We are 9 weeks into our travels, and we've now left New Zealand and embarked on the second stage of our journey, Australia. Our last week in New Zealand was an epic one, even more so because we'd almost written off that part of our trip. We'd felt we'd seen such beautiful scenery, and completed so many of our must do's that it would almost be like killing time, but our last few days in Twizel (near Mount Cook) and Christchurch went against all expectations.
Twizel is a small, but pretty mountain town, and Mount Cook afforded us some of the most spectacular views and walking we've seen, with glacier formed grey lakes, and winding bridges with a new vista at each turn. We'd expected not to like Christchurch, with others having reported to find the city a little dull, but we actually really liked it. It's steadily rebuilding itself post earthquake, but there's a creativity and energy in the city, despite street after street of building works.
Leaving New Zealand was a strange experience. Normally when you're nearing the end of your time in a country, it means that you're heading home and there are inevitable post holiday blues coming your way. But this time, it was simply the next stage of our adventure, Australia.
I've only been to Sydney previously, and Ben has never been to Australia at all. We were lucky enough to have some very generous hosts in the form of Paul and Kelly, Ben's friends from a previous working life, and their lovely kids Nick and Jess. They're a pretty amazing couple, having previously sailed the world (without even being able to sail previously) and adopting their two children on route, in Kiribati. They've since lived in Cincinnati and Delhi and have been settled in Melbourne for the past 5 years.
Staying in someone's home always affords you a different experience when you visit somewhere, but we were particularly lucky in this case. They have an amazing place on the most beautiful road with Victorian houses, right next to the Botanic Gardens, a short walk from town, and close to the beaches of St Kilda. We got to experience Melbourne like a local, wandering the streets and browsing the city, soaking up its eclectic atmosphere and appreciating the local neighbourhoods (of which there are many brilliant ones).
Our experience so far when we've visited cities on this trip is that we've felt like we've been on a holiday, rather than travelling. I guess it's because the experience is so much more similar to our lives back home. In addition to this, the cities in New Zealand didn't really wow us, so we were itching to get back on the road as quickly as possible. Melbourne was totally different. We loved our time there. It has so many neighbourhoods, each with a different vibe and personality of it's own. It's a really green city so you don't feel swamped by the skyscrapers. The beach is right on the doorstep, and it's a foodie haven. It's definitely on the 'maybe' list (which is by no means finished, there's a lot of places to visit yet!) for where we may want to live for a while, so you may see us again Melbourne! (Paul and Kelly are yet to realise we want to be their neighbours - that street was amazing).
What our Melbourne experience did for me was make me ponder a lot about what we want out of our end existence. I love being in an outdoorsy place. I love walking, swimming, cycling, and just feeling like you can breathe. I love the simplicity of that kind of life. But I have to say, coming to Melbourne and wandering streets filled with great art, numerous cafes, and cool little shops, I remembered that I love that city part too. I like feeling a bit groomed once in a while, and splashing out on a great meal. Our lifestyle in London when we lived in the city mid week, and the coast at the weekend suited us brilliantly, enabling us to indulge both sides of our personalities. It just wouldn't have worked as well with Otis.
I remain open minded about it all. We may find somewhere in a place like Indonesia where we can start up our own little business, in a remote area that we love and that allows us to follow our passions like Diving. We may be able to freelance and travel and spend our time in different locations for a while, but with a slower pace so that we spend months rather than weeks there. Or we may find a city location that enables us to indulge in the city and outdoorsy part of ourselves. It's an on-going journey, but each place we visit makes us reconsider what we're looking for and become increasingly inspired about our options. I guess that's exactly why we're lucky.