I lived in Brisbane for 5 months in 2007, and I’ve literally been homesick ever since. I had’t been back yet til now, and only one of my Australian friends ever came to visit in Iceland, Brooke. Seven and a half years is a long time, and things have changed, but only slightly, and all for the better. All my barefooted student friends are now flip-flop wearing doctors. Brooke lived in Dubai and worked for Emirates, and now returned to Brisbane to become a teacher. I used to work at Mazda and most of those friends still work as car salesmen, but now for Mercedes-Benz. Then there was me, the unemployed traveler who’s barely changed at all, crashing back into their lives and making them party like we were all still 19. And so we did.
I took a few walks down memory lane, visiting all my old favourite spots. The University of Queensland campus was a lot greener, since I had been a student there on the 6th year of drought. There was a new swimming pool I splashed around in, and the food court was nearly the same, so I had my usual – a Thai chicken curry meat pie and Bundaberg ginger beer. And once again I could eat uncut sushi rolls…. A genius invention that should have gone worldwide by now.
I went to the races, all pretty in a flowery dress with a fluffy purple fascinator in my hair. Brooke came with me, and together we managed to win money on every race except one. We picked the 1st place winner on one race, and that basically paid for our whole day.
We went to our old watering holes, the unclassy Royal Exchange and the much prettier Regatta (it was rebuilt after the 2011 floods). We had a “Sunday sesh” at the Regatta and drank cheap bottles of Moet & Chandon, but mostly stuck to our daytime house party mixes of Bundaberg or Cracken rum with gingerbeer. My host James was always on night shifts, so daytime cocktails were excusable.
Southbank has totally changed, although I never actually made it there, since a hail storm hit the day we wanted to go lie on the man-made beach. And it wasn’t a small hail storm, it was like the end of the world kinda winds, breaking trees, torrential downpours, flash floods, and hail the size of whiskey ice cubes falling from the sky. Bunches of the city just shut down, with roads underwater and electricity out in entire neighbourhoods for more than 2 days. Broken tree branches were slowly collected and piled up on the side of the roads, and eventually the weather was just fine again. But then it was time to fix the roofs that blew away, the windows that had been smashed into a million pieces, and all the cars whose hoods and windshields had been dented or cracked.
I only spent one day on the beach, at the Gold Coast. Its like an Australian Miami, with dozens of skyscrapers growing up into the sky from a sandy yellow beach, while beautiful half-naked people dip into the turquoise blue Pacific. The water wasn’t as warm, and the feeling of being on an isolated island was long gone, but this visit to Australia made me feel slightly normal again, with normal functioning cities and people to call friends.
When it was time to go back to some far away Pacific island, I tried to get the help of some travel agencies. The company Student Flights has this price beat guarantee, which I managed to book since I found an airfare $100 cheaper than what they found. So a couple days later I got a pretty cheap one-way ticket to Tahiti, only to realize it was still expensive to be there, and a lot more expensive to leave.