Beaches, Sunsets, Trees & Wine- Van Life in WA

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The Nullabor- got to cross it!

Western Australia is our 7th and final state/territory to visit here during our 1 year road trip around Aus. We recently took the 2100 kilometer journey from Adelaide to Esperance to begin exploring WA.

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Somewhere in South Australia…

It was a few solid days of driving, but we eventually made it.

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These grasshoppers, unfortunately, did not.

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Salmon Gums- assuming the name comes from the color of the bark?!

We finally started to get back to something resembling civilization, and then hit Esperance. We did some boring get this, get that restocking kind of errands and then set off towards Lucky Bay and Cape LeGrand. I had heard about Lucky Bay, the famous roos on the beach spot, but I was in for a treat. I wasn’t quite expecting this:

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Cape LeGrand- holy WOW! I was in love!

We had debated if the 45 km detour out to the national park was worth it, and the short answer is YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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super camp #268

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Our welcoming sunset- not too shabby!

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Lucky Bay- the money shot

The next morning we woke up for sunrise and drove over to Lucky Bay (since dawn & dusk are prime wildlife feeding & viewing times. AND fewer people- super bonus!) Let’s just say, I was NOT disappointed.

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Mum & Bub Roo (heartmelt)

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Relaxing- can’t blame him, that view is worth a million bucks!

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Lucky Bay ladies and gentlemen

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A morning I will not soon forget! Absolutely loving life!

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Pretty sure I took about 10932583058 photos that day.

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If this isn’t heaven, I’m not sure what is.

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After being pretty impressed with Lucky Bay, we moved along to another bay to check out what the other beaches had to offer. And, since Lucky Bay has the biggest name draw, it was starting to get more crowded with people (about 20 people- WAY too many). [side note- Australia’s lack of people is really spoiling me!!!]

My thought was, Lucky Bay was probably the hight light, but let’s continue on.

Then, this happened:

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Miniature me climbing on the rocks.

We parked, and walked around some rocks to see THIS!!! ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Thistle Cove was striking, and to top it off, Andrew spotted this:

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Pod of Dolphins

A pod of dolphins!!! We watched them swim from one end of the cove to the other and back again for about 30 minutes. Then we thought, ah, let’s get the paddleboard and go join them! So, we did.

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Best. Day. Ever.

It was exhilarating, scary, incredible, and jaw dropping to paddle board with this pod. Both Andrew and I were able to swim among the 30 dolphins complete with the babies. I don’t even know how to describe being the only ones in this incredible cove with a private beach and our own pod of dolphins. Magical is the closest word I can come up with.

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Our favorite beach to date!

After a few solid hours, the lack of shade suggested we move along to save ourselves some heat exhaustion and some serious sunburns, so we waved good bye and went back to camp. Just in time as well, as we were leaving the parking lot was filling up and a tour bus came along! Definitely didn’t want to share my secret spot with all of them! hehe!

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HELLO BEAUTIFUL

The sun finished off our day with this stunning display of natural beauty. Might be my favorite day of our trip so far (but don’t quote me on this! I have lots of favorites) :O

The next morning, we visited a few more bays and decided to end our trip there with hiking Frenchman’s Peak. We almost opted not to and continue to Esperance to check out their amazing beaches, but we drove past and decided it looked too fun to climb so we turned around and went for it.

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Frenchman’s Peak

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Complete with a cave on the top!

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It’s fun to be on top of the world 🙂

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Another summit with my guy! Forever on our summits, seas, & stars quest!

The climb was on the rock itself, no trail or path. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant, we had a great time. It was pretty windy at the top, so we didn’t spend too much time up there- just long enough to enjoy the views and safely get back to Earth. 🙂

Then we went back to Esperance and did their 30 km beach tourist drive to explore some more world class beaches.

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Esperance

It wasn’t the best beach day, but the beaches were still worth a look no doubt!

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We continued along the coast through Albany and Denmark.

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Elephant Rocks in Denmark!

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Hehe- doesn’t it look like a baby elephant having a wee swim?

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Andrew soaking in the views.

After some breath taking beaches & coastline, we headed inward and soaked up the glory of some beautiful trees.

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Giant Tingle Tree

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Andy climbing the Gloucester Tree- up 53 meters!

We headed for the Gloucester Tree and the Bicentennial Tree where they have inserted metal pegs to climb up. These trees were originally used for fire lookouts, but now are open to the public to climb- for free!! It was terrifying and got your adrenaline pumping!

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Looking down- not the best idea!

After the amazing trees, we set off for the Margaret River region. We were promised good wine & great beaches. Yet again, we were not disappointed.

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We picnicked and watched the surfers catch some amazing waves.

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Canal Rocks- this pool of water surged in and out breaking against the rocks.

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Playing with some GIANT sting rays!

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They were about 2 meters (6 feet) wide!!!

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Castle Rock

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Johnny was loving the beach views

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Giving snorkeling a go

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I could’ve easily stayed here forever!

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I’ll take the lot, thanks

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Wine fueled smiles

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No problemo enjoying a brewery at the end of the wine tour!

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Free chocolate tastings didn’t hurt either 😉

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Didn’t stop the fun- ended the day just as we had enjoyed all day- wine, cheese, & chocolate. Beach body prep!

After thoroughly enjoying Margaret River & surrounds, it was time to visit Perth! I’m loving nature so much, that the thought of cities don’t excite me that much, but look at this:

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Cottesloe Beach- the local Perth Beach!!! :O

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The annual Sculpture by the Sea was on & it was fantastic!

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Last night’s sunset in Perth

 

As you can see, Western Australia has completely blown our minds, and we’ve only touched the south west of it!!!!!

We have been so spoiled by the beaches, the wine, and the people. We are so fortunate to get to explore this amazing coast, we can’t wait for the rest to come!

ps- we are SO spoiled that Andrew made THIS FACE at the beach and said “we don’t need to go to every beach just for the sake of it”

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C’mon Andy- cheer up buttercup! Look at where you are!!! (to be fair, the wind was whipping sand into every crevice)

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I at least enjoyed the view!

 

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No butts about it, WA is incredible!

Hope you got a little spring/summertime inspo for your own adventures and if you get the chance- definitely add Western Australia to your short list!!!

xoxo,

Amber

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Thanksgiving Abroad

This will be the third Thanksgiving I’ve spent abroad, and it’s always with a bit of sadness and regret that I’m not home surrounded with friends and family stuffing my face with my mom’s cloud like mashed potatoes and drinking a refreshing chilled glass of white wine. On the other hand, I have had the great fortune to spend the occasion in Spain, Scotland, and this year, Australia.

Despite its contentious roots, Thanksgiving has been a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate our blessings for my family and myself. I am in the life long process of trying to practice gratitude, but this time of year is always particularly easy to remember and reflect the amazing things I have in my life. Among these are the overly cliché: friends, family, health, and happiness. While I am, and will forever be grateful for these things, I want to highlight some of the wonderful benefits we have experienced since being on the road.

Here are a few highlights of my grateful list:

  • Having a safe and secure place to sleep at night: My first experience with not being able to sleep due to an intense and heightened fear was after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. Andrew and I were in a very safe part of Nepal, but we were on edge like never before. Every door slam, truck driving by, or loud noise made us shutter and feel vulnerable to the numerous aftershocks that could lead to collapsing buildings, land slides, and even more damage to this already weakened country. Now, as terrorist attacks become more prevalent and more stories are becoming available of war torn countries, I am so grateful that I am able to sleep in our extremely cozy van with every intention of waking up well rested and ready for another adventure.
  • Life on the Road/Our van: Johnny is our everything at the moment. He gets us from A to B, carries our possessions, is our kitchen, and creates a cozy and comfortable place for us to rest our weary heads. Life on the road has been an amazing test of patience, love, and adventure. We have the freedom to go where we wish, explore nature, enjoy cities, and everything in between. Even though 45 square feet isn’t much compared to the average square footage in the U.S. (over 2,000 ft²- WOW!), it is plenty for us, for now. (ok, having a shower and oven would be luxurious, but your first van can’t be the best, right?!)
  • Social Media: Even though I self-admittedly spend too much time on these outlets, they have given me an extraordinary opportunity to stay connected with friends and family around the world. As much as I love snail mail, I know I wouldn’t have kept in such close contact with this many people for this long. It also allows for a very easy way to update friends and family of our whereabouts and safety (I know, the government has a huge file on us and probably knows more about me than I do since I use these pages, but I can’t imagine getting rid of them!) A lot more could be said about the pros/cons of social media, but I’ll stick to the pros of this technology. 😉
  • Health: This is SUCH a cliché one, but fitting for my past year. I have had the two most serious health incidents in my life since being abroad. The first was getting pneumonia in Scotland and the second was breaking my arm on a cattle station a few weeks ago. While these will just add to the list of lessons learned someday, it has forced me to rely heavily on others around me due to my physical inabilities (Andrew, you are something very special to deal with me- thanks love!) As a healthy, fit, and able bodied young adult, I was able to be grateful for my health with very little thought before. Now, I feel I have a deeper appreciation and gratitude for my every day ease of navigating life. Also, I hope that a lesson I can/am learning through this is to be much, much more compassionate for those less able bodied than myself. A helping hand is sometimes so much undervalued, if we all help others the world would be a much brighter place.
  • Collecting moments, not things: I feel extraordinarily fortunate that through some cosmic will I have the privilege to travel the world. This is thanks to a multitude of factors (privilege, job opportunities, education, family, and so many more), but I am so grateful that I get to live exactly the life I want to, not one that I feel I must lead according to societal standards, familial wishes, or anything else. I also make it a priority in my life to collect moments, to create memories, and to enjoy every day.

I hope you all have an amazing day of thanks surrounded with family, friends, safety, health, and lots of love. (full bellies and naps are also highly suggested)

Small soap box moment: I highly encourage everyone to embrace the season by spending time with loved ones and not shopping on Black Friday, and especially not at retailers who are opened on Thanksgiving itself. You can probably get a better quality product for cheaper at a thrift store and you are recycling- win, win, win! Playing board games or going for a hike are wiser and more rewarding ways to spend your time, in my humble opinion. [end rant]

Sending love to all of my fellow Americans and loved ones around the world- you are amazing and I am so grateful for you ALL! ❤

xoxo,

Amber

ps- can I now listen to Christmas carols on repeat without feeling any guilt? on the beach? in 33ºC heat? (summer for Christmas is even stranger than Christmas in Southern California)

 

Happy 31st Birthday Andrew!

This week we happily celebrated Andrew’s 31st Birthday! We were fortunate enough to be arriving in Melbourne after a week long convoy trip with 3 vans and 6 people total from Adelaide.

IMG_4655.JPGThe three vans: Tommy van Gogh, VanVan, and Johnny (from left to right).

IMG_5008The Smooth Operators- Rachel, Nea, Jonas, Amber, Andrew, & Lena.

Last year (about 2 weeks after his 30th birthday- doh!) I came up with this idea that it would be awesome to videos of friends and family wishing him a great year from around the world. Even though I was a bit late with the idea last year, it seemed like I could make it work this year!

At the end of October we were offered a 4-5 week job on a station mustering cattle. This meant that I thought we would be celebrating with only the other 5 people on the station and thus PERFECT to have some pieces of home to help him feel loved. (This didn’t turn out to be the case, however, as my broken arm meant that would not be on the station- more about that in a future post.)

His birthday was spent waking up along a creek in nature, and ended in Melbourne with $4 gourmet pizzas, vodka watermelon slices, brownies baked in oranges, and plenty of beers to go around. Also, a massive thanks to our friends Sam and Jaz who also popped in to help with celebrating the old man!

IMG_4988The demolished campfire brownies- thanks pinterest for the idea! Andrew’s choice as a cake alternative- good choice babe!

I hope you had an amazing birthday my love! Sorry for being unable to spoil you completely, being an one armed bandit wasn’t in the original plans.

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Finally, a MASSIVE thank you to all of our fabulous friends and family who contributed to this amazing video! I think it turned out great thanks to all of your fun and unique videos! You all are the best!!! ❤

 

xoxo, Amber

ps- enjoy this pic of our favorite Macbeth modeling his stylish head net

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1 year of traveling- have I learned anything? 

Last week Andrew and I celebrated one year of traveling! This has been my dream for so long, and here we are living it, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? When Andrew and I were driving I mentioned to him that the one year mark was coming up, he asked me if we’ve really changed? I immediately responded “yes!” (As though he had just insulted me) but it got me thinking. What had I learned? Am I just going around taking pretty pictures? What is my purpose? So I did a little brainstorming and reflections, and here is my short list of things I have either learned or confirmed further through our travels. 

25 lessons learned on the road:

  • Pack light- you don’t need the perfect outfit and no one cares/notices that you’re wearing the same things (but I still struggle with this & have too many pairs of shoes) 
  • Having true friends and a support system is irreplaceable. It doesn’t matter how far away you are, they will always be there for you (always make time for Skype/FaceTime/phone call- it’s worth it!) 
  • I’m a people person. 
  • I’m slightly less afraid of insects (I don’t always scream when I see them &&& I’m used to showering with at least 5 spiders at a time). 
  • Happiness doesn’t always feel happy, and that’s ok. 
  • Marriage is incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding. 
  • What you do everyday matters more than what you do sometimes. 
  • What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa. 
  • Happiness is different for everyone. Find yours and stick to it! 
  • Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t waste your energy on this. 
  • What you put out into the universe is what you will get back in return. Choose wisely. Your vibe attracts your tribe. 
  • There is plenty of good in the world- take the time to notice it and be a part of it. 
  • You actually are what you eat, but eat the good stuff too. (I haven’t regretted one freshly baked croissant or egg tart yet!) 
  • Lift others up- it feels good. Even if it’s an old friend on Facebook or a stranger, if you would like to hear a compliment so would they!
  • Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. 
  • Read more (I’m having so much fun with this one). 
  • Cheap wine is worth the headache. 
  • Stay in touch as best as you can. 
  • Be a gracious houseguest. 
  • Always tell people how important they are to you & you love them. 
  • Life is perfectly imperfect. 
  • Nature is the best cure- always. 
  • Making new lows strengthens you. 
  • Everyday is not the new best day, but there is good in everyday. 
  • Be grateful. Life is so good. 

Things I’m working on for this next year:

  • My posture
  • Patience (NOT my strong suit, unfortunately)
  • Communication (primarily with Andrew)
  • Say yes more 
  • Look at social media less (so tough when loved ones are abroad) 
  • Yoga
  • Learning how to drive a manual car
  • Diving into communities more 
  • Getting involved/volunteering more
  • My body image (a slow self loving process) 

Although we both agree that we’re no more sure of our future than we were when we left, we have truly had an amazing adventure thus far. 

I will forever cherish the memories made, stories shared, meals devoured, and love shown to us around the world. Thank you to all of the wonderful, truly wonderful, people that have hosted us on our journey. Without you all, this experience would not be possible!!!!!! 

 Fun facts from our year:

1.5 times around the world 

12,214 kms  driven in Australia 

44 beds slept in (approximately) 

13 primary stops/destinations (Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Iceland, Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Hong Kong, California, Nepal, Macau, Australia) 

$$$ lots of money spent, and none earned (but even more memories collected and infinite smiles- that’s what it’s about, right?!) 

  
xoxo,

Amber 

Van Life: Days 40-78

  
Holy smokes- where has the time gone?!?! 

Guess it was a big joke on my part to say that I would update this blog more often! Sorry people, we’ve been busy exploring (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!) 

The past 38 days have been nothing short of amazing as well!! I think even better than the first 40 days but things like warmer weather and a visit from your best friend certainly make for an awesome time!!! 

Last time I left off, we were in Townsville and just after the blog post we did a few van upgrades! Woo-hoo 

   Ugly tiles- be gone!!!

 Handy Andy comes to the rescue!
  A little dark- but ta-da! My white/grey/green/wood decor! 

   My custom curtains. 

Andrew giving his try at hand sewing! Great first time effort!
   Finished product- fly & mozzie net! 

  Enjoying the simple life 🙂 (Saunders Beach) 

  Rock jumping wherever possible (Jourama Falls)

  The beautiful Wallaman Falls- Australia’s largest single drop falls @268 meters! 

   Went on the Sugar Mill tour in Tully! Interesting to see how sugar is made from a plant to little crystals! (Looking pretty sexy, don’t ya think?!)  

 I was fascinated by all of the machinery. 

  Then my best friend Katie came for two weeks! We enjoyed hiking, laughing, drinking, adventuring, and being girls together! 

  Josephine Falls. 

   Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef together. 

  Sunset from the boat- complete with the moon smiling down upon us!

  The underwater world is amazing and mesmerizing. 

  Me and my turtle friend- incredible experience. 

  Whitehaven beach is as incredible as all of the pictures show! 

  More Whitehaven beauty 

  Rainforest exploration. 

   Incredible curtain fig tree! The picture doesn’t do it justice!! 

  Van life can be ok 😉 

  The dreaded goodbye! I tried to tell her she only needed a one way ticket, but I think her mom would kill me if I kept her here! We loved sharing van life with her! 

  I wasn’t done with the Great Barrier Reef so we went on a day trip from Port Douglas. Look at my Merman Hubby 😉 

   

  

  

  

  

 

   

 I had two snorkels and my first ever scuba dive! It was an incredible day to say the least! Now all I do is bug Andrew to take me diving again!!! 🙂 

   We sipped chai lattes on the beach in Port Douglas…

  Took Johnny on his first ferry ride (with us)…

And checked out local watering holes. 

We loved the East Coast of Australia!! Andrew and I both hesitated to head west on the Savannah Way because we loved our time on the east coast. But, alas, it was time to keep the journey moving along. 

  
Next up: the Australian Savannah where we learn that red dirt is no joke and flies are our arch nemesis! 

xoxo, Amber 

Van Life: Days 1-39

Wow, let me start off with saying I can’t believe we’ve been on the road for 39 days already!!! Time is flying by as our adventure continues in our van!! Adjusting to life on the road hasn’t come without a few bumps along the way, but I will definitely try to post more frequently now that we are settling into a rythym. 

  
This is Johnny- our humble abode. 🙂 this is our first sunset on the road after we hand fed wild kangaroos in a park. To stay we started off sweet would be an understatement!!! We started in Sydney and went north in hopes of finding warmer weather since we started in winter! 

Day 2 on the road was my 25th birthday, and if I couldn’t be with all my loved ones, celebrating with my hubby in wine country would be my second pick 😉 

   
Andrew filled the van with balloons, and it was every bit as awesome as it looks!!!! 

   
These cheesy grins may or may not have been fueled by wine. 

I guess celebrating your birthday in the dead of winter wasn’t so bad after all. 
Unfortunately we have seen so many awesome places, I won’t even be able to scratch the surface with stories and details, but I will put some of my favorite places and hope to share some more stories soon! 

The scenery: 

   

Whale watching in Port Stephens. 

Rainforest walk in Dorrigo National Park. 
    Quick road side waterfall stop in Ebor.  

 Byron Bay coastal walk-amazing! More whale watching and saw dolphins surfing! 

   Nice waterfall just over the border into Queensland. 

  Surfers paradise- and my paradise. 

   Noosa Heads coastal walk. 

Sunset  watching on a sand dune in Rainbow Beach. 
 Carnarvon Gorge was worth the 9 hour detour! 
   Sometimes the lookout point is fogged in- made for an interesting drive down the mountain in Eungella National Park. 

 Free kayaking up a private river thanks to a friendly local. 

  
 Found another paradise- Townsville. 
Some of our favorite animals: 

   
    
 
   The babies kill me every time. 

 #squadgoals 
   One of the best things ever!

    He looked like Yoda to me! He was in retirement! 

This little guy cracked me up as he ran around his house.    I couldn’t get enough of the babies!!!

   

  
Bad picture of the incredibly cute platypus in the wild! 
 &&& a random circus llama at a rest stop! 

LEAST FAVORITE ANIMAL: 

  
Leech sucking my blood, catching us unprepared to get rid of him! (Ensue major panic attack by me) 

Food:

   Fruit bowl- so much yum! 

 Free dinner and beer- thanks to the travel agent. 
   
Stir fry whatever- this was a pasta with sausage and veg. 

 Turkey burgers with bacon, carmelized onion, and sautéed mushrooms. 

   Custard Apple- I think one try was enough for this fruit. 

Fresh coconut from a homeless man who appeared out of the darkness. $1 well spent. 

    Chicken skewers with lemon green beans and fried potato. 

 Sausage, apple, and pistachio roll with chutney and a pan au chocolat with sticky chai tea (not pictured). One of the rare Times eating out, but I will never pass up a good bakery recommendation.

(I would like to take a quick moment to thank Andrew’s lovely mum Myra who is an excellent chef and one of the reasons Andrew is so good at cooking! If I were on my own it would definitely be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day.) 

Even though Australia is ridiculously expensive, Andrew and I hunt for food deals so we can get some good food! Don’t worry mums and aunts- we are eating well!!

Living in 45 square feet has been interesting so far. Life without a toilet or refrigerator is also a difference we are getting used to! We love exploring at our own pace and have only yelled at each other a few times (mostly in big cities when Tom Tom gets us lost). Overall this life is fabulous and we are so fortunate to be able to do this! 

  
5,560 kilometers later and we are still truckin’. 

Still heading north towards Cairns where we will meet up with my best friend in 3 weeks. We can’t wait to share this adventure with her! 

Will try to post more, but for now I need to keep working on my tan and reading my books 😉 

Much much love,

Amber 

  
 

Vivid Sydney

In my many months of pinning pictures and following wanderlust-y Instagram accounts before our travels, I saw a jaw-dropping photo of the Sydney Opera House. It wasn’t the typical rainbow sunset of the harbor, but a vibrant & art-filled projection on the Opera House. Immediately I did about 10 seconds of research to find out it was part of a city wide art installation called Vivid. “Ok, add that one to the bucket list!”, I thought.

Fast forward over a year and in preparation of arriving in Sydney I was doing some “best free things to do in Sydney” research and realized this “festival/ art installation/ awesomeness” happens during winter and it was going to start 3 days after we arrived!!! Sometimes the world works in mysterious ways, and I definitely felt lucky to be able to see it!!  Of course, Andrew wasn’t immediately won over of the idea of seeing lights on the Opera House, but he’s always up for anything. Let’s just say, we were both pleasantly surprised with what we saw!!     We started off on the Sydney Harbor Bridge for our first views of the Opera House presentation. It was a 20 minute loop of amazing graphics glowing, bouncing, dancing, and illuminating the iconic building. Also, there were boats lit up that were sailing in and out of the harbor as well as the high rises that beautifully lit up the harbor front.      It was a beautiful atmosphere just at that, but in true Sydney fashion- there was more to be seen. We walked down through The Rocks neighborhood and Curcular Quay among the dazzling displays.       The above building was my personal favorite!!!!

    There were heaps of installations that were interactive. This one was a “silent disco” idea where the lights changed color according to the Qantas flights landing around the world and the music was an interpreted musical version of the flight control tower communication happening at that moment. SO COOL!

    This one was definitely one of my favorites! I just loved people watching as the colors transitioned between pastels.

We went back another night as well to see more of the fun!

The beautiful Harbor Bridge with Luna Park glowing underneath.

   The awesome light, laser, fire and water show in Darling Harbor.

This is only a small sampling of what we saw, but it was definitely worth dreaming of. It was so neat to walk through the entire city and see art everywhere!! It felt like a community effort where more than one neighborhood or area all came together to illuminate the city and create such a fun vibe! People of all ages can enjoy this spectacle and I say put it on your bucket list! 🙂     I will work on a short video compilation to showcase more of the display, but for now I hope you enjoyed some of our pictures. All photos are ours, and let me put a little plug for my awesome hubby for getting some awesome night shots!!!

xoxo, Amber