It's a holiday, not a project.

*Below: the conversation I’ve been having for the past few months, awkwardly paraphrased*

   ‘So, what are your plans for Christmas this year?’
   ‘Oh, I’m actually spending it in Australia, with my family out there.  I’ll be flying out in November and coming back in January!’
   ‘Whoa, that’s a long time! What are your plans while you’re there?!’

I am completely aware of just how privileged I am to have the opportunity to travel out to the other side of the world. Not only do I have the financial means to do it, I also get a slight advantage as I am technically a citizen of Australia – *proudly brandishes navy blue passport* – and this means I can stay in the country indefinitely, and there’s no need to apply for a VISA!

Yes, I am very, very lucky. The thing is, with this luck comes pressure.

I’m doing something very few people get to do, even once in their life – and I’ve already been out to Australia 7 or 8 times (the first time being when I was just 3 months old, for my first Christmas) in my 24 years. And believe it or not, as I fly out alone for the first time – as I gaze out of the window during take-off from Gatwick, then watch the latest film releases on the excellent and expensive airline’s individual mini TVs, stroll through Dubai airport to make my connection, land in Brisbane and fall into my relatives’ arms – I am thinking non-stop about how lucky I am, and how I must make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Since arriving on the Gold Coast and half-unpacking in my Nana’s bungalow, I’ve been desperately searching for things to do. Experiences to have. Items to put on a list and dutifully tick off – things one could and should do when they’re given this wonderful chance to explore this magical place on the other side of the world.

First, literally the day after arriving, I booked a domestic flight to Melbourne; the city where my childhood pal Amy (also known as Amo) now lives, where my cousins used to rent before their first pregnancy brought them home to the coast, and where so many travel bloggers write about, and friends of friends have recommended to me upon hearing I’ll be heading out to Oz. Tick! Done.
Next, I secured my couple of nights’ stay in Ballarat, the fabulous town just an hour or so out of Melbs, where a family friend lives and will be delighted to put me up. Tick! Done. 

Wow, I thought. I’m on a roll! Making the most, making the most…

I compiled a list of places I must check out while I’m in Melbourne, and looked up Ballarat and Wendouree online too, to see if there’s anything that needs doing there. So many boxes to tick?!!!?!!

My first night in Melbourne, I had dinner at a beautiful Thai restaurant in Chapel Street, South Side (Tick!), with lovely Amo. The next morning, she and I went for brunch (Tick!) at St Edmonds, and I got my first taste of the legendary Melbourne coffee (Tick!) as I ate my smashed chilli avo on sourdough. After that we walked around Prahran, Amo pointing things out to me (‘they do great coffee’/ ‘this is the best Op Shop’ / ‘We’ll go here for dinner at some point’) and I took mental snapshots of every corner, every street, adding them all to my hefty To Do list. I got a couple of books (one of which was a $1 cocktail recipe book for an upcoming family cocktail party, score!) and some clothes from an Op Shop (Tick!), then had a perfect raw juice in the epic Prahran Markets (Tick!) and then ate a Vegemite roll (Tick!) Amo made me before I had to get on the train to Ballarat (where I’d be for a few days before returning to the city mid-week).

My head was full of plans as I sat on the train out of Southern Cross, and I found myself anxiously scoffing an entire family bag of salty lentil chips while desperately mapping out my next few days – minute by minute, coffee by coffee, train by train, brunch by brunch and bar by bar. By the time I arrived in Wendouree and was greeted by the angelic Lindy, who’d met Mama on a tour around Europe in 1989, I was a wreck. My silly brain was screaming at me, too – you can’t afford a few days relaxing out here in the sticks!!? You have SO MUCH TO DO!!! 

I was also feeling guilty and sad for only being with my family on the coast – who I hadn’t seen in 4 years, y’know – for a few days before jetting off again, doing the Next Thing. I actually missed them, suddenly. Already!

It wasn’t until I had spent a peaceful, comfortable night in Ballarat, befriended Lindy’s gorgeous 12-year-old twins and done the 6km walk around the Lake Wendouree, that I realised something very important:

This is a holiday.
It's not a project, it's not a list, it's just...a trip.

Simple af, right? But it took a load off, let me tell you. God, when I first got here I’d been worrying so much about what people I knew – and keen travellers – would think if they found out I was only ‘hanging out with family’ while I was in this amazing country. I seriously thought they’d think of that as a waste. I even briefly felt horrible for not extending my trip further into 2018, to tick off Oz’s neighbouring countries – New Zealand, Bali, Fiji – because hey, I’m already almost there, aren’t I?

I’ve really had to shake myself these past couple of days – to remind myself that I am completely and totally allowed to do whatever the hell I want while I’m staying here, in beautiful Australia, on the other side of the world and in a second home. And if what I want more than anything is to stick around where I’ve been so many times before in my life, doing the same kinda thing, seeing all the same people (who happen to be my gorgeous family, a couple of whom were insanely young or hadn’t even been born during my last trip!) …then I can. And I will.

For my last few days in Melbs, I’ll be sleeping in or going to bed early if need be, and calmly strolling around the city rather than following lists on maps, to the letter. Then I’ll be going ‘home’ to Southport, where I’ll stay until my parents and sis arrive, when we’ll be moving into our Christmas digs in Burleigh Heads (another place I’ve been to many, many times). I’ll mix it up wherever possible; I’m not going to do just the things I’ve done before, I’ll also try a few new places and maybe even book a day trip up the coast in one of those buses full of eager adventuring twenty-somethings. But I’m not putting any pressure on myself, any more.

I’ve decided to do what makes me happy, not what I feel others would tell me to do, what they’d want to do were they in my position, or what I feel would make a good blog post. I’m going to have a damn holiday. I deserve it. 


  1. Ah Grace I bloody love this!!! You're so right, there can still be pressure to have the best time possible because you're in a country as amazing as Australia - somewhere people don't get to go or if they do, it's a quick 2 or 3 weeks before heading home & in that time they try to pack in as much as possible because who knowd when they'll be back?!?
    I have been to Australia twice before & I absolutely bloody love it. Such an amazing country & one I want to get back to at some point!!
    I really hope you enjoy your Australian Christmas & time spent with your family. That really is the most important thing, regardless of the fact they happen to live in Oz!
    I really loved reading this post. Please keep them coming, if you can, no pressure!
    Love Sarah xoxox


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