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I always had a vague idea of what Australia would be like when I was growing up. Beyond the typical images of kangaroos bouncing around and boomerangs zinging past, I pictured the country as sitting in the center of a never-ending rain of sun rays. After being granted my first Working Holiday Visa in January, I couldn’t wait to book my flight and come to the land of sunshine and warmth.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I picked a great city enjoying the sunshine while simultaneously being cooled down by the energetic winds- I didn’t know that places like Melbourne were frequently visited by grey skies and drizzles. No real chance of an Aussie sunburn!

skyline perth

Arriving in Perth


When I arrived in Perth in early February, right in the heart of an Australian summer, I knew that it would be hot. After visiting family in Detroit, Michigan, USA for two months, I was more than keen to escape the icy grasps of winter (which included several multi-foot blizzards) in change for the sunshine and heat. I love sunshine- who doesn’t? Being confined to the indoors for a few months is less than ideal for anyone, but this is particularly relevant to an outdoorsy person like myself. Once I realized that I was quite possibly the palest, vampire-looking person in all of Oz, I was determined to get myself on par with everyone’s sun-kissed glow and be outside as much as I could.

As pale as I was, I knew that I would need to use sunscreen to avoid an uncomfortable burn in the 37+ degree weather. For the first few days, I diligently applied sunscreen with an SPF of 20- a much higher protection rating than I would normally use in the Northern Hemisphere. This was coupled with the fact that I didn’t see all that much of the outdoors, except during my times walking from place to place handing out my CV. After finding a house and settling in, I took full advantage of my lovely picturesque little garden in the back. From morning workout routines and yoga sessions to sitting on my laptop writing about my experiences, I reveled in sitting outside in my back garden… for about two hours.

The Burn


My boyfriend returned home after a half days work to find me completing an article online. Before even greeting me properly, his mouth dropped with shock. “You are so burned”, was all he could say. Turns out, when your eyes get so adjusted to the brightness outside, it’s hard to tell what your skin actually looks out. “No, I’m fine”, I replied. I most certainly was not fine. After showering and relieving my skin of its sweaty, oiled-up appearance, I looked at myself in the mirror. This is what I saw- the line across my stomach represents where my laptop unsuspectingly sat.

burnt backpacker

Lesson Learnt


Although this burn was shockingly not painful that day or the next, I definitely learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of this wonderful paradise. Never in my life have I been in a place where I could be affected by the sun in such a short time. On top of that, Australia has an extremely high rate of cancer, probably due to the fact that there is a giant whole in the ozone layer right above the continent. In fact, I read that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women born and raised in Australia have been diagnosed with cancer. If the photos above aren’t convincing enough to make you generously apply and re-apply sunscreen, then this fact should. Have fun in the sun, but protect your temple.

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Leah Bostwick /

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