Perhaps my favorite adventure of the trip: I scuba'd the Great Barrier Reef!
Yup, three dives down into the magical, wondrous place that can only be described in terms of elementary school science textbooks, outer space and the 64 pack of Crayola Crayons.
We stayed in Cairns - this surprisingly uncommercialized beach town where we took a boat out with a dive group to the Michaelmas Cay area.
Not only did I get to witness the beauty of an entirely different world, but I overcame my own predictable anxiety...
I found myself having a panic attack in the middle of the vast ocean, scared of ever present vertigo and suddenly finding it crazy to be completely relying on a single tube inserted into my mouth for life support.
That's when our scuba guide, Claire, held my hands as we both bobbed up and down in the salty waves and said: "Kate, no one is making you do this. I can easily put you back on the boat. But, you're never going to find Nemo."
And suddenly it hit me: I am at the freaking Great Barrier Reef and I worked so hard and came so far to be able to do this, I am not going to wimp out now!
And after the initial shock of descending into the water - the diving became this calm and peaceful moment in time, breathing in and out, in and out, focused completely on the coral around me.
About 10 minutes into the first dive, Claire tugged my arm and pointed to a little Clownfish all by itself (normally Clownfish swim in large schools) and I felt my eyes water encased in their prescription goggles. I knew, without a doubt in my mind, that I was looking at my own personal Nemo!
I also saw gigantic, purple clams open and close, ran my fingers through spaghetti textured corals while admiring jellyfish, delicate seahorses, and fish in every pattern and color imaginable.
Other Cairns attractions:
Koala Sanctuary. I got to hold one (...for a price, but still!).
Baby Kangaroos - joeys, if you will.
Passionfruit and Dragonfruit, three times a day.
Bizarre Outback Episcopalian church service.
Bizarre Aboriginal theme park - don't ask.
People out and about everywhere.