Happy New Year from Australia! The burning question in my inbox is, “How were the fireworks over Sydney Harbor?”
Well, your guess is as good as mine. I haven’t made it that far down the coast yet, so I missed the big celebration. Although I had planned to watch the fireworks over Sydney Harbor, I readjusted those plans once I found out my friend from back home couldn’t make it here for the holidays. The Sydney Harbor fireworks are a huge event that takes over the city. In the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, locals recommended that I skip the fireworks even since I am traveling solo. They noted that while it’s not inherently unsafe, that it’s overcrowded and pricey, and that’s a lot on top of navigating hours of crowds by myself.
Once they told me I shouldn’t head there for the fireworks, it freed me to take stock of my current situation. Being in Sydney for New Years would have meant scurrying down the East Coast of Oz. And doing that would have missed a handful of other neat towns that are hotspots for activities and other backpackers. Although I have a punch of sadness to abandon that part of the plan, I also think it’s a solid plan since I have new friends and other fun options.
Plus, even though I took Sydney out of my plans, I am speeding down the coast. Australia is larger than I had anticipated; I could have easily spent my two months in Australia just traveling between Cairns and Sydney.
But I spread out my time in Melbourne, Uluru, and other areas, which means I am skipping a few of the classic East Coast backpacker activities. Now, I have just a week left before I head to Southeast Asia! I bought a ticket on Greyhound Australia for my East Coast adventures, and it’s an efficient — if not comfortable — way to travel the vast distances between East Coast cities. I made the poor choice of planning two 14-hour overnighters on the Greyhound buses as a way to save cash on accommodation. The major downside to doing overnight buses is that I invariably spend most of the next day napping at the hostel.
Anyhow, all of this is to say that I am firmly on the Australian backpacker route. One of the neat parts of the East Coast is that I continually meet up with other travelers moving in the same direction (north to south in my case, although there are often more moving in the opposite direction). Once I did a couple of Aussie backpacker activities (like the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsundays, Fraser Island, and others), I now had friends that I could meet with in every town along the way.
I spent New Year’s Eve with two friendly women I had met camping on Fraser Island. They were also spending passing the night of festivities in Noosa, so we banded together. Noosa is a small town with a laidback, eco-friendly vibe. The city has organic food stores on the corners, and it’s easy to navigate. Basically, it’s my idea of heaven.
To make the day special, we fired up a public barbecue near Sunshine Beach and cooked up a storm. My new friends cooked a traditional German-style potato salad; they made it with vinegar, bouillon cubes, and oil — it was, in a word, fantastic.
After the BBQ, we took the bus to a nearby harbor, we uncorked a bottle of champagne, and we watched the fireworks display. It was a pleasant, low-key way to welcome in the New Year.
And what is a New Year’s without a resolution. My goal this year is to listen. I want to spend more time focused on what other people are telling me, hear their story, and process. Sometimes I forget to listen deeply, and instead merely wait for my turn to speak. This year, I hope to address that habit. I think it’s also a good goal for my year of travel. I want to learn on this trip, and to understand more about the world, not just pass through and see the sights. I want to hear the history and learn as much as possible from each new person I meet.