Australia has a certain prehistoric savagery that adds excitement to everything you do and everywhere you go. Even just getting coffee can be a death-defying act of stupidity here.
Welcome to Australia, beware of everything (and I mean everything).
Every living creature on Australia—every fish, bird, animal, and insect—is the most murderous variety of its species. There's something about the country's biota, ecosystem, or topography that makes it a Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest” Thunderdome, allowing only the most vicious and vile creatures to survive and reproduce. Should you encounter any living being that can't speak, use tools, or drive a car, run like hell, as certain death awaits you (just ask Steve Irwin).
Visiting Australia is a veritable choose-your-own-death adventure. Not only is the country home to 21 of the world's 25 most venomous snakes but, on any given day, in any given location, you could get eaten by a shark, killed by a crocodile, stung by killer bees, paralyzed by jellyfish, bitten by spiders, gnawed by wombats, or scratched to death by Tasmanian devils—the country's entire cause-of-death list is impressively long.
Even Australia's seemingly harmless mammals—such as kangaroos, the slightly smaller wallaroos, and the more slightly smaller wallaby—will each instantly and enthusiastically kick the living crap out of you with little or no provocation.
Only the country's ill-tempered and chlamydia-riddled koala bears, with their razor-sharp claws and retractable fangs, are too slow and slothful to act on their homicidal compulsions. So if you don't want to end up as a grisly government statistic, stay indoors the whole time you're there.
Why you should visit Australia when so many other countries are a lot closer.
Let's be honest, the idea of traveling to Australia is like #23 or #24 on most American's bucket list (at best) and for a couple of good reasons: 1) The country is really far away, and 2) Australia doesn't appear to differ noticeably from the USA. For most, if they're going to burn over nine hours crammed into an uncomfortable airplane seat watching movies they'd never pay actual money for—cough, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” cough—then they'd probably rather disembark somewhere more glamorous like Roma or Machu Picchu. Yet the almost certain prospect of deep vein thrombosis doesn't mean that visiting Australia isn't worth its resulting shortness of breath and coughing up of blood.
What you need to know about Australia before you visit, so you don't look dumb.
First, Australia is a country on the continent of Australia—that's not confusing at all, right? Apparently, the continent includes the country of Australia as well as some formerly not-island islands including Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, New Britain, and the Misool and Waigeo islands which are located on the same continental shelf and get their own separate identities on a technicality.
Second, the planet's seventh continent is a member of the very real, but dystopian-sounding region known as Oceania, which was once at war with both Eurasia and Eastasia if you believe George Orwell.
And third, Australia was originally part of a larger super-continent named Gondwana until it broke off on its own to wander the southern hemisphere like a feral child raised by wild dingoes. The country's lack of contact with other civilizations over the centuries has had a real impact on the place—modern Australia looks normal enough, but it acts funny and doesn't talk quite right. I mean, they put beetroot on burgers, for cripe's sake! Who does that?
Here's why all Australians don't just keep falling off the planet.
Australia gets its clever “down-under” nickname from its position in the southern hemisphere—i.e., below Earth's equator. Though many flat-Earth conspiracy theorists don't believe there's anything located “down-under”—and some may not believe that Australia actually exists at all (Spoiler alert: it does)—their confusion on the issue is likely because Earth is provably a sphere and so Australia can't be directly seen by nitwits living on the northern hemisphere.
All this talk of hemispheres begs the question then, “How come Australians don't just fall off the planet?”—in a word: gravity. In three words: gravity, you idiot. Australia's position “under” the equatorial belt line has zero impact on whether the country's citizenry stay planted on the ground or fly off into space—earth's gravity pulls everything towards its center.
Australia's position does have a big impact on some aspects of the country (but disappointingly, the direction of flushing toilet water isn't one of them). Most noticeably, Australia's down-under orientation flips the climate on its head, making northern areas hot and southern areas cold, instead of vice versa like in normal countries. That could also be the reason Aussies drive on the left side of the road.
Australia is the southern hemisphere's knock-off of California.
The eastern coast of Australia strongly resembles the west coast of America, only…you know, upside down. Melbourne in the south is coldish like San Francisco, while Sydney in the middle feels like Los Angeles, and Queensland in the north feels like Mexico (or, more accurately, Florida, due to Queensland's high humidity, “Sunshine State” license plates, and unchecked crocodile infestation.
Much like the denizens of California, Australians also care about progressive causes such as equality, protecting the environment, drinking good wine, and eating good food. Similarly, both cultures like to surf, skateboard, and generally encourage healthy, active lifestyles. Frankly, the biggest difference is that Aussies constantly say “Mate” while Californians say “Dude, I still can't believe Donald Trump is our president.”
Aussies say they speak English (at least, I think that's what they're saying).
Ask any Australian what language they speak and they'll insist that it is English though you'd never know it from listening to them. Not only do Australians use English words wrong—appetizers are called “entrees,” and entrees are called “mains”—they abbreviate words like a two-year-old just learning to talk.
They call barbecues “barbies,” mosquitos “mozzies,” horse-drawn wagons “horsey wagons,” salt water crocodiles “salties,” sandwiches “toasties,” Cheetos® “twisties,” breakfast “brekky,” and a bunch of other silly “diminutives” of real, actual words. Overlooking the country's linguistic laziness isn't always easy, but putting up with childish slang is certainly easier than learning French or Spanish, so the Aussies get points for that.
In the end, Australia is the America America could be if it tried harder.
When most Americans think of Australia, they think of Crocodile Dundee or Outback Steakhouse, but those gross mischaracterizations are an affront to the millions of ex-convicts and murderous reprobates who've helped make Australia one of today's finest shark-infested democracies in the world.
Frankly, I was thrilled to learn that Australia's temperate climate is paired by a temperate political attitude, too. Visiting Australia is like landing in a parallel America—a better America—where there's effective mass transit, universal healthcare, sensible gun control, and a healthy distrust of organized religion. Frankly, I kept expecting to see the Twilight Zone's Rod Serling around every corner smoking a cigarette except that Australia also has the world's toughest anti-smoking laws.
Back across the Pacific Ocean, the actual United States of America—once the global poster child for freedom, democracy, and innovation—languishes under the crushing oppression of anti-science religious zealots, pro-corruption politicians, and reactionary special interest groups.
Certainly, the Aussies have their share of domestic issues (and a rotating door of new Prime Ministers of late), but that just shows how much Australians care about their country and how little political bullshit they're willing to put up with.
As I watch my own beloved country slowly devolve into an unregulated, capitalist theocracy of racist robber barons and sub-minimum wage slaves, I'd always assumed that I'd one day have to move to Canada, a less than ideal situation since I despise the freezing cold almost as much as I hate power-mad fascists and human exploitation.
Australia is my new fallback country (Sorry, Canada and Costa Rica).
People here are even nicer than Canadians, probably because of the warmer weather. They also seem more tolerant of other cultures and a lot less afraid—of people at least—than Americans.
If I didn't already live in the United States and have all my stuff here, I would love to live in Australia. It has just about everything I love about America—berets, soccer, kielbasa, and Volvos—along with universal healthcare and rugby.
And now that I think about it, the two may be related.