My trip to Australia felt like a big eff you to my anxious thoughts & feelings. First of all, I booked my tickets only a month ahead of time with minimal ideas of what I would do. I read TripAdvisor reviews about the places I had in mind and reached out to my friends for advice.
As soon as I had the locations set, it became tremendously easier. After talking with my pre-school friend who spent nearly a year in Australia she gave me a few life-saving pieces of advice: 1) take a “On the Wallaby” or “Uncle Brian’s” tour just outside of Cairns 2) Whitsunday/Whitehaven beach are a must 3) Greyhound buses can be a good option
With places and dates, my searches became much more limited—in the best way possible.
Cairns has a few notorious party hostels, and I immediately knew I would require a less well-known option. I ended up going with a similar hostel called “Calypso Inn,” which will be called “Mad Monkey” in the coming months. It was a perfect compromise—I booked a single room and the property had a lively welcoming atmosphere with shared bathrooms, showers, and kitchen. Even with some late night partying, it wasn’t loud and the staff were always available to answer questions or help. I really enjoyed my time there—comfortable bed, clean, and solid AC.
Far more important than the accommodations: the activities! So day 1 was basically me wandering around Cairns aimlessly. Wasted day? Uh no! I loved every minute of it (aside from my heavy back pack). I strolled up and down the esplanade, went to a beautiful (free) museum, and sat in a coffee shop reading “In a Sunburnt Land” by Bill Bryson while an afternoon storm blew over. It was perfect. After my glorious day, I checked into my hotel and promptly passed out by 7pm while watching the movie “Australia” on Netflix.
The next morning I woke up even before my alarm and felt so good; chipper and ready for a day of chasing waterfalls! The “On the Wallaby” tour was a day long excursion to 4 different sites. We lucked out and had a very small group, which made it feel very intimate. Our guide, Cuz Rohan, was hilarious and kept us all in good spirits and even encouraged me to get in the freezing waterfall for a classic “sexy hair flip” photo at Milla Milla Falls.
Day 3 was a scuba dive day! I had a strange sense of fear come over me the night before. I had not been diving in years…how can I still consider myself certified? Luckily exhaustion kicked in so I had little time to worry until I plopped down on the boat the next day. A guy about my age sat next to me and I quickly learned he was in the same boat (see what I did there 😉 ) and he had not been diving in about 8 years.
We walked through some basics together and quickly became fast friends, dive buddies, and went to dinner together that night.
I signed up for the maximum three dives possible to squeeze in for one day. I quickly learned that only a few other people did the same, and most of them were highly experienced. I wanted to get the most out of my day on the reef so I’m glad I did all three, but it was intense!
My first dive was generally me mildly panicking and sticking close to the guide, but about halfway through I felt the same sense of calm sweep over me. The sense of calm that makes me love diving. The weightlessness, the quiet, the long slow breaths.
The reef itself was endless–stunning with numerous textures & colors. Beautiful fish near inches from my face. The next two dives were even better. I learned that a shark swam right by me and I didn’t even see it (I would be the first to die in real-life Jaws).
After my long day of diving, I went to dinner with my dive buddy and wandered back to my hostel to kill 4 hours before catching my 1AM greyhound. I sat down on the sofa in the hostel “lobby” (I don’t think it qualifies as a real lobby..) and awoke to the guys at the front desk discussing their sexual exploits. They had no idea I was there and their surprise was hilarious as I sleepily popped my head up.
I caught a cab to the bus stop and was greeted my the nicest greyhound bus (and driver) I’ve ever seen! I settled in and slept for a solid 5 hours before waking up to watch the views through rural Australia en route to Airlie Beach and the magnificent Whitsundays.