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: Sydney and Surfing

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since booking it on day one of my Australian adventure. I spent a lot of money sorting it and I have a lot of things planned, which I won’t spoil here – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, you’ll know I don’t drive so I’m relying on public transport. There were a few options but I chose a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass. I booked the journeys in advance but pay just once. It makes sense. The first trip was from Melbourne to Sydney – a twelve-hour trip that I booked as an overnight journey. This means no accommodation costs for that night but that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, and so it proved.

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

I was sat next to a guy (who had the window seat) who kept falling asleep on me and leaning into me. I’m not ashamed to say he got a few elbows and nudges over the trip, which woke him up grumbling but I’m not a damned pillow!

It was a relief to get to Sydney. An hour’s sleep, maybe two at most. Couldn’t check in for a few more hours but stored my gear. Went north and found the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, walked over the former (then back) and around the latter, taking plenty of pictures. The botanical gardens were right besides the opera house and I’d been told there was a great spot to get a picture of both and to the obligatory selfie. I did that and then explored the gardens.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

I actually bumped into some friends from Melbourne back at the hostel, leading to impromptu drinks, which was a great way to round the day. The following day was more drinks with another friend who I met in Melbourne but lived in Sydney followed by a pub quiz where I got a free pizza for coming in last – but remember I was playing alone!

Of course, I had to go to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful. I took a coastal walk south to find Clovelly Beach, which was also beautiful and ran into more people along the way. It really is a small world, huh? The walk took longer than it should, thanks to my excessive photo-taking habits.

Checkout was the next day and I was very boring and responsible by doing work for most of it, as I had another overnight Greyhound trip to surf camp!

I can surf!

I can surf!

This was at Arrawarra Beach, near Woolgoolga, at a place called Spot X. We slept in converted shipping containers and you know what? They were actually quite comfortable!

I surfed every morning and afternoon (but the morning lessons could be as early as 8am! Ugh) but it wasn’t until the second day I was able to stand up at all, thanks to some great instructors who took the time with everyone to make sure they were doing the right things. After that, it’s just practise. By the end of my three days, I could stand up most of the time, speed up and slow down as well as turn…usually.

It was really fun but I ruined myself. Covered in bruises from head to toe, board rash on my legs and rubbed away half the skin on both hands. That meant there’d be no surfing for me for a while until I healed. A bit annoying since there were some good spots coming up but better to play it safe.

Sunrise at Spot X

Sunrise at Spot X

One thing I did do at Spot X was get up one morning for the sunrise at the ungodly hour of 5am (so I had time to fully wake up). Trudging to the beach wasn’t fun and, typically, the only clouds in the sky were over the horizon. A bit annoying but I waited anyway.

And I’m glad I did. Seeing the sun rise over the clouds and hit the beach was incredible. Such a beautiful way to start the day with gorgeous colours and tones hitting the water and sand. I wasn’t alone, plenty of people made it down, ad when you combine that view with the soothing sound of the ocean…yeah, I can see why people do this so much.

Not saying I’ll do it all the time, but every so often? Yeah.

A lot of the friends I made at surf camp are doing the same trip as me, but slower. I was one of the first of ‘our group’ to leave and head to Byron Bay.