Australia: 21

I wake up to a few missed Skype calls from my family, so before I even shower or cook breakfast I call them back.

Mom and Sev sing Happy Birthday to me from the family room at home. It’s almost like having them wake me up like they have every year previous to this one. It became a bit of a tradition to have the family get up early and cook breakfast, then come into my room with gifts, singing me awake every year. This year, Skype will have to do.
Mom has become more tech savvy than I, and finds a way to add Dad into our Skype call from Peru, where he just finished trekking Machu Picchu. It’s pretty cool to be able to talk to them so easily all from different countries around the world!

I get some time to Skype my gramma as well which is nice. It’s good to hear from home like that once in a while, especially on a day like today. Not just any birthday, but my 21st birthday. Most people plan huge parties for this. They invite all their friends out, dress up, and get drunk, because now they can anywhere in the world. What am I doing on this milestone day? Nothing. All my friends are in other countries or at least a different city. Even Ilona has gotten a great job offer picking limes on a farm and working at a local bar for free accommodation and food in a town at least 2 hours from here… so I am alone. I’m surprisingly not upset about it. Sure, I’d prefer to be going out and celebrating like any other 21 year old would, but what can I do? The bottom line is, I’m in Australia. That’s not a bad way to spend a birthday. Today I will relax on the beach in the sun, and that will make me happy. I decide that instead of spending the day on Kewarra Beach, which I can do any day, I will go up to Palm Cove, a beach just north of Kewarra but with more bars and restaurants. Change it up a little.

I put on my favourite dress (there are only 4 to choose from in the ‘ol backpack) and some make up even though I know it will melt off my face the moment I step outside the air conditioned home. I decide walking is the best way to get to Palm Cove – it looks really close on the map. It’s on the same stretch of beach as Kewarra, so how far can it be? I soon discover that it can be VERY far. It takes me almost 2 hours to walk the whole way from my house. It’s a beautiful walk, though. I walk along the beach with my feet in the ocean (cautious of stingrays all the while) and head into the jungle-y pathways when the sun gets too strong. I come across a fenced off area called ‘Deadman’s Gully’ and naturally, I hop the fence. It’s too lush and mysterious looking for me not to. I don’t have to walk too far before I see a small body of water just a few feet from the shore lining the ocean. The small pond is shaded with tropical flora, but the sun still peeks through the tree tops and twinkles against the blue water. It’s absolutely beautiful, but also the kind of place I would expect to see a crocodile. Ever since I’ve arrived in Cairns I’ve wanted to see one in the wild! I slowly approach the water’s edge, with my camera at the ready. I take some photos while scanning for any signs of crocs, and try to hang my camera from a tree branch to take a selfie of me at this epic oasis. All is well until I actually hear something blow some bubbles up from under the water to my left, and now I’m scared. I’m all alone and it would be a shame to be eaten alive on my birthday. I grab my camera and try to rip it from the tree branch as fast as I can, and accidentally take a picture of my concerned facial expression while doing so. It’s a gem. I never actually saw a crocodile… but there was definitely something in there, and I didn’t want to stick around to find out what it was!

I finally make it to Palm Cove. I collapse on the beach with my headphones in and fall asleep to Macklemore. I wake up half an hour later, instantly sure that I have been burnt to a crisp on half of my body, but am pleasantly surprised to see that the sun has fallen behind the palm trees lining the shore, which are now shading me from any sun.

After such a long walk, I’m starving. I decide to treat myself to a dinner out on a beach-side patio. I even splurge and buy myself a beer. It would be silly not to drink on your 21st birthday. I pray that the waiter doesn’t ask me for ID, because that would surely follow with questions about why I’m entirely alone today. Thankfully, he doesn’t ask.
I realize during my meal, that I’ve never eaten at a restaurant alone before. It feels a little weird, but I have missed the luxury of going out for dinner so much that I’m just happy to be there.
After dinner I take the bus back to Kewarra (as if I would make that walk TWICE) and curl up on the couch with season 3 of The Walking Dead.
Dave comes home and asks why I’m not out celebrating. He offers to take me out somewhere himself, and as much as I think that’s a very kind offer, I would rather watch television. I can’t imagine spending my 21st birthday out at a bar with a 50 year old stranger would be my idea of a good time. Dave is a really nice old man though. We end up chatting about his travels when he was younger and comparing the places we’ve both been. Mostly, we conclude that everything has become more commercial and geared towards English speaking tourists, which I think is a shame. One day though, I plan to visit somewhere like Bhutan or Tibet, where tourism is next to non-existent.
I get lots of Facebook wall posts from friends and family who know that I’m living 15 hours ahead and already ‘celebrating’ my birthday. It’s pretty cool that I’ll get two Facebook birthdays! One for my April 17th, and one for Canada’s April 17th. Cool.

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