Retirement Thoughts: Australia

October 31, 2013

I just finished a two week visit to Australia.

This was the seventh and thus “last” continent for me and my traveling companions. We have all been to the others – Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Antarctica –  at least once. So a travel goal for retirement (visit all the continents) has been accomplished. This is a mixed achievement of sorts because there isn’t another continent on the list to look forward to visiting. However many adventure opportunities remain (more on this later).

Australia was an easy country for us to visit (other than getting there and back). English is the common language, the people seem in large measure happy and friendly, the food is great, the transportation system works well, the cities are clean and safe, there are a wide variety of sights to see (there are some photos below) and activities in which to engage.

The trip to Melbourne on the southern coast of Australia from our starting point New England was about 22 hours flying time with a pause in Los Angeles and a requirement that we “lose” a day crossing the Pacific Ocean. We were able to sleep fairly well on the way over so the adjustment to a 15 hour time zone shift wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. The way back was another story: we left Sydney at 11:00 a.m., “gained” a day recrossing the Pacific and arrived in Los Angeles at 6:30 in the morning on the same day we left Sydney (4.5 hours before left)! Adjusting back to East Coast  U.S. time took the better part of a week.

Size-wise, Australia is about the same size geographically as the contiguous 48 United States. Our major stopping points in Australia – Melbourne, Alice Springs, Cairns and Sydney – were similar to traveling from New Orleans to Chicago and then to Boston and Atlanta in the U.S. However, there are only about 22.5 million people in the whole of Australia compared to about 313 million in the U.S. Another way to look at it is: the entire population of Australia is approximately equivalent to the population of metropolitan New York City.

Much of Australia’s population lives in its cities (metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney account for almost half of the country’s population) but they are very nice cities in which to live. The (UK-based) Economist  newspaper ranks four cities (Melbourne #1, Adelaide #5, Sydney #7, Perth #9) in Australia in the top ten cities in the world in terms of “liveability” (based on stability, health care, culture, education, infrastructure, climate). The U.S. and UK have none in the top 10.

While I was there, The Australian Financial Review noted there are a growing number of baby boomers who are choosing to retire. They are apparently feeling comfortable enough to do so following a nice rise in home and stock values over the last several years. Looking forward, some Australian economists are concerned about labor shortages as baby boomers leave the workforce at an accelerated pace.

But for people looking to move there, it should be noted the cost of living is high: 137 compared to a base of 100 for New York City according to The Economist newspaper. Australian wine is frequently less expensive in the U.S. than it is in Australia.

A few highlights:

Melbourne is pleasant modern/Victorian city with a river (the Yarra) running through the middle of it. It boasts pleasant gardens, the southern hemisphere’s largest casino, a great aquarium, diverse dining and tram service throughout the city. Here is the view of the city from the highest residential tower


On one of our dining excursions we ate on a restaurant tram that served dinner while you toured the city:


Our next stop was Alice Springs which is the jumping off point to visit Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock. It is a large sandstone formation which is sacred to the aboriginal people. Next to the Sydney Opera house it is probably the most iconic item in Australia.


What the guide books don’t tell you is that flies are FIERCE and that head nets are essential. Fortunately our guide provided them for us.


Next up was a flight to Cairns and Kewarra Beach. This was our jumping off place to visit the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and a submersible ride, the Australian rainforest for a cable car ride over the canopy (with occasional stops to the forest floor) and to see some of Australia’s great “salties” – its salt water crocodiles.

In the submersible:


Preparing to snorkel:


Cable car over the rainforest:


A great “saltie”:


Australia has more kangaroos than people but we didn’t get to see any of the big fellows in the wild. We did get to see hundreds of their junior cousins – wallabys – which seemed as numerous as Canadian geese in southern New England.


Our last stop was Sydney (5.3 million pop.) which has the best harbor I have ever seen, dozens of fantastic beaches, lots of history, a great wildlife park, many hiking trails…it feels like a city and nature have come together to make a very nice place to live.

Our hotel afforded a nice view of the opera house,


and the bridge.


We spent several several enjoyable days in Sydney.

But back to where I began this post: new travel adventures. In addition to the seven continents, there five major oceans. I have been on four of them – Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern – so I still have the Arctic (and polar bears!) to look forward to.

In addition, while I was visiting an Environmental Center in Orange County CA recently, a fellow walked up out of the blue and asked if I enjoyed traveling to other countries. I allowed that I did and we chatted for a bit about places we’d been. He then invited me to consider joining the local Traveler’s Century Club. He explained this was a group of people who enjoyed traveling and had been to 100 or more countries. A quick calculation on my part concluded I was well short of 100 and the commute from the East Coast for meetings would be burdensome in any case. He explained these clubs exist all over the country which I later confirmed via Google.

So, while I may not be joining the Travel Century Club any time soon, clearly there are still many places to learn about and visit. Next up: VietNam, Laos and Cambodia.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price