How Australia Almost Killed My Cat

Last night, Australia almost killed my cat.
And upon reading this, I'm sure that this is one of the first images that came to mind...

Or maybe this...

Or even this...

Before moving to Sydney, a croc, spider, or snake would have been at the top of my list if someone told me that something had almost killed their cat. But like all things Down Under...things aren't always as straight forward as they appear.

Now, meet Myndee.

This is my 10 month old Bengal kitten. Yeah, that picture of her is pretty adorable, but don't let her looks deceive you. Bengals are known far and wide for Needless to say, this little one doesn't like to cuddle or ever slow down for that matter. So about a month ago, my boyfriend and I decided to start letting her go out doors for a few hours during the day to burn off some of that intense Bengal/kitten energy. 

Yesterday evening, around 5 o'clock, she meows at the door as usual and I let her in. And as usual, she's so exhausted from her outdoor adventures, that she immediately passes out on the couch next to me. But about 45 minutes later, she started acting...strange. 

She suddenly woke up, her eyes very heavy, moved two feet down the couch, then curled back up, but didn't go back to sleep. Her eyes were glazed over and just staring off into the distance. I thought it was cute, and when my boyfriend got home at 6, I pointed out her weird behavior as she moved to the table for a few minutes, then the carpet, then the floor under the table. 

Then she started dry-heaving.

Immediately, I thought she might be having her first hair-ball. And like a new momma, I stayed near her, talking to her calmly, but as the time went on...she started to act frantic.

She suddenly bolted up the stairs, so I followed. She's still heaving in the hallway, and then she just starts peeing...all over the carpet! Panicked, I grab a towel and wrap her butt with it, running her to the bathroom in one of her guest bedrooms (her room). 

(Side note: my cat is toilet trained, and I mean, she LITERALLY pees and poops in our toilets around the house. So for her to just up and squat is NOT normal.)

I call for Angus to clean up her pee while I lock myself with her in her bathroom so she can't run around to anywhere else.

And that's where the intense, guttural mewing begins. 

She's still dry-heaving, and I keep assuming she must really need to get something out. Maybe she ate something she shouldn't have outside? Maybe she's sick? 

Then she starts to get diarrhea. I hold her over the toilet (as she's trained to do) but the poor thing literally falls limp in my arms.

At this point, I'm panicking, and my boyfriend comes into the bathroom to see what he can do to help.

Then her guttural mewing turns into screams.

And she starts foaming at the mouth.

My boyfriend's eyes suddenly go wide. "Shit...does she have a tick?"

A tick? I think. How the hell can these symptoms be from a tick?

Gus grabs her and starts to feel around, but she's still squirming, obviously uncomfortable and trying to throw up. We keep searching but don't feel anything.

She starts panting, gasping for air.

I take her collar off of her as Gus does another check...

And there, on the right side of her neck, is a tick.

Now, meet the Australian Paralysis Tick, scientifically known as Ixodes holocyclus.

Where's their habitat, you might ask? THE ENTIRE FREAKING EASTERN COAST OF AUSTRALIA, and apparently the smattering of beaches I live on - Sydney's Northern Beaches - are infamous for them.

Some of the many symptoms of a paralysis tick bite include:

  • weakness or paralysis in the back legs
  • coughing or gagging
  • change of tone in meow/bark
  • grunt in breathing
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • inability to stand
  • facial paralysis

Oh, and the best part about these things? They hitch rides on all the native animals like bandicoots, kangaroos, and possums - all of which, are immune to the bite of a paralysis tick.


These little bastards kill around 100,000 domesticated animals a year throughout Australia. Pretty much everyone who lives around here, has had at least one pet die, or have known of a family pet dying from these things.

Needless to say, the moment Angus and I found the bastard on Myndee, we went into panic mode. We put Myndee straight in her carrying crate and bolted out the door. It was a race to the After Hours Emergency Vet Clinic about ten minutes away, and by the time we got there, Myndee was silent.

The vet staff was awesome - unfortunately, they have to deal with tick bites a lot - and the tick they pulled off her neck, sure enough, was an Australian Paralysis Tick. But luckily, it wasn't very large, and they pulled it off her with no problems.

But she was still struggling. Her pupils were massively dilated, she was skiddish, silent, and wasn't moving much at all. The vet said they needed to keep her over night, as well as administer her the paralysis tick serum and wash her. And so we had to leave our poor little girl at the vet.

It's been 24 hours, and I just got off the phone with the vet yet again. Her pupils are still way too dilated and she hasn't eaten, drank, or used the bathroom yet, so they're keeping her for another night.

Living in Sydney, I don't have to worry about crocodiles or King Brown Snakes or Great Whites. The worst thing we have to really deal with on the Northern Beaches are some pretty gnarly rips at the beach...but I was a very silly girl to underestimate the brutal power of Australia.

And what I'm starting to realize, is that the native life here, really was made to kill.

**UPDATE: Myndee is back home recovering after two nights at the vet. She should pull through and make a full recovery, though it will be weeks, if not months, before she's back to her normal, energetic Bengal self**

~Little Blonde Traveler

Australian vs. American Commercials - They Can Be Pretty Blunt Down Under

One of the most interesting things I've noticed between living in Australia and living in the States, is the difference in TV commercials. Strange thing to notice, I know, but I think it perfectly reflects the contrast between two, otherwise very similar cultures.

For those of you who don't know many Aussie's...they're quite a blunt, brutally honest group of people, especially in comparison to the ever-so-sensitive American (myself included in that category). So here's a few examples of the kinds of commercials you'll find yourself watching here in Australia in comparison to ones from back home.

Phone Commercials:

- Sprint (U.S.A.)


- Vodafone (Australia)

Can anyone spot the difference in humor? Americans tend to like laugh-track types of shows and commercials...we like having our plots and comedy spelled out for us. Aussie's, on the other, prefer the more direct route. Every time I see this on the TV, my mouth falls one could get away with this kind of commercial in the States...especially a phone company!

Beer Commercials:

- XXX Gold (Australia)

- Carlton Draught (Australia)


-Coors Light (U.S.A.)

The beer commercials are pretty similar...based on humor, though American commercials have a tendency to go a bit over-the-top and more lavish in comparison to the more laid-back feel you get watching Aussie beer commercials. I think that reflects 100% on how life is viewed in each country...Americans tend to be more high-strung while Aussie's just couldn't care less.

And here's one an Aussie friend just showed me...yeah, it's kinda "taking the piss" out of American beer ads. Enjoy :)

- Carlton Draught (Australia)

Car Commercials:

- Toyota (Australia)


- Dodge (U.S.A.)

Each country takes a lot of pride in their cars...and I just love the similarities between these two!

Dangers of Driving Commercials:

- The Heat is On (U.S.A.)

- One More What? (U.S.A.)


- Take the Slow Down Pledge (Australia)

- MAFMAD (Make A Film, Make a Difference) (Australia)

Australia uses this thing I like to call the "scare-tactic" when it comes to commercials about safety. Whether it's speeding, drinking and driving, texting while driving, wearing sunscreen, etc. the Australian government is all about letting them know the truth. My boyfriend never bats an eye when commercials like these come on, but little Tennessee native me just freaks out. These commercials scare me!! but that's the point, isn't it? It's quite effective. The States on the other hand, doesn't have (to my knowledge) nation-wide campaigns when it comes to road safety. From what I understand, it's up to each individual state to come up with commercials and warnings, etc. And the videos I've chosen above, well all it does is threaten you...doesn't really scare you at all compared to the Aussie commercials.

Interesting stuff to think about.

~Little Blonde Traveler

How to Decipher Aussie Slang

It's known far and wide that Australians have a very distinct way of talking...but that's what makes those crazy Aussie's so damn endearing. Now, as I have come to learn over the past 10 months of living here, Aussie accents IN Australia are even more adorable...but on a whole new level that can best be described as ECCENTRIC.

So, for all those out there who may one day find themselves staring face-to-face with a true-blue ' are a few helpful phrases to add to your dictionary.

Any word that ends with the letters 'er' are pronounced as 'ah'
    For example: when Aussie's say the word 'water', they actually pronounce it like 'watah' 

'Strayan Expressions:
  • "Good onya, mate" = Good for you, man/well done
  • "Thanks heaps" = Thanks a lot
  • "Chucking a sickie" = Taking a sick day/faking sickness to get off work
  • "Spit the dummy" = Getting really upset by something
  • "I'm stuffed" = I'm tired
  • "Chuck a yewy" = Take a u-turn
  • "She'll be right" = It's all good
  • "I'm keen" = I'm down/I'm game
  • "The guy is not the full quid" = He's not all there/He's kinda slow
  • "Bloody oath!" = Hell yeah/So true
'Strayan Words for People:
  • "bloke" = a guy/man
  • "digger" = a soldier
  • "rellie/relo" = a relative
  • "pom/pommy/pomie" = an Englishman (Prisoner Of Mother England)
  • "yank/yankee" = someone from the U.S.
  • "sticybeak" = a nosy person
  • "bogan" = a person who takes little pride in appearance/a drunk
  • "dero" = a derelict/someone without a home or a job
  • "feral" = a hippie 
  • "mongrel" = a despicable person
  • "bludger" = a lazy person
  • "sook" = a person who's soft
  • "dag" = a funny person
    • "tradie" = any type tradesman
    • "brickie" = a brick layer
    • "sparkie" = a electrician 
    • "truckie" = a truck driver
    • "postie" = a mail man
    • "ankle biter" = a small kid
    • "kindie" = a kindergartner
    • "nipper" = a very young surf lifesaver
    'Strayan Words for Animals:
    'Strayan Words for Parties and Festivities:
    • "roadie" = taking a beer with you/taking a beer in the car
    • "skull" = to chug a beer
    • "piss" = beer
    • "spew" = puke/vomit
    • "barbie" = barbecue
    • "buck's night/Stag's night" = a bachelor party
    • "hen's night" = a bachelorette party
    • "esky" = a cooler for your beer or liquor 
    • "grog" = liquor or beer
    • "prezzy" = present/gift
    'Strayan Words for Food:
    • "brekkie" = breakfast
    • "tea" = dinner/supper
    • "avos" = avocados
    • "fairy floss" = cotton candy
    • "lollies" = candy/sweets
    • "chewie" = gum
    • "Maccas" = McDonald's
    • "sanger" = sandwich 
    Other Interesting 'Strayan Words:
    • "reno" = renovation
    • "ta" = thank you
    • "arvo" = afternoon
    • "ute" = SUV/truck
    • "bathers" = swim trunks/swimsuits
    • "budgie smugglers" = speedos
    • "docket" = a bill/receipt
    • "sunnies" = sunglasses
    • "Uni" = University
    • "thongs" = flip flops
    • "dunny" = toilet/outside toilet
    • "root" = f*ck
    • "yakka" = work
    There's a super concise Aussie slang dictionary you can check out here for even more words too.

    P.S. This little video just recently published on Youtube gives you a little overview from some genuine Aussies. (And for my more conservative readers, keep in mind, Aussie's LOVE to cuss)

    Add me on Facebook and Twitter :)

    -Little Blonde Traveler

    Cheers to the Best Family in the World

    So, as I'm sitting here wondering how on earth to get over my recent month-long writer's block, I noticed that today is June 16th...Father's Day! For those of you who don't know...I AM THE ULTIMATE DADDY'S GIRL. Now don't get me wrong, I love my momma bear just as much, but...there's always been a special link between me and my daddy and it doesn't matter that I now live on the other side of the world from him...because that bond will always be there.

    In ode to Father's Day in America (that's right, Australia has Father's Day in September) I've decided to not only give thanks to my daddy, but to the rest of the whacky, crazy, beautiful Rooney family as well.



    On March 10th my parents and little sister took the ultimate plunge and traveled all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee to Sydney to come visit me. And let me tell you...IT WAS INCREDIBLE seeing them again. Even though living in today's world while traveling means that you can call them whenever you want, text, Facebook, and's just still not the same. And 9 months without a hug from my parents...needless to say it was quite a loud reunion when they came stumbling out of customs...

    ~To My Little Sister~

    Britt, little b, Britters, Brit-a-ny...I love you like crazy you wild little thing. It's hard to believe you'll be 21 this year AND starting your third year at Uni! I'm so happy to see you become a foxy little lady the older you get and I can't wait to see what else there is in store for the two of us.

    Thank you for choosing to spend your 2013 Spring Break in Sydney with me. You have no idea how much that meant. I'm glad you got to see this place and experience this way of life and since HERE you're at the legal age to go party, I'm glad you came out that last night with Gussie and I...even if it did get a little crazy :)

    • Stay strong and stay YOU. 
    • College is the time to learn and explore and discover, but always make sure to stay true to who you really are.
    • Make sure to love hard - so hard you might even fall on your face...but it's totally worth it in the end. 
    • And as soon as you turn 21 this year...GET OUT THERE AND PARTY YOUR PANTS OFF FOR ME :)

    "For there is no friend like a sister,
    In calm or stormy weather;
    To cheer one on the tedious way,
    To fetch one if one goes astray,
    To lift one if one totters down,
    To strengthen whilst one stands."

    Love you forever and always <3

    ~To My Momma Bear~

    I got so incredibly lucky to be born to a wonderful mother like you. We've had our ups and downs - we've butted heads and laughed so hard we both started to cry. Such great memories, momma bear. I'm glad to say that the older I've gotten, the more our bond has strengthened. I feel like you're not just my mom now, but another sister, and a best friend when I need you to be. You're full of the best advice and kindest, heart-felt sentiments - ESPECIALLY when I need them most.

    I know you were the one who had the most trouble letting me go when I decided to throw all caution to the wind and begin the solo backpacker life. I know it scared you, and I remember all the fears you confessed to me about it. But, looking back on that now, I think it's truly incredible for you to be so kind and accepting of my way of life now. It may not be what you and daddy initially had in store for me, but I think you'd agree when I say that it has all definitely turned out better than any of us could have hoped for.

    I'm SO incredibly thankful that you and dad and Brit took the time to come all the way out to Australia to see me. And I was even extra proud for you guys to come out with open minds about everything. You guys were so accepting! And then when me, you, dad, and Gus went to New Zealand so you could see my favorite city on earth...yeah, that was the icing on the cake of an incredible vacation. You and daddy are the best parents a girl could ever ask for. 

    "I got to grow up with a mother who taught me to believe in myself. What a rare gift that truly is."

    Can't wait to see what the future holds, momma bear. I love you unconditionally <3

    ~To My Daddy~

    And last but not's time for a sappy moment about my daddy. The number one man in my life, first and forever. My role model and my confidant. Dad...I cannot possibly begin to thank you enough for all of the lessons you have taught me over the years - especially the ones that I wasn't so willing to accept when I was younger. Whether you realize it now or not, but those lessons and every word of wisdom you gave to me then, I've incorporated into my life now. Yes, believe it or not, I WAS listening ;)

    I'm extremely glad that you came out to Sydney to see me, mostly because I think it was you who wanted me to come and live back at home the most. And for you to come out here and see Sydney, experience the way of life on the Northern beaches, and see just how happy this country makes me...well I could see it in your face from the very first day - in that moment you knew. And in that moment I think you accepted it all, and threw yourself head-first into Sydney life. Especially getting back in the surf...I can't wait to get you back out here again!

    But daddy, I must say, you and mom have done one hell of a job raising Britt and I and molding us into strong, confident, independent young women. I couldn't have possibly imagined a better father than you. It's super, SUPER hard being so far away from you guys now, but I must say...I think the four of us are closer now than we have ever been before. We talk all the time, and I love that I can confess my fears, worries, and concerns to you and always know that you will give me honest feedback and advice. It's more comforting than I can possibly put into words that I always have you there, no matter what.

    "A dad is someone who:
    -is his daughter's first love
    -will be there for you no matter how bad of a mistake you've made
    -will stand up for you when you need him
    -will give you hugs and a shoulder to cry on whenever you need it
    -promises you that you'll always be his little girl
    -loves you so much that he'll sacrifice whatever is needed to keep you happy and safe"

    I'll always be your little girl, daddy. I love you <3

    Alright guys, enough of the cuteness. I just figured it was about dang time I told my family just how much I truly love them and appreciate EVERYTHING they've done for me.

    ~Little Blonde Traveler

    How A Certain Someone Discovered that "Lord of The Rings" is a Direct Path To My Heart

    If you've ever met me in real life then you are without a doubt aware of my ridiculous obsession with anything and everything Lord of the Rings.

    And for those of you to have yet to meet me in real life...I'M OBSESSED.

    So engrossed with it, that from now on, you should only think of me as "Brooke, the fanatical LOTR fan". In November 2011 (at the end of my so-called "Epic Trip of a Lifetime") I found myself traveling through New Zealand...WHILE COINCIDENTALLY STALKING THE FILM CREW OF THE HOBBIT.

    Yup, you heard me right. I started in Auckland and made it all the way down to Queenstown at the same time Peter Jackson and the rest of The Hobbit film crew was there. (Yellow dots are all the places I stopped along the way)

    While I was there I got to be a part of the first tour ever let back in to Hobbiton (aka The Shire) since filming commenced for The Hobbit years earlier. I cried like a little baby...

    I stopped in the National Park to hike across the mountain they used in the movie as Mount Doom...

    And in Wellington (the capital of NZ) I did an incredible LOTR tour with the best group in the world, Wellington Movie Tours NZ where we re-enacted many of the famous LOTR scenes filmed around the city.

    But enough of my ranting (I've had a few coffees today)...because I'm not here to write about my 2011 New Zealand trip. I'm writing this blog post because of the most kind, thoughtful, and incredible gift ever given to me in the history of my 22 years on this planet.

    On December 1st, 2012 Angus and I had only been dating each other for a few weeks when I got a text from him telling me that we were going on a trip on December 10th and I was going to need my passport. Naturally...I flipped. "Where are we going???" I replied. "It's a surprise," was all he would tell me. He did tell the family I was staying with, however, and they instantly began to psyche me out. Telling me that I would love visiting Ayers Rock, even though it wasn't that romantic, and I shouldn't be upset if it's only to somewhere like Melbourne or Canberra. So for ten days I sat and worried about where Gus was taking me, and for ten days Gus, the Smith family, AND MY OWN PARENTS kept it a secret from me, my mom completely messing with my head when she told me "I hope you know some French!"

    So when the morning of December 10th rolled around, I packed a small bag for two nights and anxiously waited for my ride to appear. Susan said she had never seen me look so scared in her entire time of knowing me.

    Soon enough, my phone rang and when I went outside...there was a sleek black car and driver waiting for me who took my bags and began the long drive from the suburbs to the city to pick Gus up from work. By the time we made it I was so nervous I could hardly speak. Gus got in the back of the car with the biggest smile I've ever seen. I knew my fear was etched all over my face. I tried to play it cool, but I literally couldn't speak as my stomach flipped around inside of me.

    When we made it to the airport, Gus grabbed our bags and as we walked through the front doors, he turned around and handed me a crisp $10 New Zealand note.

    "WE'RE GOING TO NEW ZEALAND?????" I screamed, sheer joy exploding through me. "SERIOUSLY??"

    He laughed but wouldn't tell me which city until we got to the check-in counter and I got the ticket for Wellington, the capital.

    We made it through security and all the way to the Qantas lounge with Gus STILL not explaining what it was we were going to Wellington for (though I was more than okay just to be going in the first place). We got into the lounge and had a glass of champagne and some snacks...when Gus pulled out two tickets and slid them across the table to me.


    I literally screamed out loud like a little Justin Bieber fan when I saw them, causing half of the lounge to turn and stare at us...but no way on earth did I care. I couldn't believe my eyes. Gus was flying me all the way from Sydney to Wellington, NZ to take me to a midnight premier of The Hobbit, a movie I had been waiting literally a decade to see since the last Lord of the Rings movie was released.

    I was shocked/surprised/ecstatic...and desperate to share my joy with the world. I called my parents immediately (who had already known about this) and as I sat on the phone screaming, all I could think was "this is WAY better than an engagement". Seriously though, I don't think my engagement day will beat the surprise and joy I was feeling at that moment in time.

    Gus explained later that he wanted to do something special for me because he knew how much Lord of the Rings meant to me. And he had seen a few of my friends making fun of me on Facebook because The Hobbit was going to premiere in America, almost two weeks before it would premiere in Australia. And since they filmed the entire movie in Wellington, that was where the first ever public premiere was going to be held.

    We boarded the flight and made it to our hotel in downtown Wellington just before midnight. The next day Gus had booked a Lord of the Rings tour throughout the city, but since I had already done one in 2011 (above pictures) and it was raining like crazy there...I told him to cancel it.

    So instead, Gus being the most ridiculously awesome man on earth, he surprised me with a helicopter tour over the city. It was my first time ever in a helicopter...

    Then we roamed the city, visiting the WETA workshop and stalking Peter Jackson's studio where all the movies have been filmed.

    And that night Gus surprised me, YET AGAIN, by taking me to dinner at Peter Jackson's favorite restaurant in Wellington where we had a three hour dinner before our midnight movie premiere.

    I hope I don't sound like I'm bragging or gloating about all this, because that's not the point of all this...I just can't get over the lengths Gus went to to make me happy. Especially with us only knowing each other for less than a month.

    It wasn't until this trip to Wellington that I really began to let my guard down around him. I have a lot of walls and a lot of trust issues from my past (who doesn't?) and this...well this just proved how much he cared.

    Any guy could take me to a midnight showing of a movie or buy me a cool poster of it. But Gus, knowing how much Lord of the Rings meant to me, knowing how unbelievably happy it would make me...went above and beyond. I'm not used to guys going lavish for me, nor do I ever expect it...but it was the thought behind every little thing he did that made me realize just how incredible he was.

    And made me 100% sure that I could trust this boy with something I hadn't given to anyone since my massive break up in heart.


    -Little Blonde Traveler

    How a Little Bit of Luck and Meeting the Right People Can Go a Long Way

    As I mentioned in my earlier post How Life Took Me From The Gold Coast to Sydney, it was the sheer kindness and generosity of the Smith family that brought me to Sydney. They had originally bought me round trip tickets so I could go back to Surfer's Paradise, but after only my first two days in a suburb called Manly, I knew that this was a place I would much rather live.

    I hadn't seen Susan or Maddie since the summer of 2011 when I was Maddie's summer swim team coach, and I had never actually met the father, Warren. Yet still, Mrs. Smith flew me down so that I could watch over Maddie while she and Warren went to Thailand for a week and a half. Not only did they kindly pay for my flight, but they had a spare bedroom made up and ready for me, and gave me the keys to their car to drive around while they were away.

    My first night in Manly they took me out to their favorite fish and chips place near the beach and even though  in mid-October Sydney was MUCH colder than up in Surfer's Paradise, I still had a blast seeing the family again and being around fellow Tennesseans. And it was incredible to see how much Maddie had grown since seeing her last! I'm 10 years older than her and she's almost taller than me!!

    While spending my first week in Sydney, I took Maddie and her friend down for an afternoon at the beach and on the way back home, I stopped at a random cafe to grab a coffee. I noticed how busy the place was and asked the guy making my coffee is he was the owner. Turns out he was. We got to chatting and within the length of time required to make a coffee, I had a new job, starting as soon as the Smith's got back from Thailand.

    I was stoked.

    The week and a half taking care of Maddie flew by and before I knew it the Smith's were back in town. I announced my decision to not fly back to Surfer's Paradise and in complete surprise, the Smith's were just as happy for me. So happy, in fact, that they immediately offered for me to stay at their house with them free of charge for as long as I needed. Again, I was absolutely blown away by their kindness.

    I started working at the cafe part-time, making enough money to survive (especially since I didn't have to pay for most of my food or rent - again, thanks to the Smith's). And ironically enough, it was through the cafe that I started making a lot of new friends.

    Being an American, let's just say that my waiting services were MUCH HIGHER than the other waitress's. I was kind, attentive, and worked as though I was going to get tips (which is NOT common in Australia). And because of my friendliness, a lot of regulars and locals started to know me as the "Girl from Four Olives Cafe".

    And it was through the cafe that I met two super awesome people: Angus and Luke.

    Luke and I quickly became good friends, and since he was quite older than me, he became a mentor of sorts. Not only did he take me around in race cars and introduce me to a more "fancy" side of Sydney life...

    ...but he became someone I could talk to about all my fears and worries...and receive confidence, guidance, and wisdom in return. He was there for me when I had a lot of concerns about what I was doing with my life, where I was going, and what in the world I was going to do next. For his friendship and willingness to show me the true meaning of Aussie generosity, I don't think I could ever thank him enough.

    And then one day in November at the cafe (exactly one month from me arriving in Sydney) I was minding my own business when a very handsome and energetic man walked up to order a muffin and a coffee from me. I had seen him at the cafe before, and for some reason or another, that particular morning we happened to hold each other's eye contact for a bit longer than usual. Then he left and I went on with my shift...until about twenty minutes later when I walked outside to greet a new table and there he was. The same cute guy, with a friend, sitting down to order more breakfast and another coffee. "This can't be a coincidence," I remember thinking to myself.

    Angus (Gus) proceeded to be the most needy customer I ever had, making me run back and forth to get cracked pepper, avocado, Vegemite and everything else in between. But I had a sneaking suspicion that he was just trying to find ways to keep talking to me (since it was VERY busy at the cafe that morning) and by the time he and his mate finished up breakie, I made up my mind and in a rash moment of confidence, told him that he should add me on Facebook so we could catch up sometime.

    (TIP TO THE LADIES OUT THERE: Telling a guy to add you on Facebook first is usually a much better option than giving out your number, because this way you can kind of suss the guy out through his profile.)

    Gus seemed to be very taken aback by my forwardness, but quickly wrote down my name and when I got off my shift a few hours later, I had a message from him waiting for me. And on a whim, I decided to take up his offer for dinner...

    And we haven't looked back since.

    He started off just showing me the sights and experiences to be had in Sydney, and in between all of that I began to fall quite hard for him.

    It's almost the end of February now, and I still can't believe so much has happened to me since moving to Sydney on October 17th. I will never forget the absolute kindness of the Smith family, nor will I ever forget them. I consider them all to be part of my family now, and I know that time will never change that. All three of them mean the world to me.

    Luke and I still keep in touch when he meets Gus and I on the weekends for breakie and he and I still chat like little high school girls about life and relationships. 

    I'm writing this near the end of February and Gus and I are now officially dating and still going strong. He makes me so happy it's a tad bit ridiculous, really. But I don't want to say too much about him just yet because my next post is going to be about a very VERY special thing he did for me and my very strange obsession with Lord of the Rings.

    Until then...

    -Little Blonde Traveler

    Why 2012 Was My Best Year Yet

    It's a pretty surreal feeling when I scroll back through my blog and my picture albums on Facebook. From where I was this time last year in 2012 to where I am now in 2013...well, I'm literally on the opposite side of the earth and in a completely different mindset.

    Since I had blown my entire life savings in 2011 while traveling through South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand...from January 2012 to the beginning of July 2012 I was working an 8-5 job on the weekdays, and working a part-time gig on the weekends all to save up for my ultimate trip to leave the country and move to Australia. But the "corporate world" soon had me depressed and longing for world travel and in February, I took $1,000 and two weeks off to visit some friends in Europe.

    I visited Amsterdam, Netherlands:

    Barcelona, Spain:

    And Aalborg, Denmark: 

    But after I returned to the States, I had to bite the bullet and work and save, work and save...

    I lived in a condo with my two best girl friends, Sarah and Carolyn but other than that, was quite a social recluse, constantly fantasizing about where and when I was going to leave Tennessee next. In the end, I decided that I wanted to apply for a one year Working Holiday Visa in Australia. $175 and 24 hours later, my visa was accepted and I had up to April 2013 to arrive in Australia for my visa to begin.

    So then I had to decide the hardest question of them all...WHEN?

    I did some math and realized that I would have around $7,000 by July (which included selling my car and computers and other electronics). My family is famous for our annual July 4th party so I decided that I would make my departure date a week later on July 10th. I also realized that since I had a few grand, I was definitely going to make a few pit-stops along the way before arriving in Australia.

    That's when I got to work looking at my flight options and ultimately decided on this schedule:

    -San Diego for one day
    -Oahu, Hawaii for one week
    -Kauai, Hawaii for two weeks
    -Oahu, Hawaii for two days
    -Bali, Indonesia for two weeks
    -Jakarta, Indonesia for one week
    -Then arrive in Brisbane, Australia and figure things out from there.

    The night before I left, I decide to throw a last minute going away party, which turned out to be the worst decision I could have made. Because EVERYONE I loved and cared about most in Knoxville showed up to say their goodbyes and give me their well-wishes...which made me realize just how much I had taken all of their love and support for granted over the past years.

    But the next day I stemmed the flow of tears as I said goodbye to my parents, slung my massive backpack over my shoulder...and began my Epic Adventure of a Lifetime.

    ...And that's where my this blog began. At the very beginning of my adventure.

    If you've followed along with my blog, then you know about my experience falling down the waterfall in Hawaii, or the thieving monkey in Bali. If you don't know these stories, then I've created links to all of my blog posts (in chronological order) below...

    1. My Last Day of the "Corporate Grind"
    2. Mixed Emotions
    1. My First Few Days in Oahu, Hawaii
    2. My Week in Oahu
    3. My First Impression of Kauai, Hawaii
    4. How I Discovered the Moodswings of Poseidon and His Ocean
    5. So Much to See and Do in Kalalau!
    6. A Native American Sweat Lodge in Hawaii
    7. Homesickness
    8. How to Fall Down a Waterfall
    9. The Ultimate Sea Kayak Adventure
    10. Our First Night at Polihale Beach
    11. Not the Best Experience at Polihale
    12. How I Learned to Hitchhike
    13. Saying Goodbye to Hawaii and Hello to Two Days of Travel
    1. Why HOSTELS Are the Key to Successful Travelling
    2. Surfing the Indian Ocean For My Daddy
    3. How to Party...Bali Style
    4. Monkeys in Indonesia...They Own the Place!
    5. The Wonder of Ancient Temples
    6. Ripcurl Anyone?
    7. This Post Has Been A Long Time Coming...
    8. Why You Should SERIOUSLY Avoid the Water in Indonesia
    9. My Jaunt Through Jakarta - The City Where Blonde Hair Is a Traffic-Stopper
    1. My First Week in Australia and the Generosity of Strangers
    2. How to Start a Life in Australia
    3. How Life Took Me From The Gold Coast to Sydney
    So, to re-cap...

    2012 has without a doubt been the best and most influential year of my life. And I can't wait to get back in the swing of things and update on the crazy experiences that have fallen my way while here in Sydney...

    But in the mean time, I'll post this picture as a sneak preview...

    -Little Blonde Traveler