Time for a change

It’s been over a year since I flew back to Melbourne from Cairns. A full year! That’s kinda crazy, really. I had a plan; get to Melbourne, find a job, restore my finances and get on the move again. It took a while to get going but accomplish that I did. I had hoped to get it done in a few months but by early January, I was ready.

Yet, I stayed. For another FIVE MONTHS. Why?

Sunset in Melbourne’s CBD

Simple; I love the city. I made friends, had decent jobs and it was summer. Why would I leave?

I can really imagine myself settling and living in Melbourne for years in the future, but for now, there are places to see. That’s why I’m here right now. I may have an idea of what I want in a few years’ time but, for now, it’s time to get back to my original goal – seeing different parts of Australia.

Why Darwin?

I know a few people who have been and they liked it. Some say there’s plenty of work, others disagree. It could be a huge mistake, making me go somewhere else but it’s a risk I’m willing to take right now.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, I feel cold in Melbourne – and winter hasn’t fully hit yet! We’re still in the mid-teens for temperature but there is a chilly breeze that bites. How I’m going to survive a winter in the UK in the future is beyond me. For now, know that the average temperature during the day in Darwin is 30 degrees. Once I’d have thought that was too hot, but now I’m looking forward to it.

I’m hoping to find work quickly and just knuckle down and work, using my days off to see the city and the surrounding area. I’ve been told it’s incredibly different, so I’m looking forward to it.

What next?

I couldn’t say, really. I’ll be back to Melbourne before I leave. That’s a given. I’m definitely aiming for New Zealand later in the year, too. This is going to be my only shot to do it, so it feels right.

I’m doing a lot behind the scenes, too. I launched a new website for my writing last week and I’m working on a whole new look and setup for Innate Wanderings. The running blog will continue but with a lot more content on different places I’ve been, how to get to grips with it and what (I think) you need to know.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, since I’ve been to a few places now, and have many more coming up. It’ll still be the good AND the bad, though. Honesty is still the goal, and hopefully this’ll be ready in a month or so.

Until then, I’ll keep you updated as to how I get on in the north!

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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 highs and lows of travelling

Getting back to Melbourne was definitely the right choice. After the failed attempt at farm work, and with nothing else for me in Cairns – other than things that cost money – I wanted to get back to a city with some opportunities.

Sunset in Melbourne's Albert Park

Sunset in Melbourne’s Albert Park

That’s what I did. It’s been a few weeks since I got back, and they haven’t been easy. While it’s silly to assume so, I was thinking, or perhaps hoping, to find a job within a couple of days of arriving back here. What I didn’t take into account was that it’s winter here so while a lot of backpackers leave for warmer areas, the hours vanish too, to an extent.

At this point, I do have a job but it’s not many hours, and that’s an issue. Thankfully, I’m helping out around the hostel I’m in and that’s cutting down what I’m spending on rent each week so it’s not all bad. The problem is, if I want to move into my own room at some point, I need consistent hours so I’m still searching for those. Hopefully they’ll turn up soon because I also need to get back into saving mode for upcoming trips and plans!

Now, these last few weeks have been hard, the hardest of my trip to date – and that’s keeping in mind how I felt in Cairns when I was in limbo for so long.

I’m impatient, we all know this (but better than I was during my younger years) and seeing people with less experience get a job before me was tough. I found myself wandering aimlessly at times, after applying online and at the places I knew and could find, in the hope of finding somewhere I hadn’t given a CV to.

The nights were spent in my room, watching Netflix or ranting to my dorm mates and friends online (thanks guys, you’re all awesome!) and I felt stuck in a rut. There was plenty of advice, but nothing I hadn’t done. I knew it’d work out in time but that’s not helpful in the moment.

20/20 hindsight

Balcony view of south Melbourne

Balcony view of south Melbourne

So, while my situation isn’t perfect yet, it’s a step in the right direction and I’m grateful for that. I did have to start facing the fact that I might have to leave if the situation didn’t change. I knew that’d be a huge mistake and regret.

If I could go back and tell myself what was going to happen, would I change things? Perhaps. Getting a job first might have been a smarter move, or maybe being a bit stricter with my funds before the East Coast trip might have helped. In the end, I’ve been to some awesome places, seen amazing things and met fantastic people so I don’t regret anything. Part of this whole experience is how to deal with the lows as well as the highs.

I could have skipped Perth back then, worked from day one (okay, maybe day two) and then done the trip but even that might not have worked. At this stage, what if isn’t of any use so I’m not dwelling.

What I am dwelling on, however, is what’s next. I’m making plans for later this year and going into 2019. Those will become clear in the coming weeks when I’m a little more stable.

What I’ve learnt so far

A couple of things of the last four months have become crystal clear to me:

  • Money never lasts
  • Experiences are far more valuable than money
  • There’s no such thing as a great hostel kitchen
  • A dorm room where you like everyone is rare
  • Backpackers, generally but not all, don’t know how to clean up after themselves

I’m almost in my thirties and it’s a stark difference between my attitude and outlook on life compared to the majority of backpackers I meet, who are in the 19-23 range. Mostly, they want to drink, smoke and do drugs and that’s it.

Now, whatever floats your boat but consider it’s more expensive to do all three here compared to other places I’ve been, that’s a bit daft. They never stop though, and it’s tiring just watching them go!

I tend to look for quieter hostels if I know I’ll be staying a while. A couple of nights doesn’t bother me and I have met some great people in those short stays but after four months, I’m happy to have a bed that I know is mine.

There’s a lot of Australia left to see but Melbourne is a good base right now, and even though it’s getting colder, I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else I’ve been to, as much as other places have been great. Travelling is really tiring, guys, so giving myself a break from it is probably a good idea.

Forgive the slightly rambling post but its worth putting it down so you don’t think I’ve vanished just yet!

The East Coast: Chilling at Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise

From Spot X to Byron Bay was only a four-hour Greyhound journey – simple compared to the last two, right?

Wrong.

My bus was at 3am! The 7am was full, ugh. That being said, it got me into Byron just before 7am and that gave me a full day to explore (after dropping my gear off at the hostel again). Although, the driver kept talking into the microphone throughout. Not cool, dude. Not at that time!

Now, Byron Bay isn’t huge but it’s full of independent and boutique shops and restaurants so plenty to sink your teeth into. It’s also very chilled out, more so than other place I’ve seen so far but everyone still goes about their day. It’s a calming chilled out and I felt really happy and at home there, despite it being smaller than every other place I’ve lived – or considered living.

I also almost got rained on properly for the first time (outside of the F1). A ten-minute downpour that, thankfully, I was already undercover for on the way to the hostel. It would have soaked me to the core in less than thirty seconds but then it dried up in less than an hour. Madness.

Killen Falls

Killen Falls

That night, I met a local, who I befriended in Doncaster many years ago, and she drove me to the Lighthouse for the latter end of sunset. It was amazing. Then we hit a few bars and had a good catch up before I totally crashed out.

The next day was even better. I was taken on a drive around the area, having a look at some of the villages around Byron Bay and stopping at a number of spots and lookouts for pictures. The best spot was Killen Falls, a waterfall after a dam that is part of the water supply for Byron. It was a sheltered cove where people would come and relax in the shade and swim and I’m so jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear – I could have spent all day there!

Then again, I wouldn’t have seen anything else if I had!

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

We rounded the day off with more drinks and food in the local RSL club (t’s been so long since I had a roast dinner so it was definitely needed) while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, a timely reminder that I’d be heading up to the Gold Coast shortly.

My final day was spent with friends from Spot X who’d finally arrived in Byron. We took the coastal walk to the lighthouse in the afternoon, arriving with plenty of time before sunset, and seeing the whole thing blew my mind. The colours, the sound of the ocean, the pure peacefulness of it all. I definitely prefer sunsets to sunrises but that might be because I’m already awake at that time!

Surfer's Paradise

Surfer’s Paradise

Then it was a short Greyhound to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. There’s a lot going on here because of the Commonwealth Games, so there are stages everywhere with music and performances, but it’s also a party area of the city.

Great for groups but less so for me, since I prefer pubs to clubs! I spent most days exploring and chilling on the beach (as well as catching up with some work and writing!), using this time to recharge before next week, which is going to be pretty full on.

I did see another friend here, too (met in Doncaster but a local here). We had food and drinks one night and just a really good catch up, which I’m sure won’t be the last one!

While it’s a nice little holiday destination, there are probably other parts of the Gold Coast better suited for me and in the future, I’ll come back to find them, but taking some time to chill was definitely needed. Also, my body has almost fully recovered by now so when I’m next able to get back on the surfboard, I will!

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!