On the Brink of a Life-changing Event as I Explore the Great Barrier Reef and the World-Famous Whitehaven Beach

fullsizeoutput_18f4

“As I saw you through the large windows, walking towards the door from across the road, all I could think was… Wow… I just couldn’t believe how beautiful you were.”

Following the path organically unfolding before me, I was on my next flight. After a quick stay back up in Sydney, I hopped further north, taking flights to Brisbane then Mackay, a smaller city in northern Queensland. From there I was picked up by the sweet older couple I would be housesitting for in the cutest home for the next several weeks, just two blocks from a beautiful beach in Shoal Point. Their home was a gorgeous tropical garden complete with wild exotic birds coming and going freely, and the semi frequent appearance from quite large, sometimes lethal snakes. It was once again a peace-filled escape. And, as money was dwindling, it was now time for me to contemplate making my way back to America to make a living.

This was not at all what my heart desired, and not at all the way I thought this journey would end, but it was time for me to be sensible and realize I hadn’t landed an overseas job that would keep me going. Decent online jobs were few and far between. With disappointment penetrating my heart, I made a few phone calls to friends to discuss and get feedback on the options that lay before me. I reluctantly agreed that it seemed it was time to begin applying for jobs in that states… but, the phrase “keep writing” continued to pursue the overtaking of my thoughts.

Shoal Point, with its huge tides, hot coastal weather, and endless sugar cane fields, has deceitfully alluring beaches that would appeal to any living soul, surviving in the heat of the sun, to take a dip. Many of these beautiful beaches are also home to salt water crocodiles waiting to stalk their next meal, and the infamous box jellyfish. It is an intoxicatingly beautiful landscape hiding an array of deadly creatures both on its land and in its sea.

I was determined to explore it all so I hired a boat and jetted out to the Great Barrier Reef. With my fins in hand and full protective wetsuit suit on, I dove in and it was pure magic. Swimming into the depths along a sea trench, it quickly got so dark I could barely see what was in front of me. A bit of fear sunk in and I quickly decided it only made sense to stay shallow enough so I could see the beauty around me. Encircled in various coral, mollusks, giant sea turtles, and a variety of colorful fish, I was in my element feeling grateful for this life. As I boated back to shore I asked around about a swimmable beach. I got in my car and drove to what appeared to be another secluded sandy beach cove.

As I walked along the shoreline, I was in deep thought and prayer. I noticed there weren’t many shells at all, mostly just driftwood pieces, rocks, and some very broken shell pieces. As I strolled, I wondered if I would ever have a partner in this life, someone to share these experiences with and grow with. Not really expecting an answer, in that moment, I half-heartedly asked God, that if I He did have that for me in the near future, that He would tell me now by giving me the biggest whole shell I have ever found on any beach in this world. I immediately got a flash of an image in my mind of a whole, light orange patterned, cone shell. I walked maybe 6 more feet and there it was. With no other whole shells around it, lay the largest, fully intact shell I have ever randomly come upon, and it happened to be a cone shell with a light orange pattern on it. I was in disbelief. I immediately went to the thought that this could be the craziest coincidence to happen to me; so, I asked again. I asked that if this wasn’t a coincidence that God show me by giving me another large, fully intact shell. And again, about ten more feet away there was another very large, fully intact shell. I walked the rest of the beach more than once and these were in fact, the only whole shells I ever found.

The next day a neighbor came over and introduced herself to me. She worked in a professional kitchen and had been a nun for 30 years prior. We went on a few short beach walks together as she told me stories of her past and what led her to become a nun. She invited me to a karaoke night her workplace was hosting at a local restaurant bar the coming Friday evening. I wasn’t quite sure about going, but she assured me it wasn’t just work people but their friends and families as well. I agreed.

My next expedition from this part of the world was to the Whitsunday Islands. This small cluster of tiny islands lies off the coast of Arlie Beach in North Eastern Australia, and these islands, are what heaven must look like. Home to the world-famous Whitehaven Beach, with the whitest and finest sand I’ve ever seen. Many of these beaches are secluded and appear untouched. These were by far the most beautiful, tranquil beaches I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many. With waters so clear and in places shallow enough I could walk to my own private sand bar to escape even the few who arrived on the boat with me. Australia has done an exceptional job of keeping these islands free from pollution and all the ramifications that occur when natural beauty is ravaged by allowance of human inhabitance. Very few of these islands allow for any type of dwelling or residence.

Back in Shoal Point I got ready to be picked up by my 62-year-old neighbor for my first night out, and what I consider a cringe-worthy event- karaoke. She called to warn me that she wanted to make all her coworkers laugh so she would be arriving in full costume, as a streetwalker. I couldn’t contain my laughter as she arrived in a bright red wig, fishnet stockings, bright blue eyeshadow, and sparkling pink lips. She swung her feather boa over her shoulders and she teetered to the door in sky-high platform sandals, a knee-length black dress with strands of pearls and bedazzled fake jewels draped around her neck. We pulled up across the street from an older building in the Mackay city center. On this warm summer evening I stepped out of the passenger side, in my casual, long, semi-fitted, navy t-shirt dress with thigh high slits on both sides. My long blonde hair was down, as it usually was, as I turned to face the building with the large windows, and I began walking across the road…

IMG_3754

An Under-Rated Slice of Wonderland in Australia

IMG_6385

Southern bound and driving down the coast from Sydney, I was soon to discover a not so talked about gem in Australia, Callala Bay. Nestled slightly north of the larger Jervis Bay, lies near white sand beaches with many times, no one else in sight on these large stretches of fine sand. It seems only the residents here enjoy their beaches and so of course, I was in heaven.

The scenic drive to this part of New South Wales is half the fun and stopping to explore along the way is, without a doubt, a must. The small shops speckled about in towns like Thirroul and Gerrigong are worth the stop, especially if you’re wanting to lunch at a local café. Enjoying the beaches, even for a fifteen-minute break, in Kiama and Wollongong was un-regrettable.

There are so many smaller towns along this coastal stretch of Australia that it makes day-tripping endless. I spent many days starting off with a morning jog and the rest of the day basking in the sun on a local beach or adventuring out a bit to discover a new treasured beach. The options for beaches here never cease. From Honeymoon Bay and Long Beach, on the Beecroft Peninsula, to Hyams, Chinaman’s, Blenheim beaches in the greater Jervis Bay area, you just cannot go wrong while exploring Currarong, Huskisson, Vincentia, and Hyams Beach. Huskisson also has some fun eateries and small coastal shopping.

IMG_9860

Taking a break from the beach, a historic village that should not be missed in this area is Berry. With award-winning restaurants, and the best deli, with amazing sandwiches, I’ve been to to-date, this small country town is so cute and quaint but jam-packed with boutiques, eateries, and even a free museum to showcase the villages history. I had to visit this town more than once to take it all in, and of course delight in more than one sandwich.

During my time in this area, I was feeling the heaviness of being alone and my thoughts of almost turning 36 and still being single weighed. It’s interesting how that is, isn’t it? You could be in a place with flourishing boundless beauty, feel grateful for the blessings of travel that some only dream of, and at the end of the day, if there is an empty space next to you, the loneliness is amplified by the void of experiencing all of this alone. Not to mention, once again, I was in a part of the world where internet was limited and I financially needed to look for work, but, oh darn, it would have to be put on hold just a bit longer while I explored. As the sun set on my time here, I knew I would think of my time spent in this part of the world and how truly peaceful it was.

Experiencing Sydney and the Harbour

IMG_5983

My next stop had me entering the hustle and bustle of city life. I entered Sydney not knowing what to expect but only knowing that God opened the door for me to travel through Australia and so here I was, a country girl at heart, beginning this leg of my journey smack-dab in one of the world’s largest cities. I didn’t have much time to ponder this due to the mass amount of people in suits hurriedly power walking past me to get to their assumed appointments. The streets were filled with taxis and just a few blocks away ferries were continuously going from one Sydney harbor to the next. The Central Business District (CBD) is filled with food options from small sidewalk carts for those on the go, to fancy fine dining restaurants with world renowned chefs, and the shopping… oh I wish I could really let loose and go on a shopping spree. However, due to a travel budget I reminded myself the pretty dresses aren’t worth the sacrifice of travel experiences to come.

This was also the first time in my travels I chose an Airbnb that was a room with a shared bathroom in someone’s home. I would be sharing a living space with a complete stranger and not just a living space but HER living space. I was hoping and praying that this would forge a friendship and not be too awkward.

As fate would have it I roomed with a soon to be friend named Claire. She too was single and slightly older than I. We stayed up talking about our lives and how we found them so different than we ever thought they would be. I shared my faith and my belief that though very different than most women’s lives my age, there must be purpose in the difference. She too had traveled around the world quite a bit. These talks and the company was the much-needed girl time that I had been craving.

The weather was warmer than I had just come from in New Zealand and I welcomed it. Sydney has many beaches and I went to several. I was also quite impressed with The Royal Botanical Gardens with its views of the harbor and the art museum that is right next to it.  It is a perfect spot to go for a long walk and have lunch, as the walk is right along the harbor which is lined with restaurants next to the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney, with its newfound friendship and sun drenched beaches, did not disappoint. And then, I was ready to leave the city and drive south.

IMG_5982IMG_6015