Yesterday morning, I rode my bike down Beach Road 30 kilometers, stopped at a cafe and had a cappucino, and turned around and rode home again. There was nothing remarkable about the ride, really, nothing that jumps out and makes me think, wow, that was a spectacular ride. Yet the ride stands out to me in a lot of ways, simply because of the fact that I felt GOOD.

For one thing, it was the first day of spring, and the weather, while not balmy, was warmer that it has been, which meant I was able to ride without a vest or leg warmers for the first time in quite a while. Second, I felt strong, perhaps not the mid-race season “I will tear everyone apart” strong, but strong in the “I can do this all day” kind of way that comes with years of riding almost every day. Lastly, and most importantly, my mind was clear. Looking back, I realize that I did not worry once the whole two hours, a big contrast to the stress of last semester at Berkeley and trying to train and intern at the same time during my summer break.

Bikes, cafes, and sunny skies.

Why did I start with this anecdote? Well, I think it shows better than any other way what the past month in Melbourne has done for me. My classes are interesting and engaging, yet do not require the same level of focus and effort I’ve had to put in at Berkeley. I am riding my bike, not because I am training for a specific event, but because I want to ride my bike, and I’m focusing more on core work and even some running, which I think will really benefit me in the ramp up to 2016. I am making friends, but not in the “force myself to be friendly because I don’t want to be alone” way that I hate, but because the people I’m meeting are genuinely cool and share the same passions I do. There’s not a lot I miss terribly about home, besides my poor dog and cat who probably think I abandoned them, but it is nice to slip into American ways of speaking with other exchange students and, with the people I’ve met from the Bay Area, to talk about familiar landmarks and restaurants.

To put it plainly, living abroad has given me a chance to step back from the mad rush towards graduation and adulthood that Berkeley forces you to embrace, and really just have fun. I check my Berkeley email and see that there are already info sessions for internships next summer, and I’m glad I won’t be able to attend them. Similarily, I’m glad I ended my racing season early, because it’s given me time to reflect on what went badly this year and how I can get back on track. On a side note, it’s been almost exactly one year since I snapped my wrist in half, and while I will probably never have a full range of motion in that arm, I think it has made me a better cyclist (at least, I didn’t crash once this racing season), and I can appreciate being able to ride injury free.

But enought about how studying abroad is affecting me personally. I know what you really want to here about are all the cool things to do over here. Well, for one thing, the Dandenong Ranges, about 20km east of Melbourne, are super cool, and the view from Mount Dandenong is probably the best of Melbourne I’ve found so far. This past weekend, I also went to Phillip Island, which is located about 100km south of the city on the ocean. The main attraction there is the penguin parade, and while I was skeptical at first, it turned out to be one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll be back at Phillip Island in mid-October for the MotoGP event there, which should be another great experience.

Without context, this picture seems silly. A bunch of people, bundled up in the cold, sitting on bleachers facing an empty beach. When night falls, however, the beach comes alive with penguins.

It is a strange feeling to be almost halfway done with the semester when all my friends are just starting school back, or have not even started. In some ways, its crazy to think that so much time has passed already, but there is still so much left for me to do here. I mean, come on, I haven’t even tried Vegemite yet, or seen a real live crocodile!

This weekend, I’m headed to Sydney for four days, so I’ll be sure to write up an account of my experiences when I get back. Then, for the Australian spring break, I’ll be going to Bali for a week, which will be my first time in Southeast Asia and something I’m really looking forward to. In October, I’ll do some weekend trips and then, after the semester ends, I’ll be travelling through New Zealand with my dad and by myself. Finally, it’s back to Melbourne where I’ll be joined by my mom and sister once she finishes her first semester at Berkeley, and we will travel up the east coast of Australia until flying home on January 4. Lots of things planned, and I’m excited to begin! Real life and responsibility can wait for at least a few more months.