomach (car sickness) as we drive through beautiful bright forest to get to a place with a funny name – Mully-bimmy? Mullumbimby! – on a quest to procure properly magical medical marijuana.


Tapping my flip flops – I’ll never call them ‘thongs’ – on the hot pavement as I sit under a steel shelter waiting for the hourly bus into town, and towards coffee. Six stops later I’m sipping my long black on the decking outside the coolest espresso place in town, and it tastes extra excellent because it’s a victory. I navigated the horrendous Gold Coast public transport system, for the very first time.

(Stupid bike, obscuring this totally Instagrammable message)

Tasting what might just be the best vegan peanut butter brownie I’ve ever had in Cardamon Pod, Ferry Road. It’s like a brick, though. I’m happy to share it with the family – and am flattered beyond belief when my little cousin offers me the rest of his carrot cake, having eaten the red macaron topping in record time.


Hanging out with my cousins, for days at a time – which shouldn’t be a big deal, but for me it’s so special. I knew so many other kids at school who’d see their cousins and aunties almost every day – some even attended the same schools, and shared lifts home. They were each other’s first besties, and friends they could always count on. I never had that. My cousins and two of my aunties, plus one Nana, have always existed out of reach, on the other side of the world. And so to me, it may always be a strange and perfect thing to hang out with them for hours at a time. To grab coffee, walk briskly along the beach, and watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine before bed.


Eating nachos with vegan cheese, tomato, avocado and kale on a blanket in the living room, before drinking a few gins in Nana’s garden. Clapping the sprigs of mint in my hands before dropping them in my glass.


You know when live music stirs your insides and heats you right up; makes you jump and thrash around, wiggle all over and squeeze your eyes shut, for some reason feeling sure that depriving yourself of sight means your ears will be able to drink more of it in. It being the amazing sound that’s happening right now, onstage, metres from me. My body feels the exciting energy that’s fast filling the room and threatening to burst through the roof of this old village hall – one of many that are holding acts in this local music festival.
It only occurs to me to take my phone out and capture some of this magic several songs in – when the green-haired saxophonist is properly letting rip, thrusting behind his instrument which shouldn’t look hot OR cool but totally does both, and the trumpet player in the yellow rain mac is visibly sweating behind his sunglasses but obviously beyond caring. I don’t think a fifteen second video on my phone can ever do this moment justice, though.

(Reading Cat Clarke's 'Entangled' while on my train from Melbs to Ballarat)

I recognise all the roads here, even the ones I’ve never been down before. They have a distinct Look. Almost stupidly wide, split into lanes and utterly rammed with white vehicles; all a dull grey but for the enormous company logos marking the shopping areas at regular intervals, and the colourful, if faded, murals painted on the tall blocks either side. I wonder how old those kids are now, the ones whose portraits adorn the concrete walls on the highway.


Even the rain is warm here. Each drop is heavy and they splat hard on my legs and shoulders as I walk down Musgrave Avenue, but they dry quickly in the hot breeze that still blows happily through the streets and into my face despite the onslaught of dark clouds overhead.


I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant that abhors footwear. I like it. Here, in this mood-lit upstairs area of this Thai restaurant on Chapel Street, in Melbourne, I leave my silver sandals on a shelf at the entrance and before long am sitting comfortably in a lazy lotus pose, twisting spicy noodles onto my fork and stabbing at chunks of tofu, too. Catching up with a more or less lifelong friend; a neighbour for over 20 years who is now at home, elsewhere.
There are straw sandals available to wear into the toilet. That’s a comfort. 


Some of my favourite travel bloggers, in no particular order (please note: not all exclusively travel writing) (please comment/tweet me with any more you like reading!):

Travels of Adam (I especially love his Hipster City Guides)


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