The last time I was in Australia was in 1988, just after college, when I
backpacked dragged a suitcase around the country for 6 months. I was not a backpacker. I needed my blow dryer and curling iron, hair products, and more than one pair of shoes.
Lured by the rugged landscape and romance portrayed in the movie The Thorn Birds, I spent a couple of weeks in Sydney before traveling up the coast to see Brisbane, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. I went all the way up to the rain forests of Cape Tribulation. Then I took a bus across the vast desert to Mount Isa, a dusty little town near Ayers Rock, where I worked in a youth hostel for a few weeks waiting on the big rodeo to come to town. After that, I went to Darwin, and then hitchhiked down the west coast to Perth. It was an amazing experience. When I returned to Sydney, I got a job in a bar in King’s Cross, planning to stay forever. When my visa expired, and I wasn’t able to renew it, I was devastated. I didn’t want to leave.
This time was no different, except I wasn’t by myself. And I didn’t end up working in a bar.
Australia is officially my “Happy Place.”
It’s the only country (so far) that ticks all the boxes on my “must have” list:
- temperate climate
- beaches and mountains
- big cities for entertainment/airport access
- great food
- lots of outdoor activities
- lots of places to see and things to do
- nice people
- low crime
G and I flew over to Australia a couple months ago, to help his brother celebrate his 75th birthday. His brother lives just south of Brisbane, in Sanctuary Cove, a beautiful, master-planned community near the Gold Coast. It’s a resort, but with full-time residents, and everything they need is a golf cart ride away. Somehow, it felt like stepping back in time. It reminded me of what it was like growing up in Saudi Arabia, in a community that cared and looked out for its members. People in Sanctuary Cove love to socialize, and dinner parties are occasions to dress up and actually interact with each other. You don’t see everyone checking their cell phones every five minutes. Friends go on trips together. Women play bridge and tennis and have weekly coffee dates. The guys fish and golf and go to Happy Hour together. No one cares what anyone else does (or did, if they’re retired) for a living. It’s very social, and everyone is accepted for who they are, as part of the community. Even the kangaroos.
What struck me the most was how fast we were accepted into the fold. We felt so welcomed and included in the various activities – dinner parties and birthday lunches and golf games. It takes years to achieve that kind of acceptance in the States, if you haven’t grown up in a particular place. G and I both grew up in expat communities, so we have always felt pretty much like outsiders wherever we have lived. But Sanctuary Cove immediately felt like “home.” We absolutely fell in love with it. Now we’re trying to figure out how and when we can return full time.
The only down side to living Down Under, as far as I can see is, is that it is so far away from the U.S. and Europe. With all our kids located on this side of the world, it doesn’t make sense for us to move any time soon. We would be spending our lives (and money) just traveling to see everyone (all eight of them)!! But I know that some day, I will be living in my “Happy Place.”
Here are some of the highlights of our recent trip…
See you soon, Australia….