“Once globalization and development have homogenized and sanitized the world – quite often for the best – it will no longer be possible for even the most self-indulgent and romantic among us to maintain the illusion that what we are doing is anything other than not-particularly-glorified tourism. If all the classic elements of backpacker stories have gradually become clichés, we might as well pause to acknowledge that they were surprisingly fun clichés while they lasted. And if we now insist that all these clichés fetishize a certain impossible notion of authenticity, while coming dangerously close to essentializing foreign countries as premodern, we should also pause to confess that we enjoyed them anyway.”
–Nicholas Danforth, World travel can be all about timing, San Francisco Chronicle, September 20, 2012
After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank
in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing
things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,
their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person
who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need
to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.
“Many travelers seek out this high. We seek out what is different from what we behold in our daily lives, whether it is language, fashion, standards of behavior, architecture, climate, or animal species, because beholding what is different has the quality of being unreal. If our brains resist the realness of something, but this thing is before our eyes, we’re accompanied by little sparks of excitement just by moving through the world. While tourists spend their time away from home seeking our the comforts of home, travelers risk — even cultivate — discomfort, because what they want is the thrill of a new perspective.”
–Alden Jones, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia (2013)
Melbourne, Australia has become my second home. Known for its café culture, four seasons in a day and city of all things sport, this special place has a lot to offer. In the city, there’s the hubbub of business, culture, life, eateries, endless laneways and riverfront activities. Just a short tram ride away gets you the seaside feel of the Docklands, Chapel Street’s boutique shopping and the drool-worthy dessert shop delights of St. Kilda’s Ackland Street. However, there’s a world of adventure beyond Melbourne’s CBD. In only a short amount of time, all sorts of modes of transport take you to exciting destinations around Victoria. Within a day you can dip your toes in the sand of beautiful beaches, explore the Great Ocean Road, eat fish and chips near the Little Penguins of Phillip Island or get up close and personal with native wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary. Be it beach or adventure, koala cuddles or penguin kisses, seaside retreats or gold mining treasures, restaurants or road trips or all of the above- Melbourne’s surrounds have you covered.
Hike and Discover
Adventures await in Melbourne. A short trip by train or two-hour journey by car finds you in Ballarat. Sovereign Hill, Ballarat’s interactive outdoor museum appeals to visitors of all ages. Pan for gold, dip a candle, visit the blacksmith and spend your day reliving the city’s gold rush period. There are underground tours, hands-on experiences and a gem museum that adds extra sparkle to the trip. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Mt. Dandenong. Less than an hour’s car ride outside of the city sit quaint mountain towns, hiking trails, fresh mountain air and artistry unlike any other. You can hike up the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk’s thousand steps to happily earn sweet treats in one of the many adorable cafes. Areas of Sassafrass and Olinda are filled with cafes (my favourite: Miss Marple’s Tea Room) lolly shops, toy shops, tea shops and more that delight your fancy.
Artists, dreamers, believers, creatives and naturalists can wile away the hours at the William Rickets Sanctuary. Meander through the trees to find incredible carvings and artistry all made by one man. Revering native Aboriginal culture and believing strongly in the lives, stories and message of its people, William Rickets creates unimaginable artwork through tree sculpting. Both the poetry and design exude the magic, trust, wonder, reverence and beauty that is nature.
Journey to the Seaside
Melbourne’s Yarra River flows through the center of the city. Festivals, fireworks and fun happen along the water daily. Searching for a greater view, that specific scent, picturesque coastline, sailboat sightings or just an expedition all your own-Melbourne has that, too. A quick ferry ride away lies the charming seaside town of Williamstown. With its laid back vibe, quaint boutiques, quirky cafes and ice cream shoppes, Williamstown offers a perfect retreat from the buzz of the city. Explorers for a day or a week can experience the rush of life alongside the Great Ocean Road. Deliriously daunting cliffside views halt drivers in their tracks, forcing a stop, look and photo session at each of its thousand twists and turns. Go for a day, stay for a night or ride all the way to Adelaide-no matter the distance, the Great Ocean Road doesn’t disappoint. Gorgeous beaches line the roadside as seaside towns invite you to taste their splendid fish and chips or take part in their endless outdoor activities.
If you’re visiting and missing the roar of the ocean, Melbourne’s beaches are for you. Whichever direction you choose to head, there are waves just waiting to wash over wiggling, happy sand-laden toes. Visit Portsea and Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula to take in the main streets of the towns while hiking down to local beaches to watch surfers find the sweet spots on the many waves. Want a fun train trip and colourful backdrop to stunning white capped waves, hit Brighton for the day where the iconic Beach Boxes are just as much the draw as the sun and the sea. Looking to add a little wildlife adventure to your day on the sand? Take the two-hour drive to Phillip Island to experience the fish and chips, endless scenic views and the Little Penguin Parade. Channel your inner penguin as you wait patiently for some of the world’s cutest creatures to pop out of the water at dusk and waddle their way past your camera lens and back to their burrows for their evening slumber.
Nature, Wildlife, Wine and Cheese
Whether you’re in it for the wine, cheese, or kangaroo cuddles, the Yarra Valley is for you. Filled with lush eye-catching scenery, wineries by the dozen and cafes galore, this bucolic area lies a short distance from the hustle and bustle of one of Australia’s busy cities. If you’re interested in getting up close and personal to native wildlife, spend a day at Healesville Sanctuary. This interactive nature sanctuary is home to heaps of Australian wildlife. Whether you fancy feeding a wallaby, chatting with a kangaroo, counting the quills of an echidna or just relishing time spent with the friendly animals; a day at Healesville will put a smile on the faces of guests both young and old.
For more of Stacey’s musings visit her website.
“The literature of mystical or spiritual experience continually reminds us that the origin of the word ‘spirit’ is closer to that of a high-spirited child, or a spirited horse, than it is to any kind of anaemic piety. First and foremost, ‘spiritual’ means bursting with exuberant life. There is also that strong sense of belonging: of being at home in a benign universe that is both loving and lovable. Wherever I am feels like ‘my place'; whoever I am with are ‘my people’. When this is the case, attitudes of suspicion or competition are replaced with what appears to be an unforced inclination towards kindliness and care.”
–Guy Claxton, “Get Your Kicks,” Aeon, November 8, 2013
“All I know is that I want to live somewhere I’ll have to relearn everything: how to cross the street, how to order coffee, how to deal with people whose modes of thinking are utterly, intriguingly foreign to my own. I want to be uncomfortable, to be an outsider not just in my own mind but in the eyes of everyone who glances at my awkward, bumbling self. I want to figure it out all over again, to savor the small good moments, and I want those tiny triumphs (and inevitable failures) to mark my days, and I want them to add up, over the years and the miles, to a far, far larger victory — that of experience, memory, and language over the unstoppable decay of time. To be clear: this is not wanderlust. Travel is not something separate from the rest of my life, something I need to “get back to.” For me, I’ve come to understand, travel and life are so intricately braided together that they cannot be teased apart.”
–Matt Gross, The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World (2013)
“There is a sniffy school of thought that promotes the idea that the age of travel is over, and that in 1946 when Evelyn Waugh published the juiciest selections from his travel books under the title When the Going Was Good, it was to be assumed that the going wasn’t good anymore. The book is very funny, but the thesis is faulty. I disagreed with it when I set off to see the world in the early ’60s, and I have felt over the years, and through a dozen books of travel, that it is a complacent and disprovable view.”
–Paul Theroux, “Dispatch From a Shrinking Planet,” Newsweek, May 15, 2011
“What you see on large news channels is not the only truth, or even the only news. In fact, often it is the bad news. If you want to hear the good news, then travel. People are basically good and worth knowing, whatever the race or culture they hail from.”
–Mike Spencer Bown, What I’ve Learned: The World’s Most Traveled Man, Esquire, October 25, 2013
“This emphasis upon travel as a test, as a loss that brings a gain of stature and certainty of self, suggests that the changes of character effected by travel are not so much the introduction of something new into the personality of the traveler as a revelation of something ineradicably present — perhaps courage, perdurance, the ability to endure pain, the persistence of skills and abilities even in a context of fatigue and danger. The transformations of passage are a species of “identification” through action, which adds to the being in motion only a consciousness of the irreducible form and individuality of that being. In the difficult and dangerous journey, the self of the traveler is impoverished and reduced to its essentials, allowing one to see what those essentials are.”
–Eric J. Leed, The Mind of the Traveler: From Gilgamesh to Global Tourism (1991)
“Talking about the authentic is often what we do when we the overfed and privileged are discussing the fetish we cultivate for lives that look unchosen, for lives that are inherited, and thus seem to us unbeset by the anxiety of choosing one thing over something else. We juxtapose the inheritances that structure a traditional society with the sense of total arbitrariness we feel about our own lives, and we long to be relieved of the burden of choice by just being told what to do. As I say in [my] book, I think this kind of dynamic is what drives the impulse to make a big deal out of, you know, eating where the locals eat. But that’s so problematic for so many obvious reasons. Like, a lot of people in little street stalls in Thailand love to eat their pad thai slathered in ketchup. Personally, I think it tastes gross. Maybe that’s a trivial example. But, to me, all of these examples are trivial in their own ways. My feeling about authenticity is that we’re all best off when we don’t worry about it too much and just get on with the business of trying to travel in ways that feel meaningful to us, for whatever reason.”
–Interview with Gideon Lewis-Kraus, World Hum, April 25, 2012