By Marie Nieves
First of all, I’d like to use this opportunity to thank Ivona for granting me a chance to contribute my own musings to her enchanting blog. I honestly hope I will make your leap of faith worthwhile.
All the newcomers to the Australian continent tend to discover a lush playground filled with countless surprises. Even though I have turned into a seasoned traveler that frequents the Land Down Under, I will never forget the exhilarating feeling of boundless potential as I left the comfort of renowned cities and their respective landmarks to discover what hides in the vibrant heart of the continent. After some deliberation and careful thought, I have chosen the top seven things that truly surprised me in Australia.
1. The vastness of rainforests
When an outsider looks at Australia from the postcards and some iconic films, it is easy to get an idea that it consists of nothing more than a colorful coastline and a scorching desert. While I had some semblance of the idea that there are a few patches of rainforest regions here and there, I was absolutely flabbergasted once I was faced with the sheer vastness of Gondwana Rainforests that stretch across more than 50 separate parks across the south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.
2. Casually barefoot
I honestly have not seen more people walking around barefoot in my life than in Sydney and Melbourne. And no, I am not talking about sandy beaches and coastline cafes. It appears walking around barefoot is just a regular part of the Australian lifestyle. While I have nothing against this practice, I still wonder to this day how they can withstand the scorching heat of the asphalt (my first visit was during the height of summer).
3. Disliking vegemite
Australian urban hotspots are multicultural melting pots and you can try numerous traditional dishes from every corner of the globe. While it is hard to pinpoint what exactly can be called the genuine “Australian national dish,” vegemite tends to be singled out as a true Australian icon. This spread is apparently made from the leftover yeast of brewers and it is enriched with various vegetable and spice additives. As I openly admit to being partial to MSG enriched foods and salty spices, I expected to fall in love with vegemite, however, I really disliked the taste of it. While it does have a strong, salty flavor with a meaty texture, I found it to be too thick, slightly too bitter for my comfort and overall unpleasant.
4. There’s more to the cities than meets the eye
If you are visiting an Australian metropolis, go beyond downtown. You will definitely be surprised by the sheer richness and versatility of the architecture and street layout of the various suburbs that still belong to the city. I was utterly amazed by the Sydney suburb of Randwick that appears so quaint and idyllic with its Victorian-Gothic facades and beautiful lawns. The suburb is packed with historically significant hotspots and it boasts by far the most exceptional boutique hotel a Sydney newcomer can inspect.
5. Humans are actually sign holders
This one’s as surprising as it is strange for every first-time visitor – there is a truly unique type of job in the land down under, and that is fulfilling the role of a STOP ‘sign holder’ during roadwork. If you feel as if you are perfectly qualified for the job, head straight to the Land Down Under. All jokes aside, it is really interesting to see how various countries tackle same matters in different ways, and this one is one of the strangest ones I’ve ever encountered.
6. Road trips are a way of life
I distinctly remember that, as I boarded a plane to Sydney for the first time, I half-expected everyone in the Land Down Under to carry a surfer board along for a walk, just in case. While surfing is not an exclusive subculture in Australia, it is a significant part of their lifestyle, just like on the west coast of the US. Still, I was surprised to learn that there is another traditional ‘way of life’ aspect Aussies share with Americans – their unadulterated love for the open road. The Australian highways are an exceptional stretches of asphalt that cut through the vast wilderness and embarking on the Great Ocean Road ride along is a rite of passage.
7. The world map according to Australians
Anyone who has seen the map of the world according to Australians will be left stunned, unless they are actually from the continent. While we have gotten used to seeing a world map that shows either Europe or the US as its center (but mostly Europe), it is truly remarkable to see a printed map that puts Australia in the ‘middle’ of the world.
Australia is more than a patchwork of captivating landscapes. It is a kaleidoscope of cultures, customs and traditions. It is a cabinet of curiosities which are as interesting as they are unique to this land and the mentality of laid-back, welcoming residents. While you definitely get prepared for logical surprises such as inverted seasons, there are countless places and interesting things that will catch you off-guard and leave you pleasantly surprised.
About the author
Marie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. On her travels she likes to read poetry and prose and surf the Internet. Her favourite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She spends most of her free time at home walking her Labrador Retriever named Max. She is an avid lover of photography and a regular author at High Style Life. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.