Each morning since I have arrived in the Gold Coast, I have gotten up, made my breakfast, and headed out to the balcony to enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful city I get to call home. I am still amazed by how different it is from America, because in my daily travels it feels just like walking through Boston. I had done a lot of exploring of shops and cafes before these exercises, so I set out to try something different. During my all-to-familiar walk toward the bus stop and the local grocery store, I forced myself to slow down and keep with the leisurely Australian pace. I paused every few strides to look around, noting the smells of the Kebab shop, the noodle restaurant and the burger bar, all in one breath. I listened to the cranes and trucks, which work from the early hours of the morning to add new levels to the many locations under construction in Broadbeach. Standing at an intersection, I can hear the sound of one crosswalk’s “wait” tone, while others signal that it is safe to cross.
As I approach the beach, the comforting salty breeze off the water reminds me of my suburban hometown, and the sounds of the crashing waves bring a sense of peace and relaxation to the noises of the city. The juxtaposition of the two environments still amazes me, as the best beaches at home are often the ones isolated from much of civilization. I am finally beginning to get the hang of looking the right way when crossing sections of the street, but I cannot seem to control my instinct to hug the right side of the sidewalk when passing other pedestrians. Hopefully I will adjust to this soon, as walking is my main method of transportation here in the Gold Coast.
My orientation exercise walk proved to be a valuable learning experience because it forced me to find the time to slow down. Our schedules have been very busy up to this point, and at QU I am not accustomed to having much free time. Thus, I instinctually walk everywhere with purpose—something I need to stop in order to truly learn from this place. Slimbach states: ‘We humans are pedestrians. And although we are used to covering ground quickly by motorized vehicle, we need a slow-motion mode of transport to truly absorb our surroundings. Space changes utterly when we experience it on foot” (182). This walk taught me to slow down and appreciate the sounds and smells of the city. I realized that, like America, Australia is comprised of many immigrants from across the world. The stereotypical Australian surfer that we all imagine is just that—a stereotype. Many of the Australians I have met so far have European or Asian backgrounds. They are also extremely friendly, and will strike up a conversation just about anywhere. At home, I have heard people use the term “elevator pitch” or “elevator story”. I never thought I would actually need a story for the elevator ride, but I find myself explaining who I am, why I am in Australia, and how my day was during nearly every ride I take up to my 20th floor apartment. Many Australians love giving advice about where to travel and what to see before we leave—something that would not happen at home. So instead of putting my headphones in and staring at the sidewalk on my way to the bus, I have vowed to make eye contact and exchange a greeting with each person I pass in the hopes that I will obtain another piece of information when I least expect it.
In the travelogue I chose, In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, the author journeys around the continent, immersing himself in the local culture of each place. His descriptions allow the reader to feel as if they are there with him, and thus I have found my experience to be similar to his in many ways. Bryson definitely finds himself in limiality in each location he visits, and because his journey is for the sake of writing a travelogue and not to study, he tends to move to a new place as soon as he gets comfortable. His experience is quite different from mine because he does not have much of a communitas. Nevertheless, his interactions with locals and the conclusions he draws in the book make it evident that this was certainly a rite of passage for Bryson. He clearly did his research both before and after the trip and includes many historical accounts in his descriptions of his journey. One of my favorites is how awestruck Bryson is at seeing Uluru (or as it has been renamed, Ayers Rock) even after all his research. “You cannot stop looking at it; you don’t want to stop looking at it. As you draw closer, it becomes even more interesting” he explains. “You realize that you could spend quite a lot of time—possible a worryingly large amount of time; possibly a sell-your-house-and-move-here-to-live-in-a-tent amount of time—just looking at the rock (256-257). I always had the idea of travelling to the outback in the back of my head, but after reading about Bryson’s reaction I cannot leave this continent until I see this great wonder.
The picture I chose to represent my walk shows Broadbeach, my home here, from a distance. One of the coolest things about living in the Gold Coast is that no matter where I go along the water, I can look up and see Peppers, my apartment building. In this picture you can see both towers (the tallest and second tallest buildings in view). I live in the shorter tower, and am amazed on a daily basis by the view from my bedroom and kitchen. This picture represents my walk because I have realized that sometimes you really just need to step back a little (or a lot) and appreciate your location from afar.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.
Bryson, Bill. In a Sunburned Country. New York: Broadway, 2001. Print.