I've made it to the opposite side of this vast country, via a 3,446 kilometer (2,141 miles) flight from Cairns, Queensland to Perth, Western Australia. It's very hot here. Over 100* F each day so far, and expected to be above at least 90* for the next week. However, I've noticed the pleasant lack of humidity. Tropical North Queensland, however, boasted a stifling 70% humidity or more nearly every day. Perth is much bigger than Cairns (which means much more to explore), and much more like Sydney. Plenty of skyscrapers and expensive penthouses. Anyway, it's story time.
On Christmas day I checked out of the hostel in Cairns and took a shuttle to the airport. Check-out was at 10am and my flight was at 6pm, so I had plenty of time to kill. Unfortunately, I had no book to read. A week before, I had searched every known bookstore in Cairns within biking distance of the hostel for a certain book. Having no luck there, I had hoped to find the book I was looking for, which happened to be book 3, part 2 of The Game of Thrones series, at the airport's bookstore. Again, no luck. They had every book in the six book series except the one I needed. So I spent my time at the airport and on the airplane using the last of my mp3's battery, doodling in my notebook, and staring blankly into nothingness.
Soon enough (5 hours later), I landed in Perth. I nearly walked right by Perth Airport's bookstore without giving it a thought, but at the last moment I decided I might as well walk in and check. Despite being an exact replica of the store in Cairns, I was finally able to find the book. I then made my way outside to choose my mode of transportation to the city. Taxi, city bus, or 'Connect' bus were my options. I sat on the bench and waited ten minutes for the Connect bus. I didn't have any accommodation booked in Perth yet, so when my turn to get on the bus came, I handed the driver the $15 dollar toll, and told here I just needed a hostel. There are a number of hostels to choose from in this city, just the same as any other city of respectable size, so I just chose to get off at one with a name I recognized; the YHA hostel. By then it was near midnight.
The next day I set out to explore the city. I strolled through the Queen's gardens, walked along the Swan River, browsed a hobby shop, and by noon was thoroughly lost. No worries, that was more or less my goal for the day. As long as I knew what general direction my hostel was, and as long as my feet still worked, I would be able to get back. All together nothing too exciting. Perth is a big city similar enough to Sydney or Seattle.
I've been trying to find a helpx host, but to no avail. I've had a couple people respond saying they would be able to host me, but they have all fallen through for one reason or another. I do have one host that can take me on the 10th, but I'd rather not wait that long. It kinda sucks being here in the (very hot) city waiting for something to happen, but I really shouldn't complain. I've been lucky with my hosts thus far. I've been able to find someone to take me in without any delay, and they have all been excellent hosts. Should I have stayed in Cairns, where I had a bed and meals? Probably. But it's too late now, and I did save $300 on my ticket by moving on when I did.
And now, the bad news...
I've come to realize the harsh reality of my situation. I think I've always sort of realized it, but only now am I accepting the actuality of it. That reality is the fact that I will not make it, financially, a whole year here, as I had originally planned. I overestimated how cheaply I would be able to live and travel through Aus. I have made it one third of the way so far, and managed to do so by spending a little over half of my allowed budget for the year. Now, in my opinion, I've done pretty well so far. Very well even. It's cost me about two and a half thousand dollars, not counting the plane ticket here, to get this far. That includes transport, accommodation, food, entertainment, etc. That's pretty good, I think. $2500 to live very happily for over four months, travel over 2,700 kilometers so far (yes, I mapped it out), and experience countless new things, including animals, plants, and foods that I had no idea existed. I'd consider my trip so far a roaring success.
So, options? With this lack of funds in mind, I researched ticket prices for what it would take to get back home. I would want to make a stop back in Sydney, to spend another few days with Mike and Fee, then to Seattle, to visit my grandparents, Aunt, Uncle, and cousins, and finally back to Detroit. The plane tickets to do so would cost me approximately half of what I have left. This leaves me with less than two thousand dollars to stretch over as long a period as I can, hopefully another four months at least, landing me back home sometime in April or maybe May.
I can sit tight in one spot for a while and find a paying job to re-fuel my ever-draining money tank. Which, to be honest, I'd rather not do. I'd rather keep moving and keep experiencing for as long as I can. On top of that I would, of course, really like to get back and see my family... and sleep in my own bed... and drive my JEEP! I'm not saying that I want to cut my trip short, but there would be pleasant side effects of running out of money prematurely. Well, we'll see how it goes in Western Australia from here.
Brian also brought up a good point when we were skype-ing. He said: "Did you think you'd get it exactly right the first time? It's a miracle you haven't gotten lost or something yet."
Which is true, when you think about it. *Knock on wood* Nothing has gone horribly wrong for me so far; I haven't lost anything (other than one pair of undies, still don't know where they went), I haven't gotten injured, I haven't gotten (very) sick, everything has been positive and smooth sailing. Yes, it's a shame I won't be able to stay the whole year, but it's been an excellent trip so far, and I am very much looking forward to the next few months.
Happy new year everyone!