Australian Adventures

The Road to OZ: WTF, Universe?

“Marvin, you don’t understand. These are my hopes, my dreams, my only future plans hanging in the balance here!” I made some indiscernible whining noise in the hopes of emphasizing my exasperation. “You know I’m good for it, and you know this isn’t my fault.” I looked at my clock and winced at the time. “Marvin, I’m tired, it’s five in the morning here and I don’t know what to doooooo.” I surprised myself with how I howled through the o’s. Clearly I was desperate. Coyote desperate.

The Aussie on the other line chuckled warmly and said in his sexy-but-slightly-indistinguishable-accent, “I understand Miss Billings, but until you manage to get your bank on board there’s not much that I can do for you except assure you that we will not cancel your booking at the moment.”

I rolled over on my bed, staring at the plaques and medals dangling on my wall. It had been awhile since I’d spent a night in my childhood room. I was reminded of the late night phone calls I’d had with my girlfriends in high school. And reminiscent of those days, I was once again up all hours of the night.

This time it had nothing to do with the insomnia or teen angst; I was facing yet another roadblock in my plans to go Down Under. And while I suppose I was to come face-to-face with travel glitches at some point, I didn’t think it would be while I was planning for a trip in the comfort of my Vegas home.

I sighed heavily. Too bad I wasn’t a teenager. Marvin’s Australian accent would have been enough to soothe me to sleep back in the good ol’ days. But tonight (this morning?) his words were less than satisfying.

We’d been down a long road together, Marvin and I. Unfortunately it was so unromantic I was ashamed to be a part of it. But even though this was no Twilight fan-fiction, Marvin would determine whether or not I would board the world’s largest plane to Sydney. I desperately needed him; I was being screwed and I was pretty sure God was in on it.

It all started when I decided to go to Fiji to spend a couple of weeks living with the natives. I had been invited out by a friend who also happens to be one the chieftains of the Fire Dancer tribe. I couldn’t turn down such an amazing and unique opportunity, so I worked odd jobs (and humiliating ones) to pay for the airfare. Once the goal became plausible, I realized I could make my necessary layover in Australia. Suddenly I was bombarded with fantastical images of me walking past the Opera House in Sydney, scuba diving in The Great Barrier Reef, and watching the boys rip from the beaches of Surfer’s Paradise. Once the fantasy was planted in my brain it was GAME ON. I’m all about seizing an opportunity so naturally, I started shopping around to see who had the best deals on airfare for my five-stop trip.

Expedia was first. After plugging in estimated dates of arrival and departure, I clicked the search button, excited to see what the popular booking site would come back with. I could picture the possibilities popping up in my head. It was going to be good.

But the numbers that came back were perplexing. They didn’t seem right. Too expensive.

Not worried, I opened a new window to Travelocity. But searching their site led to more expensive (and depressing) flights. I even tried calling them to see if they would beat Expedia’s pricing. The snobby representative claimed it would not be possible for me to even get to Fiji on the budget I had and hung up. Hotwire, Kayak, and Priceline yielded even bleaker outcomes.

I was almost out of ideas when I decided to call Qantas directly (most of the flights I was considering were through their airline anyway). That’s when my relationship with Marvin began, many moons ago. He managed to get all the flights I wanted on the days I wanted for less money than any of the booking sites (take that, misleading commercials). He even reserved a seat for me on the A380, the world’s largest plane for my flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. I would have kissed him had he not been 8,000 miles away.

But just when I thought my happy ending was near, something terrible happened: my form of payment had been denied.

And as things like this go, I did not find out about it until a few days later when I was floating on the high of seized opportunity. And naturally, I was driving with my friend downtown (situations like these always seem to require witnesses). Angie watched in wonder as I flipped out on the bank associate unlucky enough to deal with me. “Do you not understand that this trip, this five-flight trip, took me four hours to book? Do you not realize that they are nineteen hours ahead of us in Australia? That you are dealing with a company who doesn’t do business during your bank hours?”

The bank associate was as snobby, rude, and unhelpful as the Travelocity dude (granted, I was shrieking like banshees do when provoked). “Sorry, Miss Billings, but you only have a debit card. And your debit card has a daily limit and we can only up that limit during our hours of operation. We do this for your protection.”

I begged and pleaded with her, wanting these Cold War negotiations to begin. I offered her my social security number, my word as a former Girl Scout, a sworn statement sealed in blood that I was okay with them upping my limit for a couple of days so this transaction could go through. But the bubblegum bimbo wasn’t buying it. It probably didn’t help that I called her such to her face (as Angie would put it, I lost my ‘Angel Wings’ that day). But as my home-girls sing in the movie Chicago, I betcha you would have done the same.

So here I was, once again on the phone with Marvin trying to explain to him the ridiculous process American banks make their patrons go through and how even though I had the money, I couldn’t pay him.

Marvin listened patiently as I recounted my five visits to my bank over the past week and my life philosophy on debt-free living. How I had broken down in crocodile tears in one bank associate’s cubicle and suffered vivid dreams about trying to board the flight to Australia, only to be dragged away from the gate by bank tellers. “Marvin, seriously… I have severe anxiety about this. What can I do?”

He paused and then slowly responded, “Well, Miss Billings, as much as I understand your feelings on the matter, I believe this is the time to consider getting a credit card.”

I hurled a pillow at my closet. “But I don’t want a credit card, Marvin.”

“Well, Miss Billings, I think that the universe is saying differently.” Touché, Qantas airline representative, touché. He promised to expedite the transaction process again, in the hopes that my bank would uphold their half of the bargain this time around (I mean, we were only FIVE denied transactions in… maybe six was the magic number). “Is there anything else I can do for you today, Miss Billings?”

As fond as I had grown of Marvin, I was ready for our long-distance relationship to come to a close. I bit my nails and thought for a moment. I wanted validation, comfort, and a promise that this was going to be our last all-nighter. I mean, I wasn’t sixteen anymore. My body couldn’t handle the stress or lack of sleep like it used to. In the end, I just said, “No. I don’t think there’s anything else.” Marvin wished me a good night (morning?) and we hung up. Humming the chorus to Living on a Prayer, I turned off the light and went to sleep.

The next morning (afternoon, really) I checked my e-mail. I don’t know if it was my tribute to Bon Jovi the night before, the relentless persistence, or if God just got tired of watching me squirm, but there it was: the confirmation e-mail from Qantas saying the transaction had gone through. I sighed heavily and let my forehead fall to the desk in relief.

I finally had my plane-ticket for my Australia/Fijian adventure. I mentally thanked the Universe for the break.

“Oz… Oz… Oz…” I murmured the word to myself over and over, not bothering to lift my head off my desk. My beagle poked her head in my room to see what I was up to and trotted off, unimpressed by my crumpled display.

Then a thought occurred to me. I was leaving in a week for OZ. This was going to be my farthest and longest trip out of the country. I wasn’t going to be in Kansas anymore… and I had no ruby slippers to bring me back if it sucked.

Wait, was I seriously experiencing homesickness before even getting on a plane? I sat up and rubbed my forehead. I must have hit it harder than I thought.

I sighed. Who knew my road to OZ would be so twisted? And what was with the sudden twinges of nostalgia? Maybe the universe wasn’t done with me yet…

After spending a moment contemplating the weirdness, I shook it off. Concluding I needed to go through this for a reason, I took a long look around my room, trying to burn the space into my memory. After all, there really was no place like home.

Eight days to OZ. Here’s hoping I don’t encounter any more flying monkeys…

134 Comments

  • Reply

    ghummakkad

    April 16, 2012

    Have fun!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much! I hope I will! Given this rocky start I’m a little nervous… but regardless it will be an adventure!

  • Reply

    Christina

    April 16, 2012

    I’m sure all your troubles will be worth it and you won’t need or want any red shoes for a quick return… happy and safe travels!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much Christina, for your comforting words! Thank you so much!

      I see you’ve visited Australia? Any words of advice for a newcomer like me? Or places I dare not miss (restaurants, coffee shops, adventures)?

      Happy adventuring!

      • Reply

        Christina

        April 16, 2012

        Where shall I start…there’s plenty of cool things to see…will you be going to Sydney?

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 16, 2012

          Yes. I am going to Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane. =)

          • Christina

            April 16, 2012

            How exciting! I’m so keen to read all about your impressions! Sydney will probably be a bit chillie already so I’d recommend plenty of drinks in Newtown after dark to keep you warm. Opera house, harbour bridge, zoo is all worth a look in Sydney. If you have time go out to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Brisbane: a trip on the river is nice. Cairns: snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef is a must! If you have time drive out to Port Douglas for Sunday markets – both Brissie and Cairns are great to visit this time of the year…how much time do you have??? I’m so excited for you!!!

          • Hilary Billings

            April 16, 2012

            Wow, thanks for all of the suggestions! I’ll be sure to take them all to heart!

            I’m only going to be in OZ for about two weeks on my way to Fiji to live with the firedancer tribe for a month. But whatever I don’t get to this time around, I will certainly have to check out next time!

            I’m excited for me too! Thanks for your support and encouragement. Can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

  • Reply

    Mipichi

    April 16, 2012

    I hope you have a wonderful trip here in Australia! Please do come to Melbourne! :D

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much!

      Unfortunately I won’t be making it out to Melbourne this time… Bummer, I know! But I definitely will make it out that way the next time I get out! This trip I’ll be focusing my adventures in Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney.

  • Reply

    Denny

    April 16, 2012

    You’ll love Sydney! The daytime temperature will probably still be in the twenties, and even in the weather lets you down the harbour looks great. I’m a kiwi (New Zealander). We’re across the ditch from . Too bad you didn’t make you’re stopover in Auckland, but that aside, Sydney is still a fun place to visit. I’m probably the same age as your mum, my kids probably older than you, but I travel on a budget, and most times I visit Sydney I stay in backpackers in Manly. I’ve stayed there when I’ve travelled with my daughter. Manly is on the other side of the harbour from the city but it’s only 30 minutes by ferry. In fact, using the ferries is a great way to see the best of Sydney. You’ve probably already done your research, but the public transport is brilliant. A day or week pass includes busses, trains and ferries, and like I said the ferries are great – Sydney is best seen from the water.
    Good luck and enjoy Sydney!

    Denny

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much for all of your sage advice, Denny! I will be sure to do what I can to make the most of the experience!

      And I had no idea you were in Auckland! What a bummer, but next time I’ll be sure to head out your way. It would be lovely to meet you one of these days!

  • Reply

    thewondermya

    April 16, 2012

    yey ! It is going to be awesome !!!

  • Reply

    Margret Bagwell

    April 16, 2012

    pretty good insights. I’ll be sure to stop by and read more from you. thanks.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      So glad you liked it! I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures with you!

      Be well~

  • Reply

    Intermittante

    April 16, 2012

    So glad it turned out alright for you! That sounds like you’ve been in some -serious- stress.. but totally worth it ;)

    Have FUN! x

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, yeah well, stressed as my privileged butt is. I feel guilty sometimes for getting stressed out about my circumstances. I know it’s all relative, but the reality is I still get to live the lifestyle I want and I have all that I need. But regardless, I am happy to have this past me!

      And thank you so much! I can’t wait to share the next steps with you!!

      • Reply

        Intermittante

        April 17, 2012

        Stress is stress, doesn’t matter where it’s from. Privileged or not; it’s still real. It’s hard work to get your dreams together, no matter what you do :)

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          =) Thanks so much for your support!

          What kind of adventures do you have in your life?

          • Intermittante

            April 20, 2012

            At the moment we’re looking at buying a new home :) The one we’re living in currently has become a bit too small for the two of us (1 bedroom, small kitchen, 1 livingroom) and at the end of the year we’re planning to stop living like students and start living like responsible adults, heheh. And Greece, in a couple of weeks :)

          • Hilary Billings

            April 21, 2012

            That’s awesome! What a great new adventure to be having! And I love how you just throw in the, “Oh yeah, and on top of being super awesome, we’re going to Greece.” Sounds like you have the best of both worlds!

            Please keep in touch and let me know how things progress!

          • Intermittante

            April 24, 2012

            Thank you, I will then :) I intend to blog about our getaway in Greece and take muuuuuch and many photos. And see if I can find a greek belly dance course ;)

          • Hilary Billings

            April 24, 2012

            That sounds great! And yes, you should definitely be on the lookout for such a thing =).

  • Reply

    gumiii

    April 16, 2012

    This might not help in your budgeting but there is fantastic diving in Fiji…

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Is there? Haha, darns that budget! I’m definitely going to be doing some diving while I’m in Australia. I really have no idea what I’m going to be up to once I get to Fiji (I’m leaving that up to the villagers I’m going to be staying with).

      But if I get the chance (and my budget allows) I will be sure to check it out!

      I’m assuming you’ve been?

      • Reply

        gumiii

        April 17, 2012

        Yep. Fantastic place and people. And so is the marine life. BUT if you’re doing GBR (jealous!!) snorkeling in Fiji will still be cool.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          Sounds like a great experience! Would love to hear more about it one day!

          How long ago did you go to Fiji? Do you do a lot of diving?

          Happy adventuring!

          • gumiii

            April 20, 2012

            Yeah maybe one day I’ll get to write online what is sitting on my travel notes. Maybe. It was about 5 years ago I think when I was there. I went there mostly for the diving. I’d love to hear what it is like this time and your version of the trip; -)

          • Hilary Billings

            April 21, 2012

            I think you should do it! But only when you’re ready. Trying to force the creative juices to flow can be a pain. =)

            And I will certainly be posting about it! I hope you’ll check back =).

          • gumiii

            April 21, 2012

            I’m following you so you bet I will! ;-) And you still have to plan a trip to Southeast Asia!
            Happy trails!

          • Hilary Billings

            April 22, 2012

            Whoohoo! Thanks for subscribing!

            And yes, that will definitely be a trip to plan soon! =)

  • Reply

    You’ll be in awe when you see the A380 Airbus. I flew on it for the first time when I visited Dubai. Enormous isn’t big enough of a word to describe the size of this airplane….

    – Jo

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Hey Jo! I know, I’m a little intimidated to check it out! I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the concept for weeks, but it’s still not registering.

      I can’t wait to meet you and your sister! And I have to hear more about this trip to Dubai. =)

  • Reply

    James

    April 16, 2012

    You know what they say, Hilary – things are always better after some sleep! Kudos to you for being persistent and holding onto your dreams.

    I can totally understand your situation; the process of getting a Spanish student visa was unbelievably stressful and nerve-wracking. One day the guys at the consulate would tell you one thing, the next day they’d tell you something else! I couldn’t believe the ridiculous nature of their demands – it was something like two weeks or less before my scheduled departure and they were making it just so difficult!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, absolutely! Sleep always makes things better!

      And that sounds super stressful! I’m glad that you got it worked out, though! Was it worth it?

      • Reply

        James

        April 17, 2012

        You know what the funniest thing was, Hilary? It was a student visa alright, but in reality it was basically a visa to get another visa. I told them I needed 9 months but they gave me only 3, and then said that I would have to apply for a longer-term ID card when I got there.

        Despite all the troubles I have to say that the process was absolutely worth it – I’m sure you’ll be saying the same once you land in Australia and Fiji!

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          Wow, what a crazy experience! I’m glad you made it through okay!

          And I’m sure I will, too! Can’t wait =).

  • Reply

    Gold and silver

    April 16, 2012

    Hope your stress will overcome very soon.. Have fun ..

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you very much! I know once I get on the plane I’ll feel better. Thanks for your support!

      Looking forward to sharing my adventures with you!

  • Reply

    April 16, 2012

    The things we do for the stuff we really want. But you know, when you finally get it, it’s worth all the trouble at the end. Have a good trip!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      I absolutely agree! And thank you so much! I’m sure it will be a memorable one!

  • Reply

    Libby Adams

    April 16, 2012

    Great to hear you’re finally getting to Australia. My husband stayed there on a layover back to the States and his hotel overlooked the Opera House. He turned on video on Skype so I could see what his room was like and what he saw out the window. Look forward to hearing what you think about Australia.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      I’m very excited about it! I’ll definitely be blogging about it and can’t wait to get some insights on how to travel around OZ best!

      Sounds like your husband made the best use of his time! What does he do?

  • Reply

    Erica

    April 16, 2012

    What a hassle! I’m glad you got it all figured out (and that Marvin was awesome through it all). At least you’re not in Beijing on a layover, just realizing that you need a visa to enter Australia… oops! That was an interesting run around on the tails of the only person who spoke any semblance of English. You’ll have an amazing time in Sydney! If you want to pet roos, go to the Koala park instead of the zoo. :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, I’m glad I got through it, too!

      Wow, now THAT sounds stressful! How did you get through that one?

      And thanks so much for your support! I am definitely going to a sanctuary so I can play with the roos and koala bears! Can’t wait!

      • Reply

        Erica

        April 17, 2012

        When things get stressful, I tend to approach them with a certain degree of resignation, just for my own sanity, so it wasn’t too bad.

        Turns out that you can get a visa through Quantas airlines at the airport… AND it was cheaper than buying it ahead of time. Still, this method is not advised. :)

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          Haha, I am completely on board with resigning to the situation! I feel like the more we fight what’s happening the worse off we are. You have to ride the horse in the direction it’s going, ya know? ;)

          And that’s good to know! I already got my visa (just because I wanted to make sure it was all taken care of) but I greatly appreciate you sharing your wisdom!

          I look forward to swapping OZ stories with you soon!

          • Erica

            April 20, 2012

            Yeah… I hear that most people, you know, plan ahead. ha!

            So excited to read about your adventures!! Have so much fun!!

          • Hilary Billings

            April 21, 2012

            Thank you so much, lady! Can’t wait!!

  • Reply

    haileyjw

    April 16, 2012

    So happy it worked out for you! Bloody airlines! Have an amazing trip and I can’t wait to hear all about it! What sorts of things do you pack for an adventure like that?

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      I know, those bloody airlines (and banks!) Thank you so much for the well-wishing!

      Because the weather is going to be relatively nice, I’m just bringing a couple swimsuits, cover-ups, and a few other outfits. Trying to pack light, since I’m going to be moving around so much. Definitely will be packing my camera, lots of sunscreen and bug spray! I’ll be sure to do a post on the essentials after I go through that experience and can provide some sage wisdom =).

  • Reply

    ridgesandripples

    April 16, 2012

    Have a great trip! I’m sure it will be a blast! Glad you worked our your travel issues!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much! I’m glad I worked it out too =).

      • Reply

        ridgesandripples

        April 16, 2012

        Can’t wait to see pictures and hear stories!

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          I can’t wait to share them!

          What has been your favorite trip or most memorable adventure thus far?

          • ridgesandripples

            April 19, 2012

            My favorite trip ever has been to Machu Picchu and Cuzco in Peru. Cuzco is just such a gorgeous city and then Machu Picchu is just one stunning view after another! What trip has been your favorite so far?

          • Hilary Billings

            April 22, 2012

            Ooooh, Peru is definitely one of those places I need to get to soon!

            Hmmm… I’ve had so many amazing adventures, and everyday it changes. I had an amazing time at the temples of Chichen Itza in Mexico. We got caught in a rain storm on the summer solstice and ended up dancing in the jungle underneath the massive pyramids. Just amazing. =)

          • ridgesandripples

            April 23, 2012

            That sounds like fun! I’ve only been in the northern parts of Mexico such as Tijuana, and Ensenada.

          • Hilary Billings

            April 23, 2012

            One day you’ll have to get down that way, it’s beautiful!

            Do you have any travel plans in the works now?

          • ridgesandripples

            April 23, 2012

            I definitely will!

            The only travel plans in the works right now is our move to Denver on July 4th. My husband and I live in central PA right now so we are definitely looking forward to moving!

            When is your Australia trip or are you already on it?

          • Hilary Billings

            April 24, 2012

            Whoohoo Denver! Such a fun city. And much closer to Vegas! =)

            I leave today, actually!

          • ridgesandripples

            April 24, 2012

            Everyone keeps saying it is a fun city! I am definitely looking forward to exploring it and surrounding areas!

            Have a safe trip! Can’t wait to see pictures and hear stories! How long are you going to be in Australia and then how long are you going to be in Fiji?

          • Hilary Billings

            April 24, 2012

            Thank you so much!

            I will be in Australia for about two weeks and then on to Fiji for a month. =) It’s very exciting.

          • ridgesandripples

            April 24, 2012

            That is super exciting! I am definitely jealous!

  • Reply

    Hailey

    April 16, 2012

    Yeah you need a credit card. You need to start building up credit. Just use it and then immediately pay it off. If you understand that a CC isn’t money and you have to repay it then you shouldn’t get into trouble. ;) I’m glad your plans worked out :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, thanks Hailey! I know… I’ve been looking into it, but it makes my head hurt!

      I’m glad my plans worked out too! =)

  • Reply

    futuredoll

    April 16, 2012

    I think Marvin may have been right-the universe was speaking about the credit card! I know but… Have an awesome trip-can’t wait for the photo’s!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      I know! It’s one of those double edged swords! I’m hoping I can get through my trip and then I’ll come back and look into it… Ugh! ;)

      Thanks so much! I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

  • Reply

    Say Gudday

    April 16, 2012

    Being a native, here’s my tips for your maximum enjoyment and survival:
    1) In Fiji, stay on Mystery Island where you stay in a shack literally right on the beach i.e. 10 feet away. It’s one of the best experiences I have ever had anywhere.
    2) Watch out for drop bears, those things will kill you! (see my FB page if you don’t know what they are, I posted some information last night).

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Whoa, drop bears? I’m going to have to go check out your site… those sound scary!!! But thanks so much the advice! I can’t wait to swap stories with you when I get back! And as always, I greatly appreciate your support and encouragement on my ventures! =)

  • Reply

    nukemm33

    April 16, 2012

    BTW, when I was in Sydney, I rode the bus line all over the city. It’s really cheap and you get to see a lot of really cool sites. The gardens right by the Opera house are really cool too. They are full of exotic birds and plants. Also, like I mentioned (I think) in a previous comment, at the other side of the bridge in Sydney (opposite the opera house), there are a lot of cool shops, kiosks, foods, art, and a little carnival area.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Thank you so much for the insight! I’m going to be staying in Sydney harbor so I’m looking forward to getting the full Monty out of that experience! I will be sure to check out the cool shops and gardens as well!

      How long were you in Sydney for? Looking forward to swapping Aussie tales soon! =)

      • Reply

        nukemm33

        April 20, 2012

        I was only there 9 days. I actually won a trip called “Jet with Jet” where I got to travel there with the band jet to the Homebake festival and get a private performance by them. The biggest problem I had in Sydney was the cost. Although there money has less value, minimum wage there is like 16.50. A hamburger and fries cost me 15 bucks. The good thing is that McDonalds, which they call “Mackers” is really cheap, lol. I’d be happy to write and tell you about all my experiences. It was an eventful trip.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 21, 2012

          Whoa! You got a private concert by Jet? How cool are you? I love Jet!

          And that sounds like my experience in London. Thanks so much for the heads up!

          And yes, I would love to hear more about it. You can e-mail me through my contact page if you like. Please bear with me if I’m slow to respond. Once I leave Australia I’m heading to a remote village in Fiji so I have no idea what my internet situation will be. =)

          Looking forward to hearing more about your travels!

      • Reply

        nukemm33

        April 20, 2012

        By the way, if you drink, a 6 pack of Corona cost me 18 dollars while I was there. I suggest drinking wine. It’s a lot cheaper. Also, they have a large Asian population in Sydney and you can find some really cheap thai food in certain parts of town. Additionally, after a lot of searching I was able to find a grocery store hidden inside a mall area and I ended up living off of Ramen noodles for the last three days.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 21, 2012

          Oh man! That sounds like quite the adventure! And again, thanks for the tips! I’m hoping I don’t blow all my cash in Sydney, but maybe that will be a post all in itself, “How to to do Sydney on 20 bucks a day…” =)

  • Reply

    Ed

    April 16, 2012

    Oh, I know how those international calls can go… Try doing it in French with a collection agency >_< Fortunately, as scary as that was, the guy was really nice, and as far as I can tell, it has all been taken care of.

    I must say I'm a bit envious that you get to go down under. Australia and New Zealand are on my list of places to see, but now I'll have your expertise to refer to when I plan my own adventure.

    I'm glad everything worked out, and I'll be expecting regular updates on everything in the coming weeks. It will provide a welcome distraction from my upcoming papers and finals, so I'll live vicariously through your blog and envision my own world travels awaiting just around the corner.

    Happily, my host family in Paris has been extremely kind and helpful, so now I've just got to wait for one more form from the government and then I should be able to get my visa (fingers crossed!).

    Happy travels!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Haha, that sounds like quite the experience! Lucky for me I didn’t have a language barrier. I couldn’t help but laugh at your, “and as far as I can tell, it has all been taken care of,” line. It’s funny how sometimes we just have to have faith that things have worked themselves out!

      And don’t be envious! I’ll go through all the trouble right now and take detailed notes so we can make sure your visit is super bang-up awesome! =) And life with the host family sounds pretty amazing to me!

      I’m going to try and update while I’m gone but when I get to Fiji things are going to get sketchy. I don’t know what kind of internet access I’m going to have, so just be patient with me! I’ll make sure some great posts will go up when I can!

      And I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you as well! =) Enjoy the rest of your semester!

    • Reply

      Lupita

      May 3, 2012

      Chandra Posted on Love it! Glad I had a chance to run with you the other day! Helped me to get back on track while I was up there! Know that you keep me ispnired!

  • Reply

    Lady Tam Li Hua

    April 16, 2012

    Glad things worked out! :D I admit, I don’t like having debt either, but I must admit that our credit cards have gotten us out of some tight spots before. (Car wrecks, blown tires, leaky roofs, etc.)

    Dave Ramsey is all about having no credit cards, but sometimes I wonder if that’s possible any more..

    • Reply

      Lady Tam Li Hua

      April 16, 2012

      Er, possible to have no credit cards and still live a stress-free life, I mean. XD

      • Reply

        Hilary Billings

        April 19, 2012

        Haha, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself! I think it’s a great philosophy, but I’m beginning to rethink my dedication to it. I mean, I don’t feel like the world wants us to really live debt-free lives. But I think it also really keeps me in check with my spending. =)

        I hope the worst is behind me! Can’t wait for this trip…

  • Reply

    Stormy

    April 16, 2012

    Don’t get a credit card, just a new bank :) PS Last week I spent a dollar on a lottery ticket, I was sure it was a winner as I did a quick pic and left it up to my good friend the universe. I went home and made a list of all those who would receive a check for one million dollars when I won. Yep Hilary, you were on that list, sadly I didn’t win but its fun to think about. The best things in life truly are free, have a coconut on me. Alan

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Awww, you are so sweet! I appreciate the sentiment greatly, even though the universe did not think it was time for you to have all that money. I’m so grateful to have a friend in you!

  • Reply

    pagingdrallie

    April 16, 2012

    I’m so glad it finally worked out! So excited for you! That sounds like a DREAM (trip) come true!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Thank you so much! I am so relieved it worked out for me too! I know it’s going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to share with you how you too can make it happen on a tight (like non-existent) budget!

      What is your dream trip come true?

      • Reply

        pagingdrallie

        April 22, 2012

        A friend of mine was recently married, and she and her new husband went on a cruise in the Mediterranean; they were able to explore Rome, Athens, and even Pompeii! Right now, that is my dream come true, although there are so many other trips I have planned in my head that I would LOVE to do someday; Europe, Australia, a month hiking in Yellowstone…. the list goes on and on!

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 22, 2012

          Wow! What a great dream! I know you will find a way to make it happen!

          And I totally understand having the never-ending list. There’s so many amazing places to see in this world… I don’t think I will ever stop finding places I want to go marvel at =).

  • Reply

    aimsphotos

    April 16, 2012

    Wahoo! So glad everything is booked! Super excited to read about your adventures in OZ! :-D Also, you’ve reinforced my decision that I don’t need a credit card… if you can do it without one so can I ;-)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Whoohoo debt-free living! I’ve managed to get by without one this long, but there are some things that are coming up (like huge airline tickets) that are cramping my credit card free lifestyle. I like not having one because I feel like it makes me very honest in my spending and keeps me less stressed (well, this situation excluded ;).

      I’m super excited to share this experience with you too! I hope I do ya proud!

  • Reply

    xxxxarachnexxxx

    April 16, 2012

    I’m glad all that stress was worth it in the end. This is very inspiring for us future travellers!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      I’m glad you find it inspiring! I try to be as real as possible about the stress and issues I deal with along the way so that future travelers know what they’re getting themselves into. Please let me know if you have any questions I can answer!

      I hope you’ll come back and read future blogs! Happy adventuring!

  • Reply

    Alaska Girl at Heart

    April 16, 2012

    Good luck and have fun. And, good for you on staying credit card free.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much! And while it’s been a struggle at times, I feel like I’ll be better off for it in the end. =). But I’ll be sure to let you know!

      What kinds of adventures do you like to have? Please stay in touch!

  • Reply

    faraway2112

    April 16, 2012

    Hilary, I would not give in either and get a CC. They are not worth the trouble. I am glad you were able to get the flghts scehduled and paid for! I cannot wait to see the photos and hear more about your trip. I would love to travel there, but Venice and Lake Como are on the agenda first. I would love to hear more about how you got the invite and how you met the person who invited you!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thanks so much for the support on my cc-free lifestyle! And Venice sounds like such an amazing adventure! Be sure to let me know how that pans out!

      And of course, there will be many more blogs to come about this trip! I will be sure to explain everything. I hope you’ll check back!

      Happy adventuring!

  • Reply

    April 16, 2012

    I think it will work out just smashingly! I have had a similar, disaster-ridden experience trying to get around and despite the best intentions of the Universe to royally screw me and all of the conjurings of bad omens and “signs” that I should just stay home, it worked out in the end. Banks are ridiculous. Enjoy your trip and good luck!

  • Reply

    April 16, 2012

    I bet everything will work out just smashingly. I’ve had similar disaster-ridden episodes trying to get places that I *really* wanted to go. Once I got there, however, despite the Universe’s attempts at thwarting my plans, things worked out great. They end up being some of the best experiences you have as a traveler. My fiasco was trying to get from Istanbul to Budapest via train….18 hours, two break downs, one random borderline-creepy-ended-up-being-a-savoir dude and 4 hours in Bucharest…but I got to Budapest and it was AMAZING. Enjoy your trip!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Wow, definitely sounds like an adventure! But I totally agree; some of the best trips and stories are born out of these crazy mishaps!

      Thank you so much for the well-wishes! Can’t wait to share the next leg of my story with you!

      Happy adventuring!

  • Reply

    youngjeninspats

    April 16, 2012

    All the best trips start out with this kind of crap. It’s the universe testing you to see if you’re worth it :-) Just remember, you can drink off all the stress once you’re there!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, I love that! I hope the universe has found me worthy! I can’t wait to see what this trip brings.

      Have you ever been to Australia or Fiji?

      • Reply

        youngjeninspats

        April 16, 2012

        not yet…not so much into the poisonous animals everywhere :-) My uncle had a farm on Fiji for a while before moving back to LA. He loved it.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          Haha, understandable. I remember when I was Nicaragua freaking out about the scorpions. But we ended up cohabiting just fine. ;)

          And wow, your uncle sounds like he’s had some amazing adventures! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like!

  • Reply

    El Guapo

    April 16, 2012

    FANTASTIC!!!! Inspirational even.
    Have you thought about buying something like Amex travellers checks, or a prepaid debit card that you could use? Not a credit card, but not as bulky (or difficult to access) as cash either…

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Thank you so much!

      And no, I hadn’t! I’ll definitely look into it! I greatly appreciate the advice! It’s so nice to know I have someone out there watching my back ;).

  • Reply

    Joanna

    April 16, 2012

    Proof that if you want it bad enough, everything works out in the end ;) The worst is over!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 16, 2012

      Haha, precisely! And God, I hope so! But even if the worst isn’t over, it will be an adventure! =)

      Thanks for commenting! Can’t wait to share the next steps with you!

  • Reply

    gene3067

    April 16, 2012

    Look at it this way. All the bad stuff has already happend, so the entire trip is going to be perfect! I look forward to reading about your adventures there.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Yes, yes let’s go with that! I’m sure it’s going to be an adventure and I can’t wait to get out there and start living it!

      Thanks so much for your support! I can’t wait to share with you all that happens!

      Have you ever been out to Australia or Fiji?

      • Reply

        gene3067

        April 19, 2012

        No. The closest I got to Oz was a $50 long distance call to order a expedition/off road DVD from 4 Wheel Action. They even have cooking segments in it.

        I look forward to hearing what you experience.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 22, 2012

          Ahahahaha, that sounds awesome. Was it worth the $50?

          And I look forward to sharing the experience with you!

  • Reply

    ashoklaughswithlife

    April 16, 2012

    Just loving your this post! Hope you don’t come across any more trouble on your road to OZ! Have a great trip:)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Oh thank you so much! I am so glad you liked it! It’s been quite the journey, but at least it’s entertaining! I’m sure the rest of the trip will be a great adventure as well. =)

      Have you ever been out that way?

      Looking forward to sharing my adventures with you!

      • Reply

        ashoklaughswithlife

        April 25, 2012

        I would love to be updated with all your adventures/all your journeys. In fact, when i read some posts of yours, i somehow remember those lines, “If you really love something, the Entire Universe conspires to help you get that”.

        Unfortunately, i’ve never been out of India (may be someday!)

        And, yes, i’m reading that book (The Four Hour Work Week). This book is something that i’ve never read before. It’s very, very interesting (and practical as well). Thanks for recommending this on your BLOG!

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 29, 2012

          I’m glad that you found it relatable! And don’t worry; if you want to travel outside of India it will happen. =)

          I’m glad that you like the book! Thanks so much for reading and allowing me to share with you! =)

  • Reply

    odysseyatw

    April 17, 2012

    Hey Hilary,

    Glad to hear that everything seems to be falling into place. I’m sure you’ll love it in Oz – i’ve been here the last 2 years and have enjoyed the experience. Sadly though i’ll be leaving from Cairns the end of next week.
    Have a great time!!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      I’m really happy to see things falling into place, too! =)

      What have you been doing in Sydney for the past two years? Sounds exciting!

      And what will you be doing in Cairns? I’m heading that way after I leave Sydney. I can’t come all that way and NOT go to the Great Barrier Reef =).

      Hope we’ll be able to swap OZ adventures soon!

      • Reply

        odysseyatw

        April 19, 2012

        Hehe I haven’t been in Sydney the whole time – really only spent a few days there (to be honest I don’t really like Sydney, Melbourne is a way better city). But I was working in far north queensland for a majority of the time I was here.
        In Cairns i’ll be meeting my brother for a bit of a farewell get together before I leave Aus. Oh most definitely you have to see the reef, it is amazing. You’ll love it! :)

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 19, 2012

          Oh okay! I’ve heard Melbourne is gorgeous. I hope to get out that way on my next trip =).

          And your trip to Cairns sounds great! I hope you have safe travels, and I look forward to sharing my reef adventures with you!

  • Reply

    i mayfly

    April 17, 2012

    Love your blog and wanted to show that love by passing-along the nomination for The Sunshine Award. For details you may want to refer back to my recent post Smarter Than a 6th Grader. -Nikki

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Wow, thank you so much! I greatly appreciate your support and am so happy to hear you like it!

      I hope you’ll stay in touch, Nikki!

      Happy adventuring!

  • Reply

    ernestwhile

    April 18, 2012

    You can always use a wire transfer, but yeah, time to get a credit card.Oh, and remember, everything in Australia’s wilderness is designed to kill you. Have fun!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Haha, yeah… I’m thinking I’m going to have to face the music soon… Blah.

      And thanks for the tip! I’ll do my best to stay alive. I did just want Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee 2, so I’m brushing up on my wilderness skills ;).

  • Reply

    Absolutely the ONLY reason I have a credit card, since I don’t plan to buy a car or a house and need credit ratings for any of that ridiculousness.

    Oz and NZ have been my dream trip for some time, and we’re slowly cooking something up for next year. My man is a coffee roaster, and we’ll probably join forces with a roaster friend in Wellington, and then in Melbourne for a while.

    Have an awesome time!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      Haha, your preaching to the choir! I think it’s time for me to get one just for instances like this one. Blah!

      And I’m so happy to hear you guys are making it happen! Coffee roaster, eh? Sounds like a great guy to me!

      Please let me know how your plans pan out. I’m going to want to swap Aussie tales with you, especially if they involve coffee! =)

  • Reply

    AnonymousBurn

    April 19, 2012

    Not that you are looking for advice…but I use my credit card just like a debit card to avoid the mishigosh and bastardizations you just so perfectly detailed. I track my purchases in my checkbook and balance my account just like I would and then go online and submit my payment, right away.

    Have a fantastic time in Oz. A friend of mine is living the nomad life – you can find his stories on Jaywalk the World linked on my blog. He’s in Sydney right now if you are looking for new faces – his name is Adam.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 19, 2012

      No, thank you so much for your input! I’ve been doing a lot of debating on it, but I think it’s just time to face the music.

      And thank you so much for the reference! I’ll be sure to check him out. You never know, maybe he’ll want to hang with another nomad!

      Looking forward to sharing my stories with you! Thanks again for always being so bang-up awesome. =)

  • Reply

    travellingmo

    April 22, 2012

    Oh man! What a road to go down. I’m so glad it worked out for you! Oz is amazing, I loved the shit out of it and if when I’m old and gray I decide to retire to some far off corner of the world, I think it will be to the Blue Mountains in Austrailia. Fiji should be incredible as well!!! I can’t wait to hear about it.

    I found you when you were Freshly Pressed btw, and am so glad to be on your adventures now!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 22, 2012

      Thank you so much! It sounds like you are going down a similar road, so I’m sure you understand how fun and scary it can be. =)

      And I keep hearing wondrous things about these Blue Mountains… I will try to find a way to work them into my travel plans. =)

      I am so glad that you are following and hope to do ya proud! I can’t wait to share my adventures with you and look forward to learning more about your own!

      Happy Adventuring!

  • Reply

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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