Audrey Tuna – Australia (2014) †

Now Boarding Flight QF94 to Melbourne, Australia

Stepping onto an airplane entails the unavoidable feelings of adventure, uncertainty, fear, and anticipation, whether it is for a 30 minute flight to Las Vegas or a 13 hour flight to Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Once you’re up in the air and safely buckled in, both physically and possibly emotionally, you are very lucky if a feeling of rationalized trust takes over and you can relax into the experience. Some people can even sleep on the plane! Imagine that! If you’re not so lucky, like me, different feelings arise, usually the kinds that necessitate a thick paper bag, an ice-cold ginger ale, and more than the recommended dose of Tylenol PM. The air is horribly stuffy, my claustrophobia starts kicking into overdrive, and I wonder how in the world I am going to get out alive. Movies help to pass the time, but after the fifth or sixth one, my eyes are positively screaming. Sleep would be graciously welcomed should it ever arrive, but alas it rarely does. I’ve been in these positions on a plane numerous times and it’s not nearly a pleasant experience, but the way I look at it, every adventure has its price. Even with the possibility of air sickness, eyes that feel like they’re going to dry up and fall out, and newfound post-flight nasal congestion, I still love to travel.

For my entire life, I have always travelled with members of my close family for long distances and sometimes for many weeks. I truly enjoy the preparation for any journey as well as researching and executing all the details that must be finalized before the travel day. Although I happen to consider myself a very self-sufficient and independent young woman, I have never had the inclination, reason, or frankly, the courage to travel by myself. There is something comforting about knowing that when I wake up from sleeping on the long haul flight to Paris, or London, that the person to my right or left will be my family member, and that should I want or need for anything, someone familiar is right there for me. The security of traveling with people you know, love, and trust makes going to unknown places less nerve-wracking. As much as I love my family, and traveling with them has always yielded unexpected adventures and positively side-splitting memories that I will cherish forever, some small spark of independence in me has decided that this year will be very different. I still want to travel, but in a different way. This time, I am going by myself. I’m twenty-one now and ready to take ever larger leaps into adulthood, so I’ve booked a fifteen hour flight bound for Australia in May and I’m paying for this trip entirely on my own. Come the end of the semester, I will be more than ready to pack my bags for the opposite winter weather, wave goodbye to my family, and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

I have always wanted to visit Australia and spend time with my world traveling aunt and uncle who live in Melbourne. Australia is a wonderful country from what everyone says, and I am just dying to experience the vibrant land “Down Under”. From what I’ve heard, Melbourne is quite similar to Southern California in terms of topography and politics as well as the thriving community of people from all corners of the globe. I am interesting in exploring and documenting these parallels. My whole family would love to go, but going that far as a family of five presents too many obstacles. Foremost is expense, as the plane tickets alone cost a minimum of $1,300.00 round trip per person, bought even six months ahead. For my family, paying for two kids in private colleges, and another teen in private school, that trip would never become a reality, no matter how much we wanted to go. There is also the length of the flight to consider and most members of my family are yet to agree to be squished into an airplane seat for that many hours flying over the open and very dark Pacific Ocean at night. This is a legitimate and rational concern, and I too am not entirely sure how a jumbo jet manages to stay aloft for so long. I think it I just have to trust that it does and it will and within over half a day in the air, the plane will land in Melbourne and I can walk on the unexplored ground of a new country.

Knowing we would probably never visit Australia as a family, I decided last year that I would just have to do it alone. Of course I will have family to meet me in Melbourne but the rest is up to me. I have been saving money from my work study job at school as well as years of babysitting (I know, so cliché!) and have amassed a medium sized pot of gold (about $2,200) to fund my excursion. I started my own bank account at the age of fifteen and have been saving ever since. All through college I have lived at home to save money, and I pride myself on becoming more and more financially self-responsible over the years. I love working and paying for things by myself because it gives me a sense of both accomplishment and success not to mention valuable life skills that will certainly be of importance as I move out on my own and start my career.

With the money I have saved, I have already purchased the round trip ticket to Melbourne, including a trip to Sidney, from May 12, 2014 to June 5, 2014 for $1,345 on Qantas Airlines. I also have to purchase a visitor’s visa for around $20, as well as save money for transportation, food and hotels in Sidney which I estimate for 3 nights and 4 days to be somewhere around $450. Of course I must also factor in all the food and ground transport in my three weeks in Melbourne, which will not leave me much left over to do all the cultural and exploratory extras I plan on doing. Although I will continue to work for the rest of this semester, I know cannot possibly save enough money to pay for all these excursions that I feel are a vital part of my trip around Australia. With the help of the Globetrotter Grant, I would be able to see so many world renowned sites and cultural attractions, which will not only leave me with lasting memories, but also lots of stellar stories and photos to share with everyone when I return. Another aspect to consider when doing the financial planning for this trip is that the American dollar in Australia is not very strong and as predicted, Australia is experiencing a surge in their economy right now. Everything in Australia is very expensive! A modest dinner for two people can cost around $100 (Australian currency), and a tube of drugstore lipstick is about $20. Of course I will not be using the money towards these types of things, but you get the point. While I will be staying with my aunt and uncle for a majority of the time, and they will surely be hospitable and accommodating, they will not be paying for my travel or all of my food, maybe only if I will be eating Vegemite!* I want to get the absolute most out of my trip and to do that I will need additional funds. I want to see the important museums, tour the Sidney Opera House (perhaps see a concert), visit some of the many organic farms on the lush and fertile island of Tasmania, take ferry rides on the harbor under the stars, indulge in the diverse international food culture of Melbourne, dip my toes into the cool waters of Bondi Beach, maybe take an Safari tour of the Outback, and much more.

Also important to me is my additional more serious agenda which is to gain knowledge in my field of study at Mount St. Mary’s College, which is Psychology. I plan to use this undergraduate degree as a foundation for graduate work in nutritional counseling, with my focus being working with children and adolescents. I’m sure you are wondering how this has anything to do with Australia, so let me explain. My uncle in Melbourne is a Doctor of Psychoanalysis, with his own successful private practice and many years of experience in the field. While I am visiting with him and my aunt, I have planned to initiate learning sessions with him in his free time, with which I hope to better understand a professional’s views on psychological counseling and therapy and gain a broader understanding of the process of becoming a successful and skilled clinician. In addition, I am interested in advancing my knowledge about universal healthcare in Australia and how it is to work as a healthcare provider in this system. Australia is also very progressive in terms of holistic healthcare and nutritional therapies as a means of preventative care, and I am also very much interested in incorporating those philosophies into my career as a nutritional counselor.

As my education at the Mount comes to a close this December, I think it is wise to take advantage of the opportunities and resources that will advance me in the career I intend to pursue. I am fortunate to have a family member working in a closely related profession and I want to make my trip to Australia as much of a total learning experience as possible. I am self-proclaimed info junkie and I never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. I read everything in sight even if it’s just the shampoo bottle. I have an overwhelming thirst for knowledge and travel is by far the best antidote. I believe that vacations should to be worth the expenses spent, fun and often relaxing, but they must also be personally enriching in as many ways as possible. With the generous help of the Globetrotter Grant, I will be able to embark on a trip filled where the possibilities for enrichment, excitement, and amazement will be endless.

Exploratory traveling encourages the kind of personal growth that can only be accomplished when you step out of your safety bubble and I am doing that by traveling alone and paying for this trip on my own. Those are two big firsts. I anticipate this trip will be an important step in the direction of becoming an increasingly successful and independent adult. Starting with budgeting myself for years and being diligent about saving the money, to buying the tickets and arranging the necessary passport and visitor’s visas, I am doing this all by myself and that is an exhilarating yet daunting endeavor. I am grateful to my parents for instilling in me the desire to travel and explore new countries with an open mind and a keen curiosity. We have had many adventures and I have learned so much. This vacation will prove to me and to my family that I have learned their lessons well and that I will be taking the best of what I am and creating an adventure for myself that will help me to become a grown up traveler living my own dreams. The big wide world is not so big when you get back on the ground and begin exploring on foot. The more I travel the world and meet people from other cultures, the more I come to realize how unlike strangers we are to one another. In truth, people are people wherever you go, and that’s something I think everyone should experience.

* A traditional foodstuff of Australia with a notoriously terrible reputation. It’s a yeasty brown “veggie” spread that comes in a jar and has been described as tasting like salty squished bugs. As a result, it’s one of those things that’s quite inexpensive, hence the reason I mention it. I suppose to try it is a rite of passage for any tourist, and I promise to bring back a full, if not cringe-worthy report. I might even bring back a jar, just for the fun of it. Dinner guests, be warned.

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