After wrapping up our Great Barrier Reef dive adventure, we met my parents, brother, and sister-in-law for a few days in Sydney. Mike and I tend to prefer staying in Airbnbs where we can meet locals and get a feel for what it's like to live in a city, but my parents enjoy a bit more luxury on their vacations. And since Dan and Betty were footing the hotel bill for everyone, we spent our nights at the Sydney Four Seasons. The Four Seasons is located in the city's central business district, which is also home to the famous Sydney Opera House. We walked in and around the iconic building, taking in the views of the surrounding harbor along the way.
I make high demands on my camera equipment. Not only must it produce high quality video and still photos, but it must also be compact, lightweight, quick to set up, and able to attach to anything. For bonus points, it should also be waterproof. Because, scuba diving. The 360fly HD is just such a camera, waterproof qualities included.
I learned how to dive in 1984 from a salty Australian dive master named Murray Hill. There were several Aussies who lived on the Bouygues-Blount Joint Venture compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and they always talked about diving the Great Barrier Reef as a source of immense national pride. So, even though I was treated to some truly amazing diving in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea during those early years, I always placed diving the Great Barrier Reef at the pinnacle of my Adventure Travel list.
After a few wonderful days in Brisbane, we took a short flight north to Cairns, where we would spend a night before setting sail for a week on a liveaboard to dive the Great Barrier Reef. We booked an Airbnb apartment at the home of Kaj and Nicky, who left us a friendly welcome in our cute kitchen.
We've experienced some long flights on our travels, but Los Angeles to Brisbane is a whopper. It's a good thing that Angela packs a plethora of snacks in her carry-on bag. Just one of her many travel tricks. The length of the flight is exacerbated by moving east to west across the International Date Line, so we decided to spend several nights in Brisbane to recover from jet lag and adjust our internal calendars. As it turns out, we couldn't have picked a better city for our introduction to Australia.
In a marriage that has been purposefully built on and around adventure, Angela and I promised each other that Australia would be our tenth anniversary trip. We started planning and saving years in advance, wanting to make our Australian journey the epic experience that the island continent so rightfully deserves. With the planned trip still a few years away at the time, Angela's parents began toying with the idea of making the journey with us. We had already traveled with family and friends on numerous occasions, including multiple dive trips, quick jaunts to Florida, and even our honeymoon cruise to Mexico and Belize. We enthusiastically welcomed the company and began expanding our original plans to meet a wider variety of Australian interests. We also reminded them that we were then only on year seven of our marriage, that Australia was still three years away on our original timeline, and that we were nowhere near our savings goal to be able to afford the trip. But Angela's father, Dan, is a man of action. When he decides to do something, it gets done. And with alacrity.
Angela and I do our best to travel with carryons only. There really is nothing more satisfying than getting off a plane, bypassing other travelers waiting at the luggage conveyors, and getting our passports stamped first in immigration. It's a small victory, but it pays off with great dividends when you're in competition for taxis, hotel rooms, or all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets in Tangier (more on that later). In our experience, traveling light and moving quickly is essential. But I'm unwilling to sacrifice high-quality video or photo footage for the sake of convenience; therefore, I have whittled my camera gear down to the essentials. This is what I pack for every trip.
As Mike mentioned in his last post, we were in Orange Beach, Alabama, recently for a destination wedding. It's a small, laid-back community that sits on the border of Alabama and Florida with Gulf Shores on one side and Perdido Beach on the other. This is the first road trip we've taken in a while, which was a nice change of pace. However, we've completely forgotten how to pack for road trips; since we didn't have any airline baggage restrictions, we just took all of the things. We arrived in Orange Beach pretty late in the evening, but we lucked out with some terrific Gulf shrimp and housemade chips at The Flying Harpoon 2, which serves a full menu until 1 a.m. We thought we'd lucked out with their live music, too, until we realized that the lead singer was running late and the female drummer was filling in for him on vocals. She was fantastic ... and we'll leave it at that.
I attended my first destination wedding last weekend in Orange Beach, Alabama. My childhood friend, Kyle Nuckolls, married his best friend, Lisa, in a beachside sunset ceremony, and I couldn't be happier for the two of them. It's fitting that Kyle and Lisa chose to have a destination wedding. They are, after all, marrying adventure, too. They both have that spritely spirit that looks forward to the future, respects the past, and yet stays firmly rooted in appreciation of the beautiful, fleeting present. In spending these few days with them, I came to realize that Kyle and his family had a greater influence on my own wanderlust than I had previously understood.
In looking for our next home, it must be a place that inspires stories. These are some of the stories from our life's adventures that have inspired us. They are why we travel. That first real trip is crucial. When, for the first time, you travel further than Grandma's house in Eclectic, Alabama. When the road becomes exotic, not only in destination, but in composition, asphalt giving way to concrete, then to cobblestone, or to sand-swept hardpack. When the familiar southern drawl loses its cadence, slipping from a Tennessee twang to the rounder sounds of a South Carolina conversation, and then on to thicker, wilder accents, leading inexorably on to unintelligible foreign tongues that leave you grasping for recognizable words. That first true step into the unknown either makes or breaks a world traveler. The feeling of being alone, out of place, uniquely foreign when you have lived your whole life up to that point in a sea of familiarity and predictability is either something to be loathed, or it's something to be loved.