Location: Sydney

Welcome welcome welcome, everybody! Today marks the beginning of our incredible journey through the Land Down Unda’ and the excitement here is high. The long-haul flight from Los Angeles was exhausting, but we’ve all arrived safely and are eager to see what Australia is all about. No two days will be the same during this trip, so stay tuned and follow along with us to see all the incredible places we’re headed!

We hit the ground running today and got ourselves ready for a day on the town as soon as everyone’s bags had been collected at the airport. After a quick rest at our hostel (the Bondi YHA Beachhouse), an orientation to the program, and a few phone calls to the folks back home to let everyone know we are alright, we left our hostel to make our way to Manly Beach for an afternoon surfing lesson. We decided to take the scenic route, opting for the water taxi across the Sydney Harbor rather than sitting in traffic and missing the incredible views of Sydney’s waterfront. The weather could not have been more perfect for the first day in Australia; blue skies and a warm, sunny afternoon made for smooth sailing on the ferry ride. Once in Manly, we decided to have a quick lunch at Hungry Jack’s since we were eager to get to our surf lesson. We started the lesson by studying the waves, discussing tidal differences, and even spent some time learning how to identify rip currents and how a safe exit from ‘the grip of the rip’ can be achieved. Braving the chilly water, everybody in the group suited up and headed for the surf with their boards in tow.

Today was one of those days that an educator lives for: getting to share a passion -surfing, in this instance – with the group felt like a moment that stretched into an entire afternoon. Pushing ourselves to jump into the chilly water took some convincing, but the simple fun of gliding across the ocean and standing on top of a wave was enough to elicit hoots and hollers throughout the group. It’s in these moments that the importance of keeping an open mind and pushing oneself to try something new comes clear, as that push often leads to experiences greater than anything previously imagined. The decision to forego our reservations about surfing in the chilly water proved fruitful almost immediately, as the scattered uncertainties I had heard floating among the group before we paddled our way into the lineup were soon replaced with laughter and excitement for the next wave.

Surfing today was the key that opened the door to our first great experience together as a group. For had we not gone surfing today we would have certainly missed witnessing the golden rays of wintry, afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees and across the beach before illuminating the growing wave peaks as they approached. Had we not gone surfing today we would have certainly not been a small part of the local community who gathers here each day to appreciate the ocean and the environment. And had we not gone surfing today, that small thought – “I can’t go surfing, I don’t know how…The water is cold, and I won’t be any good!” – Would have been our lasting memory of this afternoon. But instead, we concluded our first full day together in the water, proving to ourselves that – no matter how small the push – pushing ourselves to try something new can lead to great discoveries within us.

21 days feels like a long time on this end of the journey, but soon enough we’ll all be on a plane headed home with dozens of wonderful memories and great new friends – replaying to ourselves the highlights of incredible experience and wishing we could return. But for now, there’s a world of opportunity ahead of us, and we’re here to soak it all in!

Here’s to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – Program Manager Shaunzy, signing off.