Article by Kristy Chown
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton
Recently I was sitting in my friends’ backyard, regaling her in stories of some of my favourite moments and explorations in Australia. Having recently returned home to Canada, it seems I am constantly going through some of the highlights of my year abroad. Interestingly enough, I was not talking about bungee jumps or deep-sea dives or glorious sandy beaches; I was telling her of my friend from Belarus who took me mushroom hunting near Macedon known as a local secret. A place where we were rewarded with two varieties of delicious and well-hidden fungi. I spent the majority of two years living in Melbourne, but this was the year where I made a point of getting to know Victoria better.
It was with this same friend that I visited Mount Towrong Vineyard and met the kindest locals (and dog) that I’d encountered in a long time. We enjoyed a beautiful Airbnb at the base of Hanging Rock and ogled over fresh artisanal bread at the Lazy Baker. A few weeks before, I had taken the quintessential Great Ocean Road trip, but this time followed the tasting trail thanks to a recommendation. We enjoyed some of the tastiest cheese and dips at Timboon Cheesery, a delightful charcuterie plate and whiskey sample at the Distillery, and we even saved a local koala too close to the road. What amazes me about Victoria and Melbourne surrounds in particular is the plethora of options you have within only a few hours’ drive. If you enjoy wineries, there’s Yarra Valley, the Bellarine Peninsula, Mornington, Macedon, and Red Hill, to name a few. If you love hiking, the Grampians offer some of the most incredible views, and I’ve still yet to really explore the Yarra Ranges, Wilson’s Prom, Great Otway, or the Dandenongs. I was even surprised by the beauty and history found in a stroll at Point Nepean, at the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula.
I have always aimed take pleasure in simplicity; every new café, little park, local food market or festival tends to elicit curiosity or pleasure. I rave and gush to others about all the amazing discoveries I found on day trips out of Melbourne and yet I will describe the lacklustre quality of my own hometown in the next breath. I believe sometimes it is so easy to see the beauty in something foreign and new and wash over the places you know because they have become too familiar. On a recent outing to Daylesford, with a friend I popped into the Bookbarn by the lake and I loved its quaint and charming appeal. My friend grew up here, so we strolled around the lake as he explained different things he used to do there or how things had changed over time. As I looked at him I realized he had probably been there a million times, but suddenly the experience for him was changing, because he was sharing the experience with someone else. I thought back to a tourist town near my home where going by oneself might seem mundane. However, any time I’ve taken a newcomer, I cannot show them the antique shops, home-made ice creamery, or old mill fast enough. Why could I be so curious and adventurous in another part of the world, but lose this curiosity simply because I’m home?
It’s a joy to re-discover the hidden gems and attractions in our own backyard, and remind us that there is always something to enjoy or explore. Sometimes it may simply be inviting a friend along, or revisiting a place you haven’t seen in awhile. Now, having returned home for the foreseeable future, I am trying to research day trips and visit country towns I may not have been to, so as to feel like a tourist in my own backyard.