Amsterdam, The Netherlands: I am closing the decade by doing something I never thought I had the guts to do: travelling by myself. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Once upon a time not long ago, a friend and I arranged to meet in Amsterdam, a place where I’ve only spent a couple of hours 5 years ago. We booked the flights, paid for the hostel and soon we were counting down the days to our reunion. But this fairy tale didn’t have a happy ending: one day I received a message from said friend explaining that they never wanted to talk to me again, and then I was blocked.
For the first time in several years, I haven’t been living out of a backpack. It seems so strange to me, having been in the same place for a whole year. I don’t like it. I do like having a closet for once, though.
Melbourne, Australia: We are cold and broke and I go on my first date EVER
We fly from Alice Springs and arrive in Melbourne on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon. Kirsten, whom I met in Sihanoukville last year, is so nice to pick us up and drop us off at Metro YHA, before we head out with her for a few beers. She leaves around 6 to meet a friend in town, while we stay at the bar and eat dinner and get drunk. I even manage to get lost trying to find the toilet. We get back to the room, which is full of guys, surprise, surprise. A hippie with dreadlocks from Byron Bay and a cocky English lad keep us up, talking to us until we pretend to be asleep.
The next day, we walk into town to find an H&M and a Topshop, and I end up embarrassing myself at the counter, when I try to pay $50 for a scarf and a cardigan, and none of my cards have sufficient funds, and my Danish internet bank is closed. I end up paying half in cash and the rest by card, while I have to wait another week for money to arrive in my Australian account. The walk and the shopping has exhausted us, so we don’t get a chance to see much else. We watch NSW play against Queensland in a State of Origin game and have some beers. In the evening, we sit around in the common area and watch a State of Origin rugby match, and I sit on Tinder and write creepy pickup lines to people as well, just for fun. I match a guy named Pat, who invites me out for drinks. The guys in our room decide to talk again in the middle of the night, when Byron Bay Hippie comes into the room at 1 AM, packing all his stuff. He gets up around 6 in the morning to pack again and then leaves for the day.
When we get up, we walk into town again. I have decided we need to see Federation Square, because we are tourists, after all.
We’ve ended up booking tickets for The Lion King – The Musical, so we also walk around trying to find Regent Theatre for later. We buy ourselves some flasks to bring with us in case we go out one day. We have no money whatsoever. Back at the hostel, I have a quick nap and then dinner and beers before we walk to Regent Theatre, which is absolutely packed. We have seats pretty much as far away from the stage as possible – that’s what you get for $50 – but the show is absolutely amazing! It’s beautiful, sad, funny and super nostalgic. We are completely hyped and exhausted at the same time on our walk home. Of course, our roommates repeat their success of waking us up in the middle of the night once again.
Friday we are “forced” to the roof top of our hostel to join a charity tea party. The theme is Alice in Wonderland, of course, and Johnny Depp doesn’t join us. We drink tea and eat a shit ton of cupcakes and cookies, and talk to cool people.
Later, Sharon is meeting up with Ciara, a girl from home, and I’m meeting up with Kirsten. Craig tags along with me, and we take a tram around 6 in the evening and go to Randy Dragon for beer with Kirsten and her colleagues. One by one they all disappear, and Kirsten decides we should go to the casino. I didn’t even know there was a casino, but apparently it’s a very Melbourne-y experience. Sharon meets us at the casino, and we visit a few bars before heading upstairs to a club. After a couple of cocktails and shots, Kirsten and I are told by security that we are being too rowdy, and that they’ll be watching us. This is a first for me, being told I am rowdy because I am dancing? And it’s a bad thing? Come on.
In my drunken state, I decide to agree to meet Pat for drinks the following day. I very much regret that decision all of Saturday, while I am in bed, only getting up for breakfast and dinner. Oh, and we also change hostel, so we have to pack our stuff, drag it through town and check into YHA Central. Eventually, I get up and fix myself before walking 2 km in the rain to Asian Beer Café. What Google Maps fails to mention is that it is located in a mall, not on the street like I expected. As I have been panicking the whole walk there, I have been calling all my friends (who didn’t pick up, thanks guys), so I am talking to Craig and Sharon who look it up for me. I walk every floor of the mall, but can’t find it, so I give up and call Pat, who comes to get me.
We have beers and talk, and of course I am being inappropriate, constantly sharing stories like the one about getting groped in India. I don’t really care that much about being weird, and he doesn’t seem to mind. He does however introduce me to one of his friends, and we walk around and visit a few bars that none of them really want to stay at. The bottle shops are closed, so their plan B, which is having a drink with Sharon and Craig in our room, is a no-go. His friend eventually leaves, and I’m not tired, so we go to the casino (again!) and play Black Jack and have drinks. While Pat gets us a round, a guy at the table next to ours is talking to me, and asking me to take pictures of him. I have a laugh and Pat comes back, and we continue drinking. It doesn’t feel very date-y, and I guess we’re just really good drinking buddies, so eventually we say goodbye, and at around 3.30 AM I am finally in bed, so drunk that I don’t even bother putting on my PJs.
While I die a little bit all day on Sunday, we arrange to meet up with Zakk from The Pink Palace later that day. I don’t hear from Pat again, so we decide he’s a cunt. My friends don’t make it easier, either not caring about the fact that I just went on my first date EVER, or by suggesting that perhaps I am too fat or unattractive. I solve my problem by buying some goon which I decide to force into my system, resulting in me getting very tipsy from just one cup. That’s right, we’re still drinking boxed wine out of coffee mugs. Zakk, who’s wearing his Pink Palace T-shirt, shows us some funny videos on YouTube and eventually, he leaves while Sharon is passed out on the floor and Craig and I snoring loudly in our beds.
We repeat the success the following day, when Zakk takes us out of the central area for burgers and drinks. At this point, I am exhausted. I have been drinking way too much for too many days, so I have a cider and then I’m ready to go home.
At this point, it’s officially winter in Australia. It’s raining and the temperature is around 9 degrees. It’s extremely cold when you don’t have a jacket. I am bundled up in my hoodie and cardigan, a scarf and my Brisbane Lions beanie, and I’m still freezing. Funny, you would think I’d be used to the cold, hey? It’s a bit different all the way over here, though.
Our room, a 4-bed dorm with just the three of us living in it, is badly isolated, so the cold seeps through the windows. We have a radiator that we have to turn on every two hours, so we decide to just spend our last days in Melbourne, bundled up in blankets in our heated room, eating popcorn and watching movies.
Melbourne is a pretty cool place, but Sydney still has a special place in my heart. Now we are off to Mildura for our three months of farmwork!