If you’ve ever met me, then you know how I feel about Australia. If you’ve glanced at my social media accounts or read any of my author bios across the internet, then you probably know how I feel about Australia. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, then I should introduce myself (hi, I’m Kim!) and tell you how I feel about Australia (rumor has it I’m obsessed, but let’s just say I love it to pieces).
I’ve been to Australia twice in my lifetime—so far—and I’ve stayed for extended amounts of time (six weeks and four weeks, respectively). The first trip was a summer study abroad program, where I got to live in Melbourne and experience everything I’d dreamed of since realizing I could travel there for school credit. The second trip, three years later, was a vacation that happened because the stars aligned… and also because a) my younger sister was studying abroad there for a semester and it was the perfect excuse to return; b) my part-time work schedule made my travel time very flexible; c) I’d been saving every penny to go back for fun; and d) there were so many things I missed out on doing the first time around.
When I tell people about my experiences Down Under, I get really excited. And I probably talk about it for at least twice as long as I should, but there’s a good reason for it: I want people to know how amazing, memorable, and worthwhile a trip there is. Between the hours spent traveling and the dollars spent exploring, I know it adds up to a grand total of crazy. But I can promise it’s absolutely worth it! I consider myself beyond lucky for having gotten to experience the beauty, wonder, and lifestyle of Australia twice already. Since my first visit nearly five years ago, I’ve considered Australia to be my second home. Here’s why.
The People Are Wonderful
I’m curious if it has to do with the laid back lifestyle or if it’s entirely because Australians know their country is wonderful, but the people here are (and will always be) the first thing I mention when asked “What’s so great about it there?” They’re downright wonderful. They’re charming and exciting; they’re witty and bold. Whether they’re locals, travelers, students, explorers, or workers—the people of Australia come from all over the world. I’ve made and kept friends in Melbourne, Sydney, and Cairns—and to this day, they’re lovely to talk to and fun to catch up with.
Australia Makes THE Best Chicken Parmas
Growing up with Italian roots/relatives, I’m no stranger to chicken parmigiana for dinner. But sweet neptune, Australians make the best damn chicken parmas I’ve ever had. They’re crispy and saucy and cheesy… plus there’s a sweet layer of ham underneath the melted cheese! Geniuses, those Australians. As if all that weren’t enough, they serve it with a pile of hot chips (aka steak fries) and a little salad. Add on a nice, cold pint of cider or beer and either a bustling pub atmosphere or a scenic rooftop view…and then come thank me. I’m drooling just thinking about this. On second thought, maybe just invite me to join you?
The Scenic Views Are Endless
I find it hard to believe some (OK, most) of the scenery in Australia is real. The beaches of Sydney, the winding Great Ocean Road, the hilltops of Melbourne’s peninsula—all stunning and all real. When you’re in the heart of downtown Sydney or Melbourne, the architecture is a combination of new and old—shiny skyscrapers and modern, angular structures mingling with older buildings and churches reminiscent of Victorian and Gothic design. Honestly, it’s just the coolest thing about exploring each city. There’s something about mixing old and new that makes everything feel more alive—it’s almost as if being there in the midst of old and new makes it feel as if you’re growing and changing with the city as it does the same.
I’ve Got A Soft Spot For Their Comedy
Australian humor is something I’m still learning to completely understand, even from the U.S. But I quickly fell in love with both their real-life humor (the Aussie lingo, the sly/sneaky remarks, the bluntness), their comedy on TV (honestly some of the best game shows I’ve ever seen), and—I might get mocked for this one, but—Hamish and Andy. They’re a comedy duo that have done a number of TV series and are currently hosting an ongoing radio show that I listen to daily, because they’re so damn funny. Think of it this way: American humor is all about one-liners; Australian humor is more sneaky, it makes you think a little harder. Honorable mention: the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s good stuff and I’m still thrilled I was there when it was on (mostly because I got to see THE Hamish of Hamish and Andy perform).
The Outback Is The Actual Coolest
I think I could talk about the Outback of Australia for hours. You’re probably familiar with the iconic Outback photo of the “Big Red Rock,” aka Ayers Rock, aka Uluru. It’s pretty incredible in person and when you participate in the Base Walk (a 10 k.m. walk around, you guessed it, the base of the rock), you learn about the Aboriginal stories tied to every mark, watering hole, cave, etc. There is so much history here that even after two trips, I feel like I still have so much more to learn. A lot of Outback visitors hike the trails through the domes of Kata Tjuta next (this is actually my favorite) and wrap up the day with a sunset viewing at Uluru. Of course, it’s a long journey and you’ll need somewhere to crash for the night. Never did I ever imagine myself camping out in the big red dirt desert of the Outback—let alone sans tent—but I did it. Twice. And it’s one of the things I recommend most to future Aussie travelers. Despite the campsite critters, nothing is more incredible to look at than the Milky Way glowing overhead through the night.
There’s Always Something New To Discover
I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Melbourne and even still, I know how much more there is to see in the city. Through winding laneways, there’s a seemingly endless cache of shops, secret bars, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and cozy cafes. Even on a cool, rainy winter day in Melbourne, these hidden gems feel so welcoming. On nicer days, Melbourne’s the perfect city to wander in search of the best graffiti walls. The artwork is constantly changing, so every visit feels new, yet familiar.
Australians Love Australia
Maybe I just met really passionate, wonderful, lovely Aussies, but there’s something comforting about being around people who love their country and take pride in its quirks, culture, and lifestyle. My Australian friends love their cities and their go-to spots in each. And in turn, I love that about them.
The Iconic Landmarks Are Even Cooler In Person
We’ve all seen photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock, The Twelve Apostles, Flinders Street Station, The Great Barrier Reef, and more. Seeing these iconic landmarks in person for the first time is a bizarre, exciting experience. When I returned to Australia for the second time, I got to see a lot of these landmarks again and I still had total “pinch me” moments at each. Yet, because I’d seen them before, my memories of each came back with details I’d forgotten over time—and suddenly that feeling of “ahhh, sweet home *Iconic Landmark*” rushes in.
I Have Favorite Spots In Every City I’ve Visited
In Melbourne, I’ve got a bed with my name on it at a friend’s house, a rooftop bar, and a favorite drink at a swanky bar just a few floors below. In Fitzroy, I’ve got shops and a walking route from where I once rented an apartment for six weeks. In Sydney, I’ve got a walking route from Surry Hills to Circular Quay, where there’s a rooftop bar (with the best Parmas) overlooking the Harbour. In Cairns, I’ve got an outdoor restaurant spot with good pizza and even better views. On a boat in the Great Barrier Reef, I’ve got a spot at one of the dining tables in between my Swedish friend Daniel and my American friend Dan. In the Outback, I’ve got the view from between Kata Tjuta’s domes and a sleeping bag next to the campfire. And this is just skimming the surface.
It Feels Like Home…
And as a homebody, that’s a huge deal. Flying 9,000+ miles is not only a long ass journey, but it’s kind of a terrifying one. Once the panic subsides and I make it through customs and into the arms of friends nice enough to pick me up from the airport, everything feels right. The air smells right. The people sound right. The cars drive on the wrong side of the road, but just about everything else feels right. I never question why ketchup is called tomato sauce. I never question why Bottle O’s (liquor stores) are on damn near every block. I never feel out of place. I wonder if it’s because I met so many amazing people along the way there, or if it’s because I did a lot of growing throughout both of my trips there. In traveling alone, I found courage I didn’t think I had. I pushed myself to meet new people, I challenged myself to explore cities without a map in my hand every second, and I became more independent and confident in my people skills (and that’s saying something for a person with generalized and social anxiety). At the end of each day, Australia always felt like home. And even years later, from my bedroom in Chicago, it still feels that way.
There’s something about Australia that I truly believe brings out the best version of me—the version that wants to explore and be outgoing. The version that feels and looks genuinely happy. The version that decides to go scuba diving on a whim even though her anxiety tells her she’s too scared (she’s not). The version that wants her family to come visit so she can show them everything she loves. The version that wants to develop a believable Aussie accent (or at the very least, naturally pick up on and use the lingo). The version that feels the most alive. The version that says without hesitation, this is home.
And I think someday in the near future, on my third trip across the globe, I’ll be able to say just that.