Guest Post: ‘A Yankee Down Under.’
In 2011, guest post writer and traveller, Justin Breck, left the US to live and work in Australia. Now back in his native California, The Backpacker Collective asked him about his experiences living down under.
If I had to summarise my experience of Australia in one word, it would be “unexpected.” Before I arrived, I didn’t read or learn much about the country as it wasn’t my intention to be a tourist. My goal was to reunite with my significant other, who I hadn’t seen in two and a half months. After applying for a one year work- travel visa, I was happy to be together again and have the opportunity to work and save.
Melbourne’s Skyline from the Yarra River
From what I saw in films and on television, Australia appeared to be a desert wilderness, mostly inhabited by rugged outback personalities, a la “Crocodile Dundee.” While this is far from the truth, I guarantee you that this is the impression most Americans have of Australia as it is seldom represented in our media or news. Needless to say, I was surprised to discover that Australia actually has a mostly urban, very multicultural population, with the vast majority of citizens living and working in cities. Again, probably due to my limited exposure to Australia, I just assumed that the population was mostly a mix of English descendants and Aboriginal peoples. I had no idea the country, on the whole, has such a rich mixture of Southern European, North African/Middle Eastern, and East and Southeast Asian immigrants.
The other big surprise was just how flat and old, geologically and culturally, Australia actually is. I knew it was a hot, dry land, but I didn’t realise that certain parts of the country were 4 billion years old. Not to mention that the longest stretch of straight roadway exists in Australia; that’s just how flat it is. Some rainforests, like the Daintree, are millions of years old and date back to the age of dinosaurs. In terms of culture, Australia’s aborigines have the oldest continuously living culture on the planet, over 60,000 years old. I find these facts fascinating, but they are things I probably wouldn’t have learned had I not moved to Australia as most Americans just aren’t in tune with the country’s history and cultures, and like I mentioned, almost never hear about Australia.
Nourlangie or ‘rock country’ Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.
On the flip side, I was astounded at how often America featured on Australian news particularly during the US election. Australians seemed much more in tune with American news and politics, perhaps more than my own fellow Americans were. And for some reason, I didn’t realise just how many TV programs make it overseas; I never expected to see “Jersey Shore” on Australian television sets!
Australia really was quite “unexpected,” but awesomely so. It is a country of contrasts and extremes, with a diverse array of beautiful environments and landscapes. I am really quite lucky to have fallen in love with an Aussie girl as not only do I get to visit, but I’ll soon get to call this place my permanent home!