One of the many perks of studying abroad is the ability to access and visit places that would be difficult to visit under typical circumstances. I took advantage of this ability and planned a trip to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. In short, the trip was definitely a learning experience.
Four girls exited their yellow taxi and headed straight into the tiny airport. Security in Australia is nothing like airport security in the States: no shoe removal, no liquids contained in one-quart bags, and outside food is allowed. The process through the airport went almost too smoothly, and that is where our good luck ended.
We landed in Melbourne a little after 5 p.m. with the expectation that we would be picked up. With no shuttle in sight, we called the hostel only to be told that we had just missed it and that the next would not be arriving for another two hours. Not wanting to spend the majority of our first day in a new city in an airport, we took a taxi.
This brings me to the first lesson we learned on our trip while abroad: expect to spend more money than you had originally planned. Whether the extra money is spent on transportation, souvenirs or an extra dessert, it will all be spent. All of it. Just let it happen, though. This is more than likely going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so embrace the fact that you will be broke when you get back.
As part of the trip, we booked two tours; we toured the Great Ocean Road and we got to see the Penguin Parade along with other stops along the way to Phillip Island. Nearly every stop we took involved a bathroom break, with one thing missing: cleanliness. This brings me to lesson No. 2: expect to never be clean. Each bathroom lacked either soap, hot water, or something with which to dry your hands. Our savior on those days was a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer I had brought just because I had forgotten to unpack it. Even in your place of accommodation, especially if it’s a hostel or a backpackers’ hotel, do not expect soap or towels. For that matter, don’t expect complimentary anything, which alludes back to the first lesson of having to pay for everything. Like I said, though, embrace it.
Another lesson we learned was that sleep was minimal. Backpackers’ hotels are made for young kids who are traveling and just need a place for a night or two. The hotel we stayed at, called Base, had themes and events for every night of the week, such as Ladies’ Night, Boozy Bingo and Goon Pong. “Goon” is the slang term for boxed or cheap wine. The people who stay at backpackers’ hotels are typically young adults who are taking a break from learning. Therefore, most of them do not have daily responsibilities and can party every night without consequences. Each night we slept in our room, we could hear the rage music blasting from three floors below. Even when we managed to get to sleep at a decent hour, early the next morning, we were woken up by housekeeping. He knocked and then immediately entered with running vacuum in hand and us still in bed. We all roared with laughter as soon as the door was closed again.
Prior to leaving the country, I had heard and read a bunch of warnings about how people from other countries do not like Americans. I believed them and attempted to tread lightly, but in Melbourne, I apparently stepped on the toe of the wrong person. It happened after our 15-hour tour day. Feeling and looking gross, we picked a causal Italian place for dinner. A man at the table next to us started with friendly conversation, but quickly turned nasty. He insulted our intelligence, even though he claimed to have respect for people from different countries. So, that’s my fourth lesson: people really do hate Americans. To avoid an encounter like this, be friendly to everyone, don’t be too loud, and be knowledgeable of every stereotype so you can act the exact opposite.
Finally, on your trips, expect the unexpected. In order to enjoy your trip when it feels like everything is going wrong, go with the flow. The people you meet, the places you see, and the things you do will make all the bad things seem obsolete. Make the best of every experience and have an amazing time. You’ll come away with good memories and even better stories to tell.