I Come from a Land Down Under

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Greetings from the future (unless you happen to be in Australia, as well, in which case greetings from the present!). Ironically enough, I just finished The Time Traveler’s Wife this afternoon and know better than to reveal events that have yet to unfold to the rest of you, so all I’ll say is that the mullet is making a comeback and Spencer Pratt will reign supreme as the Grand Sire of Douchebaggery for another year or two. How I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef

So, where shall we start? I guess, before you guys all get too jealous of me, I’ll say that I’m on a work trip to Queensland, in which 100 or so journalists from all over the globe were brought here for the reveal of this super-awesome-too-good-to-be-true campaign, “the Best Job in the World.” Wanna know what it is so you can apply, huh, HUH? Well, the tourism board is going to bring one lucky gal or dude to Hamilton Island (the central hub for the Great Barrier Reef) to serve as the “island caretaker” for a certain period of time. What does an island caretaker do, you want to know? Welllll, you get to live in a sweet, three-bedroom pad perched atop the Great Barrier Reef (for realz, I saw it firsthand!) with a swimming-pool-sized hot tub and all modern appliances (like the Real World but for sophisticated peeps), and you’ll be responsible for island-hopping and trying various activities, like snorkeling, diving, bushwalking and the like. Rough life, huh?

View from hotel at Hamilton Island

What do you have to do in return? WRITE ONE FREAKIN’ BLOG POST A WEEK! (Hey, I already do that! Pick me, pick me!) And it gets even better…on top of having the world’s sweetest job and all your travel expenses covered, you can bring along your partner or family AND receive a “salary” (for food and the like) of $150,000 AUS (about $112,500)…um, that’s more than two times what I make annually! I almost didn’t want to tell you guys all this, because you’re my competition (and if you don’t think I’m going to apply, you’ve been hitting the crazy pills a little too long and hard), but I love y’all so much (we’re talking true love here) and wouldn’t want to deprive you of a chance to live in the lap of paradise for six months. (Plus, I’m hoping you’ll invite me out to visit once you win…pay it forward and such.) I looked high and low for a catch and alas, couldn’t find one. It’s totally a marketing scheme to boost Queensland exposure on a global scale and a mighty fine one if I do say so myself. So get thy creative juices a flowin’ and make your application video before it’s too late (Feb. 22 is the deadline, but my mole informs me they’re capping entries at 30,000ish).

View of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays from above

Moving on, Regan said she’d much rather hear about my travel perils than the good parts, so as to not be too jealous. What do the rest of you think? I will tell you that a trip all the way Down Under from the States for a mere five-and-a-half days on the ground IN ECONOMY (back in the good ole days, like um pre-2007, they used to fly journos biz class, considering we’re meant to take these long flights and be ready to go, fresh off the plane) isn’t so much a vacation. A vacation implies downtown, relaxing, getting to do whatever you please. There’s hardly ANY of that on any assignment I ever go on. A little timeline of the first few days so you get more of a sense (and if you couldn’t care less, scroll down to the bottom for more pics from Oz).

Friday, Jan. 9
5pm Bid SVV adieu at SFO (San Francisco’s airport), we’ve become old pros at this.
6:45pm Painless flight to LAX.
7:45pm Arrive at LAX, recheck luggage at Qantas counter; do not manage to talk hard-headed ticket counter agent into an upgrade (despite there being 66 biz class seats and more than 100 empty seats on the whole plane; in the end, one of our group passed out mid-flight and HE got upgraded…oh the things one must do to get a better seat). Resign myself to talking her into an exit row seat instead. Turns out to mean an extra SIX feet of leg room or so. Am awesome.
8:15pm Behind Jordin Sparks in security line. No one pays any attention to her. She’s with her mom, who turns to her and says, “stars, they’re just like us!” I assume she’s referring to Jordin standing in the line with us normal people. I glanced at her ticket. She’s in first class, me in economy. Bitch. Assume she’s heading home after successful People’s Choice Awards appearance.
11:45pm After long layover in the worst terminal in the world (only an On the Border for sustenance, ew), board Qantas flight to Brisbane. Realize exit row wasn’t way to go, as nearly everyone on the plane has their own row and I have the only row whose armrests don’t budge. While everyone else sleeps comfortable sprawled across three seats, am crammed in one. But it’s OK, I have miracle drug: Ambien! Eat surprisingly decent meal, take pill and pass out.


Sunday, Jan 11
5am I totally slept through an entire day! What a weird feeling. In reality, it was about six hours. Laugh my way through Tropic Thunder (which made me not hate Tom Cruise so much anymore, wonder of wonders) then How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (which made me continue to hate Kirsten Dunst, shocker). Almost there!
8am Deboard plane, spend forever and a day in customs. Everyone else gets through the fast line, while I get stuck at the back of some long-ass “inspection” queue. Because I’m clearly suspicious. Pass with flying colors. They clearly didn’t catch my heroin stash (and by heroin, I mean 100-calorie snack packs, of course).
10am Finally through, time to grab coffee then take train to the Brisbane airport. Tired of airports.
11:30am Check in at Virgin Blue counter (nowhere near as luxe as Virgin America or Atlantic, it turns out), then proceed through security line. Butch Security Guard on Power Trip says my laptop bag is too heavy (wha???) and I must go check it, too. I shoot her daggers with my eyes, and she keels over and dies on the spot. I only wish. Back to Virgin counter to wait in line and check a second bag. Grrrr.
2pm Arrive on Hamilton Island. The sun shines briefly, tease that she is, then it opens up and pours on us the next two days. Apparently, January is the beginning of cyclone season. Many pass through each year, but only one usually touches down. Guess which one decided to touch down in 2009? Bingo. Awesome. Whose bright idea was it to schedule our trip to coincide with cyclone season???
2:35pm Arrive at hotel. Have 10 minutes to change clothes (no shower, no teeth brushing), then must meet in lobby for various site inspections and a brief tour of the island by “buggy” (fancy Aussie term for golf cart). Am tired, just want to shower and sleep. Rain, rain, go away; I need a freakin’ tan.
3:30pm Interviews with various tourism board officials. Yawn. Need. Bed.
4:45pm Arrive back at hotel. Have “free time” (read: 45 minutes before now and next “activity,” in which most sane people will spend partaking in daily hygiene rituals we’ve all neglected since departing the States).
5:30pm Meet to go to Qualia for “cocktail hour” with hundreds of journalists from all over the world. All of us are majorly jetlagged and not interested in mingling. The dinner takes foreeeever, too. I fall asleep in my pumpkin ravioli.
10pm Persuade someone to take me back to the hotel in a buggy so I can catch some zzzzzz’s.


Monday, Jan. 12
5am Wake up for sunrise hike, despite severe sleep deprivation.
6am Hike to the top of some mountain or another. Very steep climb. No one else from my group makes it (activity is optional). Again, am clearly awesome.
7:45am Meet group in Koala Gallery for brekkie.
8:30am More “interviews.”

And I could continue to bore you with every little mundane detail, but do you see sunbathe, explore  snow-white silica beaches, SCUBA dive, etc. anywhere on that list? NO. We’ve spent more time at airports in these past four days (SFO, LAX, Brisbane international, Brisbane domestic, Cairns international, Cairns domestic, Hamilton Island airport, Lizard Island airport) than we have not, and it’s tiring. Now, I am fully aware of how fortunate to get to go to these amazing destinations, but it’s almost one big tease, as I kind of see them from afar but don’t really get to explore anything at depth or do what I want to do. It’s like, here’s a seven-layer chocolate cake with alternating flavors of Ben & Jerry’s between each layer; you can look and admire, but by no means, touch or TASTE it! Also, can we just talk about how every tropical locale I have visited in the past year has seen a major thunderstorm, hurricane or now, CYCLONE, while I’ve been visiting? Um yeah, each trip I’ve come back far paler than I left. Lucky for me, this will probably follow suit considering Cairns’ annual cyclone (they have many a year but usually only one touches down) decided to pay a visit while I’m in town. Pure coincidence, I’m sure. And let’s not even talk about the hundreds of speedster ants and the COCKROACH THE SIZE OF MY HAND that were awaiting me in my room tonight. Ugh. Good thing my room was well-stocked with DEET and RAID.

However, Casey’s all about turning the negative into the positive this week, and I truly am in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, rain or no rain, so with that in mind, here are a few of the cool things I have been able to do amid the rain and countless hours at the airport. Checked a sixth continent off my list. Boo-yeah. Ate kangaroo. Tastes like…beef. Only spicier. Totally yummy, though.


Wore a lot of my new dresses (hey, that’s excitement in my book!).

Made new friends (but kept the old…sorry, had to!).


Cuddled a koala. (They’re extremely smelly and leave behind a sticky residue, I assume hope from the eucalyptus. Also? He totally groped my boob. Pervert.)

Took an itty-bitty seaplane tour over Whitehaven Beach, the Whitsunday Islands and much of the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Too bad it was so cloudy; not prime photo-taking weather, but still pretty to look at despite the ubiquitous grayness.

Landed a really cool hat in the process. Have I mentioned I have an abnormally large head that looks rather weird when you plop things on top of it? Observe:


Saw scary-looking, prepubescent Sperm Men.


And on a final note, being from the future means you miss out on super awesome happenings like Delurker Day (I must admit I’ve never been part of one and have been waiting for this chance!), and since I need another hundred-something ways to procrastinate when I return, kindly leave a comment below about whatever you want so I can drop in and see you, too. (Also, because I’m just insanely curious by nature and wanna know whose out there in cyberspace!) Even if you regularly comment or else don’t have a blog, I’d love if you still said HI!

COMMENTS
  • January 14, 2009

    A HUGE thank you for the “Best Job In the World” tip, and despite my strong competitive streak, am wishing you the best of luck. I’ve been DYING for an excuse to go back to Australia!

    Also, totally related to your mini-rant about travel being a tease. After being abroad for six months I have begun to slightly resent being told how “lucky” I am. It didn’t take luck to get a job, buy a plane ticket, leave behind any stability and follow my dream. It took planning and hard work! Amazing, I’ll accept, but to anyone who says “I wish I could do that,” I encourage them to examine their choices.

  • January 14, 2009
    Sarah

    FINALLY! I’ve been slogging through job boards and a mini-crisis (ohmygod, I got laid off! what am i going to do with the rest of my life!) and phone interviews that lead nowhere….a job I could enjoy applying for. Some people dream of being a supermodel, or rockstar. Me? I always wanted to be a one of the hosts of GlobeTrekker.

  • January 14, 2009

    Randomly enough… I started a blog as a result of the press release for “Best Job in the World”. It’s not related to my quest to win and I thought I would keep the blog to myself… you know – “therapy” – but too funny that you are down in Australia covering it!

  • January 14, 2009
    Bethany

    That is the best job in the world, no doubt. Also — love your gray dress!

  • January 14, 2009

    Delurking. And wishing I was in Australia.

  • January 14, 2009
    Rhi

    We’re all a buzz about this promotion in the travel industry. I’d expect a ridiculous amount of copycat campaigns to happen in the next couple quarters. On a way smaller scale – of course, but DMOs are all about the copying.

  • January 14, 2009

    Hi! Delurking to say that I love your site, and on a day like today, when it’s -4 degrees in Connecticut, it gives me hope to see someone in a sundress and sandals. Enjoy your trip! Thanks for taking us along.

  • January 14, 2009

    thanks for the update from down under and the tip on the “island caretaker” job oppportunity. the pics are amazing, especially the one with the koala!

    too funny about jordin sparks. last year i was boarding a flight from philly to LA and ryan phillipe was in front of my with ava and deacon. he actually ended up riding in coach (no more 1st class available) and sat in the last row of the plane right behind me. he ended up talking to everyone around him and was pretty friendly.

  • January 14, 2009

    ahh love the pic of you and the koala! So adorable! oh yeah, I have a strong dislike K.Dunst too! I can’t pinpoint why but I just doooo

  • January 14, 2009

    Is it awful that I’m still jealous of you? 🙂 You looked gorgeous in the gray dress. Also, that koala is so cute! I’ve always wanted to hold one 🙂

  • January 14, 2009

    Wow it looks like you are having an amazing time! That koala was adorable!!!

    I found you through Sensibly Sassy’s website and have been hooked ever since!

  • January 14, 2009

    Hello! Delurking 🙂

    Thank you for keeping me entertained while I am supposed to be working!

  • January 14, 2009

    At least you look like you’re having fun in your pictures, even if they are running you ragged! Did you manage to get your knitting needles on the flight?

    And what did you think of The Time Traveler’s Wife? It’s one of my all-time favorites, but I have a couple of friends who just HATED it.

  • January 14, 2009

    So when you get this job, I count as family, right? RIGHT? I could pretend to be your crazy Aunt Bertha!

  • January 14, 2009
    ali

    i’m a little grossed out by the stinky and sticky koala…more grossed out than the thought of you eating kangaroo! hahaha!

  • January 14, 2009

    FUN. Also, if you get that job, I’m coming to visit you.:) I love your new dresses by the way.

  • January 14, 2009
    Martha (mom)

    Looks like great fun! Hey, I was wondering – what kind of relationship does the ordinary Australian have with New Zealanders? I have relatives in NZ and they don’t particulary care for Australians – don’t know why? Any clue? Have a great trip – hope the sun comes out for the tan your so despartely seeking! Be safe!

  • January 14, 2009
    Amy

    Hi (again). I delurked, unprovoked, a little while ago.

    Thank you for finding my next “job” (so not an actual J-O-B). You can stay in my hip, new Queensland pad whenever you want.

  • January 14, 2009

    What the crappity crap is up with the Jelly-Bean people? Are they TRYING To look tasty for those sharks? What…the….eff.

    The paralegal I work with is Aussie….she HATES koalas. And roos. Well, come to think of it she pretty much hates everything. But she said koalas, in particular, are mean and aggressive. I think she’s lying. They are so cuuuuuuuuuute (squishy cheeks kind of cute.)

  • January 14, 2009

    sO JEALOUS, THJOSE PICTURES ARE GREAT. and i JUST READ ABOUT THAT JOB TODAY. Weird.

  • January 14, 2009

    So when you get that job, since you won’t need a salary, since you’re living for free, you’ll spot me a plan ticket, right? Right??

    I wouldn’t mind working in that paradise. It’s going to be -1 here tomorrow.

    Also, did you love Time Traveler’s Wife? That is one of my all-time favorite books!

  • January 14, 2009

    for someone doing all that traveling, you’re looking smokin’! (after a 6 hour trip, I needed a hosing down and a good nap)

  • January 14, 2009

    Hi! I totally want your job. That is all. Next time can you pack me in your suitcase please?

  • January 14, 2009

    THAT KOALA STOLE MY HEART. He doesn’t even look real he’s so cute.

    But what is that faux-forest, I Got This Picture Taken at JCPenny’s, background?

  • January 14, 2009

    Yeah, I saw that posted a few other places and let myself fantasize about it for about half a second. If only…

  • January 15, 2009
    mj

    So I just got back from a honeymoon in the Bahamas, and in spite of being a seasoned international traveler, had one of the worst customs experiences ever resulting in a $300 fine from forgetting that I had a banana and a ham sandwich in my purse. So here’s my warning about taking food with you! The officers were no joke, and “I forgot” was not an excuse they were willing to take. The whole thing was weird, with the fine going from $175 to $500 before they settled on $300, and a threat of court in an unnamed location coming into the conversation.

    Anyway, have fun traveling! And for the rest of the year I’ll be traveling vicariously through you, so keep up the good work :).

  • January 15, 2009

    Jealous you are in Australia, even with the rain. I live in the Midwest, where the temperatures are currently hovering around zero. Without the wind chill.
    Just thinking about all the waiting in airports makes me irritated. I am not a good waiter, yet do it because the longer the getting-there takes, usually the better the destination is!

  • January 15, 2009

    That…actually doesn’t sound as fun as I assumed when I read you were going to Australia. And yet, I have to admit that it still beats the ever-loving crap out of traveling the Midwest for work, which…I don’t even get to do anymore, come Monday. Stupid economy. Stupid company elimanating my position.
    On the plus side, that gray dress is fanTAStic! Where did you get it?

  • January 16, 2009

    Someone sent me that job yesterday, informing me that I was perfect for it. Stupid husband and legal career.

  • January 16, 2009
    Jen

    Hmmm, not sure I could convince my husband that this the perfect job for me when we have a baby arriving in March. Can’t hurt to try though! 😉

  • January 16, 2009

    Saw your pics of Lizard Island and wanted to know what you think of it. I’ve always wanted to visit that island, and at the time I was in Australia it was the costliest island to visit (or maybe second to Hamilton Island? All I remember is seeing $400/night on the guidebook). I ended up visiting Heron Island instead and loved it. Hope you got some free time to yourself at Lizard Island.

    Hope the trip is going well!

  • January 17, 2009

    Great photos! I never knew that koalas were stinky & slimy, who knew? I just moved to Melbourne 4 months ago, but haven’t done nearly as exciting things as you have in my time, probably because I have 2 little boys, oh well. Love following your adventures!

  • January 17, 2009

    koala! I’m going to pretend that they aren’t stinky and slimy because they are just so damn cute.

  • January 17, 2009

    Okay I finally posted the pictures of you and I from last year. Did I ever even email those to you? Gah. Can’t believe it took me so long!!

    By the way, the koala is absolutely adorable. Shawners wanted to know which ones in the sperm suits were women. I had to tell them, unfortunately, I think they’re all men.

    And, oh my gosh, you’re such the perfect shoe-in for that job!! Beauty and talent in a beautiful setting. What more could they ask for?!

  • January 17, 2009

    Hello, love! I still owe you a long, explanatory email about the recent engagement, but chaos is life lately. However, in the meantime, I’m glad you managed to squeeze in some fun on your trip and I swooned over that gray dress! Talk to you soon. 🙂

  • January 18, 2009

    Um could you tell us where that gray dress is from? At least tell me please, because I’m not applying for the job in Australia 🙂

  • January 19, 2009

    Ohhhh, that koala! So precious.

    But you had me screaming and running for the other room at the mention of a human-hand-sized cockroach. I would have been wide awake all night.

  • February 3, 2009

    If you think koala’s are sticky…you should hear the noise they make! Given their adorable fluffy, cute persona…the very loud..um…grunting noises they make are TOTally at odds with what you’d think.
    Glad you came to Oz and yeah, the slang is a bit strange, and the weather fairly unpredictable. But we’re fun!
    Diane – Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia

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