The highly anticipated end-of-September “spring break” has finally come and passed. Ever since the start of school a group of 6 of my international friends and I have been planning a trip to the Gold Coast and Byron Bay in Queensland. We ended up booking a sunny 9-day holiday starting in Byron Bay and ending in Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast from September 15-24. After a quick plane ride over to the Gold Coast airport my friends and I hopped on a shuttle that drove us 45 minutes south to the small surfing town of Byron Bay. We ended up staying in the Backpacker’s Inn, which was a hostel about 50 meters from the beach. While a few of my friends went skydiving (I was too chicken), I enjoyed my early morning runs along the beach and also to a lighthouse that overlooks the bay (I even saw dolphins and whales too!). Along with sunbathing on the beach or in a hammock, we also decided to go snorkeling. I ended up seeing many colorful marine animals including turtles, puffer fish, nurse sharks, and an enormous parrotfish. I discovered that the sun is much stronger here, and applying one coat of sunscreen is by no means enough. I ended up with an unpleasant sunburn, and learned that investing in aloe is a good idea. After our daytime activities, we normally wandered around the shops, boutiques, and of course the gelato stall in the quaint Byron Bay. I found it amusing that when the locals were not out surfing, they were walking and driving around town barefoot. On day 4 we boarded a bus that drove us an hour north to the community of Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast. Here 3 of my friends and I stayed in a part hostel part hotel called the Islander, while the other 3 stayed in another hostel down the road. It turned out that there was a cockroach infestation in the other hostel (we still joke about this incident today), so we managed to find space for all of us at the Islander. Surfer’s Paradise is much more of a built environment that reminded me of any large coastal city in the States. It is known for its great surf, shopping, clubs, and multicultural dining. Each morning I enjoyed a beautiful long run along a pathway that ran parallel with the beach, followed by lying out on the beach watching the surfers. The Gold Coast has many theme park attractions, which are very similar to what a theme park would be like in the States. We ended up going to Dreamworld where we got our adrenaline fix on the rollercoasters. On another day we ventured to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we got to feed and pet kangaroos, hold a koala, and learn about all the different wildlife species in Australia. At night we explored all of the different food options from sushi to pancakes, and also checked out a few nightclubs and bars in the area. All and all, my trip was an amazing time full of relaxing, exploring, and most of all, laughing and connecting with my friends. This experience taught me how to plan a trip on my own, and also how to travel with a large group of girls. Now I am ready to finish off this last month of school with a bang! Cheers!