Sometimes you have those days where it’s just really hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed, go to class, or do your work. On those days, it’s easy to sit inside and binge on Netflix all day long. At home, I used to succumb to these feelings often. But here—in tropical, sunny, north Queensland—I haven’t once had the desire to sit inside and binge watch my favorite TV shows.
From the moment I step out of my apartment in the student lodge, my world is full of beauty. The walkway of the apartments is shaded by palm trees in the courtyard, and if I reach out far enough, I can even touch the leaves of the mango tree that grows there too. Outside of the courtyard, on the walk to the dining hall, there are little geckos hiding in the grass or clinging to the awning above the walk. The pathway is lined with tropical ferns, colorful flowers, and short palm trees. When I walk to campus, the mountains come into view. They are covered by tropical rainforest. The tops of the trees show where the mountain dips and curves, and where the streams are. I can’t help but stare in awe. The locals probably think I look crazy. To them, this is normal.
I often notice a smile on my face as I watch the flocks of birds move from tree to tree, sometimes wandering in the field. Small magpies with stunning black and white feathers, little black birds that glide effortlessly in the air, and even the occasional cockatoo, creamy white with a wide wingspan. Everyday I see butterflies. Beautiful blues, captivating oranges, and little dotted white ones. Never in my life have I had the privilege of experiencing an ecosystem so alive. I used to dream about what it was like for the settlers who first arrived in America, and even before that, when there were so many birds that the sound of their songs drowned out all other noises, and the density of their flocks were like storm clouds, blocking the sun.
I’ve been in Cairns for three weeks, and so far I’ve knocked a lot off of my bucket list. I pet a kangaroo. I held a koala. I fed wild wallabies. I hiked in rocky Granite Gorge. I saw the beautiful Barron Falls. I swam in water holes at Crystal Cascades and at Stoney Creek. I napped on the beach at Palm Cove. I took an hour long boat ride out to Fitzroy Island (and survived!) and walked on top of a coral beach. I made Aussie friends. I raced on a sailboat in the harbor. I went to a toga party. I visited the hippie village of Kuranda. And this is only the beginning.
For me, Cairns represents endless opportunity and endless adventure. A day spent inside is a day wasted—unless of course, I’ve been in class or studying. The average temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s a pool next to my accommodation and a beach ten minutes away. There’s a community of people, many of whom are international, that are always in the courtyard up to something. Sometimes it’s as simple as a game of beer pong or tetherball, and sometimes it’s a makeshift swing made out of bungee cords and a shower rod.
I love Cairns because it’s alive. The sunshine, the wildlife, and the people all coax me out of my room and into a world that is new and beautiful and awesome. I love Cairns because it’s a small city, where I don’t get lost in the mix. It’s easy to make friends, since everyone is so nice. I love Cairns because I feel like I belong here, in the sun and the sand. I love Cairns because it’s my home away from home.