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!

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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.

A Trip to Perth

This one’s a little late but due to my laptop needing a new hard drive, that kind of took priority! So, after two awesome weeks in Melbourne, I was set for a 4 and half hour journey to Perth on the west coast.

First things first, it’s hot over there! I thought Melbourne was warm but bloody hell, this took it to a whole new level. Absolutely gorgeous, though. Some of the countries best beaches are that way, I had been told, and I can confirm that now (from what I’ve seen so far).

There’s so much more than that, and I was lucky to have a friend over there to show me around some of these really cool places!

Kings Park

One of the views of Perth from King's Park

One of the views of Perth from King’s Park

This is quite possibly one of the biggest parks I’ve been to. I spent over four hours one day wandering through it and still missed so much of it. It is HUGE! It’s also on top of a big hill (why do I do this to myself?!) but once up there, there were some stunning views.

Memorials, the Botanical Gardens (which is split into different regions) and views over the CBD and harbour. Remember the weather is essentially perfect so I had to delete a lot of duplicate photos!

Even better, along the edge of the park, closest to the water, is a

Quokka

Quokka

walkway with viewpoints and also a glass bridge! Not going to lie, that freaked me out a little (I don’t like heights, after all) but I still went over it, of course.

So. Many. Animals

So, after seeing penguins in St Kilda, I knew I was going to see these cute buggers called quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are ridiculously cute and very happy to approach people (but don’t feed them) for pictures. I also tried snorkelling for the first time. It was strange but with more practise I’ll get there.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Another trip took us to Penguin Island. We did a boat trip first and saw dolphins! They even chased the waves the boat made. That was cool. On the island itself, we saw a penguin feeding but the wild ones were hiding during the day. We did see one in a little cave, though.

We also went to a wildlife park where I was able to feed kangaroos, meet a koala and a wallaby among many more. That was an awesome day, too. Lots of pictures from that day – animals don’t listen to instructions very well!

Geeky heaven

Inside White Dwarf Books

Inside White Dwarf Books

One of my favourite things about Perth happened a couple of days in. I discovered a bookshop called White Dwarf books. Now, everyone knows I love books but this store goes to a whole new level as it’s a store specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

YES, YOU HEARD ME!

I stayed in there for hours chatting to the staff, who were cool. I actually missed a bus tour around the city, but I regret nothing. I could have bought everything in that shop.

Inside The Nostalgia Box

Inside The Nostalgia Box

About a ten minute walk is a place called the Nostalgia Box, a retro gaming museum. It’s a neatly packed place going through the history of video game consoles from the beginning through to the last generation and even though I knew a fair bit, I came away with a little more knowledge. Bonus.

And, of course, a bunch of consoles to play, too!

Cider and Pork!

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

The last weekend of my stay in Perth happened to coincide with the Cider and Pork Festival. This was a great night with good drinks, even better food and decent music.

I met some really cool people, one couple in particular stood out. We were chatting and they asked about my book. After explaining it to them, and what my job involves, they practically demanded I stay in the country longer than the current plan. It was really nice to hear people that enthusiastic about my work and I admit, I am tempted to stay longer if I can.

I want to point out here that these events in the UK are ridiculously expensive. While alcohol is generally more expensive in Australia than back home anyway, the prices I paid for these drinks were about the same as in bars, so it made no difference. A festival back home has a definite increase in price.

This is just a snapshot, we did so much! Those two weeks ended too early, I think. Back to Melbourne for a few more weeks with the F1 coming up fast!

Arriving in St Kilda, Melbourne

As I mentioned before, three days in Hong Kong just isn’t enough but I was ready to get to Australia at last! Another long flight loomed. This couldn’t be worse than the last one, right? Mostly.

I was on an aisle seat, which was fine. Two Chinese women were next to me and one wanted the aisle seat and the other the window seat. I didn’t want to be trapped between them so I politely said no. Unfortunately, they spoke no English. The flight attendant translated for us but somehow I got stuck in the middle anyway!

Without going into too much detail, I think I either got adopted or married, honestly not sure which. The only phrase they knew was “I love you” and it was said to me over and over! They were fascinated with my eyes and kept showing me pictures of their families. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up wrapped in three blankets. And they kept feeding me food! How awkward. Still, better than kids.

Anyway, I’ve been in St Kilda for just under two weeks and I’ve loved every moment…well, except one part.

Settling in and defeating jetlag

The first day was wasted, but it’s normal. I sorted out some boring stuff like banks and orientation and took myself on a short walk but mostly chilled at the hostel. A few drinks in the evening helped me settle and I met my first friend, who works at Base. We get on really well and this isn’t one of those who I’ll spend time with and forget, I’m sure we’ll keep in touch!

If you had told me before I arrived exactly what kind of hostel Base was, I probably wouldn’t have booked in. Too much partying and noise for an old git like me but actually, I think it was the best thing. It forced me to do things and get involved and that helped me get out of my shell a little. You might not think I need help with that but being so far away and knowing no one, that little push helped me get involved a little quicker. I’ll pop back every so often but I don’t think I need it anymore.

St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

Less than a week after I arrived, St Kilda Festival arrived. I didn’t know this was happening before I arrived but I was excited to go. It takes over the entire area, and is one of the biggest free festivals in the southern hemisphere! About 400,000 people were expected this year with stages and displays and arts stuff going on throughout the day.

Of course, I found the rock stage.

Saw some good bands and spent a nice day wandering and chilling in parks with some of the friends I’ve made since arriving. To have this right on my doorstep, literally, was a stroke of luck and while I get why residents avoided the area for the day or weekend, it was good fun and I didn’t see any fights or riots that happen in festivals back home at times.

A feel for Melbourne

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

I’ve spent a lot of time finding my feet so far, going on walks around the area, visiting the beaches – some of which are really nice but I’ve been told they’re nothing compared to elsewhere! Melbourne is a very friendly place overall, and despite the busy areas feeling a little overwhelming at first, I feel like I did in Manchester. I love it here.

I’ve heard mixed things about Hosier Lane but I found it really interesting. Some great graffiti art here and I took a lot of pictures. It was smaller than I expected, though, and I saw someone working on a new piece. Having a place for people to do this is clever, as I’ve not seen as much graffiti as back home generally.

There are also penguins living on St Kilda pier! They come out at sunset and go hunt. They’re not phased by people at all but I did feel like pushing people away when they were trying to get past the crowd. It was so cool but it’s important not to feed them to disrupt their cycle.

A missed opportunity

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

Being slightly out of the city has its perks, it’s easier to relax a bit more and still be close to everything I want to do. Getting out of the holiday mentality where I feel like I have to do something different every day has been hard but I’m getting to the stage where I’m happy to have a chill day, especially knowing I’ll be back again.

However, a few days ago I was out on a pub crawl and my drink got spiked. I didn’t know at first but soon I was unable to stand, see straight or do anything. The next day I couldn’t focus my mind, see properly, eat anything and more. It was awful. It took me over a day to fully recover but I’m fine. It’s happened now and it hasn’t put me off doing things – I just need to be a little more careful.

The sad thing was I missed White Night, which is a 12-hour light show in the CBD with music and such. From the pictures and videos, it looked epic. Next year, I’m doing it!

Moving on

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Tomorrow I fly to Perth for two weeks to see a friend from back home and spend a little time exploring the city and the area. I’ll be coming back to Melbourne after for another few weeks to explore more and find more sunset views like this before a big, month-long adventure!