A sudden change of plans

Every so often, you get comfortable. That’s been me since October. I got a job, which was boring and too easy for me but it let me sort out my finances, get some money behind me and even offered prospects of staying in Australia if I wanted it.

And I do want that. The question is, when do I want it?

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realise that I don’t want it now. There’s too much to see and do out there, and while I’d love to come back and live here, it’d be wrong to stop doing this now. Not only that, but I came out here to get out of the mundane life, and I got myself back into it, just in a new place. So, it’s time for a change.

Getting out of my comfort zone…again

So, for reasons I won’t go into (they’re dull and political and I can’t be arsed), I’m leaving my job next month. That’s going to represent a shift in what I’m doing here, obviously.

I’m planning a trip in May/June, and I was supposed to keep working until that point. With 4-6 weeks of time before that, I’m either going to have to find another job and keep saving or budget myself a lot stricter. Neither option is impossible.

Do I stay in Melbourne or look elsewhere? That’s another question. Financially, Melbourne is the best option but maybe leaving isn’t bad for me. Maybe I can find something else that I don’t know I’m missing yet.

The questions remain but thankfully, I’ve got time to figure them out. Updates to follow later.

The beginning of the 1000 Steps walking trail

The beginning of the 1000 Steps walking trail

Speaking of comfort zones, along with a friend, I visited the 1000 Steps one very hot weekend. Now, in actual fact, it’s not a thousand but around the 800ish mark. The greenery was lovely and some of the views gorgeous. Next time, I won’t do it in 30+ degree heat!

Moomba festival and writing groups

I’ve been working about four jobs for the last few months, just saving money. That means free time is limited and I’m saving a lot more than I planned. Great, but there’s probably a lot of things passing me by that I’ve missed.

The Moomba festival sign

The Moomba festival sign

So, this last week I went to check out the start of the Moomba Festival. Now, I don’t know much about this other than it’s a long weekend festival with a carnival and involves people dressing up in silly costumers and jumping into the Yarra River. All credit, I’m sure it’s some kinda fun but that river doesn’t look clean! I saw the carnival with a friend but didn’t see that stuff because it happens later in the weekend, when I’m busy!

In January, I joined a writing group in Melbourne. It’s been amazing to meet other writers here and it’s given me fresh motivation to keep writing myself, which sometimes happens at the hostel but usually in a library or one of the writing sessions they organise. It’s hard to make it to every session due to the jobs, but it’s something I’ll keep looking into as I move forward, I think.

Download and the F1

This coming week, however, is going to be much more fun. I’m going to Australia’s second ever Download Festival, having never made it to any of the UK events. This is only a one day festival but the line-up looks great and giving the weather here, it’ll be as good as Good Things back in December.

I have one day at work and then the F1 returns to Albert Park. I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s event and, given how this new season is looking, this will be even better. I also know the track better so I already have an idea of where to put myself throughout the weekend.

It’s crazy to think it’s been almost a year since last year’s race. Time flies when you’re having fun, so don’t waste it.

That’s my guiding mantra going forward, I think.

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Looking back at the last 12 months

I actually can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I landed in Australia! It’s been an incredible experience from start to finish, and the includes my short time in Hong Kong just before. I can honestly say that this has been the best decision I’ve made since graduating university back in 2012.

It hasn’t always been easy, and there are times I felt pretty low, but I’ve gotten through them and I’m glad I didn’t give up. I have to thank everyone who helped me, no matter how big or small, get through the struggles.

I’m still learning, and still looking forward to seeing and doing more, but this seemed like a good time to revisit some of the trip, partly for you but mostly for me.

The highs

There are so many! I have some favourite moments, though, but in no particular order:

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

Skydiving in Cairns

Given my disliking of heights, falling from 15,000 feet doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy but it was amazing! Even better, it was at sunrise! Getting over the initial fear and settling into it allowed me to enjoy the views and sensation. Would do again.

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

It might not be the best sunset ever, but the place is stunning and the water, the hills, the lighthouse – they all add to the effect. This was just after surf camp so I was already on a high from that. I also got to catch up with an old friend, so bonus.

Magnetic Island

This is a dream getaway with koalas, wildlife and beaches. The island is small and scenic – you can walk across it and back in less than a day, but there are a lot of hills. I could have done with more time here but I was able to recharge my batteries, hug a koala and get some great views, too.

The lows

Before I left, I promised to share the good and the bad, and there’s been a few lows along the way.

Not being able to find work

This hit me hard at the end of my east coast trip. I had gone almost six months without working, other than bits of freelance, and had run out of money. I survived a little longer before taking the plunge and coming back to Melbourne, which has proven to be the right decision. I got so low that I almost decided to come home before and after this decision. I’m glad I didn’t but I found it hard to stay motivated when I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. Lessons were learnt, though, and I won’t get in that situation again.

Feeling a little lost and alone

There have been a few times that travelling solo has hit me. This was most obvious when I had no money and no job but every so often, despite being a solitary person who likes my own space, I’ve missed being around people I know – and other backpackers don’t really count. I miss people from back home and the familiarity and security they offer, even if only for a short while.

The mundane

Working full-time can be quite mundane. After arriving in Melbourne, I got a bar job in a music venue. Easy enough but good fun. I also started working in the hostel I’ve been staying in, mostly doing nightshifts. That was different for me but ruined my body clock.

Eventually, I got a full-time 9-5 back in digital marketing. It pays well and I’m using this chance to save as much as I can, without living a boring life in Melbourne. There are definitely worse jobs out there, though.

The top pick

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The stars on Fraser Island

Hands down, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry there’s no picture but they were breath-taking and I’d love to see them again. Fraser Island itself is also one of the best things I’ve done in Australia. It’s so serene and beautiful, but dangerous at times, too. Gorgeous lakes and rivers, champagne pools and a rainforest all on one sand island.

Other moments

Quokka

Quokka

The F1 at Albert Park was fantastic! The race itself might not have been the most exciting but seeing it somewhere else for the first time was something else – and it was so cheap to do!

Surf camp was so much fun, and I really would like to do more surfing over the next year.

Visiting Perth to see a friend from Manchester was awesome – I had my own tour guide! We saw dolphins, penguins, quokkas and much more.

The whole east coast trip was incredible, and something I can’t wait to experience again, kind of, when I do the west coast!

Bringing in 2019 in Melbourne

My first blog post of 2019 is a little later than I’d planned but things have been quite hectic over the last two months! That’s hectic in a good way; I’ve turned up to a writing group in Melbourne, been to a festival, had some time off over Christmas and, most importantly, got my second-year visa.

I’m staying in Australia for a bit longer!

It removes my initial dilemma of what to do next and lets me take time to see more here, save up more money and THEN make a decision. That suits me just fine. I’ve settled in Melbourne well, I could see myself living here much longer, but that’s not why I came here. At least not yet.

One another note, it’s just over two weeks until I landed here in 2018 – that’s a whole year! I’m going to do a full recap then but, in the meantime, here’s what’s been going on.

Good Things Festival

The Offspring at Good Things Festival

The Offspring at Good Things Festival

I’d been looking forward to this festival for months. A day-long rock festival in Melbourne with some great bands and headlined by The Offspring – who played the entire Smash album and then some! What’s not to love about this?

The heat. That’s what. It was apparently 39 degrees Celsius that day and that meant I had to be careful. I missed the first couple of hours, which normally I wouldn’t, to make sure I could last the day. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune while I was there.

Bands I saw included Babymetal – who are awesome, by the way! – Dropkick Murphys, Bullet for my Valentine, Stonesour and, of course, The Offspring. The first and last of this list were the highlights, definitely, and now I’m looking forward to Download festival in March,

The not-so festive season

New Years Eve fireworks in Melbourne

New Years Eve fireworks in Melbourne

Christmas was a weird one. It was summer here, so no snow or cold weather. After 29 years, it was a big change. The end result was it didn’t feel very Christmas-y. So much so that I decided to work Christmas Eve and Day at the hostel, the latter paying almost $50 an hour so it made sense. Anything I could do that day, I could do any other day here.

More importantly, it was good just to relax for a while and take some time for myself. Do a little writing. Catch up on sleep. Spend some time on the beach. You know, that kind of stuff.

New Years was a little better. I went down to the lake at Albert Park for midnight and watched the fireworks as the clock ticked over. It was impressive; fireworks launched from countless rooftops in the CBD in a coordinated display for over ten minutes. Sydney tends to be a popular choice but it’s worth checking Melbourne’s display, too.

Doing more exploring

Melbourne CBD from Williamstown

Melbourne CBD from Williamstown

There’s a lot to see and do around Melbourne, and I’ve been lax the last few months in making the most of my time here. This weekend, I spent a day in Williamstown, just across the bay from where I’m staying in St Kilda.

It’s a nice place. Quaint. Quiet. Picturesque. There wasn’t much to do, but some really nice views and walks. I’m making a point to get out more on the weekend and see new places in and around the city. Afterall, why else am I here?

What does 2019 hold?

As I mentioned, Download festival returns to Melbourne for it’s second year and the following weekend brings the opening race of the F1 season. After how much fun I had last year, I’m definitely going to that, too.

In between times, there’s more work to be done to keep saving money before I take four or five weeks off work to go and explore the west coast. This will be a completely different beast to the east, where I took a bus and did it alone, as I’m going with three others and we’re driving (well, they are, since, y’know, I can’t drive).

After that, I’ll have decisions to make again. There’s more travelling to be done but I’ll need more money and the work situation will have an impact.

Settling into a normal routine

Melbourne from the river

Melbourne from the river

Since I got back to Melbourne in June, my whole focus has been on getting a job and recovering the funds I’ve spent since February. I had an amazing five months of travelling and doing some awesome things but it depleted me to pretty much zero.

Now, I don’t regret my choices at all. There are some things I may do differently if I could go back, and definitely things to keep in mind for the future but, in the end, things have worked out.

I was able to pick up work during the winter, which is harder to do than you might think, and get some stability. Then, back in October (a few days before my birthday, in fact) I finally got the job I was looking for. All good, right?

Getting the job I wanted

One thing I wanted to do when I came to Australia was work in digital marketing. This is my career back in the UK and I’m good at what I do, thankfully. I had a fair few interviews while working at the hostel but couldn’t get across that final hurdle, for whatever reason. It was frustrating, to say the least, but I knew it would come.

I was looking at short contracts that fit in with my visa. I felt that was likely going to give me a better chance. This job, as a content writer, fits my specialism perfectly but is actually a full six-month contract, with the option of a second six months to follow in my second year.

There are further opportunities open to me in the future as a result of this, but I’ll come back to those shortly.

Working life in a hostel

While I did move out of hostels for a grand total of six weeks, I moved back in November. Those six weeks were great for me, to have some space of my own and more peace and quiet to get back on track with things.

Hostels have rooms of various sizes, and with a different number of beds. I’m a bit older than most backpackers I meet, so I opt for a 6-bed dorm with its own bathroom. This is a bit more expensive but the room tends to be quieter and that’s an advantage when you work five or six days a week.

For the most part, everyone I’ve met or shared a room with has been decent. I’ve heard stories from other people in the hostel about roommates who aren’t as nice to live with, so I count myself lucky. That being said, sharing a room with five other people means you don’t get the best sleep. It’s a trade off but one I’ve adapted to now.

Trying not to plan too far ahead (and failing)

This job does have the potential to lead to sponsorship. Now, that’s a nice idea – and before I even came to Australia, I had convinced myself that if such an opportunity came up, I’d do all I could to take it.

Now, I’m less sure. Am I ready to stay in one place for a longer period of time? Do I want to settle into that mundane, day-to-day life again?

These and other questions are things I think about every day and I still don’t have the answers, yet. In the short term, I’m working and saving for the future, whether that’s for trips or activities or something else remains to be seen. While I try to just focus on this, it’s hard to not to wonder about two months down the line, six months later or three years beyond. It makes things a bit more complicated but I’m still going.

A much-needed reunion

One thing has been playing on my mind over recent weeks. It’s brought into question everything I’m doing and honestly, I’m feeling a little lost as a result. I miss the people from back home but I don’t miss the mundanity of daily life – and that’s what I’m in now. I switched one country for another but I came travelling to escape this, and I did for so long. So, I keep asking myself; is this really what I should be doing right now?

Honestly, I have no answer yet. I’m looking at ways to keep myself focused or engaged, and I’ve got some plans to do so. I hope it works and I can come to the right answer later.

Something did stand out, though. I got to see my best friend when she stopped by Melbourne. The first time for just a day and then again for a couple before she flew home. It was great to catch up – it’ had been a good 10 months or so since we’d last seen each other!

I needed that. I know it’s not something to get used to but of all the people to find on the other side of the world, it had to be her. Those were good days, and I miss them already.

Turning 30 in Australia

Okay, so this is a very late post! Things have been a bit full on since my last update, which was back in August! I’m going to explain what’s been going on in this gap in my next post in a week or so. This one, however, is dedicated purely to my 30th birthday back in October – and what I did for it.

Doing something a little different

Most of my birthdays over the last decade have been celebrated with friends and copious amounts of alcohol. This year, for the big three-zero, I’ve been in Australia (duh) and while I do have friends here, most of my good friends I’ve met are in other places in the country, so I was feeling a little lost as to what to do.

Also, while I wouldn’t mind going out and drinking, this is a big one so I wanted something a little different. My first plan was to go to Hobbiton in New Zealand but money prevented that from happening.

The idea of a trip still appealed so I looked for something else and I found a day tour, on my birthday, to a place not too far that as been on my list for a while. It meant a day out alone (not counting other people on this tour) but it was a memorable way to spend my birthday.

I decided on a tour to Phillip Island, which ended with the Penguin Parade.

Moonlit Sanctuary

The journey was a good few hours but the tour was able to break this down on the by stopping at Moonlit Sanctuary, which is about half way between Phillip Island and Melbourne (there was no stop on the way back but it was so late and long day, most of us took a nap).

Feeding this little guy at Moonlit Sanctuary

Feeding this little guy at Moonlit Sanctuary

This was quite a small wildlife park compared to some I’ve been to since arriving in Australia but that actually worked to its advantage. We had a barbecue lunch and had some time to walk around and explore. Plenty of different animals to see and learn about but the real highlight of this place is at the back where there were kangaroos and wallabies to feed and get pictures with. I even fed one with a joey peeking from the pouch!

The highlight here, however, as a baby koala on one of its first talks with people around. It had only been out in the world for a couple of months or less and it was very curious and a lot more active than most koalas I’ve seen.

Phillip Island

Just one of the residents at the koala sanctuary

Just one of the residents at the koala sanctuary

I probably could have spent all day at Moonlit Sanctuary but before I knew it, we were off again. Our first stop on Phillip Island was at a heritage farm, which was a nice place to wander around and look at. More animals and a bit of history but the next stop was more interesting.

We had a bit of time to stop by a koala sanctuary on the island. Now, yes, I’ve seen plenty of koalas already but they’re so cute! There are different enclosures with boardwalks to explore and I managed to see half a dozen or so, mostly all close together.

One of the views from the Nobbies

One of the views from the Nobbies

We then moved on to the Nobbies, which was a boardwalk on the coast of the island with some stunning views and the chance to see some wild penguins in the huts and holes. I did manage to make out the silhouettes of a couple and one that was definitely awake and checking if it was time to hunt but that’s it. The real penguin viewing was

The Penguin Parade

The highlight of the tour is the Penguin Parade. We had some time to kill so I grabbed some food and took a seat in the stands. As the sun dropped so did the temperature and I was glad to have brought a coat on an otherwise hot day. Some penguins marched out to see but more were returning and it didn’t take me long to realise there were better spots to be.

I camped out along one of the main ‘paths’ and watched a lot of groups of penguins march by, some breaking off as they reached their homes. They were constantly looking at the people and making plenty of noise. There were a few little scraps as well but it was definitely an interesting sight to see so many marching penguins – unlike St Kilda where you’re lucky to see more than a few at a time.

It was a lovely way to finish the day and tour before the long bus ride back home.

Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed of the penguins. Flash photography can really damage their eyes and to make sure there’s no accidental camera flashes, all photography is banned and there are plenty of staff making sure no photos are being taken. There is an app with photos they’ve taken but it’s not the same so I decided just to remember the little birds on my own.

The day did end with a few drinks but all in all, it was a great way to spend my birthday. A lot more chilled than the ones over the last decade or so.