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Where We Are: Melbourne, Australia

I’ve dreamed of going to Australia since high school when my friend went with her family. I thought vacations were for visiting grandparents, and the idea of jet-setting halfway around the world just for fun kind of blew my mind. The only thing I actually knew about Australia was from the time I’d made the country out of Jell-O for a class assignment on Pangea. But nonetheless, Australia just called to me.

Later, when I was in college on summer break, I met a girl at Starbucks who was going to school in Sydney. Like, what? I thought going to college out of state was crazy, and again, the idea of jet-setting halfway around the world for college blew my mind. Still feeling that “calling”, I naturally announced to the Facebook world that I would be studying abroad in Australia. (Which I didn’t actually do.)

When we started planning this trip, we each made our wishlists, and for me Australia was at the top. Why? I still have no idea. Even before this trip I knew absolutely nothing about Australia other than they had Koalas and Kangaroos and giant Huntsman spiders. But somehow, after all of these years of dreaming of Australia, not understanding how people could just come here, and not learning anything about the country, I woke up this morning in Melbourne, Australia. My 16-year-old self is beyond giddy right now.

Street Art is legal in Melbourne and certain alleyways can be painted by anyone at anytime. This makes them an ever change art experience and perfect spot for wall pics.

Throughout our travels for the past nine months, we’ve come across a lot of Australians. (The Aussies are notoriously well traveled.) And out of all of the Aussies we’ve met, most of them were from Melbourne. So when it came time to pick cities in Australia, I chose Sydney and Melbourne.

The two ladies we sat by at Oktoberfest were from Melbourne and were great fun!

Quick Blog Update:

It’s starting to feel like these check-in posts are all I can manage to get up these days. For that, I apologize. If you’re following along with me, I promise I will try to do better. On this trip, we balance travel, blogging and part-time remote work. Since life ins’t a perfect balance of time, sometimes we have to rob Peter to pay Paul. The good news is that I actually have a bunch of content that’s almost done, and I’m really excited to polish that up and share it with you! Anyway, let’s talk Melbourne!

Melbourne’s Central Business District skyline

First Impressions on Melbourne:

  • It’s so lively! We’re staying in the Central Business District (or CBD) near the popular Flinders Street. Despite its name, we didn’t feel like we were in a “business” district where everyone was there for work in their nice clothes and it’s desolate by 7 PM (like Chicago’s Loop). It was bustling with people all day and well into the evening. It felt like the whole city was out doing things; getting lunch, having coffee with friends, walking from point to point. It felt like the city was just on Fall Break (yeah, it’s fall here in the southern hemisphere). We loved the energy!
  • It’s a very liable city. There are some cities that quickly feel like home for us. Cities like Singapore and London are the two we dream of living in most. Melbourne is definitely the next city we’d add to that list. We love the free tram system, the sparkling skyline and the spacious riverfront. There is tons of space to breath, but it’s got so much life and city-ness to it, too. Add to that the Kangaroos and it quickly earned a special place in our hearts. We’ll see how we feel if we encounter a Huntsman spider though. (Yeah, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole writing this post.)
  • Everyone is SO friendly. Before we got here, we’d already stereotyped Aussies as a friendly, chatty bunch. You can’t check into a hostel without having at least one Australian in the room with you. You can always tell because they’re always talking and their accent always gives them away. So we were not surprised to find that everyone we’ve encountered so far has been overwhelmingly kind and chatty. While we’re not particularly chatty, we appreciate their kindness nonetheless.
  • It’s so great but doesn’t have a major “Wow” factor. If you couldn’t tell, we’re loving it here. We love the cafe scene, all the neighborhoods to go to and the beautiful weather. But we realized that there’s not one thing that really takes our breath away. Nothing really puts it over the top. Shanghai has it’s stunning skyline, Singapore has Gardens by the Bay, but Melbourne doesn’t really have anything like that. There’s nothing that really makes it stand out just yet, other than the overwhelming “feeling” that we get about it. (Have you been? Tell us about your favorite part in the comments!)

Melbourne was home to world’s largest gold rush in the 1850s. A bunch of families got really rich, their kids inherited it, and they built many of the gorgeous buildings that still stand in Melbourne today. The Royal Exhibition Building was one of them.

What you need to know — Melbourne:

  • Population: 4.3 million (yeah, we were really surprised to see that it was more populous than Chicago, too!)
  • Altitude: 31 meters
  • Exchange Rate:  1.29 AUD to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: English
  • Walking Tour: Yes! We were happy to get back to taking walking tours! We loved the I’m Free walking tour, and plan to take both of the tours they offer in Sydney as well.
  • Time Zone: Australian Eastern Daylight Time Zone, UTC +10 (15 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes
  • Uber: Yes
  • Public Transit: Yes — free tram in the Central Business district, plus extensive other trains, trams and buses.
  • Emergency Number: 000
  • Running: Yes, but we haven’t actually run. There’s a great riverfront path and several great parks and gardens for running.
  • American Football: No longer in season.
  • Starbucks: Yes
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: Strawberry Green Tea Frappuccino
  • McDonald’s Veggie Burger: No
  • Coffee Price: $5 AUD (~$4 USD) for a cold brew or latte
  • Beer Price: typically about $9 AUD (~$7 USD)

Federation Square is an open air performance space and meeting place. It’s a great place to sit outside, people watch or grab a bite to eat. They also often have free art or music performances, and we caught both. We loved the afternoon we spent here.