April 16, 2017
This past week I spent traveling alone in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I booked a round trip flight just a week and a half before departing somewhat on a whim due to my original plans for a two-week-long road trip falling through. I wasn’t nervous about traveling alone beforehand – I was actually quite excited. It wasn’t until I spent my first night in my hostel that I started to panic.
I had never felt so alone in my life that first night. I knew that I didn’t have any friends or family within at least hundreds of miles in all directions. I was in a city I was completely unfamiliar with, sleeping in a room with four strangers. But I promised myself that I would give this experience a chance, wake up the next morning, get breakfast and start seeing the city. And that’s exactly what I did.
I bought a two-day bus ticket for visitors of the city for only $10. My first stop was at the National Gallery of Victoria – Australia’s oldest and most historic art gallery. It was beautiful – the art was centered on various cultures and themes, including love, Italian renaissance, and Asian decoration. I took the bus to Flinders Station, where I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’m not sure why I have always found cathedrals so enticing. Perhaps it is the eerie silence, with nothing but whispers and the echo of shoes on the tile penetrating the quiet. And despite my lack of religious dedication, I do feel at peace while inside the walls of a church.
I then took the bus to Little Italy – a street full of authentic Italian culture and cuisine, and a place I would find myself often during my time in Melbourne. I enjoyed a simple yet overwhelmingly delicious plate of spaghetti while I read my favorite book – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It was at this moment that I fell in love with solo travel. I loved the idea of stopping wherever I wanted to stop, eating where I wanted to eat, leave when I wanted to leave and return if I wanted to return. I caught the bus to return to my starting point of the National Gallery of Victoria, but made my way to the botanical gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance. It was a gloomy but beautiful afternoon – perhaps it made the scenic Shrine of Remembrance even more beautiful with the clouds in the background.
The next morning I got my daily breakfast at the local café right next to my hostel. Scrambled eggs, toast, hash brown and a small flat white. I walked the two miles back to the National Gallery where I caught the bus to Carlton Gardens. It was a beautiful day, perfect for a wedding photo-shoot among the garden fountain in front of the massive Parliament building. I walked around for quite a bit until I came across what I learned to be the world’s largest IMAX 3D screen theatre. I saw that Beauty and the Beast was to be playing that night at 9:15 and immediately asked a girl I knew to be in the city from Curtin University if she would like to go. I then went back to Little Italy for lunch – this time it was a Margarita pizza with a glass of Cabernet Merlot. After lunch I caught the bus to the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel where I took a thirty-minute ride on the Ferris wheel and saw the whole city in a beautiful 360-degree view. I then used my paper map (yes, a paper map) to get back to the city to meet my friend for dinner, drinks, and to see the Beauty and the Beast.
It was a beautiful night. I met my friend, Grace, for dinner at a local diner on Exhibition street, then we made our way to a rooftop bar that was most definitely too nice for us to be finding ourselves in. We watched the city below us as well as the skyline above us while we sipped our spiced rum and coke, eventually making our way to the IMAX theatre. The movie was absolutely outstanding with the screen taking our entire field of vision. Emma Watson truly is and will always be bae.
The next day I met back up with Grace to explore the famous Hosier Street, featuring graffiti art from various talented graffiti artists. We stopped for a glass of wine on our way to Little Italy, where we met up with a friend of mine from Perth for dinner. Seeing as there was a comedy festival going on in the city for two full weeks, it was only appropriate for us to catch a comedy show together with another friend of mine from Perth. It was truly a magical night full of friends, food, wine, and laughter.
It was Thursday that I took my highly anticipated road trip along the Great Ocean Road.I was picked up at 7AM and transferred to our tour van where I met two other girls my age from the States – one was a girl in her mid twenties that was about to start her job as a Graphic Designer for Starbucks at their headquarters in Seattle, Washington, and the other girl was studying abroad in Brisbane but solo traveling through Melbourne for her holiday. Both were lovely and we enjoyed the thirteen hour day together visiting Lorne, Victoria, Apollo’s Bay, the Twelve Apostles, Gibson’s Steps, and much more.The trip was absolutely one for the books. It rivaled my favorite place in the world, which is Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. Truly a breathtaking experience.
My final day in Melbourne was mostly spent resting, but I met up with one of the girls I met from the Great Ocean Road tour to check out the penguins coming back from feeding during sunset at the St. Kilda’s pier. Two of her hostel friends met up with us – one from California and the other from Holland – and we all went out for dinner and drinks. We met up with two of my friends from Perth, one of which who goes to my home university in Virginia, and dinner and drinks soon turned into a night out clubbing. We had so much fun together, and by the end of the night, we were all equally sad that we more than likely would never see each other again.
It was okay that we would never see each other again. Sure, it was sad, but that is part of traveling alone. You meet people that you become close friends with in a matter of days and then you part ways. That is perhaps the best and the worst part of traveling alone. There’s something beautiful in knowing that you will never know each other beyond your time together in those short few days. There’s no reason for you to not open up to each other – in fact they’re the perfect person to open up to. You also bond over the fact that you both know no one in the area and are willing to explore it together. It is perhaps some of the purest friendships I have formed in my life. I also learned that traveling alone, though extremely cliché, really does teach you about yourself. I realized that I can be independent, that I can navigate my way through a massive and unfamiliar city with nothing but a paper map, my purse, and a camera. I was raw during my trip to Melbourne – no one to impress, no one to accommodate, no one to make me feel bad for wanting to do one thing while they wanted to do something else. I spent my days in Melbourne allowing my senses to be my only source of navigation, and it was liberating. I can’t wait to go somewhere alone again.