I wouldn’t have gone to Australia this year if it weren’t for a couple of awesome workmates alerting me that Cebu Pacific had promo fares for plane tickets to Sydney.
Sydney tickets usually cost around 40k PHP (around 1000 AUD), which is too rich for my blood right now. That’s already a week-long trip somewhere else for me. Last May I was able to score a round-trip ticket for November for only 15k PHP. A couple of clicks here and there and before I knew it I had a two-week trip to plan.
I won’t bore you with the details of the planning. I went through the motions of applying for a Visa (which I got 6 days after applying), booking a domestic flight to Melbourne, going through tour packages online, and researching accommodations. I’ve already had a lot of practice, having traveled alone for years and having gone to two other OECD countries before.
Of course, the costs are a different animal altogether. In Asia I could afford to book single rooms. In Bali, for example, I got a second-story, pool-view room in a resort with my own private toilet and hot shower. The place was a stone’s throw away from Kuta Beach.
In Australia, the same money would only get me a bunk bed in a shared room in a mixed dormitory. Introvert me was screaming, “Nooooooooooo!” But I had to shut that side of me up and promise myself that I would make up for it with the tours and most especially the food.
A lot happened during the months leading up to my Australia trip. I had been dating this older guy since February but the relationship fizzled out two months before I was due to fly down under.
At work I was given the responsibility of handling a very tedious publishing schedule for the publication I work for and see it through the transition towards an automated workflow.
I went through a lot of shows and movies via Netflix. Some standouts include the Australian dramedy Please Like Me, the British sitcoms Chewing Gum and Crashing, the hilarious senior-citizen comedy Grace and Frankie, the haunting Gerald’s Game and Hush, the heartbreaking Bojack Horseman, among others.
By the first week of November I was already exhausted and desperate for a change of pace and scenery. A week later, I would get it.
Before boarding the plane to Sydney, I took out my phone and deleted the app I used to access my work email, just as I always do before any trip. I had no intention of allowing my everyday life to distract me from what I could discover outside of it.
I was thankful for the midnight flight. It meant I could spend most of the 8 hours flying to Sydney asleep. I barely even heard the pilot announcing that we were about to land.
Upon getting to Sydney International Airport, I did a very millenial thing and got a prepaid sim card with a generous data plan (because Internet, duh). The guy from the Vodafone Australia stall offered me a 15GB mobile data package with unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers for 20 AUD. Not a bad deal, considering I paid three times as much to rent a mobile wifi stick in Kansai, Japan last year.
After getting Sydney’s Opal Card (the city’s all-access commuter card), I finally rode the train to the city. Sitting on that train toward Museum Station with my bags in hand, I had only vague ideas about what I’d do and see and did not really know how this trip would affect me. Would it be like any of my other trips? Would I be bored like I occasionally was in Taiwan or would this lead to something I never could have imagined?
There was a sort of freedom in not knowing, and on that train ride to the city, I savoured every bit of that feeling.
Photograph: Raydon L. Reyes