Going South... For us, Europeans, it means Sea, Sun, Spain ,Summer holidays. For the French it means going down to the coast for 1/ a family trip in a cheapish campsite and drinking Pastis while playing Petanque ( which is a white trash thing to do but anyway) 2/ A road trip with friends that has for main goal Sea ,Sun, booze and Sex if you're lucky.
Back in Sydney, that's what I was thinking as I was waiting for my lift to Melbourne. A road trip down South. Hell yeah. I've never met the guy before but hey , I AM GOING DOWN SOUTH. And we're going camping. Yay!
After a night in a tent looking for the warmest clothes in my backpack, I woke up with the outfit I was wearing the day I left England. A pair of jeans , a jumper and a Winter jacket. I realized as I started to sneeze that, going South was not going to be quite what I expected. It f***** freezing.
I also left Sydney with the certitude that I would prefer Melbourne. Because EVERYONE does.
'' Tourists usually don't like Melbourne because they think there is nothing to see. Only locals can really enjoy Melbourne for what it is '' my lift says.
'' I 'm not a f**** tourist'' I answer angrily. I hate tourists. I do.
Of course that night I ended up in a backpackers' hostel . I felt like Home in a minute and a half and even started helping the staff to clean the kitchen in return for a free dinner.
But, 3 days later I decided I HATED backpackers' hostels. Weird for a girl whose main address in the world IS a backpackers' hostel in the South of England. No mate, not the same. This one is HOME. Way different. And it should not be called a backpackers hostel that one. Kipps is a ''Homepacker hostel'', mate.
Don't worry; backpackers hostels hated me back too.
Sharing a dorm with 18 year old Danish girls who probably are still on European time zone as they as chatting like it's f**** daylight when everyone else is ( trying to ) sleep.
Of course when I said something I was the weird one. Even for those who were trying to sleep. They ALL gave me THE look:
First trip away from Mum and here she is , the old French twat , telling us what we can or we can't do. Go home and have babies you silly old woman.
That's how Mummy Annabelle spent her first 3 nights in funky Melbourne. I loved it already.
The next day I decided to take a free walking tour to go see some landmarks and that.
'' This building was voted the 5th ugliest building in the world'' says the guide showing an actual ugly building as we were starting the tour in Federation Square. No time to say more as it started to pour down with rain. The temperature dropped to 15 degrees in 2 minutes and a half. The guide even had UMBRELLAS ready for tourists...
I decided that the hardest job in Australia was Weather Forecaster in Melbourne. It is known to be the '' 4 seasons in one day'' city. (The easiest job in Australia being History teacher: no so much to work on.)
In Melbourne you have to get out of your house in the morning with 1/ an umbrella 2/ sun block 3/ no expectations.
''This is the Royal Exhibition building. It does not serve no real purpose anymore, except for end of school year exam'' the guide continues.
At this stage the only thing I loved about Melbourne was its History. Our guide was so passionate about it, it was hard not to fall in love. Do you know it should have been called '' Batmania '' after that guy called BATMAN. How cool is that. What happened? The Brits took over.
Also, there was that guy called William Buckley. He escaped from Prison with 2 of his mates in 1804 hoping to get to Sydney. Crazy idea huh. Well, he survived. Living most his life with aborigines, he almost forgot his own language. Lucky huh. He was later used as a peace maker. How cool is that man.
'' To have Buckley’s luck'' became an Aussie saying ( mainly used by males when they get lucky with someone way of out their league)
Also, there was that dude Ned Kelly. He was a bushranger who He robbed and terrorized a whole town in the 1880’s to finally get caught by the cops. He killed one of them. Then what did the Aussies do? They built a huge statue in his honour in that town. Now he’s remembered as a hero. My French rebel side says '' I like'' . AWESOME. .
No, there is no ''tourist bucket list'' anything to SEE in Melbourne. My lift was right. But yet I could feel something ... different. No idea what that feeling was until the cool guide (awesome dude really) took us to ugly narrow streets all painted in beautiful Street Art. Or graffiti. Depends on how you see it.
'' Most of Street Art in Melbourne is illegal. But the paint is still provided legally so it's up to you what you want to do with it ‘‘ Hell yeah. My French rebel side says '' I like'' again. You make your own luck, mate.
Then the city got to me. Like ANY city in the world (so it does not count). I could not cope: I had to go AWAY.
I decided to go 2 day camping trip at the week end with 2 people I had never met ( a Scottish girl and a French guy who luckily was NOT from Paris)t and a German guy who saved me from staying another self-destructive night in a hostel. (God bless Germans and their organization skills)
Like almost non Aussie we were sh*** at camping.
While we were struggling with one knife for 4 , no plates or glasses, 1 tent with no mattress and the F**** cold, the Aussies next to us were watching telly on their double bed by the heater in their huge campervan. D'oh.
But somehow, together as a European team, we made our own luck and we happily made it to the 12 apostles on the Great Ocean Road feeling like a Scottish- German- French family at the end of the week end.
Time to get back to Melbourne.
I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO MELBOURNE. I don't like it. And I thought I'd love it. No no no noooooo!
There is something missing in my experience. Something I’ve experienced in Australia before.... Something called connection. And I'm fed up with bloody sandwiches for brekkie / lunch / dinner too.
'' Annabelle, us backpackers, if we want to see most of Australia on a budget in such a little time frame, we HAVE TO sacrifice stuff. '' Says my new backpacker friend.
'' I DON'T WANT TO SEE MOST OF AUSTRALIA. '' I said it. Sh**
Well not at this price anyway. No thanks.
So.. There are only 2 options in travelling right??? 1/ Staying in cheap backpackers and skip 2 meals a day , eat pasta for breakfast for the sake of seeing 12 cities , a kangaroo in a zoo and one local person in a souvenir shop in one year ... and go home ?. 2/ work your ass off for 10 years and stay in a Holiday inn, book tour guides to see the whole of Australia in 5 weeks and go home too ? In both cases you sacrifice so much and... WHERE IS THE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE IN THAT??????
They gave me THE look '' Well... If you want a homely feeling and basic comfort then..... You should actually go HOME now then. It may be time for you to settle down, you know at your age...''
I get agitated. It’s never a good sign.
Well Travelling is not for me then. I'm ready to give up and go back HOME up in North New South Wales when I start thinking about that Buckley guy again ( the one who made his own luck)
So I texted him. ( not Buckley. I wish, though) . My Melbourne Man , you know, the one I woke up next to on New Year's day in Sydney ( Happy New Year me) and whom I could listen to talking about Australia for hours.
Told him the whole truth about me in Melbourne, not feeling any connection at all and how depressed it made me. My last chance of loving my life as a traveller: staying with him. Somehow, being a traveller, he got that and said yes. That's how I ended up in Frankston, 40km South of Melbourne Central. Where no tourist goes.... Because there is NOTHING TO SEE.
Imagine having a French girl turn up to your doorstep with her whole life on her back saying '' My life does not really make much sense anymore'' the first thing you'd probably think as a bloke would be: '' Why the f*** did I drink that much whiskey on New Year's Eve ??? Got me into trouble.She is now going to move in....'' and you’d freak out. He did not. Instead he said:
'' Let's go to the beach, mate''
That's when I saw my first ‘’Beach Sunset’’ in Australia. No, they don't get that in the East, do they?
And the game Sydney- Melbourne was on again...
He did not have any answers for me, but he had Goon ( the most disgusting wine in Oz. Comes in a bag. you can make a cushion out of)
After 2 glasses I went on and on about Community feeling and how travellers should try to connect more to the country they're visiting with such a passion that I'm sure I almost convince him that I was not really a stalker who pretended to be a traveller just to get a husband and babies. That I was a genuine f**** dreamer.
2 days later I was still there, quite naturally eating ''Weetbix'' for breakfast, watching the Australian Open yelling '' Go Tommiiiiiic'' , and jog to the beach saying ''G'day'' to neighbours,while still being my French self that I would not give up, not for anything in the world.
It still says '' Made in France'' on my neck and it always will. It's just a matter of connecting with locals, mate.
He teaches me Aussie culture I teach him French and British English. I'm a happy traveller again. Because I have created a Home for a little while.
And I know that there is only one way of travelling now: yours. And if it does not exist invent it, mate. Whatever makes you happy. I’m officially a ‘’Homepacker’’ ( yes , I even made the WORD up)
Somehow I made my own luck.
It's a bit like Melbourne. Nothing is offered on a plate in Melbourne. There is nothing spectacular to see on the surface. But it gives you an opportunity to look further and experience something different ,
Whether it's a legal can of paint to do illegal street Art, or the first step to Freedom for a convict. Melbourne gives you the opportunity to make up your own story. You can, like Buckley, take the risk of making your own luck, or not.
I don't know how long I will stay here, or even where I'll be tomorrow or next week but I know that , in the name of '' Buckley's luck'' , I am now and forever will be.... a Melbourne Girl.