Wednesday, 15 January 2020

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments

If you've come looking for an exciting blog post full of some of Australia's most epic backpacking routes, then, apologies in advance, but you've come to the wrong place. Truthfully, I too thought I would be making glossy itinerary-style blog posts from my first forays Down Under, but sitting here after an emotionally overwhelming first week, I just need to be completely transparent.

Firstly, the jet-lag has been horrendous. Flights from the UK to Australia are usually intense, but mine was particularly nightmarish thanks to a ten hour layover in Beijing - which at the time of booking back in September seemed like a great idea thanks to its discounted price. In real time, it came at the expense of my health. And my nausea, extreme headaches and debilitating fatigue are only just subsiding. 

Jet-lag aside, I am a long way from home. It literally hits me in the face everyday. And I know it's a peculiar thing for me to say as I'm very independent back at home, and have been on numerous solo trips during my time - but I think the magnitude of knowing that I'll be here for up to a year, with no quick way of heading home if something goes wrong, is currently throwing me off. That coupled with the utmost of home comforts being rapidly stripped away from me, as well as potentially not being completely over someone I was never meant to be with, has all been super intense.

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
At least I was greeted to a sea view in Sydney following a traumatising few days of travelling 
I also feel like I am having trouble truly settling into hostel life. Not the sharing a room and bathroom, things being dirty, etc, aspect, but more from a social standpoint. All visions I had of me forging friendships and having a ball in the sunshine were quickly dismissed as soon as I enthusiastically introduced myself to the three German girls at my Sydney hostel, only for them to stare at me coldly before deciding to sleep the rest of the time I was there (literally three days, sleeping day and night).

I'm sitting here poolside writing this blog post in the hostel at my next destination, Byron Bay. And while the vibe is more relaxed, and there are evidently much more friendlier faces around, I have yet to have a decent conversation with anyone. Famous for having a 'resting bitch face', I'm completely aware that the problem may stem from me as well - and trust me, I have been going out of my way smiling at people and igniting a chat, but it feels just that - going out of my way. Not the authenticity I crave.

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
My hostel in Byron Bay, The Arts Factory Lodge, definitely feels like holiday
First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
A blue-tongue lizard just casually chilling outside my hostel door
Somewhere on my way to Nimbin 

And if we're laying it all out there, while I thought being 30 would be a barrier for me in a sea full of teenagers and those in their early twenties (and it definitely has been to an extent) I also feel as though I'm struggling to fit into this nomadic lifestyle because I'm a woman of colour. Pointing this out may be controversial to some, but for me it has been something that is becoming more and more obvious each day. In the huge hostel I was staying at in Sydney, I came across one black woman in the bathroom. Right now, I can see an Eastern Asian woman sitting with her blonde boyfriend by the pool. And... that's it. Yes, there are people from around the world backpacking Australia, but from what I have seen so far, they are literally all white. 

I get stared at oddly a lot - and I know it's because I look so different to everyone else. South Asian women are historically and stereotypically known for being reserved and studious, and I can't help but wonder if people get that vibe from me, and therefore, deem me unapproachable? I mean, I can't say for sure that race is a factor in how I am feeling - but I'm positive there is some level of truth to this matter - and this is coming from someone who never thought about this potential hindrance before leaving.

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
Hostel WiFi can be pretty non-existent. So much for staying in touch with everyone back at home
First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
There is literally a waterfall and beach around each corner
So, in conclusion my first week in Australia has left me not feeling too good about the way I look, has increased my levels of loneliness and anxiety and has me seriously contemplating if I can do this for the next month. But on the other hand, seeing the Opera House in Sydney was a complete pinch me moment, I had a hugely fun first (and last!) surfing lesson in Byron Bay, and have already been on two glorious hikes - something I particularly came out here for.

I've just come to the conclusion that in the next few weeks, I will be winning some and losing some equally. I think too many of us are so overcome with excitement for a trip we've planned for ages, that when things don't exactly go the way we plan from the get-go, it makes us emotionally crash. I'm currently learning how to juggle so I can continue seeing the beauty Australia has to offer as a backpacker because, let's face it, when it comes to choosing between Australia and the UK, the answer is pretty obvious.
Part two - Private Room Upgrades and Controversial Fraser Island Opinion
Part three - The Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef & Dreamy Sunsets

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
Hiking is one of the main reasons I came out to Australia for 

First Week Backpacking Australia: Hostel Life, Loneliness and Pinch Me Moments
Honestly cannot wait to continue seeing the beauty Australia has to offer


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