Part I: Lillian is obsessed with Australia
Surprise! This post is about Australia and not Asia. To make a long story (that I wrote out twice and deleted twice so I know it’s long) short, I arrived home from my Asian vacation (VacAsian) in April. My animal-sighting quota was met, as was my involuntary-fish-consumption quota.
Come January, however, I was marinated in America again and ready to head off to Australia, part deux of my global animal journey.
Many animal nuts dream of going to Africa for the elephants, lions, giraffes, and other “charismatic mega-fauna” as they are called in the biz. I guess the opposite would be boring mini-fauna, aka slugs and rats and stuff, but that’s really in the eye of the beholder #SlugClub (that’s actually a Harry Potter reference…nerd inception). Anyway, I have always been more interested in inspecting the unconventional creatures that Australia has to offer. This may have stemmed from a childhood love of a stuffed animal that I am now told is a duck, but was convinced was a platypus.
I also wrote a “book” on the Numbat for a school project when I was twelve.
I thought I’d realized my dream of going to Australia for study abroad as a junior in college, but the trip fell through (I went to Scotland instead, which was great, but the platypus: sheep ratio was not ideal).
In 2015, I finally had another chance to go. I booked a three-month trip, splitting my time between volunteering at different animal rehabilitation centers, and touring the country. The plan was to fly from Boston to Dallas, then Dallas to Sydney; arriving on January 29th, with a day to prepare for a New Year’s Eve celebration. All systems were go for my trip to Platypustopia…
Turns out, the universe did not subscribe to this agenda. Twenty-four hours into my “journey” I was supposed to be halfway around the world, and instead I was lying in bed my best friend’s in parent’s house in Texas with mild whiplash.
A (Sassy) Travel Guide for when the Universe Sabotages You
Spoiler alert, I eventually made it to Australia. But almost all of the things went wrong on the way. Here is a list how to plan for those things that you can’t plan for, but mostly it’s just a veiled complaint about a very long, very bad day.
- Wear comfortable, athletic clothing – Let’s say your first flight gets delayed by three hours, and now your perfectly reasonable three-hour layover has been ripped from your clammy, desperate hands. But it’s not delayed so much that you can give up hope and move on with your life. Nope, you will be in purgatory for your entire flight. Ideally you should dress like Usain Bolt to give you good ventilation for when you stress-sweat an entire flight, and maximum speed when you run through the airport.
- Get to know your airport – While you sprint through the terminals, it’s best to familiarize yourself with all the secret passageways. It might seem like you can just take the airport tram/shuttle/subway from one terminal to another, but what happens when those shut down? Perhaps in the case of a severe thunderstorm that you just flew through? When the tram shuts down (with you on it) you’re going to want to know which rarely used dungeon hole to drag your bags through so that you can beat the sad traveler stampede to your gate.
- Try to make friends in every major city – When you find out that your flight did leave, because Qantas is a professional airline and can apparently depart in the middle of a thunderstorm, you will need a place to stay. Your next flight is a full 24 hours later so it’s best to leave. Oh by the way, you also can’t stay at a hotel because they “ran out out of hotel vouchers.” If you plan far enough ahead, you can stay with a friend! You have lots of options to plan this; you can choose your friends based on their proximity to major airports, only fly through cities where friends live, or just ask your friends to move. Whatever works!
- Don’t jinx stuff – Just don’t. You might think after a long day of travel’s finest panic attacks, you can call your mom and tell her that she can go to bed; it’s all sorted out and you’re in a cab on your way to your best friend’s house. Nope.
- Wear your seatbelt – BUCKLE UP for what’s next. Maybe you’re from New York where seat belts seem to just impede your ability to slither in and out of cabs, so you forget to put it on. You should still buckle your seat belt, in case, for example, a truck in front of you spins out (in your favorite storm) and you do a full 360 in your cab before you miraculously don’t die and your driver pulls off the highway after the truck.
- Have a second family – This is hard to do, but if you plan REALLY far ahead and set the groundwork early, it will pay off. When you have been traveling for 12 hours and then get in a car accident, the best thing in the world is to have spare mom handy to scoop you up from the side of the highway. It’s also nice if they take you out to tacos the next day.
- Pick your travel companions based on their clothing size – If you’re planning on playing a dark form of travel bingo where you want everything to go wrong, the next thing on your list is to have your airline lose your luggage (for four days). In this case, it’s best to have someone to share clothes with. I was meeting my friend Chip in Australia, and he did his best to share with me, although I am not a 6’3 man, and was dressed like an androgynous blueberry for four days.
- Pretend you’re on a game show – If you plan on going to a fancy event (and by fancy I mean the dress code is not sweatshirt and not blueberry) shortly after arriving, you should bring that in your carry-on. I did not, and got to play a game called “what’s the cheapest, New Year’s Eve outfit I can slap together in a mall before my jet-lag knocks me out?”
- Celebrate! It’s hard to be positive when you hit jackpot of travel nightmares, but you did it! So tell literally everyone that will listen about your harrowing tale, and grab whatever alcohol that country has to offer, and then have a nap.