I know it sounds cliché but, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. I spent this weekend in Sydney, New South Wales and I honestly did not think I would get the chance to do as many interesting things as I was able to do. Of the many cities I have been fortunate enough to visit across the world, Sydney quickly became one of my favorites. I flew down with Wade, Jared, and Jared’s father who is in Australian on business. Flying domestically here is much easier than it is in the states. Flights are significantly cheaper, you don’t have to strip going through security, no identification is required (not sure if that is really good?), and the planes have more legroom. I was also fortunate enough to have an entire row to myself on the flight from OOL to SYD. Needless to say the trip was off a to solid start.

We arrived in Sydney on Thursday night at 10pm, took a cab to our hotel, grabbed some Maccas (McDonalds) and headed to bed. We stayed at the Marriott Harbour Hotel (courtesy of Mr. Grossman and the state of Virginia). While Jared and his dad had meetings to attend most of the day, Wade and I took full advantage of what the city had to offer. Our day began early at 8am, on a chilly overcast morning, as we made the short 2-block trek down to the beautiful Sydney Harbour. This is when the reality of being in Sydney really kicked in. As I took in the amazing sights that the harbour had to offer, I had to ask Wade if this was actually happening. Standing on the water’s edge looking at the Sydney Opera House and the massive Sydney Bridge, I honestly felt as if it was some sort of mirage. In my mind The Opera House has always been this mythical piece of architecture in a foreign land, but no longer. This foreign idea became a stunning reality, and I am not sure why it hit me so hard, but I felt like a child on Christmas morning.

Naturally, we had to go open our presents and see what was inside. As we made our way over to the ‘exploding sailboat’ (I mean, just look at it) we started snapping picture after picture. Since it was so early and cold outside, the place was rather vacant, which was a plus. I got several pictures taken with no other tourists to interfere. After the photo session ended, it was time to check out the building itself. First stop: the box office. Out of curiosity, we stopped at the box office just to get an idea of how much tickets were. Well, after some deliberating we decided that we had to go to a show, and that’s exactly what we did. We bought tickets to The Blue Planet, which is a live orchestra playing to the striking images of animals in the ocean. The show, which was on Saturday, was one of the most remarkable spectacles I have ever been to. It gave a very real sense of how marvelous, yet cruel, nature is, to the intense sound of a flawless orchestra. To sum the show up in one word, I would say it was captivating. I never thought I would attend a show in the Sydney Opera House in my lifetime, yet there I was.

Going back to Friday, Wade and I explored the city a bit and grabbed some lunch at a local café, which was phenomenal. That afternoon, we took a boat tour of the harbour. This was another spectacular part of the weekend, as we saw the skyline, Opera House, Sydney Bridge, and other sweet landscape from the water’s perspective. Friday evening, we rejoined with the Grossman’s and went to Blu Bar on 36, on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel, which over looked the harbour. This was one view that no matter how many words I use to describe it, justice will not be done. Astonishing!

Another early morning awaited us on Saturday as all four of us took the bus to famous Bondi Beach. This may ring a bell as I mentioned Bondi in a previous blog, being a fan of the Surf Life Saving reality show that takes place here. We walked around Bondi for a bit and took in the fantastic scenery that it offered, and also watched some rather impressive surfing take place. From Bondi, it was time to hit the Paddington Market. The market place was filled with several different hand made goods, mostly clothes, and other cool random stuff. I bought a few Christmas gifts for the family at Paddington, but obviously can’t discuss what they are. We left the market and headed for the Opera House to watch The Blue Planet, as I discussed earlier. In case you missed it the first time, the show was exceptional.

After a couple of action packed days, Saturday night was an early one. We went to a local Greek restaurant, which was quite good, and then called it a night. On Sunday, we made the quick 2-hour trip, via public transport, to Hillsong Church. Many of you may be familiar with Hillsong’s band, which is world renown. Hillsong was such an awesome experience, as we had each heard their music and even seen a couple of sermons online, but being there was so much better. If you haven’t heard their music, you should check it out. This was our last adventure in the greater Sydney area, and it was a fantastic finale. For those of you who have never been to Sydney, if you can ever find a way to make it there, GO. It really is a special place.

I want to end this blog a little differently; with a list of things I learned this weekend. Credit goes to Lara Parker as I am stealing this from idea her.

Things I learned: Nothing too insightful, but relavent nonetheless.

1-    Talk to people, it’s amazing what you can learn from them.

2-    Being in a cab, stuck at a red light is a terrible feeling. Tick, tick, tick.

3-    It is good to try new things. This includes experiences, food, drinks, etc…

4-    It is okay for me to spend money on stuff I normally wouldn’t. I mean, how many chances will I have to do these things in     Australia?

5-    Public transportation is not always true to its timetables.

6-    I walk way to fast. I need to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

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Living in the Moment

As I sit in my room and reflect of the first half of my time in Australia, I am struck by how quickly it has gone by. Thus far, my experience has been incredible and there never seems to be a dull moment. I’ve gone places that this time last year I would have never guessed I would visit, and plan to travel to even more. I have adapted to the Australian way of life, as I now naturally look right then left when crossing the road. I even move to the left side when someone is walking by. Oh, and I attended my first auto race this weekend, the Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercar race. So I would say that my Aussie experience to this point has been a memorable one.

But these past few days I have found myself thinking more about how much I miss __________ about America. My family, friends, Mama’s cooking, the fall weather, HPU, college football, cookout, my car, etc… The Counting Crows said it best “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” I am not sure if it is the recent school work load, my time away, or what, but I have missed home a bit more than before. And as most of you know, I am not one to get homesick. Also, with the upcoming holiday season arriving, it will be odd to be in class during Thanksgiving and right up to Christmas.

But as I find myself thinking more and more about home, I also find myself having the time of my life here in Australia. This obviously makes things easier. This has made me realize that, although it’s completely normal to miss the things I am accustomed to, I need to worry less about what I don’t have and spend more time appreciating what I do have.  After all, once I return back to NC I will have all of these things waiting for me, and Australia will be a memory, and a fantastic one at that.

I think I am someone who spends far too much time thinking about what is next, and not enough time appreciating what I have been given at that time. This is not to say that planning ahead is bad, because it’s not, but it is important to enjoy the moment that God has given me.

Always looking ahead will cause you to miss great moments in life. I do not want to fall victim to this, although I’m sure I do too often. This is a unique opportunity that I have been given and I do not want it to pass without making the absolute most of it.

Great Barrier Reef

This weekend was one of the most incredible weekends of my life, seriously. I took a trip to the Great Barrier Reef with 6 of my friends (Jenna, Wade, Jared, Kelli, Jordan, and Sarah). We left Bond Uni at 6AM on Friday and drove north to the Town of 1770, a small beach town in Queensland. After seeing the Queensland countryside and taking a few pit stops, we arrived at our hostel at 3PM. Our tour guide for the weekend, Harry, was an upbeat guy from Brisbane who really made sure we had the best vacation possible. He was our bus driver, cook, and comedian.

Friday afternoon consisted of a relaxing trip to the beach, a short 300 meters from our hostel. After spending the afternoon catching some rays and taking pictures, we drove into town to watch the sunset. This was a sight to behold, as 1770 is one of only two locations on the East coast where the sun sets over the water. On our sunset tour we were also fortunate enough to see a wild kangaroo skipping around his natural habitat, which is always a plus. That night Harry cooked up a delicious chicken curry, which we all scarfed down, followed by a fun evening on the beach.

Saturday was the big day, needless to say, as we embarked on a journey to Lady Musgrave Island in the Great Barrier Reef. After a breakfast consisting of fresh fruit and toast, we were ready to rock and roll. The Spirit of 1770 set sail at 8:30AM and arrived two hours later at Lady Musgrave Island. Since we were all in group 1, we went on the island tour first. It was neat to walk around and enjoy the reef from several different viewpoints. There were also thousands of birds that nest on Lady Musgrave, which was neat to see. Following the island tour, we headed back to the boat for lunch.

After lunch, a few of us did the submarine tour around the reef, which allowed us to see the sea creatures from a unique vantage point. But the best part was strapping on our goggles and flippers and jumping in the ocean to swim right along with the sea creatures. There were tons of beautiful fish and coral that took my breath away, literally, since I still haven’t grown gills. All cheesy puns aside, the reef was miraculous. My favorite part of the diving experience was swimming with a sea turtle. Wade and I were lucky enough to spot a turtle coming up for some air, and naturally we swam towards it. Luckily, the turtle was by no means afraid of us, and allowed us to join him for a swim. We were able to touch and swim side by side with this beautiful animal in some of the clearest water in the world in the Great Barrier Reef. Yeah, I’d say that is pretty awesome.

The day ended when we sailed back to the Australian shore in time for what would be the best dinner I have had in Australia. Harry set out a delicious and massive spread, which preceded the even better main course barbeque. You all know how much we American’s like to eat, and we did not hold back after a long and exhausting day at the GBR.

Sunday was the final day of our trip and we wanted to end it with a bang. We decided to try our luck at surfing. Having never surfed, I was excited to give it go, although I knew it would not be easy. It wasn’t. It took me a lot of hard falls to finally get my feet under me and ride a wave to shore. Our instructor, JD, was the quintessential Aussie surfer dude and he clearly loved surfing. He was a great teacher and made sure that each of us had a great time and that we all got up on our board before the day ended. I will say, although I never thought surfing was easy, I never knew how hard it really was. After our surf lesson we headed back to Bond. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do all these incredible things this weekend, and I can’t wait for the next adventure (Hint: they take their opera seriously).

PS: Check out this video I made about the trip. Enjoy!

Great Barrier Reef Video

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