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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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!