First Impressions of the Land Down Under

After one and a half years in crowded Asia, I breathed a sigh of relief to be back in a Western country. I was no longer a minority, no longer considered a tourist, and no longer misunderstood. English is spoken fluently in Australia. My flight from Bali, Indonesia landed me in Cairns, Australia -- the self proclaimed "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef."

Downtown Cairns.

My first impression of Australia was like being back in America: wide streets, Western architecture, affluent lifestyles, mellow people, and lots of cars. My biggest shock was re-discovering the ubiquitous supermarket and having so many options once again. Don't ever take the bounty of capitalism for granted. It is a luxury very few people of the world enjoy.

Needless to say, the cost of living is higher in Australia than neighboring Southeast Asia. Approximately two to three times more expensive, and Australia is much cheaper than the USA. On the other hand, wages are good and the nature of the system allows oversea travelers to work under the table. In Australia it is possible to hitchhike, see new movie releases, make new and interesting friends, go to all-U-can-eat restaurants, etc . . . Ahhh, the joy of living in the West!

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