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!

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.

Melbourne and the F1

Forgive me, I’ve fallen a little behind so there’ll be more frequent updates this week as I catch up. Sometimes there’s a lot to say about a place, and others not so much.

So, the flight back from Perth was uneventful but it wasn’t a budget airline. I flew Virgin Australia and it was great. Entertainment, drinks and food included. It was as cheap as the budget this time, somehow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll keep this in mind for the future.

Then I’m back in Melbourne! Perth was good, chilled but almost to an extent that if I’d stayed for a month or longer, I’d have gotten bored. I like Melbourne, it feels like home for me here. I’ve only been to two places so I can’t say that with certainty but so far, it fits!

One of the Ferrari's

One of the Ferrari’s

I decided to stay at Nomads in St Kilda for the next few weeks – because I had one room for the duration and it was close to the F1 and the guys back at Base. I spent a fair bit of time there seeing people and it was really nice noticing that they did miss me, or at least notice I’d gone. I don’t regret the choice though, I needed to sleep!

I did make a booboo, though. I had already booked to stay at Base for the F1 weekend, but then also booked in at Nomads. That cost me a few bucks once I realised!

Not much to really say about this. I spent most of it under the radar, a few drinks here and there but mostly in money saving mode. Half-assed job applications got me nowhere, obviously. The room I was in was good. Another Scottish guy and two Irish lasses, and then the other two beds were filled with randoms. Felt kinda sorry for them, given how fast we spoke at times. They must have had a lot of ‘what the hell’ moments!

Albert Park before the F1

Albert Park before the F1

Before I knew it, it was F1 time, but not before I spent a couple of days beforehand walking the track before they closed it off. It was so cool to be able to walk it before it all kicked off, getting some great pictures (just a shame I couldn’t be THAT close during the racing!) and enjoying the weather. I’d walked around Albert Park before but not while the barriers and grandstands were up.

The F1 itself? That was something else entirely. I’ve been to Silverstone a few times in the UK, and its great fun but here I was, on the other side of the world, on my own, at a four-day grand prix event! Excited doesn’t cover it.

First off, it’s cheaper. That’s unusual to say about Australia but a 4-day general admission ticket at Albert Park cost the same as a race-day general admission ticket at Silverstone and there’s more to see and do at this event. Now, I know it’s all about track funding and costs etc, but not once was there a shortage of people, even on the Thursday!

I met Louise Goodman!

I met Louise Goodman!

I spent that day getting driver autographs and photos. I missed out (by a few meters) on a wristband for one of the big four teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) but got quite a few. Even better, and a highlight of the weekend, was meeting Louise Goodman! Boom!

The start of the remaining three days was spent at Melbourne Walk, where the drivers and teams enter the paddock. More of a free-for-all here, but got some good autographs, including Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner and Claire Williams, to name a few.

Then I started hunting for spots to watch the action. Just after turn two, on the inside, is good but not much happens. After exploring most of the circuit, I settled on either turn ten and turn eleven, on the outside. Good views and potential overtaking spots, judging by the other categories.

Saturday began with a downpour, soaking me through and making me hide in a pub for four hours and watch the action on TV. It dried quickly in the afternoon, though and with all the racing, including the Australian V8 Supercars, the track dried quickly too. It was so cool to see them racing here as part of their championship for the very first time. I’m hoping to see more of them in the future.

A big crash for Bottas in F1’s qualifying session followed by an equally stunning and ridiculous lap by Hamilton set up a great race for the Sunday, when I would have company!

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

A new friend’s very first F1 event. Normally I’ picked my spot and camp there all day but she was only attending for one day so I wanted to show her around, including Melbourne Walk, the displays around the track and what was on offer before we landed at turn 10 for the Supercars and F1. I won’t talk about the race, plenty of people have since then but even with little overtaking, it was great fun and I’m glad she enjoyed it!

Then an early night before beginning my East Coast Adventure!