The Great (Online) Outdoors of Australia   

Traveling to Australia is a unique experience all around. Think about it – a country that is also a continent, a one-of-a-kind ecological system that operates independently from the rest of the world. The scenery is breathtaking, the animal and plant kingdom are exceptional and the Homo sapiens roaming the continent are probably the most pleasant ones in the whole world.

Now, these nice people of the Australian breed – tall, smiley and a bit rough around the edges in the most accommodating way possible – have a special place in their hearts for slot machines, which they fondly refer to as “pokies”; not to be confused with “poker” the card game, or “Pokemon” the beloved Japanese species of anime characters and gaming sensation. (Quick J-trivia: Pokemon is an abbreviation for Pocket Monsters.)

But back to pokies. The light-gambling machines are to be found every-where in Australia. There are about 200,000 of them spread all around the country, through about 4,000 designated such clubs. For those traveling from countries that do not allow slot machines ‘out in the open’, like most of the US for example, or Japan, having the option to give a spin or two here and there is super fun.

For an American who wants to do some gambling in his or hers home country – we all deserve a little fun now and then – a lot or arranging is involved; asking for time off work, scheduling a flight, booking a hotel room for yourself, and one for your dog as well. Then it’s Vegas or Atlantic City, both will put a big dent in your wallet. So engaging in some casual pokie-time, for ten or fifteen minutes is nice, and affordable.

Even if you travel with children, many of the pokies clubs have an adjacent children’s play area, as well as a restaurant, so every member of the family can find something they enjoy doing.

Now the last thing advisable in Australia is staying indoors. If the term ‘The Great Outdoors’ wasn’t coined about Australia, well, it should have been. It is simply gorgeous, and the weather is mostly pleasant all year long, even during the winter months of June to September – southern hemisphere, that’s how.

I’m not a 100% sure about it, but I think that in some regions in Australia, it is actually illegal to stay indoors more than 30 minutes straight during daytime. The last thing you want while vacationing is a tussle with the law, so keep that in mind.

Everything is about balance in life, while living it and during vacation. When I was in Jamaica some years back I spent so much time in the first couple of days lying on the beach drinking pinna coladas, I had a really spooky nightmares about pineapples trying to harm me; pineapples can be really nasty when they want to. All I needed to do was leave the beach and explore the inland, throw some jerk chicken into the mix, and it all balanced out nicely; maybe the fact that all those pinna coladas met a completely empty stomach contributed to the nightmares, who knows…

If you still get the pokie-craving when marveling the wonders or mother nature, you can even have some online pokie time. Your phone, your tablet, you got one of those and you are good to go. It might sound strange to some, playing online instant scratchies and slots while on vacation but hey, don’t judge. I find it on the verge of insanity to read a book in a foreign country – you are in a new and unfamiliar place and you bury your nose in words and sentences printed on paper? – but I don’t go around telling all those reading tourists what I think about them, I let them be.

So what I think is, anything you can’t do at home, you should try out when on vacation (in the boundaries of the law, of course.) That’s what vacations are for, no?

My brightest memories from vacations are of when I did seemingly unrelated, illogical things: eating an Italian meal in Puerto Rico, playing a poker game in a carpet shop in Istanbul, watching a Meg Ryan film in South Africa, flying a kite in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, driving a truck in Barcelona. You do what you do because it feels right at that moment, who cares if it’s in the guide or not..?