Oh Cape Byron, I will miss you and your iconic lighthouse. Photo: ​Ben Bugden​ / http://benbugden.com/

The time has come to pack my bags and leave Byron Bay has come. I have about two weeks left on my yearlong Australian visa, and I’ve decided to spend them in Western Australia, since all of my adventures here so far have been on the East Coast. I’ve been living in Byron Bay for just about ten months now, and I feel so grateful to have had the chance to spend time in this beautiful place! From the crystalline waters to the lush rainforest, there is no absence of natural aesthetic in this region. I’ve been spoiled by only having to wear a springsuit all winter long, and by the consistently fair-to-epic point break waves. Most of all, the people that make up this community are some of the most genuine, kind hearted individuals I have ever met.

One of the most interesting aspects of Byron Bay is that it has always been considered a meeting place. Aboriginal clans from all over the Bundjalung Region would come to gather in Byron Bay, and now, people travel from all over the world to experience the magic of this town. While I have made a handful of friends that grew up in the area, many of the residents that I have met have come from other places in Australia and an assortment of foreign countries! The population here is similar to that of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, so it wasn’t long until I started seeing familiar faces everywhere I went. Now, I can’t even walk from my front door to my car without running into an acquaintance!

Of course, much of the friendships I’ve built while living here are due in part to surfing. Nearly everyone in Byron surfs, and there are always events and activities based around surfing. After a few weeks, I started seeing everyone I’d met in the surf out and about in town, and over these ten months, I’ve become close friends with surfers from at least 12 countries - so I guess that means I’ll have to do some more traveling after I spend some time at home. Now, I am just dealing with the difficult process of saying, “see you later” to my Byron Bay family. I’ve taken the past couple of weeks to pretty much do everything there is to do in town, I’ve eaten at all my favorite spots, and spent time with my friends.

I’ve of course also been taking care of business and getting myself organized before heading home. I have accumulated a large volume of random stuff whilst here, and ended up sending my travel backpack filled with 50 pounds of clothing home! I sold a lot of my personal items, but still have a suitcase chock full of stuff - but really, one suitcase isn’t too bad for a year’s worth of clothes. However, I don’t think I am claiming the title of “minamalist,” anytime soon. Selling my van was a bit emotional, and when I cleaned it out, I reflected on all of the exciting times we had, from bunking with a ridiculously large spider to long drives through the gorgeous Byron hinterlands. It was fun being a van-lifer for a hot minute, and I do believe I will own another van one day, but for now I am looking forward to getting home to my Tacoma.

Byron Bay is a bit of a playground for young adults in a sort of real-world purgatory, which made it the perfect place to have this “gap year” type experience after graduating college last June. Although I’ve been living on a budget and working plenty, and it hasn’t been all fun and games, I’ve had more than my fair share of good times over here, and I genuinely do look forward to my foreseeable future of seeking full time post grad employment as soon as I get home. For now, I’ll just take these next few weeks to explore Western Australia, enjoy a brief jaunt to Asia on my way home, and reflect on all of the incredible opportunities I’ve had over the past 14 months.