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But First, a Quick Trip to Port Stephens

8 Mar 2015


If you recall from my first post, one of the goals I made for myself here was to never say no to an opportunity that might change my life. I am happy to say that these past few days have lived up to this standard.

A couple of my friends and I were sitting around the dinner table one day discussing all the places we’d like to go during our time in Australia. “I definitely want to go to Brisbane,” said one of my friends. “What about Melbourne, or Cairns?” said another. “Does anyone want to go to Port Stephens this Thursday?” exclaimed my friend at the end of the table. I opened my calendar on my phone to see that Thursday was just two days away. All of my friends looked back and forth to read each other’s pensive facial expressions. “Why don't we give it a go?” we all agreed.

One thing I love about Australia is how easy it is to use and navigate transportation to take quick day or weekend trips around the area. Ironically, an Australian native whom I spoke to a few weeks ago said that Australian transportation was one of his least favorite things about living in the country. Compared to New York City transportation however, I have to say that I enjoy the buses and trains here far better. The bus drivers are nice and extremely helpful, and it’s quite easy to strike up a conversation with any passenger as well. This of course is just based off the two weeks I have been here, however.

My 5 friends and I took a few trains and buses to our destination which totaled to about 5 hours of travel. You would think it would be quite tiring traveling for so long, but I happened not to mind the journey with all of the beautiful views on the train and the company of my good friends.

IES Abroad was generous enough to give us OPAL cards, which are used to gain us entry onto buses, trains, lightrails, and “wharfs” or ferries, when we arrived to Sydney. I like to think of the OPAL card as the US equivalent of a metro card, but significantly better. Does it sound like I am enjoying Sydney more than NYC yet? Anyway, you can preload your card online or in any convenience store near you. What’s nice is you can set up an “auto top-off” on your card, which means it will reload with a certain amount you designate once it drops below a specific amount. The beautiful part about Australian transportation is that once you have taken 8 journeys from Monday through Sunday, the rest of your journeys are free throughout the week. Journeys are calculated from when you “tap on” as you enter and when you “tap off” when you exit. You have to make sure you tap off or it will charge you a full day’s worth of traveling, which is $15. Didn’t make the 8 trips? No problem. On Sundays, the maximum cap for travel no matter where you go is $2.50. Sorry Mom, I might have to move to Sydney for good.

Arriving to Port Stephens, was nothing short of perfection. We decided to stay in a hostel called Samurai, which was about 20 minutes form Port Stephens itself. Considering this was my first time ever staying in a hostel, I have to say it was a great first time experience. The manager was so helpful, and honest when we were discussing our travel plans. She gave us the best times and places to go, which allowed us to use our 2 day, 1 night vacation worthwhile. My bed was quite comfortable, and all of my needs were definitely met.

That night, we decided to hike up Tomaree National Park to reach the summit and see Port Stephens from a gorgeous lookout. After what seemed like miles of incline, my friends and I reached the summit and viewed a landscape unlike anything we’ve seen before. I can’t quite explain the feeling I felt but hopefully this definition will suffice:

[ THE SUBLIME: Producing an overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand.]

And that was exactly it. I had no words when I had these beautiful mountains laid out beyond me. I was in awe…I was in shock….I was extremely lucky to be alive to witness this view. I felt spoiled almost, to have witnessed something so beautiful. I was excited to have reached the top, but also sad that none of my friends or family back at home could share this moment with me.


(Tomaree Head Lookout)

I want to print out this photo to show anyone who asks, “so why exactly did you decide to study abroad?” That moment and the rest of the memories and experiences that I have had so far are creating a story that I will be able to tell for a lifetime. I am here to learn more about myself, and become a part of another culture. I think about all of the people from around the world who may not be able to travel, and think of how privileged I am to get a chance of a lifetime to do something as incredible as this. I travel for those people as well, in the hopes that I am traveling to the fullest extent.

The best part is that after our quick trip to Port Stephens, I was ready to return “home” to Sydney. It has been barely two weeks, and I am already calling Sydney my home. Nothing can truly be better than that.


Check out some of my photos from the trip! Cheers and be well!



(Sandboarding at the Anna Bay Sand Dunes!)



(Zenith Beach at Night)


(Friends at the top of Tomaree!)


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