Mardi-Grass Festival

It’s almost that time of year again— Mardi Grass!

I’m not talking about the popular, well-known Mardi-Gras, or Fat Tuesday, celebration. This festival, taking place in a small village known as Nimbin, is dedicated to supporting the legalization of marijuana.

Nimbin is situated in the northern part of New South Wales, and has been described by writer Austin Pick, “as if a smoky avenue of Amsterdam has been placed in the middle of the mountains behind frontier-style building facades… Nimbin is a strange place indeed.”

Known for its cannabis counterculture, as people openly sell and consume marijuana in both smokeable and edible forms on the streets, Nimbin has held the Mardi-Grass reform rally since 1993.

Nimbin Museum

Drug laws are a global scam.

Marijuana is by no means legal in New South Wales, but Nimbin seems to be an exception. It’s like this mythical fairy land where everything is rainbows and smiles. Literally.

Nimbin and surrounding areas are known as the “Rainbow Region”, home to the Australian Aboriginal Bundjalung people. The Bundjalung tribes believe the spirits of wounded warriors are present within the mountains. These spirits are believed to protect the area.

nimbin3

Our life was freedom.

Nimbin is a really awesome tourist attraction in Australia, especially for people who support this alternative lifestyle. The people in Nimbin are quirky and sweet, and the shops are really funky and unique.

While I am unfortunately not in Australia for this year’s festival, taking place April 30th and May 1, I was lucky enough to attend in 2014. And it was an interesting experience to say the least.

My friends and I bought “Golden Bud” passes, but I’m not going to lie, we spent most of our weekend hot boxing a tent. Other than that we were either eating or sleeping. I even fell asleep at a skate park in the middle of the day for at least an hour. People who say cannabis is dangerous have no idea what they are talking about.

Nimbin Museum

Get out of your own way

There were Hemp Olympix with Bong Tosses and Joint Rolling Competitions, which I totally would have won, had I not been too afraid to enter due to all the cops everywhere. (I might’ve been just a little paranoid).

We also attended a comedy show, where all the comedians were too high so none of their jokes were really that funny. But we laughed because it was so not-funny that it was funny. It might’ve just been an understood We’re all just too stoned for this so let’s just laugh about it kind of funny.

But best of all were the Ganja Fairies. Beautiful, green, shimmering fairies dancing and celebrating in honour of our dearest fairy bud-mother Mary Jane.

Appropriately, at 4:20pm on the final day of the protest, activists participate in the Global Marijuana March. Nimbin aims “to break the world record for the most joints ever lit at once in the same place at the same time.”

Nimbin Museum

Better to be without logic than without feeling

However, it isn’t just about a bunch of hippies getting together and lighting up. Mardi-Grass aims to educate consumers about the medical uses of marijuana and the history of the plant.

I was also lucky enough to see The Nimbin Museum and Rainbow Cafe before they burnt down in a fire a few months later. There has been word of them rebuilding these locations, but I haven’t heard of any progress. I strongly hope they are restored, as they really contributed to the unique culture of this small town.

In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?

One of my fondest memories in Australia took place as I was sitting outside the Rainbow Cafe with a few friends playing chess. An older gentleman came up to us and gave us caramel tart cookies. I know you should never take food from a stranger, but I knew I was in safe hands with my mates around. And let me tell you, there was nothing like this delicious treat. Something about that sweet sugary goodness had me smiling from ear to ear all day long…

To learn more about this reform rally or the facts on this “gateway drug”, check out the official Mardi Grass website.

Note: WanderLUST Mag does not condone participating in illegal activities.
However, when in Nimbin, do as the Nimbinjee spirit people would do.

(All photos taken at The Nimbin Museum prior to the 2014 fire.)

People take drugs to feel better, for pain relief — its hardly a criminal offense. JUDGE NOT LEST… Prohibition of natures best herbs has turned this village into a prison without walls. — WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS

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The Traveling Beanie

nz

This picture was taken of me while hiking in New Zealand.  You see that cute purple beanie on my head? This is a story about that beanie… The story of the traveling beanie.

I had been wanting a beanie for a long time but being the broke college student that I am, I never got around to actually buying one. I had tried some on but convinced myself they all looked terrible and I just wasn’t “a beanie person” because I didn’t want to spend money. One night at my favorite pub in Australia, I found this lone, purple beanie laying on a chair and I fell in love. A stranger had obviously lost it there but no one was coming back for it. I brought it home and washed it, and the beanie became mine. It was the first beanie I ever believed looked okay on me, and I wore it almost everywhere. Until one night, I lost it at a bar in New Zealand.

I don’t remember how I lost my beloved beanie. I got too drunk one night and blacked out. I don’t even remember getting back to my hostel. But I woke up in my bed the next morning with all my clothes still on, and only one thing missing— the precious purple beanie.

It’s crazy to think that someone else may have found that beanie just like I had, and is now wearing it around, maybe even in some other country. I guess that’s my karma. I have no idea where the beanie even came from, who the owner was or where they bought it. They could’ve been from another country as well. What if someday I find my beanie back in the states? That would be way too freaky…

I ended up buying two new beanies in New Zealand because I missed my old one so much. I lost one of them, but by now I have a collection of at least seven beanies, and I’ve lost quite a few. I don’t know why I have no luck with holding on to them. I guess they’re just as wanderlust as I am. Some say they were made in China and the others says made in Korea. I have no idea where my lost, purple beanie came from before it had an owner, but if I had to guess, it was probably also made in China or Korea or somewhere unfamiliar to me. Then shipped to a store, maybe or maybe not in Australia. It somehow ended up in Australia though, into my possession, then lost in New Zealand, and now who knows where it could be. Who knows where any of my lost beanies could be. These simple little beanies came all the way from Asia and could have potentially been to even more countries than I have.

This goes to show how interconnected everything can be. I can only hope that someone else has found that purple beanie (and the others…) and they have given it a new home, or new head rather, as well as a new adventure!

Originally written on Friday, October 11, 2013.
Edited and published Tuesday, January 27, 2014.

My Australia Playlist

During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.

Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.

Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.

Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”

The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.

Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”

Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.

Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.

Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.

The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.

Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.

A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”

Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.

It was all part of the experience.

Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate

Straddie Trip: Go Pro Style

Check out this awesome video by Anastasia Lukovenko of her weekend excursion to North Stradbroke Island with Arcadia University Australia.

Can’t Help But Brag: Study Abroad Struggles

We live in a society where everyone asks, “What’s new?” or “How are you?” but no one seems to care about the response. We reply with a dull “not much” or “good, how are you?” And then wait for another meaningless answer. We ask these questions to be polite, but how often are people genuinely interested? Especially when your response is a lot more exciting than theirs would be. We are jealous, bitter people– it’s in our human nature. But we ask these questions because it’s common courtesy, and we don’t want to seem rude (even though we are).

The worst case comes when you study abroad because you have so much to share, but to be honest– no one back in the small town of Glenside, Pennsylvania wants to hear anything about your life-changing experiences because while you spent a weekend partying in Amsterdam, your friends went to another shitty house party that probably got busted before midnight. Your constant traveling and experiences in a foreign country will never fail to make everyone sitting back home hate their boring, routine lives. And you.

Some people who study abroad understand this, while others think that everyone is fascinated by their experiences. This doesn’t mean absolutely everyone isn’t interested. I’m sure your mom and dad actually care. But the stories you really want to share are probably the ones best kept from your parents. But how many times can your friends handle listening to you go on and on about your beautiful foreign roommates before they start ignoring your messages. You can’t be mad at them for this. They want to be interested in your life. But while they’re staring at the same four walls of their Oak Summit apartment, you’re out getting a taste of all different parts of the world, and they’re going to get tired of hearing about it.

Even if someone is honestly interested in your trip and wants to hear “all about it” you would never be able to describe it all. Too much has happened. I would never be able to explain in detail all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, the people I have met, and the adventures I’ve taken without wasting hours of someone else’s time. When someone back home asks me, “How’s Australia?” I couldn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows and craziness of everything that has been happening.  Maybe I could tell them about how I spent an entire weekend on North Stradbroke Island learning how to surf and sandboard and kayak, and didn’t have to pay for a single thing (thanks Arcadia!). Or I could mention how last weekend I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and found my potential Australian husband (just kidding, maybe). I could tell them about the first time I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. Or explain the difference between a nice Australian accent and a bogan one. But no matter what I tell them, it just sounds like I’m bragging. Instead, maybe I could tell them how I felt really homesick so I stayed in bed all day watching Netflix and eating overpriced Nutella out of the jar. Or that even though I’m in Australia, I still have classes to go to and essays to write and all-nighters filled with red bull WITHOUT vodka.  But how lame doeDSCN0530s that make my entire semester seem?

We can partially blame social media. Most likely everyone has already seen all your pictures on Facebook and read all your tweets and hate you enough as it is. The constant upload of beautiful pictures from weekend excursions and simply everyday life in a foreign country is enough to drive anyone crazy with jealousy. Especially when it’s somewhere they wish they could be. Or somewhere they’ve already been that they wish they could go back to. Or when it is winter in PA, and your friends are dreading leaving their heated apartments, meanwhile I’m posting pictures of the beautiful, sunny beaches around Australia.

But what else are we supposed to do? We have to share our experiences with someone. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess that’s why blogging has become so popular. But while it may seem like we are having a much better time than those of you at home (and not gonna lie, we probably are), we still get that FOMO too. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to be hungover on my best friend’s couch eating mac n cheese and watching Food Network. No matter what great experiences I have abroad, there will still always be a nostalgia for people and places (and pizza) back home. So to all the friends who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and are stuck listening to our awesome stories, try to be patient with us. We’re not bragging on purpose. And I’m sure you have cool stories to share too. Even if it is just about another drunk night at Towers. And to anyone who has studied abroad and has had this problem, try not to brag TOO much to your friends. Keep it subtle. Start a blog. Or share your experiences with us at WanderLUST. And in the midst of all the bragging, don’t forget to remind your friends back home how much you still love and miss them.