I'm not much of a city person to begin with—okay, I'm not a city person at all—but Cairns is my favorite city. Granted, it's very small, as cities go, with a population of only 150,000 (plus heaps of backpackers). But my heart sang when I saw the mountains above Cairns airport when I arrived eight months ago, and I look forward to the times when we give students free weekends in Cairns and I can spend some time there myself.
What I love about Cairns is the memories that I have of living there as a student in 2009 and the friendships I made. While our study abroad program was a traveling program—we spent time on the Atherton Tablelands (where I currently live) learning about the rainforest, camping in the bush with Aboriginal elders, exploring the coral reefs near Lizard Island, and conducting independent research all over the country—we came back to Cairns in between each of these adventures. There, in addition to going to lectures and working on assignments, we got to know the town well—the best (and cheapest) places to eat, the birds along the Esplanade, afternoons by the Lagoon, and our favorite places to shop. We lived in a hostel, The Northern Greenhouse, so we had the opportunity to meet other travelers our age and get to know those who were staying a while on their work-holiday visas.
I still stay in The Northern Greenhouse whenever I spend the night in Cairns, but it's not quite the same without the thirteen people I lived with in 2009. However, I do my best to recreate some of my experiences from that year and often think about the friends who were once here with me.
I cannot visit Cairns without walking along the Esplanade, looking at birds and enjoying the water, wind, and sun. And I always spend some time at the Lagoon, as well; even if I don't end up going swimming, it's a great place to hang out. It's usually raining up on the Tablelands this time of year, but it's almost always warm and sunny down in Cairns, so I get my Vitamin D fix while I'm down there!
And finally, there's Shanti Shanti. When I was a student, my friends and I would always wind up at this store when in Cairns. There was something about being in the field for weeks that made us eager to satisfy our material cravings whenever we were in town, and this was the place for all things hippie and awesome. I've only purchased two items this year, but whenever it's open, I take a look inside, mostly for the memories.