I’ve got five stars on my foot and so does she. Ever since getting our first tattoos together in Cairns, Australia, this girl has been my partner in crime when it comes to travel.
I’d like to welcome a new writer and dear friend who will be sharing Stars on the Ceiling with me from now on. She’s bunjee jumped from the 440 foot Nevis in New Zealand, wandered fearlessly through the protests in Thailand, and just returned to the states after living in Melbourne, Australia for the past three years. She’s Abby Brown and I’m so excited to partner with her on this blog which will continue to grow as we both share our stories and advice from our adventures and misadventures around the world…
B – So its about time you came back here. We’ve missed you in the US! Which was more difficult for you… transitioning to life in Australia or readjusting to life in the states?
A – You never think coming back to your own country, being back in your own backyard, your safe haven, the one place you miss so much while traveling is going to be hard. But I had had a taste of it, back in 2006 when I returned from studying abroad and experienced that dull feeling of coming back home. I longed to be back in Australia, traveling, exploring, soul searching . It suddenly felt that being home was a trap. That is why I quit my job in 2008 and jetted back to Australia. While I knew it was going to be tough living away from my family and friends, I luckily had some friends I kept in contact with there, and so had a bit of a network. Coming home this time around I knew would be hard because travel has defined me for so long. Without travel, what now? Figuring this out has been a roller coaster ride, and while I feel being away has taught me that I am strong enough to settle for a bit, it has also made me antsy as I never want to give in to what so many people refer to as “life.” The 9-5, paying rent, getting married, having kids, etc. Life to me is dancing in the rain in Byron Bay or sky diving over mountains in New Zealand…this is the true test of living.
What has been the hardest part about coming back home?
Coming home….I mean, how do you go from setting your own schedule, jetting off, and seeing the world at your own will to coming home to the expectations of the American culture? When are you getting a job? Why don’t you have a boyfriend? Or better yet, why aren’t you married? And why can’t you just stay put, don’t you miss us? It’s enough to give me a brain aneurism, and more than anything the pressures from others is what I feel makes it the hardest adjustment.
Besides me and the rest of your friends and family, what about home did you miss most?
Aside from my friends and family, who I missed very dearly, I really missed the food! Australia doesn’t really have a set food, and often they mimic a lot of products, so it doesn’t taste the same. Food to me is comfort and so my moms home cooking, NY sized sliced pizza, a juicy hot dog off the side of the street, or just a fucking BAGEL and donuts after a long weekend, man did I miss that! My diet was probably better back in Australia now that I come to think about it, aside from all the piss we drank on the regular, but hey, something I still missed!
I love that you still call beer “piss” and drunk is “getting pissed”. Never let go of those Aussie words you brought back!
Now, having spent a few months with you in Australia, I know that we both, along with most Americans, will attest to the fact that the Australian’s approach to life is much different than ours. Can you explain that difference and why you think that is?
Australians are definitely more care-free and laid back. Work doesn’t seem to be such a fret, as they really do get a good amount of time to enjoy themselves off. They really appreciate their down time, being with mates and living more for the small things. No one is in as much competition with the other as you would see, say, in the East Coast of the US. Australians work to live, we live to work, generally speaking. The Australian culture embraces the beauty of travel, and most high school grads take a gap year to travel and explore, and sometimes that year turns into 10. Or it never really ends. This is based on how they are raised. They do want to be successful, but it’s not do or die. They don’t spend $100,000 dollars on college and don’t owe anything to society afterwards. This is their life and they are going to live it however they choose. I miss that attitude.
I loved Australia as well, but the peanut butter tasted like sand. Do you like peanut butter? I had my mom send me Skippy.
Peanut butter! I nearly vomited in my mouth when I first tried it in Australia – it tasted like dry, chalky paste with some nuts. But, as you do after a while, I adjusted and soon thought our peanut butter was a bit greasy and oily, and actually started to prefer the Australian PB.
OK so you’ve been lots of other places besides Australia. What’s your favorite county that you’ve traveled to?
Oh man, this is so hard (especially being a very indecisive person!). I love every country in it’s own right, but if I had to choose I would have to say Laos. Untouched land, poorest people you will ever meet, yet there is so much life and happiness. These people have also not yet been swarmed by the hustling of its surrounding countries so they are very naive and appreciative of the smallest things. Even though backpackers are taking over and turning every restaurant on the block into a Friends-rerun haven, there is still this small town culture there. Luang Prubang was beautiful and probably my favorite and I cannot forget about the crazy river parties in Vang Vieng.
However, aside from the wildness and backpacking community, the Laos people truly make this place what it is. And talk about a bargain for your buck! Oh, this country is so blessed and cute! I also really enjoyed NZ. What a breathtaking country. It looks like it could be out of a movie, thats how unreal the scenery is. This is the first country that I felt truly alive, which I somewhat think the adrenaline activities had something to do with it.
Adrenaline activities are definitely your specialty, not mine. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done on your travels?
Oh god, hands down all the activities I did in NZ. From bunjee jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging to level 6 white water rafting, I lived life on the edge, and definitely lived a life at risk…but a risk well taken. Talk about a rush! The feeling of falling not knowing if your really going to come back up is a sick and strange high that will never get old to me. Still, when I go back and watch my videos I still get that pit in my stomach as if I am right there doing it. Free falling baby!
You’re pretty brave with all that bunjee jumping/skydiving shit. But were there any personal fears of yours that you faced while traveling?
Bunjee jumping for me is a real fear that I think anyone can relate to. But a fear that I try to keep inside by letting my loud and outgoing personality shine through is definitely meeting new people. You would probably not know this if you knew me, but as much as I love making new friends, actually taking the first step to make them intimidates the hell out of me! I am afraid of rejection or not fitting in, and when you’re traveling you already feel a bit out of place. I don’t want to lose myself; I want to better understand myself. And putting yourself out there definitely helps you get that, even though I feel it never gets easier. I just have to remember who I am, and not change that for anybody.
What has been the most challenging place you’ve been?
Probably Dubai (Abu Dhabi). Adjusting to the Middle Eastern culture and way of life and not really knowing how to speak the language or what the people are thinking of you over there… I felt so out of my comfort zone. I remember waking up to the prayer that goes off in the mosques at 4 am thinking we were being bombed (typical American!). It was a whole new level over there, and even though I was with a friend, it was still crazy…. and this is considered the westernized part, so I couldn’t imagine going to say Pakistan or Nepal, but I would absolutely love to accept that challenge! That’s what I am looking for, a challenge. If I wasn’t, I’d be going to the Carribean or on a cruise to Jamaica. What a tough life it must be, drinking all them pina coladas!
What is one thing you never leave home without?
Do I have to pick one?? You would think my phone, but that is one thing I usually DO leave home without! I’d say, based on my travel experiences, that if there are certain items you should never forget it would be 1.) a travel size tissue pack …you never know what bathroom your going into, so come prepared!) 2.) hand sanitizer, self explanatory and 3.) sunglasses! … God I’m so California, but really, whether you’re traveling in the hot sun or recovering from a big night out – don’t forget your shades. It will ruin your whole day.
What is one thing you thought you could never live without but have learned to leave out of your backpack?
Being a fashionista, how about the 10 different bathing suits and an assortment of shoes I was persistent in bringing!? This isn’t a fashion show, its a journey and it did take me a while to understand this. You seriously need 1 bathing suit, a pair of flops, and maybe a pair of Keen outdoor multipurpose shoe, and a basic wardrobe to tie it all together.
Yeah I learned that lesson in Laos, with you. I think I ended up ditching half the clothes I brought to buy lighter, more practical clothes made by the locals … they know how to make cool, comfy clothes in SE Asia better than we ever will!
So, where do you want to go next?
I have never been to Europe or the UK. I have been dying to go there, anywhere really! London has been in my mind for a while, as well as France, Greece, Croatia and Prague. Also, I really would like to get to Nepal, as this is one place I am sure I would love and a traveler both you and I met along the journey talked this country up so much it made me practically foam at the mouth. One day! There is just so much to do, that this question is just hurting me Britany! But, travel is on my mind, and I will be sure to let you know the next place I plan to explore.
Well, she better. Abby and I have lots of trips ahead of us, but for now, we hope you enjoy our joined effort to remember the trips in our past and live for today – all the while exploring, discovering, and wreaking havoc onNYC! So much more to come!