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.

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The East Coast: Cairns and Skydiving

I’m in Cairns! At last! Five weeks this trip has taken me. I’ve seen some amazing things, met some fantastic people and had a few setbacks but that’s normal, right?

Now, being a grumpy old man, I was thankful not to be in a party hostel. It’s a 30-minute walk into town but it’s a nice walk (when it isn’t raining – those tropical storms are a pain!) and the hostel does regular buses through the day and night.

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

I spent some time exploring, and like some stops along the way, Cairns has a lagoon where you can swim and chill. It’s not a good idea to go in the sea cause, you know, crocodiles. I do not fancy being eaten by those things.

Now, here’s one of the biggest highlights of my trip; the skydive.

Yup, the guy who has a fear of heights is going to jump (or be pushed, however you want to say it) out of a plane. I thought I’d be terrified by this point but I was actually pretty calm.

Then I got a phone call the day before. With some bad weather predicted, they wanted me to go early. That’s cool, I figured I’d get picked up at about 8am. That’s fine.

NOPE. Try 5am!

Never in my life, that I remember, have I woken up at 4am before. Been up from the night before? Sure. That’s happened a fair few times.

Oh well, it did mean a sunrise skydive. How cool would that be? The answer is pretty damn cool!

I’ll admit, quite happily, the nerves started kicking in the moment I woke up. I mean, am I seriously going to fall out of a plane at 15,000 feet? It was a tandem skydive, so I was fairly confident of being safe but still, that’s high!

My instructor was cool, and kept me talking throughout, which helped. Other than distracting me until everyone was in the plane. That meant that we’d be the first one out. Shit. Like, SHIT!

(Apologies to anyone reading this not a fan of such language, but it’s the actual thought that I had at that moment. Authenticity, you know?)

Climbing was bad enough. There are two absolutely terrifying points of this experience. The first is when the door opens and you swing your legs out and under the plane. You have to really tuck them under. I can’t remember why but he did tell me. You can feel the wind trying to pull you out. That in itself is scary.

The worst bit, though? How about those first three seconds you leave the plane. I say leave because I didn’t jump, nor did it feel like a push. You have this thought, like “Holy shit, I’ve fallen out of a plane! What do I do? Crap crap crap!”

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

After that, you settle into it. You relax. You look around. See the sun rising over the clouds, the patterns of the clouds themselves, the ocean, the rainforest, the ground.

The ground!

Right, let me be clear. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know how fast you’re falling. The amount of air hitting you and the resistance it creates does a good job of making you think you’re almost hovering there, like a big fan is holding you up. Open those eyes and you can tell easier you’re falling.

It was such a thrill, and I was allowed to put us in a spin after the parachute was opened. That was fun! I expected jelly legs after landing but, other than my hair being a tangled mess, I was fine. I’d actually do it again! I know what to expect and it was really cool! Not sure I’d ever get to the point I’d jump out myself but who knows?

A few days later, and I’m due to go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. All goes well until the boat SETS OFF and then they find out I had asthma as a kid, over 20 years ago. Without a medical certificate, I can’t do it.

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

So, I’m stuck on a boat for 9 hours. Thankfully I took a book. I got a couple of pictures from the boat but it’s not the same. I was offered snorkelling but you have to stay on the surface and people said they couldn’t see much so I passed.  I’m 99% sure I’d have been fine to do it had I known to get one!

The crew were nice about it, though, so I can’t knock them. The photos of others doing it looked awesome. One day, I’ll come back again and do it.

That was a little disappointing but already my attention is shifting. I’m really poor now and I need a job. Time to get one, ideally farm work to help with the second-year visa.

I’ll do a round-up of the whole trip and my thoughts shortly, once that work has been acquired and I can get a stable routine going for a while.

It’s been one hell of a trip, with a few things still left to do. I’m actually really tired, ha! Until next time, people!