In Part 1 of this story, I spilled my guts about how I fell so alcoholically fast and hard for a guy that I booked a trip to Australia to see him after spending only a few hours with him (hashtag shakingmyhead). Shocking to no one but me, I got dumped a couple of months before I was scheduled to fly from Boston to Australia to spend three weeks with this man. I felt crushed, mostly because I had convinced myself that this was too perfect of a story to not work out. I had fallen in love with an idea and wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell me to pump the brakes. So, I crashed hard when it didn’t work out. Here’s a link to the longer version of Part 1 if you want to laugh at/with me: https://alisonfromashes.com/thank-you-for-dumping-me-part-1-no-really-thank-you/

So, now to deal with this three-week trip to Australia. I have to admit, I was seriously annoyed at myself for buying this plane ticket. Australia was not on my top 10 list for travel because I thought it was just too culturally similar to the US to be interesting (by the way, I discovered that this is so NOT true). Also, I was supposed to be staying with this man for the three weeks, so my trip had become a LOT more expensive overnight. And finally, up to this point in my life, I had never traveled anywhere internationally by myself. And while the thought of solo traveling mostly excited me, there was a small part of me that was terrified of going by myself. But I had already spent an embarrassing amount of money on this ticket, so it wasn’t like I was going to cancel. And if I was going to spend that much on a trip, you bet your ass I was going to make the most of it. So, I threw myself into doing Australia research, and the more I started reading about this vast continent, the more excited I started to get. And the more thankful I was that I now didn’t have to spend all three weeks in the same place. Australia is HUGE, and the regions are so different from one another, and they have so many weird (in a cool way) animals, and it’s just so beautiful…and suddenly it seemed like three weeks was not going to be enough!

I finally settled on an itinerary that made me want to burst into a million pieces, I was so excited about it. As I mentioned, this was my first solo international trip – really easing into it with that 20-hour plane ride to Australia. It didn’t dawn on me that I was really doing this until I had gone through security at the airport and was waiting to board the flight. And there, at the gate, terror struck me, and tears started streaming down my face against my will. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my best friend and spun off like a top, “What the fuck am I doing? I’ve never been alone for three weeks, what if I get lonely or get lost or can’t figure something out, what if my cats escape while I’m gone, what if I get fired from my job, what if I drink, what if I DIE…” God bless him for listening to my total meltdown and for giving me the pep talk I needed to calm me down. After that, I boarded the flight because what else was I going to do, and then I got re-excited after the plane left the ground.

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Peace out, America - look out, Australia, here I come!

My first stop was Melbourne for a few days. One of my best friends from law school lives there, so I stayed with him, his boyfriend, and their beautiful husky named Ravage. While they went to work, I explored on my own, hitting the beach and boardwalk of St. Kilda, roaming the hip district of Fitzroy, meandering around the kick-ass street-art saturated alleys and coffee shops. And obviously, I had to get a tattoo when I happened to spot “Tat Datt Tattoo Parlour!” I even got to sit in the chair where Lady Gaga got inked earlier that year! Then I took a day trip west to Ballarat Wildlife Park where the oldest, largest living bare-nosed wombat lived. His name was Patrick the Wombat, and he got pushed around the park in a blue wheelbarrow to greet all the guests, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to meet Patrick before he passed away.

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Making friends in St. Kilda

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Street art in Melbourne is some of the world's best

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My version of a massage

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Patrick the Wombat - Rest in peace, my sweet buddy

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Cuteness overload with this lil' joey

Then, it was time for me to fly all the way up north to Darwin, a place where many Australians haven’t even been. You cannot swim in most places here due to the very aggressive salt water crocodiles (“salties”) and poisonous jellyfish. It is wild and tropical up in the Top End, and I was there during the green (or rainy) season. But it was SO COOL. Darwin is where I got to swim with a huge saltie named Chopper (don’t worry, I was in a plexiglass cage). I also went to Litchfield National Park, a place full of waterfalls and swimming holes, and cliffs overlooking gorges overgrown with greenery. And I visited Kakadu National Park, where the movie “Crocodile Dundee” was filmed. I took a boat ride out on the Yellow River Billabong to spot the crocs in their natural habitat and then went on a hike to see ancient Aboriginal cave paintings.

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Here's where Darwin is located - this is why it's called the "Top End"

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Tropical beach in Darwin

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Face to face with Chopper the saltwater crocodile

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Chopper the saltie is MASSIVE - but I wasn't scared

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Just a small sample of the beauty in Litchfield National Park - this is Wangi Falls

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Just another day in the Top End - no big deal

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Out on Yellow Water Billabong to spot salt water crocs where Crocodile Dundee was filmed

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Ancient Aboriginal cave art in Kakadu National Park

Next, I flew to the very middle of the country – the true outback, the Red Centre. I stayed in Alice Springs, which is a small outpost basically in the middle of nowhere. The Alice Springs Desert Park was phenomenal and introduced me to a bunch of wildlife endemic to the area, including dingos, emu, more salties, kangaroos, wallabies, and all types of deadly snakes. I got to feed and pet a kangaroo, and his fur had the texture of felt. Then, I rented a car and drove on the left side of a desolate road for five hours to the very remote dead middle of the desert in order to see Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta. That hike among these larger-than-life rock formations on Christmas Day (not a single soul was there but me) was a defining spiritual experience for me. And I do not say that lightly. This land is sacred to the Aboriginal people, and I could feel that the whole time I was there.

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This guy let me feed him some grass

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D-I-N-G-O and dingo was his name-o!

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Thorny devil in Alice Springs!

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Getting behind the wheel in the Outback - pray for me!

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The desert has the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen

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Standing in front of Uluru right after sunrise

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Uluru is stunning - a truly special place

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Don't miss out on Kata Tjuta, which I thought was a better hike than the walk around Uluru

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Looks like a Martian landscape

Finally, my last stop was of course Sydney, where I stayed in an AirBnb right near the famous Bondi Beach. The cliff walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach is simply stunning, and I did it in flip flops, which made it even better. I met all my animal friends over at Taronga Zoo, and just the ferry over to the zoo was breathtaking – it took me right past the famous Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I joke around that my social life in Australia was better than it is at home – I met so many people on this trip, some randomly, some through common sobriety. Some of these people invited me to a New Year’s Eve party on a boat in Sydney Harbor where we watched the epic fireworks show that some people only dream of seeing live.

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Ocean water pool right on Bondi Beach

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Bondi to Coogee Beach Cliff Walk

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Bondi Cliff Walk

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Up close and personal with a lemur at Taronga Zoo

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The iconic Sydney Opera House

I have tried, but I know that I cannot properly put into words what this trip meant to me. At the beginning of Part 1 of this story, I was CONVINCED that the Australian man was put into my life at that exact place and time for a reason, that there was a greater purpose for all of this to have happened. The reason ended up not being what I wanted or what I imagined (that he and I would end up together). But there WAS a reason. And to think I should even know the reason is my damn ego getting in the way again. But I believe the reason was my higher power guiding me towards my passion, that he/she/it/whatever wanted me to go on this trip by myself. Because now I know that I CAN do this, I can go anywhere. By myself. This trip set off a passion within me so great, and now that I am a woman in recovery, I finally have the freedom to pursue this passion. And through my recovery and my travels, I have found purpose in my life – to share a message of hope and proof that there can be AWESOME things on the other side of addiction. So, I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say, “Thank you for dumping me.”