Melbourne is known as the cultural epicenter of Australia, and I quickly understood why. The city carries an understated cool attitude that I haven’t seen in Sydney and Byron Bay. I originally planned spend four days in Melbourne. Unfortunately, I only had two days in Melbourne due to a visa snafu, but I made the most of it by exploring what Melbourne is known for - its food, coffee and arts scene.
Melbourne residents are certainly proud of this as well. Many were born and raised in the city, and they are fiercely proud of it. My first day in Melbourne was spent in the quirky, colorful Collingwood-Fitzroy neighborhoods. There were many small commercial art galleries, artist-run spaces and studios surrounded by cafes and rooftop bars. Murals and street art covered the walls of the brick warehouses, and some were more than 100 feet tall. Countless eateries lined the streets giving residents opportunity to sample dishes from around the world. I caught sunset from the rooftop of Naked for Satan and grabbed a nightcap with strangers at the Everleigh.
The people were equally as diverse and unique as the neighborhood coming from all walks of life. They’re incredibly warm and friendly to strangers and friends, alike. While having coffee and breakfast at Proud Mary, the one of locals proceeded to tell me his life story about he came to Melbourne from England via Southeast Asia. I also chatted up with a server from Portland, Oregon who came to Australia on a holiday working visa.
Situated along the Yarra River, people flooded the streets and plaza of the bustling city center. During lunch hour, the restaurants’ outdoor patios were filled to the brim. Street performers and live bands were out in full force entertaining residents and visitors on Federation Square. Tiny streets and alleys were lined with small eateries and pubs. I initially planned for a short lunch, but the chef’s menu was actually a five-course Italian affair. Two Australian men - musicians by trade - insisted on sharing their wine while we chatted about the recent US election results and its potential effects on the rest of the world. I was promptly invited to a concert, but unfortunately (and regretfully), I couldn’t make it.
Loving life is easy when you are abroad, where no one knows you and you hold your life in in your hands all alone. Traveling solo to a place where you are among strangers can be both frightening and exhilarating at the same time. It enables you to become master of yourself than at any other time. I never wanted to limit myself because of others’ limited imagination, but I also don’t want to limit others’ imagination due to my own limited imagination. Although I was in a country that spoke English, the differences in accent, vocabulary and slang still felt foreign. People only learn about themselves in relation to another, whether it is a person, object or place. By exposing myself to the wide range of human potentialities, I gain a deeper, more diverse knowledge of not only the world but push the boundaries of my own self-belief.