As I flew on our tons of flights, I thought about the trip in general (when I wasn't sleeping).
1) The toilets there don't flow in the opposite direction. That's a myth. First, you can get water to flow in either direction in either hemisphere by the way the faucet or spout is angled. Second, all the toilets were the high efficiency ones that don't really swirl anyways.
2) If you're in Australia or New Zealand, get Tim Tams. They're these delicious packaged cookies. They're like the national Oreo, except they're way better than Oreos. They sandwich a filling (chocolate is original, but they also have caramel, strawberry, and others) between two rectangular chocolate cookies and then cover the whole thing with chocolate. We went through countless packages throughout the trip.
3) Arnott's makes Tim Tams, as well as these mini churro looking chips, as well as tons of other snack foods. They seem to be one of the dominant brands and overall seem pretty decent.
4) Everybody everywhere I went from the smaller towns to the bigger cities was super friendly. We're talking what would be considered small town, midwest type friendly in the US. I loved it!
5) Aboriginal and Maori art is awesome. I wish that we had been exposed to non-literal art in school. Maybe then I'd appreciate it. Personally, looking at a bunch of portraits of dead white people I don't know, or even looking at paintings of dull landscapes that show the reality of what's there doesn't appeal too much to me. I understand that they didn't have photos in the old days, but still. The use of symbols and representations and bright colorations just appeals to me much more.
6) I learned to check out the tour ahead of time. We did some bus tours where we sat on the bus, looking out the window all day. That doesn't engage me and while I enjoy a good nap, that's not what I'm paying for. At the other end of the spectrum, we did some tours where the bus got us from place to place, but we spent most of the time out walking, doing, seeing what there was to see. I much prefer experiencing a place myself. To me, looking out a bus window isn't really that different from looking at a photograph. You know the place is out there, but you're still not really part of it. I'm sure that when I get older, I won't be able to walk as much and will need look-out-the-window tours, but for now, I want to be there myself.
7) The treatment of the Maori in NZ was drastically different than anything I'm used to. Here in the US, we most certainly don't post signs in public places in any Native American Indian languages. You can't walk into a random gift shop and get NAI arts or crafts. Other than in sport team names (Indians, Redskins, Chiefs), we really don't recognize them too much. I feel that we tend to either let them stay on the reservations or let them blend in, but that it's a little rarer to see them holding on to their culture so strongly and yet being a regular part of society. Even in Australia where they do have aboriginal art greeting you from gift shops, they are still seeking the balance that I feel New Zealand has. Calling it Ayer's Rock or Uluru, The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, these types of things are still in process in Australia. In New Zealand, plenty of roads, towns, and rivers carry Maori names as their only name. Yet not everybody there is Maori. Somehow the population has managed to figure it all out. Keep in mind, this is only my impression. For all I know, there are some major grassroots movements of some sort, but it really did seem that different.
8) I'm glad I have a day to relax before I have to return to reality. I completely lost track of what day it was on the trip as all the days were the same to me. Even on the planes, I was thinking about the trip and not wanting it to end, not ready to mentally return to the world. Despite the change of scenery, I'm not mentally back from vacation and it's good to have a half day to extend the rest, but also have a half day to try to get mentally back up to speed and figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. I think that the hardest adjustment for me will not be the weather, as I love the snow, but will be the lack of fresh summer fruits and veggies that result from it being winter here. I got used to eating tons of fresh food, now I have to go back to either canned or the veggies that are very old as they had to get here from far away.
The moral of the story is- go to Australia; go to New Zealand. They're freaking awesome.