Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” by Erin Schirra, Gold Coast, Australia

I can taste the salt in the air as the moody sea breeze blows my hair out of its already-messy style. I focus on breathing on the rhythm of my steps as the sun hits my shoulders and forehead, and I weave around the skateboarders, bicyclists, walkers, and families on the pathway parallel to the beach. Since I have settled into my new home in the Gold Coast, I have attempted to immerse myself into the active culture ever so present on Broadbeach. Embracing my inner Maureen McGranaghan, I have found that my daily jogs throughout this new city has opened my eyes to the minute details I would have otherwise missed while on the tram or the bus (Slimbach).

In light of last week’s assignment, I decided to hone in on my observations and explore a bit while on one of my runs. Although this was something I had previously noted, it is an observation I find necessary to bring up. Because of the nature of the States versus Australia, the streets run in different directions, the driver’s seat is on a different side, and escalators rise and fall on the opposite side. This makes it easy to stand out as an outsider, when walking on the wrong side of the stairs or on the wrong side of the sidewalk. In the first few minutes of my run, I noted to keep left, in the hopes of limiting my disruption to the ‘norm.’

Another observation I found was the sheer increase in the number of active people out and about. Not only was an extremely wide range of age represented, from the elderly to toddlers, but also a fair share of different physical activities were going on all around me. Someone was washing the sand off of his surfboard at a beach entrance. Another was a dad, running alongside his son as he slowly learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. The park was full of games of touch, rugby, and cricket, while picnics of bystanders cheered on the informal teams. Rollerbladers, scooters, and parents running with baby carriages in front of them is just the tip of the iceberg in the diversity of activity.

I also noted that many people do not find the use of shoes to be necessary. This is not just along the beach area, but throughout the main city as well. I see the displays of tattoos, ranging from full sleeves to smaller and simpler designs. Almost everyone I make eye contact with will smile, or even ask me “how are you going?” (a commonly used term similar to “how are you doing?”). I note the everpresent scent of sunscreen, a constant reminder of the lack of ozone, and can feel the rough stones of the sidewalk against my feet as I try and go barefoot after my run. On my way back from my run, I see a young man and woman intertwining the stems of a few flowers they had picked into the wires of the fence that separates the sidewalk from the sand dunes. I have noticed this section of the fence before, as there always seems to be one or two vibrant flowers among many that have dried up and become brittle. I keep an eye out for this man and woman on my runs now, but since my reflective jog, I have just seen the addition of another new and dead flower to the collection.

Aside from the tiny details, running around Broadbeach seems to have allowed me to join an underlying community within the city: a community of people falling along the entire spectrum of ‘active,’ in which everyone is attempting to absorb as much of the beach air as possible. Just the other day, on Australia Day, three casual bicyclists threw me a high five as we passed each other, and a few other speed walkers and joggers exchanged a friendly “g’day” or “keep it up” as we embraced the Aussie sunshine. Although that is the extent of the verbal communication exchanged, I can already sense the sheer amount that this quiet community will support me, and vice versa.

The beauty of public transport, I have found, is the opportunity to converse with locals around me to get to know them as individuals, and to get to know more about the Gold Coast. Although some people wear headphones while riding, I have found that my 25 minute ride can prove to lead to an extremely fruitful conversation of which both of us grow. Especially with the inauguration as of late, many locals are intrigued once they hear my accent and deduce that I am from the States and not Canada. This exchange not only allows for the increase in my knowledge of local history (5), but also food services (4), current affairs (6), and social etiquette (7) (Slimbach). My bus conversations have ranged from getting a list of local burger joints to discussing the variances of gun control policies in the States versus Oz. I have also optimized the lifts (elevators) to engage in these brief, yet beneficial, conversations. Because the majority of the buildings I utilize on the Gold Coast are skyscrapers, and stairs are only allowed for use in the event of a fire, waiting for and riding on the lifts leaves for a great excuse to strike up a conversation.

The travelogue I selected, Keep Australia on Your Left, is rather interesting, because it details the journey of two men and their mission to kayak around the entirety of Australia. This has been a joy to read, but it is harder to relate my journey thus far to it. Upon reflection, I believe that the challenges faced by the author throughout his journey can symbolize some of the challenges that I have/ will face(d). The challenges that I am certain will come my way are in no means as physically grueling or scary, but evoke similar emotions in my rites of passage experience as Stiller and Tony went through.

image-1

The image above is of the flowers that I pass by on my daily runs. I find it symbolic of our journey as we go abroad, and in our lives altogether when viewing them through the scope of rites of passage. We go through each separation, and then we experience the sheer newness in ultimate vibrancy. Right now, as liminites, we resemble the pink hibiscus. Our heightened awareness allows for us to absorb everything around us. Eventually, as we go through the rites of reincorporation and then again the rites of separation, the vibrancy of our abroad experience will fade, but will still be a crucial member of our collective experiences that create who we are.

Works Cited

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.

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