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Oprah Takes Her Audience to Australia

When Grace & Gratitude Become Lifetime Souvenirs

By Kathleen ThompsonPublished 29 days ago 3 min read
Oprah announcing Australia Trip Prize

There is nothing like feeling the joyful anticipation of an audience of 302 people waiting for Oprah to reveal a prize trip that she would bestow upon all of us: a celebration of the first show of her last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

As she teased the prize moment out fully in that September 2010 episode, her words came out slow and majestic… “Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the world…we’re going to Australia!!” She repeated the sentence several times so the audience could really breathe it in fully amidst our chorus of screams, tears, smiling faces, and our bodies jumping up and down in exuberant unison!

This unbelievable trip was amazing! This surprise, starting with her announcement was just the beginning of a wonderful array of experiences that will remain in my heart and memory forever.

Oprah and her production staff planned the most delightful adventure for us…starting with dancing with members of an Aborigine tribe. Next was a close and personal visit with a sweet Koala Bear, amongst other adorable creatures at the local zoo. The accommodations were lovely, both in Sydney and Byron Bay. In Byron Bay, our hotel was close to the ocean, and I awoke to a bird sound I’d never heard before and thought it sounded a bit like a monkey- in actuality, it was a Kookaburra bird! That Kookaburra greeting was my morning wake-up call throughout the stay. Given a brief surfing lesson on the beach, I also tried surfing for the first time in my life and actually stayed upright on the board!!

Connecting with a Koala

Dancing with the Aborigines- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Quokka - Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Monkey at zoo- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

First time surfing

One of the most beautiful surprises we were gifted with was a day long adventure with the late Olivia Newton-John at her spa in Byron Bay. Olivia planned a barbecue held under a white tent with an amazing meal. A little stone painted with the word “grace” was at my place setting. A word that perfectly described the beauty of that day as well as the entire trip! The “Barbie” (Aussie slang for barbecue) was just one moment of the most memorable experiences from our time at Olivia’s spa.

Place setting at Olivia Newton-John's "Barbie" -Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Olivia Newton-John with her husband John Easterling - Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Meal under the white tent at Olivia's resort - Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Before we gathered for that wonderful meal, we planted trees we attached our names to in honor of our being there. We also did a little meditation on a beautiful hillside complete with live didgeridoo music. Later a marching band was summoned in our honor just before Olivia treated us to a personal mini concert where she sang to us! The setting for this amazing day was in the rolling hills of Byron Bay- enchanting and magical. Those scenes will forever be in my memory and rooted in my mind’s eye for my lifetime. Would love to wander back to Australia at some point to see how tall my tree has grown! I'd also like to revisit the horse sculpture again reigning on Olivia's property in elegant majesty.

Planting Trees- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)
Marching band- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Olivia Newton-John - Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Olivia Newton-John singing to an Oprah trip winner - Kathleen Thompson (photographer)
On the hilltop of Byron Bay- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Olivia's Resort Property -Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

When we left Byron Bay and went back to Sydney, we were treated to a "Bono" concert, a trip to a lighthouse, a cruise on a sailing ship in Sydney Harbor, and a spirited walk up to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Australian Flag- Kathleen Thompson (photographer)

Sailing in Sydney Harbor

climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge with my friend Cindy

"Bono" Concert in Sydney- (Kathleen Thompson-photographer)

In the last days of the 10-day Australia trip, all 302 of us attended the Oprah Winfrey show set at the Sydney Opera House with guests Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Bon Jovi, and Russel Crowe. I am truly eternally grateful for the awesome experiences I had while discovering the beauty of Australia.

Oprah at the Sydney Opera House

The trip was a gift on so many levels. As I write this my heart is embracing every memory of this journey. It was such an honor to have met and felt the kindness of the singer/actress Olivia Newton-John. She made our time at her spa/resort so enchanting! Oprah and her production staff paid attention to planning every single detail of this trip; from arrangements made to seeing Australia's wildlife, or it's beautiful architecture from an amazing bridge, or to embark on new experiences (like surfing) or hearing the original music of the Aborigines and being introduced to their culture, etc. I also made new lifetime friends with fellow Oprah fans to whom I still keep in touch. As I look back on this journey in this present moment, I feel the trip to Australia was like a pilgrimage for me. I travelled on a holy adventure, which lead to a personal journey that has shown me what grace feels like, and I wish to continue to bring that grace and gratitude into my daily life. As Olivia wrote in her lyrics below; may I remember to always share those gifts with others as they were so generously shared with me.

"Thank you for life

Thank you for everything

I stand here in Grace and Gratitude

And I thank you ..."

" Grace & Gratitude" Olivia Newton-John

Oprah Viewers who won trip to Australia


About the Creator

Kathleen Thompson

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    Kathleen ThompsonWritten by Kathleen Thompson

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