Goodbye: From Sydney to Cincy

"Don't cry because its over. Smile because it happened"

Saturday morning came way too fast. Like the night before all my friends left Sydney, I didn't get very much sleep. I just laid in bed thinking about all the great times I had over the past four months. Just like that with a blink of an eye it was all coming to an end. Time really does fly when you are having the time of your life. 

We left the Meriton apartment at 10am and took the cab to the airport. I remember sitting in the cab quite as can be just staring out the window, wishing I could stay longer even if it was just a month, week, day or even another hour. We got to the airport and had plenty of time to waste, so we messed around on ipads for an hour and then went to the gate.

It was a crazy feeling boarding that plane. There was 3 flights and 24 hours standing between me and home. As we took off we flew over the Sydney Harbour which was fitting because my first glimpse of Australia was the opera house and harbour bridge on my flight in. That same glimpse would be the last I would see of Australia. I was so excited to go home to see my friends and family but I knew after a couple weeks I would want to head right back to Australia. 

I had done so much in Australia but it was just a glimpse of everything the country had to offer. There was so much more for me here to see, so much more to explore. But like they say all good things must come to an end, and to an end this great thing came. 

Going to Australia was one of the best decisions of my life. This experience has changed my outlook on life. It has opened up a whole world of opportunities for me in the future. I now have friends from all of over the United States, Australia, and numerous other countries. It has inspired me to one day backpack around the world.

Everybody dies but not everybody lives. Everyones take on living is different. For me it is now getting out of the comfort zone and traveling the world. Most people eat, sleep, work, then eat, sleep, and work. Life is too short to live in a rut. God created such a beautiful earth, not for us to stay in one plus but for us to travel and explore it. Life is all about doing what you love. 

I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. I had over 2,500 clicks on this website, which is way more than I had ever imagined. It was tough at times to write this thing with such limited internet access and hopefully I entertained and inspired you. I want to challenge you all to do something you love, because thats what life is about. Don't let anything or anyone stop you. Hopefully in a couple of years I will be blogging about backpacking around the world, because that is what I am passionate about.

Cheers Mates!
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My Top Ten Revisited

"The world is a book, and those who do
not travel read only a page"

The second post of this blog was about the top ten things I want to do while in Australia. I want to revisit those ten things and see what I did and didn't do. 

10) Skydivingx
Having already done this while in Orlando, I put this last on my list. While I thought it would have been unreal to jump out of a plane over the beautiful crystal blue water in Australia, I simply couldn't afford it. It cost about $300 to skydive which is double what I paid in Orlando.

9) Rugby Match
Not only did I go to a Rugby game but I went to two, in two different cities. We saw a Rabbitohs game in Sydney and a Rebels game in Melbourne. They have different styles of rugby and these were two different styles which was nice to see. The game in Melbourne was actually the very first game of their new team, which meant the atmosphere was a lot better than the game in Sydney.

8) Feed a Kangaroo/Pet a Koala
I don't think anyone could come to Australia, the only place to find these animals in their natural habitat and not feed them. I didn't care too much for the Koala's because they just sat there and were pretty boring. The Kangaroos on the other hand may be my favorite animal now simply because they are unlike any animal. If I could have brought anything back from Australia it would be a pet Kangaroo. 

7) Hang Glidingx
This was something that I have never done in my life. I was hoping to get the chance to do it while in Australia or New Zealand but it just never worked out. Still want to do this in the near future. This is toward the top of my bucket list right now.

6) Ride a Camel & Climb Uluru
Having never ridden a camel I didn't know what to expect, but it was my favorite thing I did in the Outback. They got a little tiring to ride toward the end of my hour but it was totally worth it and I recommend to anyone that gets a chance to do it. The climb of Uluru was more exhausting than I was expecting. I can definitely see why there have been 30 deaths climbing the rock. I manned up and did it though and was more than happy I did. 

5) Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
Rated by Lonely Planet travel as one of the top ten most exhilarating things to do in the world. I don't know that I agree with that as I really didn't get a "rush" while I was climbing the bridge. I think jumping out of a plane or off a bridge is more exhilarating. However it was my favorite thing I did in Sydney and was the best thing I have ever done for my birthday. The number one thing I would recommend to people that go to Sydney. If you leave without doing the bridge climb then you made a big mistake.

4) Bungy Jump
I was fortunate enough to bungy at the very first commercial bungy facility in Queenstown, New Zealand. This was a crazy rush, that is comparable to nothing. There is nothing like free falling then when you feel you may hit the ground you get pulled up. These kinds of things make me feel so alive, and I can't wait for the next chance I get to jump.

3) Learn to Surf
Surf camp was one of my favorite trips, not just for the surfing but because of the lifestyle. While surfing was harder than I had thought, I had a great time with everyone. I did manage to get up a few times and its a great feeling to ride that wave. I wish I would have got the chance to become better but I never bothered to rent a board in Sydney.

2) Swim with Whale Sharksx
This was a very unlikely thing for me to do. There is only a few places in the world where you can do this and Australia is one of them. However, it is a discrete location that you have to take a private plane to. Private planes were not in my budget. My last two weeks I talked to a few people that did this and had nothing but great reviews. If I could do anything in the world this would be it.

1) Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef
When you have had 13 ear surgeries as a child, they usually recommend you don't scuba dive. I was hoping to get certified while I was there but when I found out that if you have had ear problems you really are a risk to injury yourself badly, I decided it wasn't worth it. So I went snorkeling, which at the Great Barrier Reef they say is better anyway because the coral gets more sunlight in the shallow water. Its one of the 7 natural wonders of the world for a reason. Another must do if visiting Australia.

I think 7 out of 10 is a pretty good accomplishment. I had some great experiences while in Australia and it is such an adventurous country offering numerous crazy things to do. So I may not have done 3 but I definitely did many other things that were just as good if not better. 

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Port Stephens and final days in Sydney

"Travel teaches toleration"

We flew from Ayers Rock in the afternoon back to Sydney. When we arrived in Sydney we rented a car and took the two hour drive to Port Stephens. I had gone to Port Stephens with the CAPA group is February and had a great time. We checked in to our hotel that evening and got ready for bed, as it was a long day of traveling.

The rain that had been following us around, yet again followed us to Port Stephens. It pretty much rained off and on the two days we were there. Almost everything there is to do in Port Stephens involves the beach and water. The bad weather ruined any plans we had. We used these two days mainly to relax. We went to the indoor pool and bounced around between their three hot tubs. We also took advantage of the free wireless internet, a rarity in Australia.

We were more than excited to get back to Sydney, as we had some things to take care of. We made a stop Botany Bay, which is where James Cook first discovered Australia. There was a lot of historical significance to Botany Bay, but not much to do. It also happens to be where the Sydney Airport is.

Our last day we spent the last of our Australian money buying last minute souvenirs for friends and family. I also wanted to head back down to Circular Quay where the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were. We took a ferry to Watsons Bay to walk around for a little bit.

We then took the ferry to Darling Harbour. Passing the Sydney Harbour on that ferry, brought back some great memories over the past four months. I knew this would be my last time seeing the beautiful Sydney Harbour.

We got Chickens Plus, one of my favorite places to eat for the final time. It was becoming such a reality that I was going home the next day and I really didn't want to see all the good times in Australia end. 

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The Australian Outback

"Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile
and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents"

Day 1

We had a wake up call of four in the morning. Needless to say we didn't have much energy this morning. My mom and Rachel had a 6am flight so we said our goodbyes to them and as they headed home, the guys were about to leave for the outback. When people think of Australia they typically think of the outback. I couldn't have been more excited to see what the center of the country was like. Most people inhabit the coast of Australia, despite 80 percent of the country is considered the outback. 

Our destination was to a small town by the name of Ayers Rock, to see yes none other than a rock. This rock however was not just any normal rock, it was the largest monolith (single standing rock) in the world. When flying in to the town I could see the rock out of my window, which was a crazy view. I was instantly ready to see it up close and personal.

We got our rental car and headed for our cabin at the campground. We knew not to expect much from our cabin and rightfully so, it was pretty cramped. When you are out in the middle of nowhere you don't need to be inside anyway. This just forced us to be outside more during the days. We got into the car and headed toward Ayers Rock.

The outback is the home of the aboriginal people of Australia. So this area has a heavy influence of the aborigines. Ayers Rock's aboriginal name is Uluru. We stopped to take a picture in front of the rock then headed to the rock to do a hike around the base of the walk. 

The base walk took us about two hours to complete. It was really neat to walk around the whole rock but after about an hour it was pretty much the same thing over and over and it got kind of boring. The worst part about the outback is the heat and bugs. We were lucky that we were there in May when it is relatively cool (in the eighties.) However, the bugs were still bad. We each had about thirty flies piled on our backs during the walk. We had such bad luck with rain while in Australia that sure enough it rained in the outback where it rarely rains.

After doing the walk around Uluru we headed back to the cabin and grabbed a bite to eat. The next thing on our agenda was a camel ride during sunset. This was the best thing of our trip for sure. I had never ridden a camel and it was a great experience. Australia has the most wild camels of any country, and they export the most of any country. I shared a camel by the name of Chester with my brother. Just getting up was an experience, you have to hold on real tight.

Day 2

This was as equally busy as the previous day. We woke up early and the morning and headed for a hike at the Olgas. The Olgas are a group of 36 large domed rock formations. Their aboriginal name was Kata Tjuta. The hike was another two hour hike but this hike was a lot more interested. The scenery changed more often than the base walk. We even had few difficult climbs to get through. Once again we did another hike without seeing any significant wildlife.

Following the Kata Tjuta hike I wanted to go back to Uluru to climb to the top. This was always a goal of mine and the day before, it was closed due to predicted rain. However, today it was open and I started making my way up toward the top without my dad and brother. They say it is a two hour climb. The climb takes you all the way up to the top which is 1,142 feet high. As I started the climb I was regretting my decision to climb it. It was so steep even though there was a chain all the way up to hold on to. I made my way up the hardest and steepest part and stopped to take my tenth break. I looked up at the people walking toward the top and it wasn't much higher but looked like a bit of a walk. So I just took a couple pictures then started my decent down. I felt I had gone high enough and the view wouldn't get much more different.

After my climb we headed back to grab some food then we were headed back to the rock. This time was to watch the sunset. The sunset at Uluru is one of the most spectacular sunsets in all of the world. The rock changes color numerous times during the sunset. 

The next day we were headed back to Sydney for another couple of days then it is back home. The outback was a great time, even though I don't think we wanted to spend too many more days there.

Fun Fact: Camels regurgitate their food up to fifty times a day and then continue to eat it throughout the day. This causes them to not have to eat very often.

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The Great Barrier Reef

"Don't worry, they usually don't 
swim backwards"

The above quote is the famous last words of the legendary Steve Irwin. He was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef not far from where we snorkeled and was pierced in the chest by a sting ray in 2006. One of the greatest Australians in history left the world doing what he loved.

This was the thing I was looking forward to the most about coming to Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living organism in the earth. It the only living organism you can see from space. The Great Barrier Reef also happens to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Having already seen the Grand Canyon and now the Great Barrier Reef, I have plans of seeing the remaining five.

We woke up early that morning and headed over the Wavelength office and heard a brief overview about our trip on the reef. It was going to be an hour and a half ride to the first snorkel spot, and it was going to be a very, very choppy ride out.

We boarded the boat and were advised to take a pill so we wouldn't get sea sick. After seeing the two people that didn't take it get sicker than I dog, I was more than thankful for taking it. The best part about our trip was that we only had eighteen people, meaning there was some time for one on one instruction. Most groups that go out on the reef contain as much as 200 people. 

We headed on our journey towards our diving spot and after about twenty minutes of being on the boat we were in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't a sight of land anywhere near us. When we reached our first spot I was getting so excited to jump in the water. We were handed all of our gear and given proper instruction on how to wear it. We had to wear sexy suits because of the coral being so sharp, and because it was stingray season! 

They advised us that this would be the most choppy of the three sites we were going to be at throughout the day. My brother and I were two of the first people to jump in and we passed on taking the noodle, as we thought we were strong swimmers. That turned out to be a terrible decision. I had never been snorkeling before which meant I have never worn flippers or even a snorkel mask. As I jumped in I felt the flippers taking me toward the bottom and waves were crashing in to my face and I had no clue how to breathe. 

Needless to say this was harder than I thought. I then demanded a noodle which made things a lot easier. I realized that I was not thinking about breathing which caused me to skip breathes. It took me all of two minutes to get used to the flippers and the mask. After those two minutes I was swimming like a fish in the reef.

I think I will always remember sticking my face under the water for the first time. You see on TV the coral reef and think you know what to expect, but when you see it firsthand it is absolutely stunning. I couldn't believe my eyes, and began making my way further and further from the boat. 

Throughout the three stops we saw the brightest coral, hundreds of species of fish, a shark and yes even a stingray! The one thing I really wanted to see was a sea turtle but unfortunately we didn't run into one of them. I don't even know how to describe the Great Barrier Reef other than breathtaking. 

So rather than sit here and tell you how awesome it was, I will leave you with some pictures to show you how spectacular it really is.

This is a must do when visiting Australia. I do plan on coming back to Australia one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) and plan on snorkeling again. They say snorkeling is better than scuba diving because the colors are brighter in shallow water.

Fun Fact: These clown fish became popular in the Disney movie Finding Nemo. After that movie became so popular, there were many people that dove the reef and would take these clown fish out and sell them. Needless to say this is a very rare sight to see a clown fish in the reef. We were lucky enough to see it!

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Port Douglas/Cairns

"We wander for distraction, but 
we travel for fulfillment"

I have now been home for just over a month, and I am still writing about my trip in Australia. Its amazing how when you get back into the normal routine it is so easy to forget the little things. I recently got back from a trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but I am here to talk about my trip to Port Douglas!

My family and I boarded a plane headed for warm sunny weather in Cairns after four rainy days in Sydney. Cairns is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Australia. The reason for that is the Great Barrier Reef. We flew into the Cairns airport and headed for a smaller town by the name of Port Douglas just an hour north of Cairns. The city of Cairns is more of tourist destination and Port Douglas is a secluded local area. On our drive from the airport we pooled the car over to get a picture with a kangaroo crossing sign at my moms request. We were lucky enough to see some roos hopping around in a field a few kilometers ahead. I still think it would be funny to see some Aussies taking pictures of a deer crossing sign in America.

You sure could feel the difference in the heat as we reached our room in Port Douglas. The heat is more humid in the northeastern part of Australia, pretty comparable to that of Florida. Our hotel was being run by a group of local ladies that were very friendly. They had just taken over the hotel and were making some big changes to the resort. Our hotel was a minute walk from the beach so we spent that first day enjoying the sun on the beach.

The thing I was most excited about doing in Port Douglas or Australia for that matter was seeing the Great Barrier Reef. That next day we took a boat out and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, which I will cover in the next post.

The day following the reef was the third and final day we departed Port Douglas and made our way towards Cairns. Our itinerary for the day was packed full of fun things to do. We started off stopping by the Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world. It is believed to be over 200 million years old. We didn't have too much time to waste so we just took a short hike around through the rainforest. It was amazing to think how long that had been there.

We departed the Daintree and headed toward the Skyrail, which is considered the World's most beautiful rainforest experience. The Skyrail is about an hour and a half cable ride above another tropical rainforest in Cairns. Along the way there were a couple of stops that had short walks with lookouts. These lookouts had some great views of massive trees, animals and beautiful waterfalls.

When taking the Skyrail you end up at a town by the name of Kuranda. You then have the option of taking the Skyrail back or you can take a train from Kuranda for an hour and then they bus you to the Skyrail parking lot. We opted for the train ride back. They only run two trains a day so we had some time to spend in Kuranda. We stopped in numerous stores and grabbed a bite to eat at a local pizza restaurant which was very good! 

After the pizza we headed toward the train station and boarded our train. The Kuranda Scenic Railway was built in 1882 by miners that were unable to get food due to flooding. It was amazing to think how they built this railway that long ago. It included 15 tunnels, 93 curves, and 12 bridges. I had a window seat for the train which made the experience a lot better as the windows were not very large and hard to see out of. The railway was a need experience but not as good as the Skyrail. 

We headed back to our hotel in Cairns for the night and had subway to eat for dinner. After dinner we went to the pool then came back and had to start packing all of our items. For my dad and my brother and I it was on to our next destination which was more than exciting, but it was a little depressing because my mom and Rachel were going to be headed back home after just a week in Australia. I didn't even want to think that I only had another week left in Australia.

Fun Fact: The bird pictured above is a Cassowary, which are only found in the northern part of Australia along the coast. They also happen to be the most deadly bird in the world because of their kicks.

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Family Visits Sydney!

"The love of a family is life's
greatest blessing"

April 24,

What a crazy day this was. I was dreading this day more than anything but at the same time was so excited. This was the day all my friends I had made from the past three months were leaving, and this same day my family was coming in for a couple of weeks. 

I stayed up until three in the morning with half the kids in our program in my room just hanging out and telling stories from the past three months. As the night went on I said my goodbyes with handshakes, hugs and cries. I wished everyone the best of luck and told them to keep in touch. The time we had spent in Australia was unlike any experience any of us will ever have again. We had lots of late nights and early mornings enjoying the limited time in paradise. It felt like we moved in and out in the same week despite accomplishing so much. Time literally flies when you have fun. I did not want this to end. I was literally living the dream.

As I laid my head on my pillow at 3am, I just stared at the sky reflecting on all the good times. Knowing the time was coming to a close, I laid awake hoping to slow time down. I may have got an hour of sleep and woke up at 6am to take a shower. I shared a taxi with my roommate Nick to the airport. With teary eyes Nick and I hugged it out and said our goodbyes. This was a fitting way to end the program as Nick and I had shared a room for three months and had become so close. It was tough saying goodbye to everyone in 505 but it won't be long until we have a reunion.

While it was tough saying goodbye to my family of friends in Sydney, I got to say hello to my family from Cincinnati. I met my mom, dad, brother and his fiance at the airport. We took a taxi and headed off to the same Meriton apartments I stayed at.

They were only going to be in Sydney for a few days so I was in charge of packing as much to see in those few days as possible. On the Sunday I took them to Circular Quay to see the famous Sydney landmarks of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From there we took a ferry to Manly beach where it was a bit chilly, and only the guys were man enough to get into the water. 

From there it was back to the apartment where the family got some much needed rest. Over the next few days we trekked through the rain and didn't let it slow us down. We saw an Imax about Australia, which happened to be the biggest movie screen in the world, we went up the Sydney Skytower, saw a rainbow at Bondi Beach, did some shopping at Paddys Market, Ate the best chicken burgers in the world, went to the world famous blue mountains, fed kangaroos, pet koala bears, and the thing I was most excited about, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb was something we did for my 21st birthday. I don't think there was anyplace in the world I would have rather been then on top of that bridge. What an experience that was. The Bridge Climb was rated by lonely planet travel as one of the top ten most thrilling things to do in the world. The tour lasted a couple of hours and we had to fight some storms on top of the bridge, but we fought through them and had a great time. Our guide, Mitch even had the group sing happy birthday to me while on the bridge. What a great birthday it was!

Fun Fact: The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest single arch span bridge in the world.

Next its off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!

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