Every year I like to look back and choose my top 5 travel experiences that defined the year. Last year, it was more about “big” experiences like seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and the best beach in Australia. Looking back, the experiences that stood out the most for me this year had more to do with time spent wandering and little discoveries, rather than “bucket list” worthy experiences to tick off a list.
1. Spending two months in New York City
I can’t believe we pulled this one off. My boyfriend had a training program in New York, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to spend a decent amount of time in New York City, rent-free. I was sure something would come up with work, which would mean I couldn’t get the time off, but the stars aligned and I found myself on a plane to NYC a week after David started his training program.
There were so many experiences that could be highlights all on their own, but overall I just loved having such a long time to sink into such a legendary city. The best part for me was that each weekend we’d pick a couple of neighbourhoods, hop on the subway and just walk around a new part of town. It was also the first time we’d travelled internationally together, so that was exciting too! It’s nice to have some shared memories from an overseas trip.
2. Listening to live jazz at Preservation Hall in New Orleans
I’m somewhat of a Gen Y anomaly because live music gigs just aren’t my scene. When I’m in the birthplace of an entire musical genre, I’ll make an exception. We queued for an hour outside the Preservation Hall to listen to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a legendary group who kept the crowd tapping their toes and wiggling their hips for over an hour in the tiny, crowded, stuffy Preservation Hall.
I cannot describe how much fun it was. The group played some of their classics and tried out some new material. Photos and video were prohibited, which I appreciated because it encouraged the audience to stay in the moment. The atmosphere was infectious and it really celebrated what make’s New Orleans different from anywhere else – exactly the kind of experience I look for when I travel.
3. Visiting cool, quirky Hobart for the first time
If Australia’s state capitals were a family, Melbourne would be the sophisticated eldest sister, Sydney would be the brash, attention-seeking party animal and Brisbane would be the one constantly skipping town to go to the beach. Hobart would be the quiet, eccentric one, who most people forget about, but who is actually really cool once you get to know them.
Tasmania is an island state, separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait. This gives Tasmanians a bit of an outsider mentality, which manifests into a quirky local culture where people are proud to be a little bit different.
Hobart is the second-oldest city in Australia and is probably one of the best-preserved city centres in Australia, full of old sandstone buildings. The heritage buildings may seem very English, but the scenery looks like it’s been plucked straight out of Norway. As we floated down the misty, blue River Derwent on the MONA Ferry, I couldn’t believe that we were still in Australia.
With a nickname like “the Apple Isle”, you know you’re going to be well-fed in Tasmania. Hobart has a number of new restaurants around Salamanca Square and Franklin Wharf, there’s great fresh produce at the Salamanca Markets and Moorilla Winery’s cellar door is a great place to de-brief over a glass of wine or two after visiting MONA.
4. Walking around Pleasantville (AKA Charleston)
I felt like I gave Charleston a bit of a roasting in my initial blog post about the city, but it’s actually one of my favourite places. I wanted to address the elephant in the room before I waxed ga-ga about how much I loved the place, so expect a few gushy posts in the next couple of months.
If you asked a nine-year-old girl to design the perfect city in America, I think Charleston is pretty much what you’d get. It even has a Barbie Dream House.
On our first full day in Charleston, we were introduced to so many of the things which make the city so sweet.
Horse-drawn carriages carried tourists around town, as guides explained the city’s rich history. Cobbled streets and pastel-coloured heritage buildings were all over the city’s enormous historic quarter, not just on the famous Rainbow Row. Overgrown graveyard’s had a wild, mysterious charm under the watchful eye of the city’s many churches. Young Navy recruits strolled the streets in their neat uniforms, arm in arm with their girlfriends. Everywhere we looked, Charleston was putting on a show.
We walked down to the waterfront, fringed by low-country grasses, and spotted dolphins. We walked past the gorgeous East Battery Mansions and into White Point Park, shaded by the with the winding branches of the famous live oaks. The air in Charleston smells fruity and sweet, thanks to the white tea olive blossoms.
No sooner had the words “This park is ridiculously romantic” left my mouth, a young guy approached by boyfriend and asked if we could take a photo of him and his girlfriend in the park’s pagoda. He handed David his iPhone with shaking hands, and whispered, “I’m about to propose.”
They took their couple photo and he pointed out to the water. After his girlfriend turned to look, he got down on one knee and she became his fiancée.
I mean, really?!
5. Moving to Melbourne
At the start of the year, I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne. It was the first time I moved house, let alone city, so it was a really exciting and challenging experience. As I soon learned, there are a lot of differences between moving and travelling, but I’m so glad I stuck it out. Travelling is pretty easy – you move on before the annoyances go from being endearing differences to huge pains in the ass, and before the boredom sinks in while the frustrations endure. It’s a roller coaster of highs and lows and it can be exhausting. The first six months are definitely the hardest, and I felt like the second half of the year coasted along pretty smoothly compared to the start.
I’ve loved diving into Melbourne’s vibrant arts scene and eating my way around my new city. I’ve learned how to love art galleries thanks to many free visits to the NGV and have delighted in discovering pretty perspectives of the city, around nearly every corner. Moving cities has been really rewarding and I’m glad I did it in 2015!