How Australia taught me to take pictures (seriously!)
I was never one for taking photos. Wait. Let me rephrase that, I was never one for taking or being in photos. I had always held fast to the belief that you need to enjoy the moment you are living in, and not distance yourself with cameras. Ironically, I work at a company whose sole mission is just that, and I don’t think I would be here had I not visited the land down under. Throughout my early college days, I was always aggravated by friends who would not only need to photograph every event, but then instantly post it on Instagram or Facebook and count the likes as they come in.
So of course it makes perfect sense that when I finally fulfilled a lifelong dream and traveled 10,000 miles to Australia, I returned home having won three separate photo contests. Besides an immense amount of luck, I would attribute these wins to the kind of study abroad experience I enjoyed – one that was very far from ordinary. I hopped off the plane, moved into my room, and thanks to a few great mates and a Parmi (Australian chicken parm), I never felt out of place for one day.
Unlike many friends and fellow students who ventured abroad, I immediately felt at home in the world’s most livable city of Melbourne (pronounced Mel-Bin). I was fortunate to have lived with all locals at Queen’s College while studying at the University of Melbourne (Queen’s For Sure the greatest college…). On my first day of moving in, I met some of my best mates to this day.
My family, college advisors, and friends always joke how I had the greatest study abroad experience, and - well - they’re not wrong. They’d clamor for the details of my day to day: where did I go, what did I see, who did I meet, and so on. Naturally, to tell the full scope of these stories, I had to start taking photos. At first, I snapped the occasional shot of a landscape, but soon enough I started taking more and more photos to capture the essence of wilder and more adventurous outings. As I think back now two years later, I can’t even believe how fortunate I was to have done all I had. I sailed in the Sydney Harbor, road tripped to Uluru, drove the entire state of Victoria in 24 hours, hiked through Tasmania, went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, visited the South island of New Zealand, and made friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Luckily, I don’t have to rely on my memory alone to share these moments two years on. They’re fully documented with pictures and videos. However, I still believe it’s those moments that you can’t quite capture that stand out. Like our nights out at the Dan O’Connell Hotel which began with a single beer and banter before dinner, and ended with us locking up for the owner well after close. Or the Thanksgiving holiday spent I was alone at an American-owned pub in Noosa until the couple who owns the place invited me to join them for an impromptu holiday feast with their employees in the kitchen. Some of the best people I have ever met, the ones that make you feel at home even when you’re half way around the world, the ones who try their hardest to make you miss your return flight home: these are the people who mattered – and they’re forever part of the moments that I have nothing more than my own memory of.
One of my favorite lyrics comes from a Head and Heart song. “My roots have grown, but I don’t know where they are.” This is me. I was born in Denver, Colorado moved to Philadelphia for college, spent six months in Australia, and now reside in Pittsburgh. I can call any of these places home, but it’s not because of what I did there, it’s because of the people I met there. Travel for people, not places.
And whenever you can take photos – trust me your friends and family will appreciate it more than you will.