Finding my feet in Sydney

So, after having no luck finding work in Darwin or Brisbane (although I did come close in the former), I came to Sydney primarily to save money. How, you ask, considering it’s a big city and more expensive to live? House sitting.

This is apparently a big thing, and there are websites where you can stay in someone’s house while they’re on holiday. It might involve looking after their pet(s) or it might be just to make sure there’s someone home, so it doesn’t look like a target for thieves. I’m not sure, but it’s a friend of mine who offered me the chance and I took it – especially since right now I have both a dog and a cat to keep me company.

The CBD and Opera House from North Sydney

I admit, living in Sydney had never really appealed until this point. It reminded me of London, which I enjoyed visiting but couldn’t imagine living. The same felt true of Sydney on previous visits. Having been here a few weeks, I’m reconsidering that idea.

Finally getting a job

A bigger city means more opportunities for jobs, that was the hope. While I had a few weeks of free rent, I planned to use that time to get my New South Wales RSA and find a job somewhere. As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary.

I contacted a recruiter the day before I flew from Brisbane and the next day, I had an interview book for the end of the week. Thirty minutes after the interview, I had a job! Not in a bar or hospitality but in my chosen field of digital marketing. A short-term contract in the education industry that pays very well!

I couldn’t have hoped for better as I can easily save money for the next part of my travels while living comfortably, if a little frugally, for the new few months.

Immediately, I’m more at ease. I’m glad to have this opportunity and continue gaining experience, and once I’ve had a few pay checks, I’ll get on with exploring Sydney more thoroughly.

I’m in my third week already, so that’ll happen soon!

Getting some time to myself

One of the advantages to house sitting is getting some personal space. It’s a welcome change after so long in hostels. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some great people in hostels…but I’ve also met some utter *****. That’s to be expected, and it will continue for as long as this adventure does. More on that, shortly.

Sunset with Sydney Harbour Bridge

While I’m working full-time much quicker than expected, I’m taking this time to clear my head, relax and do some solid writing. I have a book that I want to finish this month, which should happen unless something drastic happens.

I’m also going on walks and just generally exploring the area. I’m in North Sydney, which isn’t somewhere I’d normally think of going but walking over the bridge is impressive and there’s a nice walk along the shoreline where you can see the CBD, the Opera House and such. There’s more to see, even more so on the other side of the CBD but that’ll come soon enough, I’m sure.

Making plans for the future

While my Australian Working Holiday Visa runs until February 2020, I’m not sure I’ll stay that long. I want to go to New Zealand and I’m in the process of applying for their WHV. I have to do it now as I’m getting VERY close to the cut-off age, so now is the time.

While I don’t have a set plan just yet, I’m thinking November. Part of it will depend on work and what else I want to see and do before leaving the country. There’s more to see and I’ll be back to see it one day, although I also get the feeling I’d like to live in the country for a longer time one day. That, however, is something for another day.

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.

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.

The six-month recap

Wow. It’s been over six months since I arrived in Australia. That time has flown by and I’ve done and seen so much, and this trip still has so much to offer – not to mention what happens after.

I did mean to write this last week but, you know, life gets in the way. I’m currently lying in bed, suffering from a cold (along with half the hostel) catching up on everything.

I figured that it was time to take a look back at the last six months; the things I’ve done, seen and encountered, what I’ve learnt, the highlights and such. Overall, I can say right now this has been the best decision I could have made and while I probably could have done things better, or smarter, I’ve gotten by just fine (with a little help) and I’m glad with how things have turned out.

So far.

Hostel life and backpackers

As someone who spent four years prior to this trip living alone, moving into hostel life was probably the biggest shock. Suddenly I was sharing a room with six, eight, ten or twelve people every night – and most of these people changed every few days. The constant turnaround of people was hard to get used to, especially when you got on with someone really well.

That’s the life, though. A day or two or three of time together then goodbyes. I’ve seen my fair share of people who got upset over it at first. I’ve spent time in hostels before but never for this long a period.

I’ve settled into a routine now, and I’ll pay extra to be in a smaller room (usually six people) with a private bathroom. Maybe that’s my age showing through but it does make things a little easier.

Backpackers are a different kettle entirely. They’re as diverse as anyone else you might meet anywhere but the biggest thing we all have in common is the place we’ve chosen to visit. That gives you a chance to start a conversation and 90% of backpackers I meet are incredibly social.

That being said, and this isn’t an insult or dig but an observation, a lot of backpackers I’ve met have been very focused on drugs. That’s all well and good but it does stop me from getting too involved in everything going on as it’s not really my scene. They’re all cool people, though, so I’ve found myself in that borderline area. It works well but I have other priorities right now.

The standout moment(s)

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Oh geez, where do I begin?

Of all the places I’ve been, things I’ve seen and done, the best has to be Fraser Island. That was three days of stunning scenery and jaw-dropping sights, such as Lake McKenzie and the Champagne Pools. A lot of driving and a really good group of people made that one of the best trips I’ve made. The best moment of the whole thing was the view of the stars around midnight each night. We’d head to the beach and, being away from light pollution, were treated to clear nights with stunning views. Even if I’d had a proper camera with the right lens, I still couldn’t have taken a picture to do it justice. I’d love to see that again.

The skydive in Cairns has to be up there, too. Jumping/being thrown out of a plane at 15,000 feet wasn’t exactly something I would say to people was something I wanted to do but when the option came up, I knew I had to. I’m scared of heights as it as but being treated to a sunrise skydive was incredible. I would like to do it again – but I’d be just as scared, I know it!

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

Other memorable moments include the Australian F1 Grand Prix weekend, Penguin Island over on the West Coast, Magnetic Island, SpotX surf camp and meeting some very good friends who I’m sad to have had to say goodbye to – for now.

Always learning

This trip hasn’t always been plain sailing. Things haven’t gone to plan all the time – such as my Greyhound from Agnes Water to Airlie Beach being cancelled and missing the Whitsundays tour – and that knocked my confidence a little. I felt like I was out of control and when money got a bit tighter I couldn’t find a job.

I’m impressed I managed not to work for five months or so – that’s money management! I had a little freelance money come through but I did need to borrow some to get myself back to Melbourne where there are more jobs and now I’m settled and sorting finances for future plans.

If I could go back and use some of the free time at the start to get a casual job, maybe I would but I wouldn’t have gotten to meet and do all the things I did. It’s a catch 22 and one I don’t regret. Yes, I could probably have been smarter with the money I did have but that’s something to keep ready for the next trip, and I will.

Looking forward

Minus small trips, I’ll be based in Melbourne for the next four-to-six months and working solidly to build some money while I work out my next moves into 2019. What those ideas are, I’m keeping close to my chest right now but they’ll become public soon enough, I’m sure.

Anyone who was hoping I’d be coming home after this year out, brace yourself for disappointment; I’m not planning to come home any time soon.

The highs and lows of travelling

Getting back to Melbourne was definitely the right choice. After the failed attempt at farm work, and with nothing else for me in Cairns – other than things that cost money – I wanted to get back to a city with some opportunities.

Sunset in Melbourne's Albert Park

Sunset in Melbourne’s Albert Park

That’s what I did. It’s been a few weeks since I got back, and they haven’t been easy. While it’s silly to assume so, I was thinking, or perhaps hoping, to find a job within a couple of days of arriving back here. What I didn’t take into account was that it’s winter here so while a lot of backpackers leave for warmer areas, the hours vanish too, to an extent.

At this point, I do have a job but it’s not many hours, and that’s an issue. Thankfully, I’m helping out around the hostel I’m in and that’s cutting down what I’m spending on rent each week so it’s not all bad. The problem is, if I want to move into my own room at some point, I need consistent hours so I’m still searching for those. Hopefully they’ll turn up soon because I also need to get back into saving mode for upcoming trips and plans!

Now, these last few weeks have been hard, the hardest of my trip to date – and that’s keeping in mind how I felt in Cairns when I was in limbo for so long.

I’m impatient, we all know this (but better than I was during my younger years) and seeing people with less experience get a job before me was tough. I found myself wandering aimlessly at times, after applying online and at the places I knew and could find, in the hope of finding somewhere I hadn’t given a CV to.

The nights were spent in my room, watching Netflix or ranting to my dorm mates and friends online (thanks guys, you’re all awesome!) and I felt stuck in a rut. There was plenty of advice, but nothing I hadn’t done. I knew it’d work out in time but that’s not helpful in the moment.

20/20 hindsight

Balcony view of south Melbourne

Balcony view of south Melbourne

So, while my situation isn’t perfect yet, it’s a step in the right direction and I’m grateful for that. I did have to start facing the fact that I might have to leave if the situation didn’t change. I knew that’d be a huge mistake and regret.

If I could go back and tell myself what was going to happen, would I change things? Perhaps. Getting a job first might have been a smarter move, or maybe being a bit stricter with my funds before the East Coast trip might have helped. In the end, I’ve been to some awesome places, seen amazing things and met fantastic people so I don’t regret anything. Part of this whole experience is how to deal with the lows as well as the highs.

I could have skipped Perth back then, worked from day one (okay, maybe day two) and then done the trip but even that might not have worked. At this stage, what if isn’t of any use so I’m not dwelling.

What I am dwelling on, however, is what’s next. I’m making plans for later this year and going into 2019. Those will become clear in the coming weeks when I’m a little more stable.

What I’ve learnt so far

A couple of things of the last four months have become crystal clear to me:

  • Money never lasts
  • Experiences are far more valuable than money
  • There’s no such thing as a great hostel kitchen
  • A dorm room where you like everyone is rare
  • Backpackers, generally but not all, don’t know how to clean up after themselves

I’m almost in my thirties and it’s a stark difference between my attitude and outlook on life compared to the majority of backpackers I meet, who are in the 19-23 range. Mostly, they want to drink, smoke and do drugs and that’s it.

Now, whatever floats your boat but consider it’s more expensive to do all three here compared to other places I’ve been, that’s a bit daft. They never stop though, and it’s tiring just watching them go!

I tend to look for quieter hostels if I know I’ll be staying a while. A couple of nights doesn’t bother me and I have met some great people in those short stays but after four months, I’m happy to have a bed that I know is mine.

There’s a lot of Australia left to see but Melbourne is a good base right now, and even though it’s getting colder, I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else I’ve been to, as much as other places have been great. Travelling is really tiring, guys, so giving myself a break from it is probably a good idea.

Forgive the slightly rambling post but its worth putting it down so you don’t think I’ve vanished just yet!