After Surfers Paradise, I continued heading up the east coast. The only plans I had were Fraser Island and the Whitsundays which I had booked with the travel agent in Byron Bay. I had talked to two different travel agents, trying to compare the best prices they could offer but in the end I felt a bit rushed and just decided that I needed to book something and it would all work out. I think I chose a good deal, as she said she gave me a couple discounts and wouldn't charge me for her commission - neither which I know are true or not - but at least I had two of the things I wanted to see and do booked and set as a plan. I say I felt pressured as it was a lot of money upfront and I had originally intended to stop off between Fraser Island and Airlie to see Ted, but the way the agent booked it left no time to do so. But it is what it is, and everything happens for a reason.
The thing about trying to book the right trip is that you never know what you're going to expect or who you're going to meet, so when trying to pick the "best" one, it's really out of your control. You'll end up on the one you're meant to be on.
I loved the flexibility I had to work my way up the coast knowing only when I had to be in Rainbow Beach. I had time to stay longer in Surfers Paradise and I had time to stop off in Noosa again to visit mum's cousin. I had only met her for lunch when mum and I went up for a day trip from Brisbane, but she was very nice and welcomed me to come back whenever I wanted. Noosa is a really pretty town so I decided to go back there to see it again and break up the trip. Plus, another free night would be inviting! However, a bit of miscommunication led me to having booked a bus to Noosa and having not heard back from her, I wasn't sure if I would have a place to stay or not. So, that morning, I called up a hostel that was recommended to me and the only room they had available was a double en-suite room. Desperate not to be stuck, I took it. Of course, later in the day I heard back from her and she said she'd love for me to stay in their home. But to be honest, even though I was paying more for the room when I was really stopping in Noosa for a friendly face and a place to stay, I was looking forward to having a room to myself for the night. And when I arrived, it was more than I expected. It was like a proper hotel room! Large TV, my own shower with towels and a toilet, a big double bed, free wi fi (that I couldn't connect to) and free breakfast in the morning. I was so delighted I stayed up late watching movies and unpacking my stuff, as I do. I was invited over for dinner though, so I did have a delicious home cooked meal AND dessert AND some reputable wine :)The next morning, she picked me up from the hostel and took me for some decent coffee and to her favourite beach. We sat on the beach and she told me about the time she was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. It was a ridiculously life-changing experience for her and eye-opening for me. Sure you know that anything could happen at any time and you may or may not have a chance of surviving against the force of nature, but she taught me - especially because I'm traveling alone - to always be aware of your surroundings, to know your escape point, and when in doubt run to the highest point.
If you look closely, you will see the most incredible houses in Noosa. The one above in the middle has an infinity pool overlooking the beach and sea, and behind it there was an infinity pool with glass walls. Took this picture for Jess.
Even though I paid four times for my room because it was a last minute resort - ha literally - I really enjoyed the familiar company, the home cooked meal, being taken out for a I-don't-want-to-stop-eating Thai lunch, and seeing a bit of an Australian perspective with a local. Even though I had only met mum's cousin briefly once before, isn't that what family, Facebook, CouchSurfing, and traveling is all about - to keep in touch and have a place to stay or a friend when needed where ever you are in the world?
As we left her house to go to the bus station, I commented on a gorgeous flame-red tree that nearly canopied the street, saying how pretty it was. She was delighted that I had said so because she thought the same thing every time she passed it, but she has three sons who just moan at her whenever she tries to share the simple sight of a natural bloom of beauty with them. So I think she kinda appreciated the girl time too :)