Back to Melbourne…Again

Between leaving Sydney and arriving in Wellington, I had close to a week in Melbourne. In case you’ve forgotten, I spent a year in Melbourne, not including the times before I started the East Coast in 2018. I might not have intended for my time in the city to go that way, but it proved that it’s more of a home to me than anywhere I’ve found in Australia so far.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed other places. Sydney has been great, Brisbane was nice but small and Perth very chilled (I won’t list everywhere, it’ll take too long) but Melbourne fit. The best thing is, whether or not that’s where I choose to go back to in the future, or elsewhere in the country, it’s not hard to get back there.

Or, if I do choose Melbourne, I can still visit my friends in Sydney and other places pretty easily!

A few reunions

The whole point of coming back here was to see some old friends. I worked in a bar, in a hostel and other jobs over my time here. I met people through meetups and events, too, so I wanted to see as many as possible – and I did!

It involved a lot of drinking and eating out, but it was worth it. It was good to relax, catch up on the news and changes and talk about what’s coming next. It felt like it was over in a flash, and before I knew it, I was packing up again to get ready for another flight.

Most importantly, though, I finally tried ramen for the first time – AND I LOVED IT!

A fitting way to end my time in Australia

It actually feels kind of fitting that I got to see my favourite comedian, Dylan Moran, in one of my favourite cities with some of the best people I’ve met so far. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end this leg of the adventure than by laughing for almost two hours constantly and enjoying a few drinks after.

Anyone on this side of the world, if you get a chance to see Moran’s Dr Cosmic tour, do it. I promise you won’t regret it. If you’ve missed it, wait for the DVD and watch it as soon as you can. I won’t describe anything to avoid spoilers.

First impressions of Wellington

So, I’ve been in Wellington, New Zealand for a couple of weeks now. I don’t have much to say yet, as there’ll be a full post in the next week or so, but I can tell you it’s a windy place! It might be the specific location (Melbourne also seems to have its own weather patterns and logic) but the scenery is stunning – even the surrounding area!

The buildings look a lot quirkier, too. There are still modern ones and towers in the CBD but even then, plenty of the buildings that give the place character. I’m looking forward to finding out more, so stay tuned!

Three weeks in Darwin

I like to think I’ve been pretty honest about this trip since it started. I’ve shown you the good and the bad, even though it’s mostly been good. I was hoping Darwin would continue that trend – and it has, but it’s also thrown a few wrinkles my way.

That’s not unexpected, but unfortunately, those wrinkles haven’t worked out the way I wanted. I couldn’t find work at all, which isn’t to say there isn’t any (although there’s not much, it seems) but I made no headway in getting a job compared to everyone else looking. That’s disappointing.

So, after three weeks of living frugally, I’m heading to Brisbane to try my luck there. I really enjoyed it for the couple of days I spent there last year and, hopefully, it’ll be a bit more fruitful and I can recoup the money from Darwin and then some.

That’s not to say Darwin wasn’t good. I really enjoyed it, and I did a few pretty cool things.

Exploring the city

A gorgeous sunset in Darwin

Darwin is different to any other city I’ve seen in Australia. It had the sleepiness of Perth but not the size. The coastline is beautiful but you can’t swim (crocodiles and Irukandji rule the waters) although you can find some great sunsets at certain spots.

There’s a free museum, plenty of bars and restaurants, seasonal events and…not much else?

That’s probably not true, but I spent most of my time hunting for work, so I probably missed some stuff.

What is worth seeing are the markets on a Thursday and Sunday, with the latter being a better time to go. Catch the sunset, grab some food, have a drink and enjoy some music, and while there are buses to get you there, you can also walk in about 20 minutes.

The V8 Supercars

The V8 Supercars in Darwin

I was lucky enough that the V8 Supercars were in Darwin while I was there. I’ve seen them at both F1 races in Melbourne over the last two years but to see them in their own right, on a small and intimate track, was something else.

It also reminded me of the BTCC weekends back in the UK. Yes, it’s motorsport but different, too. There was music each night and free buses to and from the track, and while I only made two days out of three, I enjoyed seeing the racing and some music – although one big name that I did recognise was The Veronicas. That was interesting.

Discovering Litchfield Park

To make sure I really got to see even just a little bit of the Northern Territory, I booked a day tour to Litchfield Park on my final weekend. This was going to be a long day, as we set off at 6am!

Jumping crocodiles!

While a lot of people choose a three or five day tour of Kakadu, a much larger national Park, it wasn’t really in my budget or available time. That being said, I had a great day. Some people don’t like tours, preferring to do things their way. That’s fine, but as a solo traveller who doesn’t drive, this was a better option for me, and the tour guide knew his stuff.

We started with a jumping crocodile river tour on the River Adelaide, and let me tell you, those things are sneaky. More than once while we were watching on one side, another would swim up to the other and take us by surprise!

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

This was followed by heading into Litchfield itself and we stopped at three different swimming spots, complete with waterfalls and fish – the first, Wangi Falls could have, and probably did have, freshwater crocs but those ones are small and timid, not likely to bite you (according to our guide). Needless to say, we were all fine.

The water helped wake me up!

The second spot, Florence Falls, was my favourite, though. That’s even with the water being the coldest of three spots.

There was a lot of driving but plenty of sights and information passed on to us. I was knackered at the end!

Crocosaurus Cove

On my last day in the city, I ventured to Crocosaurus Cove. You’d be forgiven for thinking this a small place, given how it might look on a map or from the surrounding buildings, but there’s an impressive array of reptiles, fish and crocodiles here.

And some are absolute monsters!

It’s easy to spend a couple of hours here, learning about these creatures, their habitats and lifestyles but there are also live demonstrations to get closer and find out more. However, it was one particular activity that caught my eye.

It’s called The Cage of Death and it puts you in one of the crocodile enclosures.

The Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove

There are four different enclosures you can be put in and it all depends on the croc itself, how it’s been behaving, how much energy it has and such. The one I was put in had two, both smaller than the others but it included the only female they have. She stayed away, which is a good thing since she can be pretty aggressive. Her mate, however, got very close. He circled the cage and got right up and close and they fed him, allowing me to hear that whopping thud when those jaws clamp down.

I’m not going to lie; I jumped every time.

It was the eyes, though. They pierce your soul. I felt pretty safe but there’s no guarantees with these activities and while these are tamer crocs than you’d find in the wild, if something did go wrong, those things would tear me to pieces.

Oh, and they’re named Will and Kate after, you know, the Royals.

Still, it was a great experience and kept me busy while I waited for my early morning flight. And now, we see what Brisbane brings.

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.

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!

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.