Before you left for the land down under, your friends probably reminded you not to come back empty-handed. They shouted, “Bring me a boomerang!” or “I want a kangaroo!” before you were even done packing. Hitting the souvenir shops for the folks back home is certainly a must, but when your trip to Australia is coming to an end and you’re filling the limited space you have left in that too-small suitcase, don’t forget to pack the things you’re really going to miss when you get back home.
1. The best lamington recipe you can find.
You may have to bribe the owner of the bakery down the street or make friends with your Aussie mate’s mom, but there is no such thing as too much effort when it comes to these iconic desserts. Lamingtons seem simple enough, but somehow the combination of sponge cake, chocolate icing, and coconut turns into something magical when served up in the Southern Hemisphere. These treats are next to impossible to find in the United States, which makes no sense because they’re amazing. So gather all the information you can and pack that recipe in your carry-on bag, because it is precious cargo.
2. A picture of yourself holding a koala.
The term “insta-jealous” was invented solely to describe how your friends will feel after viewing photos of you holding a koala. It will happen. There are no exceptions. They’ll pretend to be overwhelmed by the cuteness and the excitement, but deep down, the jealousy is eating away at them. Now, a picture standing next to a koala is nice, but if you want the full effect you have to go all out. Get yourself to Queensland, where all the koala holding your heart desires is legal, and find a nice wildlife park. You will probably have to pay for a professional photo, but when you look back years later and fondly remember that furry, cuddly, smelly koala hug, you’ll realize it was the best money you ever spent.
3. Everything ever made featuring the Australian flag.
Nowhere else in the world can you find the sheer volume of items bearing that blue, white, and red design you will come to know and love. You can even make a game out of it with your fellow travelers – who can find the most ridiculous Australian flag souvenir? You want a trendy flag tote bag? No problem. A cool flag coffee mug? Try any souvenir shop. A flag-printed bikini? Just pick your size. From beach towels to tea towels and t-shirts to ties, the list of options goes on and on. Start your collection, and don’t forget to include a full-size actual flag so you can celebrate Australia Day in style. Sure, you can find American flag everything once you’re back in the States, but that’s just so mainstream.
4. Pancakes from the best restaurant in Sydney.
You might argue that “best restaurant in Sydney” is up for debate, but it’s really no contest. Pancakes on the Rocks takes the cake. It doesn’t get much better than classic comfort food available 24 hours a day in one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods. Once you get home, you may not be able to eat fruity crepes and chocolate pancakes at 3:00 in the morning with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but you can take a little piece of heaven with you. Stock up on pancake mix from the restaurant before you leave the country, and recreate an awesome Aussie “brekkie” in your own kitchen. Bonus points if you manage to smuggle a whole Vanilla and Choc Surprise through customs with the ice cream still intact.
5. A friend...or five.
The people you meet abroad are irreplaceable. Every story is different, and who knows where you’re going to meet someone who’s going to make it a hundred times harder to leave. It could be on your university campus during a painfully boring finance lecture or at a really questionable hostel one night on the Gold Coast.
Whether they’re native Aussies or other international travelers, the people in Australia make it the amazing place that it is.
Sure, you’re Facebook friends and have set up Skype dates and are totally going to make the long-distance friendship work, but wouldn’t it be more fun to take your friends back with you? If they won’t fit in your suitcase, or are complaining about making a 15-hour flight in cargo, at least make them promise to visit you. And return the favor. The pancake mix will eventually expire and the koala picture will start to fade, but if there’s one thing you should hang on to as long as you can, it’s the people who made your trip worth it.