"So you're just going to stay with a stranger?"
"What if he doesn't make it to pick you up at the train station?"
"What if he's weird?"
"Where's your surfboard?"
Leave those questions to my mom! I told them I'd be fine and finally they let me through. I was staying out in the country outside of Sydney (I guess that's why they thought it was strange). But the guy I stayed with was super nice and he had a dog so I was happy! He was an architect and had one of those storage bin houses on his land so I stayed in there. The first night I went out for dinner with all of his family and had too much wine so the next day was pretty lazy. That night we went out to an Afghan restaurant that he helped design so we got a free meal, score!
The next day I caught the train towards Newcastle. I'd met Lincoln during my travels in Sri Lanka and had asked if I could stop by on my way to Byron Bay for the yoga festival I won tickets to. He met me at the train station (with his beautiful dog Benny) and we drove to Redhead. I couldn't believe that it was a real place where people lived, right on this gorgeous beach that you could walk down for ages. It was like something from a movie! He went for a surf and I wandered down the beach for a while and then we went for pizza. He didn't wear any shoes - which is going to seem very unnecessary to mention but for us Canadians who live in the prairies it is pretty cool to be able to go everywhere with no shoes on and not be judged. That became one of my favourite things about living by the beach - going barefoot everywhere.
The next day we went stand up paddle boarding in Lake Macquarie (the largest salt water lake in the Southern Hemisphere) which was super pretty and reminded me a bit of home even though it was a saltwater lake.
While staying there I met Lincoln's family and they were some of the most welcoming and nicest people I have ever met... After traveling on my own for so long it was extremely nice being included in a family. His mom Lynne showed me different coastal walks/lookout points and even took me to a wildlife park so I could see my first kangaroos! His dad Tony and I talked about the family business which surprisingly had a lot in common with what I encountered while working for my dad back home.
After a few days in Redhead we went camping up by Crescenthead where the beaches were also amazing. I tried surfing again which wasn't very successful but it was very entertaining! (Probably even more so for Lincoln).
The next morning we caught a train to go see the Blue Mountains. Neither of us had done any planning or research so in our rushed state we got on the wrong train and we were heading north instead of east. Luckily we switched at the next stop and then spent the 2 hour train ride sitting on the floor because the train was full. It was pretty cold when we arrived and we waited 45 minutes for a public bus that never came. Finally we decided to walk... Which would've been the smartest plan anyways because it was only like 20 minutes away from the train station. It was such a stunning view and we walked around to see the famous rocks called the Three Sisters. After that we got back on the train (our same seats were waiting for us on the floor) and headed back to Sydney.
The next day I left my hostel and took the train outside of the city to see my cousin Amber. I think we decided it had been almost 10 years since we had last seen each other and it was my first time seeing their place and meeting her two kids Coen and Piper. I played basketball and Pokemon cards with Coen the first night so I think I got in his good books pretty fast. Amber showed me around the area, we went to a beautiful rainforest nearby where we bought some bird seeds and fed tons of cockatoos and rosellas. I also went to see their deer farm that reminded me a lot of home. We celebrated Star Wars Day (May the 4th) and Cinco de Mayo so it was a pretty eventful couple days! It was too quick of a trip but I was really glad I got to see them and meet the little ones!
Often during the day I'd bring the kids and meet Lincoln's sister Taren down at the beach with her two kids. We'd grab a coffee and all the kids would pay together. It still felt surreal being so close to the beach and that this was normal everyday life for people.
For my very last weekend in Australia I was joined one last time by Rachel. It was so nice to see her again and we had so many laughs about things that happened on our trip. It was also nice having someone to cry and get sentimental with about our Aussie adventure coming to an end. She got to meet the kids and came with us to soccer practice her first night. On the drive there Hayden and Logan were telling her stories and then Logan said "yeah, we're really creepy aren't we Kara?!" And I laughed and said "what do you mean?? You're not creepy!" And then they reminded me of the time they were trying to sneak out of bed to get toys, so I had to correct them and explain that they were sneaky not creepy. That evening there was the most beautiful sunset ever and Rachel and I had a hilarious time playing soccer on the side with Logan and talking to soccer dads. She came back and had dinner with the family and then I drove her into Newy where we had a fancy dessert before dropping her off at her couchsurfers. The next day was Canada day! Rachel's couchsurfing host said it was cool if we all had a few drinks there before going to a pub, so me and Lincoln and his friend Adam got dropped off there. Then Taylor and Madi joined us so we pretty much all showed up to party at a guys house who we barely knew. Luckily Stuart was ok with it and a couple of his friends joined too! We played some drinking games and then we made our way to a few different pubs. We decided to FaceTime Amy from the pub and enjoyed some kebabs in the outdoor area. When we got inside there was a pool table and I surprised myself and everyone else by sinking a shot. Everyone had been making fun of me for holding the cue wrong and I got mad because I knew what I was doing, and by complete luck I sunk it (otherwise I really would've made a fool of myself) and I sauntered back over like the hottest thing in the pub. After a few more Canadian Clubs we called it a night and went home. Overall it was a pretty successful Canada day even though we were on the other side of the world!
Rachel came to stay with me for her last night so we spent the afternoon wandering the beach. Alaine had arranged dinner plans with everyone so I could see them one last time to say goodbye. While Rachel and I were getting ready I had music playing on my iPad. Hayden and Logan asked me to put the song "shut up and dance" on. Partway through I realized maybe it wasn't the most appropriate song to be playing so I tried to backtrack by giving the lecture that it's not nice to tell someone to shut up and that they shouldn't say it. The damage was already done as they both walked around the house yelling "SHUT UP AND DANCE WITH ME". I went back to my room where Rachel was getting ready and we began questioning my influence on the kids... I was worried I was giving Alaine and Adrian lots of reasons to be happy I was leaving!
We went to dinner at a pub that had a kids play area in it. It was a super nice dinner and send off to see everyone one more time before leaving. Rachel and I both had one last meal of fish and chips while the kids all ran around like crazy! It was really sad to say bye and not really know when or if I'd see them all again, but I feel so blessed to have met such nice people while I was there. And I'm already looking forward to dropping by for a visit next time I'm back in Australia.
For Rachel's last day we had an amazing breakfast down at the beach cafe and then wandered the beach one last time. We talked about the highlights and lowlights of the trip (Rachel's favourite travel game) and about what's next for both of us. Slowly we made our way back to the house and then I dropped her off at the train station. It was a really quick goodbye there but I think that was better so we didn't get too emotional. I am so happy I got to spend some of my trip there with her (as well as Amy and the other Rachel) and all of it adds to the amazing memories I'll have of Australia!
Thank you to all the amazing people I met along the way... For showing me around, taking me in, and making me feel like family!! I'll never forget my time in Australia and hopefully I'll see you all again! ❤️😊