Bali. The Place Where Dreams Are Made. (The Nightmare Variety...)

Before I start, I would like to establish a complete and utter distinction between Bali and the Gili Islands. Although I spent a few days of this particular trip on the Gilis, I in no way associate that time with the time I spent in Bali itself. The Gili Islands are a whole other story - one that's being saved for another time! This post is about Bali, and Bali only....

From the taxi driver who snatched 100,000 Rupees from my hand, to the food which made me horribly ill. The bus driver who promised that he'd take me from Padang Bai to Seminyak, (then proceeded to ditch me in the middle of nowhere - a three hour walk from my next destination,) and the hostel owners who nearly doubled the room price after my online booking didn't go through. The fact that my foot got infected (although arguably, that was the fault of the the Croatian sea urchins, and nothing to do with Bali...) and the device that someone had slyly attached to an ATM which proceeded to clone two of my bank cards, leaving me with absolutely NO money at all on my last day after both my English and Australian banks decided to cancel the cards that got done over by Bali's answer to George Agdgdgwngo. It's safe to say that a large portion of the dislike that is contained in my mental capacity, is reserved for Bali.

George Agdgdgwngo. Pic stolen from BBC. (Ta!) Also, Fonejacker is now TEN years old. Terrifying.

George Agdgdgwngo. Pic stolen from BBC. (Ta!) Also, Fonejacker is now TEN years old. Terrifying.

Now, I'm sure that Bali is actually a really lovely place which is filled with really lovely people, and only really nice things ever happen there, and everyone who visits gets merry on Bintang and then dances off into the sunset whilst laughing and joking and holding hands and admiring how lovely Bali is, and what a wonderful holiday they've had. It just so happens, that I had an absolutely horrendous time whilst I was there, and couldn't wait to leave.

So, of course my flight would be delayed by precisely twenty two hours, giving me what I would basically class as an entire extra day in 'paradise.' It was at this moment, whilst verging on tears, that I discovered that my bank cards had been cancelled, and even if there had been any money left in my account to fund an extra days worth of food, accommodation and ice cream, I sure as hell didn't have any access to it. I phoned Jetstar to see if they could help me out, and they kindly offered me a $50 voucher, to put towards a future Jetstar flight. Unfortunately, neither hostels, restaurants or ice cream shops accept 'Jetstar vouchers' as payment, so all the voucher really succeeded in doing was making me angry enough to sit in the humidity with my bag, and kick things for a bit.

Made friends with a little book cat though.

Made friends with a little book cat though.

After quite a lot of kicking, I realised that there was no apparent positive outcome from doing such a thing, and instead used the last of my phone credit to direct my anger towards a rather unfortunate Jetstar employee, who in fairness, did a pretty good job of sorting me out with a private hostel room for the night, and sending me $30 worth of food money. It speaks volumes to me that my favourite day in Bali ended up being the one where I got to lock myself into an air conditioned room that I didn't pay for, listening to Coldplay and eating Indonesian snacks that I also didn't pay for.

Finally, the big day arrived and it was time to leave. The email from Jetstar stated we needed to be at the airport for 3:30am. I arrived at about 3:28am, keen to get on the plane and buggar off, never to return again. But alas! The airport was not open until 4:30am - which gave me a whole extra hour to dwell on the week and slowly work my way towards breaking point. I eventually stepped onto the plane, excited to set myself down in the window seat I had specifically booked so I could sleep the whole way home. The man in my seat smiled at me as I double checked my ticket against the seat number.

'I think you're in my seat.' I said.

'Yeah.' He said.

'So, can I please sit there?' I said.

'Nah, I'm going to sit here.' He said.

I thought about calling the hostess to 'tell on' the arrogant Australian man who was refusing to move from my seat, but decided that because I'd have to sit next to him for six hours afterwards, it was maybe in my best interests to just let my window seat go.

Unfortunately, with my window seat, I also sacrificed the privilege of sleeping, as the lady in the middle seat obviously had some form of bladder issues and needed the toilet every thirty eight seconds. I may as well have just joined the cabin crew in helping to serve drinks for the amount of time I spent stood up. As sleep was out of the question, I thought that it might be a good idea to pick a nice film to watch. My screen obstinately remained black, as I looked around the plane at everybody else's, which were of course all in perfect working order.

'Yes, this one is broken.' The hostess exclaimed, a bit too cheerily.

It took everything in my power to not scream the whole plane down....

Top banter at the airport though.

Top banter at the airport though.

I Wouldn't Miss Glastonbury For The World. Literally.

A precious piece of heaven on earth - Glastonbury is my Mecca. An annual pilgrimage to an escape from reality - that yearly week of freedom. How can something so close to home, seem so many worlds away? Missing it is not an option - it's never going to be an option.

Stone Circle, Monday Morning, 2014.

Stone Circle, Monday Morning, 2014.

When I decided to travel the world for the foreseeable future, the notion of skipping Glastonbury didn't even come close to crossing my mind. It didn't ever occur to me that most people would assume that I was going to give it a miss for a year or two, I didn't realise that being a whole world away was a good enough reason to pass up on a ticket.

When booking my flights to Australia, I booked not one flight, but three. One to get me to Melbourne, one to get me to Glastonbury, and another to get me back to Australia again. People have told me I'm crazy, mental, silly, stupid or insane. It's quite possible that I'm a mixture of all of those things, but when it comes to Glastonbury, my mind is made up. I'm unshakeable.

Glastonbury, 2013.

Glastonbury, 2013.

"But you're supposed to be travelling!" people exclaim. "It's a waste of money!" others say. Plenty of potentially valid points are thrown at me, yet, I'm addicted - addicted to the sickening feeling that lurks in my stomach in the lead up to ticket day, the lump of nerves that stick in my throat, as I hit refresh on the browser before it flashes 'Sold Out.' The feelings of elation when the "I've got your ticket!" message arrives, and the crushing sadness when your friends message doesn't. I'm addicted to the determination in the resale - the love of a group who refuse to leave any behind. Addicted to the exhilaration as the big day arrives, the pure bliss as problems are cast aside - the fact that melancholy melts as you step through the gates - and you get five entire days in paradise with your best mates. I'm addicted to the good times, the laughing and the glitter, addicted to the aftermath, the nostalgia, the photos, the sadness that it's all over for another year. Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm mad, but this 'addiction' of mine is going nowhere, fast.

Muddy 2016.

Muddy 2016.

Glastonbury, rain or shine, cloudy or muddy, I'll be there. Working that extra bit harder each week, sacrificing bits here and there in order to afford the flights home, is such an insignificant price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Yes, there's a whole world out there, but there's nowhere in the world quite like Glastonbury.

Mountains and Monkeys

A couple of chilled out days in Bali. That was the plan.  So obviously the logical thing to do was to book a 12 hour overnight trek up a mountain for the night I arrived.

A 4am start in Melbourne, followed by a six hour flight and then two hours stuck in traffic before I reached my Airbnb in Ubud - I was pretty keen to get some sleep that afternoon, but my host was insistent on taking me on a tour of the area, so I ditched my king size bed for a Hindu Temple and made friends with a cat.

Temple kitty.

Temple kitty.

After a quick dinner, I met my driver to begin the two hour journey to the base of Mount Agung, (a very misleading name considering that upon my arrival home, I discovered that 'Mount' Agung is actually an active volcano, and not just a mountain...)

The warnings online stated that the trek was a hard one, (but mentioned nothing about the fact that the bloody thing could erupt under your feet and forever damn you in a molten lava hell) and that an easier alternative was Mount Batur. I'm not entirely sure why I have an incessant need to make things difficult for myself, but I was adamant that I wanted to be above the clouds, so Agung it was. (In hindsight, the very fact that I'd be climbing to heights above the clouds should have been the very reason to opt for Batur.)

It's not even a slight exaggeration to say that a mere ten minutes into my climb, I was considering telling my guide that I'd changed my mind. Logic stated that the climb would only get harder as we went on, and I was already struggling to breathe. The fact that I'm a stubborn little cow kept me going, especially as the guide looked like he was having serious doubts about taking me any further, and I knew I wanted to prove him wrong. Luckily for me, once we'd cleared the forest area, I was able to catch my breath more easily and we started making good time.

Skip forward six hours. We're about two hours from the summit, and the flashes of lightning that we spotted in the distance, are no longer in the distance - they're practically above our heads. The mists are so thick that we can barely see in front of us, the winds are doing a pretty good job of trying to knock us off of our feet, and the rain is cold - cold and wet. Spirits are pretty low when the guide exclaims 'I'm pretty worried, in my sixteen years as a guide this has never happened before, and it's too dangerous to go on..'

'Fantastic!' I thought, as we were forced to duck into a crevice, cuddle up for warmth and try to sleep until the storm had passed. It was a bit disorientating waking up some 2500m in the sky being spooned by a Balinese man that I'd only met hours before, but at least the storm had passed and we were able to make our way to the summit.

3,142m later.

3,142m later.

The atrocious weather meant that we couldn't even see the sunrise we'd spent hours climbing to see. We weren't above the clouds, we were in a massive cloud. Cold and wet, to say I was gutted would be an understatement. There were a couple more people with their guides at the top. We decided to wait for a short while and will the sky to clear. The winds up there were so strong that for a few brief moments, there was a break in the clouds and our tired legs didn't even matter.

On top of the world.

On top of the world.

As it was nearly 8am, and we still had a good six hours worth of descent to go, it was time to make a move. The further down the mountain we got, the more the weather brightened up and we managed to witness some beautiful views. Though, by this point, I was cursing myself for opting to put my feet and legs through hell. Before we'd even reached halfway, my legs had fully turned to jelly, and I still have no idea how I ever made it down. It was past 1pm when I finally crawled through the door of my room and practically passed out.

The rest of my stay in Ubud was a little more chilled out. A stroll through the forest at the end of my road resulted in me making some new friends, and at every meal I managed to practically eat myself into a coma. Just a couple of days in Bali wasn't really enough - lucky I'm going back in a few weeks. (But this time, no volcanoes!)

Pals.

Pals.

Tractors To Tools

As the weeks speed by with absolutely no signs of slowing down, my regional work adventures continue in Girral, NSW.

I've managed to rack up quite a few hours behind the wheel of the tractor by this point, I've ploughed my way through god knows how many paddocks, sown lord knows how many acres of crops, and I've listened to so much Eminem, I could quite possibly take on the man himself in a rap battle. (I obviously wouldn't win, but I'd at least be able to sing all the words to 'Rain Man' for him.)

Filling up the seed bins.

Filling up the seed bins.

I was yet to tire of spending my days in what's effectively a six tonne karaoke capsule, when the rains hit New South Wales, (in a big, big way) and put a halt to our crop sowing. Fortunately, we only had a tiny fraction of a paddock left to sow, and even though the wet weather put a (temporary) end to my new found career as a tractor driver, there is plenty of other work to be getting on with, meaning that I've traded tractors for tools and moved onto house renovations to complete my 88 days of regional work.

And that's how I came to be spending my days feeling like I'm on an episode of DIY SOS - half expecting Nick Knowles to pop out from behind a piece of plasterboard with a sob story. He's not made an appearance so far though, and I'm still undecided on whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Grafter.

Grafter.

What's definitely a good thing, is that the joinery may as well be a zoo, for the amount of animals that are just hanging out there. I made lots of new dog friends, tried to make cat friends, (but they were having none of it) and also got to cuddle a puppy. Twenty six years of age, and I still get excited when I see an animal - I've come to accept that this is something that will be with me for life.

Puppy.

Puppy.

I've been pretty terrible at keeping my blog updated recently, but it's honestly because I've been having such a good time. (And I think that's a completely valid excuse!) I'm basically on 'DIY SOS' in the daytimes, and 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook' in the evenings, as we take it in turns to make dinner. Last week we made a fajita cake and I've not really been able to stop thinking about it since. (Though, I am always thinking about food, so that won't come as a huge surprise to many!)

Fajita cake.

Fajita cake.

I've now crossed off thirty seven days of regional work, and I'm genuinely looking forward to crossing off the rest. I've definitely hit the jackpot by landing a spot in Girral!

Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Second Year Visa In Australia!

I've recently felt driven to write a post attempting to help other backpackers with the answers to the countless questions surrounding the Australian Working Holiday Second Year Visa requirements. From my personal experience, I've found there to be not enough clear information online for us, and the 'Immigration helpline' is only open during hours where many of us are at work so are unable to call. Plus the hold queue is usually at least an hour long, preventing you from fitting in a quick call on your lunch break!

So, I've taken it upon myself to try and write a list of as many 'second year visa' related questions as I can think of, to spend my free time on the farm researching my ass off, and to call poor Immigration (what feels like several thousand times) with said questions, to present to you my carefully researched answers.

So... Where to begin?... I've tried to keep this in what I consider to be a vaguely chronological order - hopefully if you've come here looking for an answer then I've been able to help!

Farm life.

Farm life.

 

What is an Australian Working Holiday Second Year Visa?

The Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa which allows people between the ages of 18 and 31 to live and work in Australia for up to one year. (Though you must apply before you turn 31.) The second year visa is simply an extension of the first year visa, available up until the age of 31.

Who can get one?

You must hold a valid passport from a country which is involved in the Working Holiday programme with Australia. This includes:

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (including British National Overseas passport holders)

You must be between the ages of 18 and 31 (Again, you will need to apply before your 31st birthday.)

What about Americans? (USA)

Unfortunately, if you're a US citizen, you're not currently eligible for a second year working holiday visa in Australia. You can still apply for a first year visa here though, and there are other options available to you if you would like to stay in Australia a bit longer. (A tourist visa, student visa or skilled worker visa!)

How much does it cost?

It currently costs $440 AUD to apply for/purchase a second year visa.

What requirements do I need to meet before I can apply?

To apply for a second year working holiday visa, you must have complied with all the requirements of your first year visa, (have a valid passport, be between the ages of 18-31, have enough money to support yourself and buy an onward ticket at the end of your stay, blah, blah, blah) AND most importantly, you need to have completed three months or 88 days of specified work in Regional Australia before your first working holiday expires.

What classes as 'specified work'?

Specified work means work that is undertaken in a specific field or industry (within a designated regional area. The approved industries for specified work are:

  • Plant and Animal Cultivation
  • Fishing and Pearling
  • Tree Farming and Felling
  • Mining
  • Construction

Examples of work in these industries which count towards your second year (as long as they're in an eligible postcode) are:

  • Fruit picking
  • Working on a cattle ranch (feeding or herding cattle)
  • Oyster pearling
  • Mining coal or ores
  • House renovations
  • Scaffolding

If you would like more detailed information on eligible specified work, click here and then scroll down to click 'Visa applicants' and then to 'Specified work.'

 

Does Au Pair work count towards my second year visa?

In short - no. Up until a few weeks ago, I was under the impression that working as a nanny counted towards signing off your second year. (I believe due to the huge amount of posts online offering 'second year visa au pair work.') After looking into this, I've discovered that it doesn't count at all. (It even says so on the Specified Work section of the Immigration website.) Chances are, if an au pair job is offering to sign you off for second year, they'll be signing your days off through the ABN number of a farm, and putting your hours down as farm hand work. Obviously if an employer is doing this, it's illegal, and you're at risk of your second year visa being turned down if investigated! Sure, some of you will know somebody who has worked as an au pair and already received their second year visa - but is it really worth the risk?

What about Traffic Control work?

Yes. As long as it's in the Northern Territory. Plenty of people head up to Darwin for work as a traffic controller, and complete their second year visa work there.

Which areas class as 'regional areas'?

The areas listed in the table below are the areas which class as regional areas. Before you start any specified work, check that the postcode you'll be working in makes you eligible! As you can see, some areas such as Northern Territory are completely regional.

Where can I find a job that counts towards my second year visa?

I've personally found Gumtree to be the most valuable resource in finding a job. I posted an advert on there and had plenty of replies. (Be aware that there are scams about though!) There are all sorts of jobs on Gumtree. When you search, try using the keywords 'second year visa' and you should get plenty of results. Remember to check the website a couple of times a day as there are always new posts being added!

Working Hostels are basically hostels which find you work. (Some don't actually find you the work, but provide you with local contacts etc.) When you check into a working hostel, you'll be added to a work waiting list. Sometimes the wait for work can be over 4 weeks.

Harvest Trail are extremely helpful when it comes to helping you find work. Just give them a call and tell them which area you're in, and they can tell you if there's any available work! The number to call them is 1800 062 332. You can also check the town and crops map, which they provide - this gives you an idea of which areas will have work at specific times of the year.

Another option is Pick the World. This website lists contact details for hundreds of farms in Australia. Check on the Harvest Trail crops map which areas are about to come into harvesting season, and then phone as many farms from the Pick The World website as you can! Chances are, some of them might need some help! Obviously be sure to check that the work counts towards your second year before committing!

Keep an eye on the Australian Independent Backpackers Facebook Group. The admins on there (especially Robyn!) are very helpful when it comes to helping people find jobs! Robyn often shares job offer posts in the group throughout the day, so check back often!

As mentioned before, there are scams about, so be wary!

Do I need a car?

It's definitely beneficial to have one, as a lot of farm work is in the middle of nowhere and the employer requires you to have one to get to work. Not all jobs will require you to have one, but it'll definitely make your life easier!

How can I check if my job offer is a scam or not?

As of yet, there's no official blacklist of employers/farms (though it would be extremely handy!) I think the key is to have your wits about you. Ask for the employers ABN - you can check online if the business is legitimate. Never, ever pay an upfront deposit to secure a job, or for accommodation. Don't be scared to ask questions - and then do your research online. Ask other backpackers for information too - the Australia Backpackers Facebook group is a good place to ask - with over 40,000 members there's a chance that someone might have worked for your employer, or at least have some information about them!

Do I have to complete all my regional work in one go?

No - though it may be in your best interest to get it done in one go! Regional work can be completed in one block with one employer, or in separate blocks with one employer or several employers.

Do I need to complete 3 months of work or 88 days?

If you are working full time for one employer for three calendar months in one block with no gaps, then you can class that three months as having done your regional work, as your employer can sign off your weekends too. You can only do this if the hours you are working are classed as full time for the industry standard. (Usually 38 hours a week.)

If you complete your work in an industry where the standard practice for that industry is two weeks on, two weeks off, (for example mining) then you can sign off your three months of specified work with only six weeks of actual work, as the two weeks off will also count towards your second year.

If you are completing your work with more than one employer, if you work less than full time hours each week, if you are completing your work in more than one block or if you are employed by more than one employer at any time, you must complete 88 full days of work,

How much time do I need to complete my regional work?

The obvious answer is 'three months' or '88 days.' However, it's not unheard of for work to get called off due to bad weather, for work in an area to run out, for there to be a hundred other setbacks/issues when working or looking for work. If you're lucky, you will find steady work with one employer for three months and your days get signed off and you're stress free. What seems to be fairly common, however, is that people manage to pick up days here and there, and not even including the search for an eligible job/jobs, it's not unheard of for it to take up to 5 or 6 months to get all of your days signed off successfully. The best bet is to complete your regional work as soon as you possibly can, to avoid having to join the ever growing number of backpackers who are urgently trying to cram in their days!

How much money do I need to be earning for my regional work to count towards my second year?

In order for your days to be signed off, you MUST be earning the legal minimum wage for the work you complete. If you are employed on a full time contract, this is $17.29 per hour (before tax). If you are employed on a casual contract, this is $21.61 an hour (before tax). All Australian employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with payslips for any work they undertake.

Does it matter if I'm on a full time or casual contract?

It doesn't matter which type of contract you are on when it comes to signing off your visa - as long as you are getting paid the correct wage. On a full time contract, your employer has to give you 38 hours of work a week. On a casual contract, you might find yourself working only three days a week.

How often do I need to get paid for my regional work to count?

Most jobs will pay weekly or fortnightly. There are exceptions, but try to get a weekly or fortnightly paycheque if you can. I've heard of employers that suggest paying you in bulk at the end of your employment - as far as I'm aware this will still count towards your visa, (as long as you have a payslip underlying the hours you've done) but I think it's better for your application to have regular payments going into your account.

The job I have been offered is a 'piece rate' job. Does it count towards my second year visa?

Many people opt to work picking or packing fruit for their second year visa. In some cases, you will be paid hourly for this - in a lot of cases the work will be piece rate. This means that you get paid a certain amount of money per bucket or bin that you pick, pack or prune. Does the work count towards your second year? Well. This is a bit of a grey area....

As a piece worker, you need to enter into a written agreement with your employer, clarifying that you agree that you might not necessarily make the national minimum wage. By law, the piecework rate has to allow the average competent employee to earn 15% more per hour than the relevant minimum hourly rate. But, that doesn't mean that everyone will be able to meet those targets. The rate might be calculated at $12 a bin, as the 'average competent employee' can supposedly pick 2 bins in an hour. But does that mean if you only pick one bin per hour you can't count the work towards your visa?

To be honest, I've tried to find an official answer to this question for so long, that I'm practically blue in the face. FOUR calls to Immigration, (totaling nearly 6 hours) and twice I was told that ALL fruit picking work needs to be paid hourly for it to count. The other two times, I was told that the work only counts if the buckets or bins are paid at a 'reasonable rate.' Fair Work weren't able to advise with regards to whether or not the work qualified towards the visa.

I know plenty of people who have succeeded in getting their second year visa through fruit picking at piece rate - some have even managed to earn a lot of money. And of course, at some fruit farms it's possible to earn a very good wage, but many people don't because they aren't working hard enough. As far as the work counting towards your visa goes, I personally would opt to only take an hourly paid job, just because I like being certain, BUT I'm also aware of how many people pick fruit at piece rate for their visa with no problems, and there must be something in that. Though, if you think that Immigration are going to give you a straight answer, think again!

Borrowed this off of www.fruitpickingjobs.com.au - hopefully they don't mind!

Borrowed this off of www.fruitpickingjobs.com.au - hopefully they don't mind!

Does it count towards my second year visa if my wage is paid in cash?

Yes. As long as you have a payslip to show how much you have been paid and taxed. However, Immigration strongly advised that it's best to be paid by bank transfer or cheque where possible. Or at the very least, to make sure you're banking your cash each payday.

Does the specified work count if I'm working in exchange for free food and accommodation?

If you're only receiving food and accommodation in return for your work, then your job will no longer count towards your second year visa. (Up until 31st August 2015 it would have counted.)  It is possible, however, for an employer to offer free food and accommodation or just free accommodation alongside a wage that is lower than the minimum wage as long as they deduct the costs for this on your payslip (after tax,) and your wage before the deductions was equal to the minimum wage or higher than. So for example. If you're working 38 hours a week on a farm on a casual contract and getting paid $360 a week as well as free food and accommodation, this would count towards your second year, if your employer has marked down on your payslip that your food and accommodation costs are $200 (even though it works out as under $10 an hour earnings.) Below, I'll try my best to show why!

  1. $21.61 (the casual minimum wage) multiplied by 38 (hours) is equal to $821.18.
  2. Minus the tax, and you're left with $554.30 (For this example I have used a tax rate of 32.5%, but this can be variable!)
  3. If the employer has marked $200 a week on your payslip as 'food and accommodation costs.' $554.30 - $200 = $354.30
  4. So anything above $354.30 a week works out as above minimum wage earnings and will count towards your second year!

I'm not getting paid the minimum wage for the work I'm doing. What can I do?

Contact Fair Work. There have been plenty of cases I've heard of where the employer has been forced to pay out to the employee. The biggest payout I've personally heard of was $3500. It seems that Australia, or at least Fair Work, takes workers rights pretty seriously. You have up to six years to make a claim with them, so it's even worth giving them a call if you've already completed your farm work. If you're currently working on a farm and receiving pay below the minimum wage, maybe talk to your employer first, and hint to them that you're going to call Fair Work. It might even be a good idea to start looking for a new job prior to calling, as it's likely that your employer isn't going to be especially happy if you've reported them.

How many hours do I need to work for a day to count as a signed off day?

You will need to find out what the industry standard is. So for the Horticulture industry (which covers fruit picking and packing, sowing crops, harvesting crops etc etc) the industry standard is an eight hour day. That means that if you're working as a tractor driver, planting crops, you will need to work eight hours a day for each day to officially count as a day. If you want to find out what your industry standard is, you can check on the Fair Work site. Just click here! Use the dropdown menu to select which industry you're working in, and once you've done that, it will come up with all the details for your award. Then you just need to find the section 'Ordinary hours of work and rostering.'

If my industry standard is 6 hours and I work 12 hours in one day, can I count that as two days?

No. You're only allowed to count one day of work per calendar day. Though, I have no idea how they'd ever find out if your payslip stated simply the number of hours you've worked in one week, and your employer was happy to say you'd completed six days work instead of five.

Can I work seven days a week to sign off my days more quickly?

According to Fair Work, you're allowed to legally work 13 out of every 14 days. So as long as you're having at least one day off per fortnight, that's all good!

I've completed my regional work. When should I apply for my second year?

This depends on whether you want to start your second year straight away or not. If you would like to stay in Australia and complete two years in succession, then it's recommended to apply for your visa as soon as you've finished your regional work. If you are applying from within Australia, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you are applying from within Australia, your second year will start as soon as your first year finishes. If you would like a gap between your first year and your second year, then you need to be outside of Australia when you apply for your visa (and you will need to remain outside of Australia until it is granted!) Your one year visa will then start as soon you re-enter Australia. Don't forget that you must apply for your second year before your 31st birthday, and if you are choosing to have a gap between your two years, you must have re-entered before your 32nd birthday!

Do I need to provide evidence of my regional work when I apply for my second year visa?

Not when you apply. But, print out a 1263 Employment Verification Form before you start your regional work and get your employer/s to complete this for you once you have finished working for them. If you apply online for your visa, you don't need to submit any evidence with your application (though once you've applied, you can log into your 'immi account' and there's the option to submit evidence if you wish!)

How long will it take for my visa to be accepted?

This varies hugely. There are plenty of people who have their application accepted within minutes. There are also plenty of people whose applications have taken 3 or more months to be accepted. There have been reports of people who have had their visa accepted and didn't receive an email, so it's worth checking your 'immi account' every now and then, just incase.

What happens if my visa application gets investigated?

I'm not certain on the exact figures, but I've heard that 1 in 7 second year visa applications gets investigated. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones, Immigration will simply request that you provide evidence to back up your application. If your visa hasn't been accepted by the time your first visa runs out, and you're still in Australia, you'll be put onto a bridging visa.

What evidence will I need to provide if my visa application gets investigated?

Evidence requested might include original or certified copies of the following:

  • Payslips
  • Group Certificates
  • Payment Summaries
  • Tax Returns
  • Employer References
  • A Completed Verification Form, signed by the employer (The 1263 one mentioned earlier!)
  • An Original Bank Statement covering The Entire Period that you're claiming to have been employed for regional work

Make sure you use your card to pay for things in the area you're working in, as it backs up your claim that you were there!

What needs to be on my payslips?

Your dated payslips will need to include your employer's name and ABN number as well as your own name, work position, contract details, the hours you've worked, your hourly wage, tax deductions and also any deductions for food and accommodation.

What is a group certificate?

This is sometimes called a 'payment summary' or a 'PAYG payment summary.' At the end of each financial year, employers are required to provide their employees with one of these. If you're leaving an employment before the end of the financial year and you require one for an investigation, you can just ask your employer.

What's a bridging visa?

A bridging visa (BVA) is a temporary visa which allows you to stay in Australia in the instance that your first year visa expires and your second year visa still hasn't been granted.

If I'm on a bridging visa, do I get extra time in Australia?

No. Unfortunately not. If you are on a bridging visa for two months whilst waiting for your second year visa to be granted, those two months will be deducted from your second year.

Can I work whilst on a bridging visa?

Yes, as long as the last visa you held in Australia was a Working Holiday Visa.

Somebody told me that you only have one year to apply for your second year visa after you've finished your first year. Is this true?

No! As long as you apply before you're 31, there is no time limit as to when you need to submit your application.

I applied for my second year and I've been asked to do a health screen - do I have to do one?

Yes. Sometimes Immigration will require people to undertake a health screen for their visa to be granted. This could be due to a number of reasons, for example, if you've visited a certain country in the past, or if you've worked in a certain industry before. If you are asked to do one, you must do one - there's no getting around it!

 

If you have any more questions regarding the second year visa, shoot them my way and I'll do my best to find out the answers (and add them to this post!)

 

Emma.x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Take The Girl Out Of Bristol.....

Of course I've gone and landed myself a job as a tractor driver. I'm the other side of the world, and I've managed to find myself working in what's probably the most Bristolian job I ever will have. It's more than likely to be the most Bristolian job that exists in the Southern Hemisphere. The Wurzels would be proud of me.

I won't go into it too much, as I'm currently feeling extremely positive about life, and there's no need to dwell on the past, but I pretty much ended up doing a runner from the previous farm I was working on. Let's just say that there were a number of factors which were making me extremely unhappy, and let's also say that I've gone from loving all creatures great and small, to loving all creatures great and small - with the (temporary, I'm sure) exemption of cows. Cows can do one.

This is actually a bull. But whatever.

This is actually a bull. But whatever.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to be offered a position sowing crops in a little town in New South Wales, and it seems I have discovered a new found love for tractor driving. When my alarm goes off in the mornings, I'm more than happy to jump out of bed, head down to the paddocks, climb into my new toy and spend my day driving up and down, up and down, up and down (and up and down.) Of course the fact that I can plug my iPod in makes the whole process ten times more enjoyable than it already was - there have been a large number of questionable renditions/butcherings of all my favourite songs this week, (sorry Bowie!) and who would have thought that I'd be listening to my best mate's Rinse FM Guest Mix in a bloody tractor, of all places!?

My ride.

My ride.

I've been extremely amused to discover that the UK's 'Antiques Roadshow' is prime time TV over here - I wasn't even aware that the show was still running - let alone that I'd be enjoying it over dinner each evening! Last Saturday, we went to the local tennis club's 'casserole night' and I managed to eat about a week's worth of food in one sitting, before coming scarily close to joining the local netball team. (I am TERRIBLE at netball, and joining the team would have been no good for anybody involved.) I'm really enjoying my time here - I don't feel the need to mark off each day on a countdown until I can leave, and the best thing is, there's not a single cow in sight!

 

Eleven Tips For Backpackers in Australia

In an attempt to keep things positive for the most part, I've decided to clear my mind of all things farm related for a few hours, and give being at least vaguely helpful a go. I feel that I've spent enough time in Australia now, to be able to offer some tips to anybody planning to come to, or already in Australia. Obviously a few of the tips aren't necessarily limited to the land down under, but seeing as that's where I am, that's what I shall name my post.

1. Don't Pack Too Much!

First and foremost - packing. I can almost guarantee that you're going to bring too much stuff. I was warned about it before I moved here, I thought I listened, but I obviously didn't listen hard enough. Decide what you think you're going to need, half it and you'll still end up bringing far too much. As I boarded my flight, I had a flash of panic, 'What if I've not brought enough?' Fast forward some months and I'd estimate that a good 65% of my clothes sat there at the bottom of my bag, untouched from the day they were put there, to the day I had to use Send My Bag to send them home. Do yourself a massive favour, and don't overpack!

2. Opt for A Travel Extension Lead

Travel adaptors are good. They're also easy to lose, and if there's only one plug socket in the hostel, and someone is hogging it, you're screwed. (Well, not screwed, but it's pretty annoying if you need to charge your phone/camera/laptop/toothrbush.)  If you own an Extension Lead Adaptor, you can plug in more than one device at once, and everyone is happy. Either that or you can at least get your phone cable to reach to your bed. This one has two USB ports built into it, and I can honestly say, it's been a godsend. (And also the envy of many a hostel roommate!) It's not actually too badly priced, considering that good quality individual adaptors can be quite pricey, and usually have to be replaced if you lose them all the time. (Or maybe it's just me that loses them!)

3. Grab Yourself A Decent Powerbank For Charging On The Go

While we're on the subject of power, I'd highly recommend getting yourself a decent powerbank. Anybody who owns a smartphone, has probably at some point been caught in a situation where they've needed their phone, but the battery has died on them. A decent powerbank is small enough to slip in your bag, and be on hand to charge your devices at the touch of a button! I use this one, and it usually gets me about 6 or 7 charges on my iPhone 6. (Or more if I charge my phone on Airplane Mode!) You can charge pretty much any device that has a USB charging cable, and it has two USB docks, so you can charge two things at once with it. Also very handy if you want to leave anything on charge in the hostel, overnight but don't want to leave your devices out in the middle of the room. (Extra especially useful to take to festivals too!)

4. Save Money On Cashpoint/Card Fees

Here in Australia, it costs $2 to use a cashpoint, every single time you use a cashpoint that isn't one that's owned by your bank. It's not much, but it's also equal to two large Frozen Cokes from McDonald's, and that's not something to be happy about. (Plus, it all adds up.) You can combat these costs, either by opening an Australian bank account and transferring your money here, then only using your bank's cashpoints, (I'm with Commonwealth) or by downloading the Revolut App and grabbing yourself a Revolut Card. (Highly recommended, 10/10.) In an earlier attempt to be helpful, I wrote a more detailed post on both Transferwise and Revolut, which can be found here!
If you would like a free Transferwise transfer, then click here!

5. Grab Yourself An Aldi Mobile SIM

Depending on how long you're going to be in Australia, it might be worth grabbing yourself an Australian SIM card. The two major networks here are Optus and Telstra, and you can pick up SIM cards for both of those companies practically anywhere. It's common knowledge here that Telstra has the best network coverage, so if you're planning on heading out of the cities, then most people tend to opt for a Telstra SIM. What's not as commonly known, is that Aldi Mobile runs on the Telstra lines, and is a fair bit cheaper than Telstra (mainly when it comes down to data deals and international calls!) The most expensive pay as you go package that you can buy with Aldi is $45, and that gets you; unlimited standard national calls, unlimited standard national sms and mms, 7GB data + 1GB weekend data, 300 minutes to international numbers - but packages do start from $15 if you're not going to need all of that!

Go on Aldi.

Go on Aldi.

6. Join The 'Australia Backpackers' Groups on Facebook

There has been many a time since moving here, that I've had a burning question and even after hours searching online, I've had absolutely no luck in finding the answer. More often than not, I'll be skimming through Facebook the next day, and the answer to the question will be sat there, staring me in the face on one of the 'Australia Backpackers' Groups. Turns out that other backpackers are the best people to ask for advice on general travel/backpacking questions, and there are thousands of them, all pretty on hand to help. Australia Backpackers has the most members, (so there are more people to answer your questions, and more posts to browse through) but Australian Independent Backpackers has the most helpful admins in the world, who obviously monitor the group daily and completely go out of their way to help where they can. (They also share daily job offers and useful posts from all over Australia!)  It's worth joining both, as at least one of them will usually have the answer to your question!

(Also check out Backpacker Jobs in Australia for jobs, or 2nd Year Visa Jobs and Fruit Picking Australia Network Backpackers (if you're hunting for second year visa work!)

7. Sign Up To Medicare As Soon As You Arrive In Australia

In the UK, we're extremely lucky to (currently) have access to free healthcare. It would be a crying shame if we were to lose that privilege, (though that's something I'm not going to go into here.) In Australia, healthcare costs money. A lot of money. Lucky for us Brits, we have a reciprocal agreement with Australia, which allows us free or subsidised treatment, providing we have a Medicare Card. As soon as you arrive to Australia, get yourself to the nearest Medicare Service Centre and sign up for your free card. That way, if you should need medical attention or treatment, it won't cost you an arm and a leg in cash, on top of an actual arm and leg. You can speed up the application process by downloading a Medicare Application Form here and taking it with you to the service centre.

8. Volunteer For Food And Accomodation

There are plenty of positions available in Australia (and all over the world) which allow you to volunteer for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. Most of the time, the experience that these opportunities offer, are (in my opinion) completely priceless. I spotted a placement in the Australia Backpackers group only yesterday, which was offering free food and accommodation in exchange for helping nurse orphaned baby joeys back into the wild. There are plenty of other positions which involve working on surf camps, looking after animals, working with horses, building lodges and more - and they're a great way to travel Australia without spending much money at all! I previously touched upon Workaway in a previous blog post, and there are plenty of things on there which I've added to my bucket list, but there are a number of other sites which allow you to find hosts as well. Check out WWOOF Australia, HelpX and Volunteers Base. As mentioned before - the Australia Backpackers Facebook pages often have positions pop up too, so plenty to choose from!

There are hundreds of positions on farms, where you can work in exchange for food and accommodation.

There are hundreds of positions on farms, where you can work in exchange for food and accommodation.

9. Learn A Language With Tandem

Tandem actually has nothing to do with Australia, other than the fact I discovered it while I was here, and started using it here. I've added it into this list because it's really good, and I feel that can justify it's addition on the basis that you'll meet lots of non English speaking people during your time here, and it's nice to learn and practice another language. (Also, it's a good time killer on long bus/train journeys or evenings in the hostel.) Tandem is an app which allows you to set the languages you can speak, the languages you would like to learn and the subjects you would like to talk about. It then gives you access to the 'community' where you can search through other users profiles and either 'text' or video call users to converse in your chosen language. Apps like Duolingo are really good for the basics of a language, but Tandem is amazing if you want to practice your conversational skills. Most people who want to practice their English are more than happy to talk to you in English and let you reply in whichever language you've chosen to learn.

10. Make You've Downloaded The WikiCamps App

It costs about $8, but it's a a hugely worthwhile investment if you're coming to or already in Australia. WikiCamps is a crowdsourced database of campsites, caravan parks, backpacker hostels and more. The fact that it's updated by users means that it's always kept up to date with the latest information. We used WikiCamps when we did our Great Ocean Road trip, and it was so helpful that I'm still going on about it. The app comes with filters, so not only can you search for all the closest campsites whilst you're out on an adventure, but you can also set the filters to only show the sites which are free, have toilets, showers, phone signal - even shade! All the sites come with a user rating and user comments too, so you can suss out your planned destination before you arrive!

WikiCamps app.

WikiCamps app.

11. Don't Forget To Send Your Friends And Family A Postcard

While you're away, I think it's nice to every now and then send a postcard to someone at home. Touchnote has been one of my favourite apps for a few years - it allows you to use any photo to create your own postcard or greetings card. Simply pick a photo, add a message and the address and click send! You top up the app with credits (which are cheaper if you buy them in bulk) and the cards are printed in the UK, so are usually at the address within a couple of days (assuming you're posting the card to the UK too!) It's a shame that by using the app, you lose the personal aspect of a postcard that comes with handwriting one out yourself, but the fact that you can personalise the front of the card with photos of yourself (and also the fact you can send cards from the comfort of your bed) more than makes up for that!

Postcards are nice.

Postcards are nice.

 

 

Hopefully at least one of these tips will help out at least one person! More than happy to answer any questions that anybody might have if not!

P.s. A small bonus tip, is to start your farm work as soon as you arrive in Australia if possible - not only will you get it out of the way and the rest of your time here should technically then be stress free, but you'll not be pressed for time to fit in your 88 days, and you can spend time looking for a nice placement that won't rip you off!

 

Farm Life.

As a Working Holiday Visa holder, you are entitled to a second year in Australia if you complete 88 days of farm work. (There are a few other job options, such as Au Pair work, mining, construction and fishing, but the majority of backpackers tend to opt for the farm work!)

With only 132 days left to complete my 88 days work, it was about time I got my ass into gear. Tim, from the Jillaroo School which I completed last week, was kind enough to help me find a job on a farm in the local area, and so as of last week, I am now officially (for the time being at least,)  a farmer. (As opposed to constantly being asked if I'm a farmer, just because my Bristol accent makes me sound like one...)

I live on the farm with Bob, Anna and Baby Robert. We live in the middle of nowhere, and to be honest it's a miracle sent from above that there's even phone signal out here, let alone 3G. The fact that we live so far from anything, is reflected in the news headlines in the closest town. (Which is still nearly half an hour away.)

Can you get any more Australian?

Can you get any more Australian?

As far as life on the farm goes, it's pretty good. Bob and I start work very early in the morning, but seeing as we live where we work, it's pretty acceptable for me to roll out of bed five minutes before we start. I'm in charge of the two dogs and FIVE puppies, which is fantastic news as I love dogs and I love puppies. They're actually working dogs, so I'm not really allowed to play with them. I've obviously been playing with them a tiny bit on the sly, (I honestly can't help myself) but I'm really going to have to put a stop to it, because they've all started getting super excited when they see me, and have started following me everywhere, which is 100% going to give me away sooner or later. (My guess is sooner...) The other day, one of them came bounding along with a sweet potato in his mouth, which I thought was hilarious, but I'm guessing wasn't supposed to be part of his working day.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of working with the cattle. I feel a bit sorry for Bob when we have to, as I'm absolutely TERRIBLE at it. I've only worked on the farm for six days, and I've already made an endless list of cock ups. We'll spend half an hour herding cows into separate pens, and then I'll accidentally let the wrong one into the wrong pen and we have to let them all out and start again. At the start of the week, Bob told me to chase the cows off into a certain direction - he also told me, after a few seconds, to stop, but the cows were really excitable by that point and I didn't hear him over the mooing. They were so excitable in fact, that they decided to try and jump straight over a fence... They failed miserably and the fence is no more.

Herding the cows home.

Herding the cows home.

Despite all my cattle disasters, Bob has been extremely trusting when it comes to tractors. Which is nice, because as it turns out, tractors are a lot of fun. My old driving instructor would probably have heart failure if he knew that someone has allowed me to drive such huge pieces of machinery, but I'm obviously a natural as they get bigger each day. I must admit, I'm slightly concerned about the little red one though. It's one of four tractors that was sent over to Australia from the US in the 1940's which means it's quite possibly the only one left in Australia, and there's also a chance that there are minimal numbers left in the world. It would be just my luck that the thing managed to survive a war, but ends up breaking whilst it's in my care.

Thug life.

Thug life.

My favourite job on the farm is securing bales of hay to the lorry, which involves being lifted on top of hay, by a tractor, and then securing all the straps. Securing the straps isn't anything special, but the tractor ride and the fact I get to stand on top of a lorry is pretty good.

Tractor rides.

Tractor rides.

I love hay.

I love hay.

I actually really enjoy all the work here. It's admittedly a little tough having no other backpackers with me to keep me entertained on the evenings, (or to back me up when I send cows bulldozing through fences!) but considering I've heard endless amounts of horror stories from other backpackers about their farm work, I guess I've done alright! I'm confident that I'd much rather be here than picking fruit, that's for sure!

As I write this, I sit in my bedroom listening to the rain. This entire area is (or at least was) in drought, as it hadn't rained for over three months. Of course, we've got the entire three months worth of rain on my one day off.

Six days down - eighty two to go....

Jackaroo, Jillaroo.

'What in the bloody hell is a Jackaroo?' was my first thought, when I initially heard the term. It obviously called for some investigation, and I soon discovered that a 'Jackaroo' is a young man working as an apprentice on a sheep or cattle farm. The female equivalent is a 'Jillaroo,' (what else would it be!?) and so essentially, a Jackaroo or Jillaroo is the Australian version of a Cowboy or Cowgirl.

Further research led me to realise that working as a Jillaroo could count towards signing off the 88 days farm work, which Australia requires in order to qualify for a second year visa. Absolute bonus, seeing as I'd already mentally added 'become a cowgirl' to my bucket list (and am understandably also quite happy at the idea of having to sacrifice three months of fruit picking!) And so, when the chance arose to attend a five day Jillaroo School, run by Tim Skerrett, in the Australian Outback, it's safe to say that I jumped at the chance. Over the course of the next five days, we'd be learning about natural horsemanship, sheep husbandry, cattle mustering, pasture improvement and fencing amongst other things. City life already at the bottom of my thought pile, myself and the rest of the group started our journey into the land of no phone signal...

Upon arrival, we were each assigned a horse. I was paired up with Mahoo - a gorgeous but stubborn male, whose favourite pastime (aside from eating) was to bite the other horses.

Mahoo and I.

Mahoo and I.

After learning how to groom and saddle our horses, Tim gave us a lesson on natural horsemanship, (also known as horse whispering) and we took the horses for a ride before heading back to a campfire cooked dinner. By about 10pm, I was absolutely exhausted and considering that the bunk beds in the barn were so comfortable, I'm pretty sure I managed to pass out as my head hit the pillow!

The next four days consisted of early starts, amazing food and lots of laughing. It was mesmerising to watch Tim working with the horses in the Natural Horsemanship lessons, and although Mahoo and I didn't always see eye to eye when it came down to practicing what I had learnt, I felt my confidence grow as the week went on, and it was easy to see how over time, people form such an attachment to their horses. Mahoo was destined to be slaughtered for dog meat, when Tim rescued him, paying just $20, and although there may have been an occasion or two where I wondered if $10 would have been a better deal, I can't deny that I secretly fell head over heels for him, and wanted to take him home.

The nicest classroom I ever did have.

The nicest classroom I ever did have.

Near the start of the week, Tim gave us a demonstration with the working dogs, and it was fascinating to see them round the sheep up, ready for us to muster. Once the sheep were in their pens, it was time to catch one for shearing. It's no great surprise that the dogs were a lot better at chasing than I was! I was fairly nervous about the shearing part - I had visions of me accidentally slipping and cutting the poor thing, giving it a hair colour, rather than a haircut - but I managed to get by without any accidents. I've actually been cutting my own fringe the last few months, so I'm pretty confident that along with my new sheep shearing skills, I could quit travelling and become a hairdresser.

Sheep lady.

Sheep lady.

Sheep shearing isn't the only thing we learned. Along with whip cracking and lassoing (which we won't talk too much about, as I'm genuinely terrible at both,) we spent a day working on pasture improvement and fencing. I really enjoyed both - especially the fencing - it made me realise how hard it must be to maintain a farm - especially when the land can stretch for hundreds of acres! It was a very hungry group of students that returned to the barn for dinner that evening. (Though, just like Mahoo, I am always hungry.)

Confident in our sheep mustering skills, we moved onto cattle mustering. A steep trek up into the mountains to find the cattle, made for a really enjoyable ride. The group split up in order to round up the all the cows, and again, it was amazing to see the dogs at work. (Side note - working dogs are at work, and are not meant to be spoilt or made a fuss of, and rolling around with them and letting them lick your face, does not actually class as work...) After lunch we had to wrestle some calves in order to learn about branding and castration. (Extra side note - calves are really strong.)

This is not working.

This is not working.

Calf wrestling.

Calf wrestling.

Before I knew it, my time at Leconfield was drawing to an end. On our final morning, it was warm enough to take our horses for a swim in the dam - something that all the students and most of the horses enjoyed thoroughly! I'd been convinced all week that Mahoo was going to take me for a swim when stopping to drink, so it was good to have the choice of going in with him, and having my swim stuff on in preparation! We all had a chance to dry off before mustering some more cattle in order to practice calf chasing in the arena.

Taking Mahoo for a swim.

Taking Mahoo for a swim.

I can honestly say that my time at Leconfield Farm has been the most carefree and enjoyable time I've had in Australia so far. I learned endless amounts about farming and horses, and discovered even more of a love for animals. (Who would have thought possible?)  I cannot for the life of me recall exactly how I came to be in a discussion about Jackaroos' in the first place, but I'm extremely happy that I was! Tim is an absolutely fantastic teacher, and the experience he is providing at Leconfield is highly recommended. He's even written me a reference and sorted me with a job! If anybody would like more information on the Jackaroo/Jillaroo School, just click here!
 

Next stop - farm work!

Mustering sheep.

Mustering sheep.

Sunset. Hashtag no filter.

Sunset. Hashtag no filter.

Farm life.

Farm life.

Cheerio, Melbourne.

As I sit here, thirteen hours into a twenty hour long train journey, I can't help but think how weird it is - the feeling that my adventure is just about to start - despite having moved away from home six months ago. I think the entire six months went by more quickly than the last thirteen hours have done, though that's maybe because the last six months haven't featured a man snoring in my ear whilst I'm trying to sleep.

Thirteen hours is a long time to be alone with your thoughts, and I've covered a lot of random ground, though to be fair, a sizeable chunk of that time was actually spent becoming the ultimate Pokemon Master. Until my Gameboy batteries died, anyway.

I find myself thinking about how time seems to be going faster each year. I often wonder if it's something to do with the portion of your life that it occupies. When you're five, a year seems like a lifetime - but when you think about it, a year represents a fifth of a five year old's life. Hit twenty five and suddenly a year is just a twenty fifth of your life, so maybe it just seems to go more quickly?  (It's either that, or there's some truth in the saying 'time flies when you're having fun,' seeing as I make it my mission each year to have more fun, and I think I do a pretty good job of it!)

Melbourne is just getting to a weird sort of illusive stage. One that reminds me of teenage days spent hanging out at the local skate park, Spring just about to roll into summer, you'd pull open your curtains to be almost blinded by the sun. Not even thinking to grab a jumper or a jacket, you'd spend the whole day freezing your ass off - too stubborn to run home and grab one, as that would be admitting to yourself that summer was still a little way off. Funny, how a chill in the air can spur pangs of nostalgia, in a county that's thousands of miles from home.

I've worked out that my time in Melbourne has made me realise that I do actually appreciate and enjoy my own company now and then - something I rarely indulged in at home - I tried to spend every waking hour in the presence my friends and now I'm going to make a lot more effort to spend some time alone too. I've got a lot of love for Melbourne, but I am definitely ready to move on.  

They say that you should travel until you meet yourself - there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I've learned a lot about myself, in the last couple of months, especially. Maybe it's because of that new knowledge that it feels like I'm only just about to begin. Or maybe I'm just always going to be seeking out the start of a new adventure.

 

That Time I Went To Kenya.

Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Kenya to assist with the building of two new classrooms at the Inspirations School in Timbwani. The entire school, and in fact three others, have been funded and built by Linda and Mike Radford, who run the Maji Safi Project - A project which was started in 1999 after a branch fell on Linda's head whilst her and Mike were on holiday in Kenya, and her hospitalisation not only delayed their trip home, but allowed her to bond with the locals that visited her at the hospital each day. After recovering from the accident, (which obviously The Sun reported as her being crushed by a tree) Linda contracted Malaria, meaning that her and Mike were left with even more time to bond with the locals whilst she recovered, which spurred them to create the charity. Maji Safi has strong links with my old Secondary School, Ashton Park, (and that's exactly how I came to be on the trip in the first place, along with a team of twenty or so other people!)

Team Kenya.

Team Kenya.

The Maji Safi charity has (deservedly) had lots of recent news exposure, and it's really got me thinking about my time in Kenya a lot more than usual. Obviously, if I'd had a blog back in 2011, then I would have written a post about it then, but I've decided that there's nothing stopping me from writing one now. (Though working about eight thousand hours in the last couple of weeks has done a pretty good job of postponing it.)

Our trip was split into two parts - building classrooms at the school and then, a week long safari. I'd dreamt of going on a safari ever since watching The Lion King (and The Wild Thornberrys) as a kid, so for me it was the perfect treat after helping to build the classrooms.

Before heading to Kenya, I had my reservations about whether or not I'd be any good at bricklaying. Turns out that I'm a natural. (Sort of.) It helped that the bricks were all slightly different shapes and sizes, so I had the perfect excuse for my wall not being perfectly straight. It was really hard work, lugging bricks around in the baking sun but in fact the hardest part about it all was trying to refrain from being distracted by so many inquisitive children. The school was open whilst we were building the new classrooms, and every ten minutes or so, a giggling child would try to get your attention because they wanted to play. At lunch times, the local villagers would cook us a traditional African lunch (which I'd look forward to every day and still crave fairly often!)

I'm very easily distracted.

I'm very easily distracted.

On our days off, most of the group went to the beach. A couple of us spent our free days visiting orphanages and feeding programmes, which were really eye opening. The children at the school were poor, but seeing the children that had lost their parents to HIV, and the very young children who would walk kilometres and kilometres to the feeding programme, with their baby brothers or sister tied to their back so they could take two meals instead of one - that was heartbreaking. I felt that it was important to go and help where possible.

At the school, our teams would take it in turns building, or in the classrooms with the children, teaching them to sing songs or helping with their lessons. Nearly five years on and I still get emotional when I hear 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' as it reminds me of how excited the children were to learn it! Our days in the classroom seemed fly by in a flash of smiles and tears and laughter and singing. I'm yet to meet a group of happier children, which I often reflect on when I think of how little they have.

One of the classrooms.

One of the classrooms.

Building at the school was almost done - but first we had to take the children on a daytrip to the beach. For many of the forty children, it would be the first and maybe the last time they saw the sea, as back in the village, they had jobs such as tending to the goats or crops. I can't begin to describe to you the joy in their laughter as we raced them through the waves. All of us were drenched by the end of the day (and as a result weren't allowed on the bus home.)

Beach day.

Beach day.

The last day at the school was emotional. We'd gotten to know the kids during our time there, and they were as gutted about us leaving as we were. There were lots of hugs and tears, but at least I knew I'd done a good job in my bricklaying.... Plus it was time for safari!

Werthers wuz 'ere.

Werthers wuz 'ere.

Safari is something I imagine I will never tire of. Day one consisted of a group of 20 excitable ex-school builders, all stood up in the safari buses, excitedly pointing out the animals they spotted. By day four, the number of standing people had severely dwindled, and by the last day, I'm pretty sure I was still the only one shouting 'HEY LOOK, AN ELEPHANT!' (Which usually returned a couple of groans, considering by that point we'd seen about fifteen thousand elephants.)

Our first excitement came on day one, as upon entry to the park we spotted some lions. Right as the sump guard fell off the bottom of our bus. (I still don't really know what a sump guard is, but I'll always remember the name as our driver got out to fix it, and the passengers of every single safari vehicle that went past would worriedly ask why he wasn't in the bus, and he'd just reply 'sump guard.')

Lion bait.

Lion bait.

I can promise you that for me there were many, many more excitements to come - mainly in the form of every single animal that happened to wander into my vision. We were lucky enough to see the Big Five during our week in the parks. I will never forget moments such as eating breakfast whilst a family of elephants walked through our campsite, or watching a leopard eating his dinner right next to where we'd just eaten ours at the lodge! My favourite moment was watching a cheetah teaching her cubs to hunt (and then one of them messing up the hunt, so I didn't have to watch any gore.) We were also privileged enough to be invited to meet some of the Maasai Tribe, who put on a singing and dancing display for us.

Pedestrian crossing.

Pedestrian crossing.

It's safe to say that my time in Kenya was one of the best experiences of my life so far. It's going to take a lot to top it. A huge thanks to Paul Miller for ever allowing me on the trip in the first place, and of course Linda and Mike for all the amazing work they do. I definitely want to return to Kenya - it really did change my life.

Everybody was probably quite happy about this.

Everybody was probably quite happy about this.

Trying to be a goat thing.

Trying to be a goat thing.

Being a goat thing.

Being a goat thing.

School days.

School days.

Always promoting.

Always promoting.

Probably trying to steal a monkey for a pet.

Probably trying to steal a monkey for a pet.

Exploring.

Exploring.

Trying to get a kiss from a giraffe.

Trying to get a kiss from a giraffe.

Safari.

Safari.

Beware of crocodiles.

Beware of crocodiles.

Beach fun.

Beach fun.

The Great Ocean Adventure

It's a well known fact that I love a holiday. So much so, that it's no great surprise to anybody anymore when I decide to take 'a holiday from my holiday.'

'The Great Ocean Road' has been pretty much at the top of my list of 'things to do in Melbourne' since before moving to Australia - but, in what seems like the blink of an eye, almost six months have passed since my arrival, and considering I'd still not ticked it off my list, it was probably about time that I made an effort to go and pay a visit. What was originally supposed to be a one day and one night road trip, was turned into a three day and two night 'mini holiday' when I sacked off my sales job in order to extend our little vacation.

Bacon sandwiches for breakfast, we were off to a great start. At the car hire centre, however, crisis ensued as we were handed the keys to a nice, shiny automatic car. As much as automatics are supposed to be easier to drive, the look on Chez's face matched my feelings on the matter, and it was pretty clear that none of us fancied working out how to use the thing on roads we weren't used to. Unfortunately, the car hire centre had no manual cars left, so the first hour of our trip was spent being driven to another branch, to pick up another car. (By a kind staff member, who obviously felt sorry for the poor English people who couldn't drive an automatic.)

Finally on the road, (in a car with a clutch) sun pounding through the windows and Kings of Leon blaring on the stereo, we headed towards Torquay to begin our trip. (Our trip which we hadn't actually planned out at all.) First stop was Airey's Inlet to visit Split Point Lighthouse - the lighthouse from the Australian kid's TV show, 'Round The Twist.' It was at this point that I realised we could have booked and taken part in a tour of the lighthouse, had we done some planning, (and I imagine it was at this point Chez was probably relieved we hadn't done any planning.) I'm not exactly into lighthouses, but it was quite nice to visit this particular one - even if the consequence of that seems to be having the 'Round The Twist' theme tune stuck in my head for the rest of eternity.

I'm very obviously much happier to be here than Chez is.

I'm very obviously much happier to be here than Chez is.

A daily ice cream is compulsory on holiday, so we stopped briefly in Lorne to make sure we were hitting targets, and then carried on our merry way. After Lorne is an absolutely stunning stretch of winding road, where your left hand side consists of beautiful beaches and (funnily enough) the great ocean. On your right hand side is a mixture of rainforest, cliffs and other things which are nice to look at. Considering it was such a nice day, it really was an amazing drive! So wonderful in fact, that we ended up getting a bit carried away and driving all the way to the end of the Great Ocean Road - just in time to catch a sunset at the famous Twelve Apostles. The 45 metre high limestone stacks are pretty magnificent, for want of a better word, and no photos, (especially mine) do them any justice. They made for a really pretty looking ending to a really pretty looking day.

Of course the day wasn't really over. Seeing as we hadn't planned where to stay that night, we now had to find somewhere to go. Somewhere free. We consulted WikiCamps to find the closest free campsite and made our way there in the dark. All intentions of pitching the tent were scrapped when upon our arrival we were greeted by a huge kangaroo, and the decision was made to sleep in the car rather than be kicked in the head by a potentially territorial marsupial.

I had a fairly decent nights sleep to be fair. I was pretty toasty and warm in my sleeping bag, and it seems that a day of being driven around had tired me out enough to sleep through. I awoke, however, to a shivering Chez, (who had no sleeping bag and was wrapped in my towel.) He proclaimed the night as 'the worst night's sleep he'd ever had,' and I had to lend him my sleeping bag so he could get warm and have a little nap.

Snug.

Snug.

As we were already at the end of the Great Ocean Road, (with two days and one night left to kill) we did a little bit of research on things we might have missed on our travels, and started to make our way back in the direction we'd already come. Obviously fish and chips for lunch was top of the list, but aside from that, Kennet River stood out as being one of the most appealing places to visit, as it's been rated one of the best places in Australia to spot Koalas in the wild. As I was driving there, (via a quick stop off at K-Mart to buy Chez a sleeping bag) I was trying to fabricate a plan which would allow me to maybe keep one as a pet. All koala-napping strategies were forgotten when we arrived - I was massively distracted because the place was inundated with King Parrots, who were more than happy to be your best mate if you fed them some birdseed.

Making friends.

Making friends.

We set up the tent at a campsite in Lorne, after a freezing cold wash under one of those beach-side showers. It was funny to watch Chez wince at how cold the water was. (Funny until it was my turn.) We'd decided on an early start the next day, so we went back to the tent fairly early to make sure we got a decent nights sleep. Obviously, we'd picked the world's noisiest campsite, I was freezing cold all night and when morning arrived, Chez proclaimed the night as 'an even worse night's sleep than the night before.'

Nevertheless, the sun was shining and it was time to hire some surfboards and 'catch some waves.' (Or catch my eye on the edge of the surfboard, as it actually turned out.) A couple of hours surfing resulted in us being completely and utterly beaten up by the waves and standing up on our boards for a combined total of about 40 seconds. I'm surprised there's actually any of the 'Great Ocean' left, as I'm pretty sure that I alone swallowed at least half of it. I had the best time though, and will definitely give it another go!

Surf pals.

Surf pals.

I came back from our trip covered in scratches from the parrots clawing my shoulders, my nose peeling from where I'd caught the sun, and I can't begin to tell you how much my body ached the day after surfing. In my eyes, those are all signs of a successful trip. I love a holiday.

I liked this van.

I liked this van.

'Sales' jobs are...

'Sales' jobs are a number of things. First and foremost, sales jobs are the most readily available type of work for backpackers in Australia. From what I gather, it's pretty damn hard to get turned down for this type of position, and there are hundreds of positions floating about, so if you're a poor backpacker in need of some cash, (and which backpackers aren't poor and in need of some cash?) you're pretty much guaranteed a job...

Which is almost exactly how I came to be stood in a Melbourne shopping centre, with a bunch of other backpackers, wearing shirts that made us look like darts players.

Sales jobs usually work on a commission only basis, some pay a terrible basic wage + commission, and some pay a fairly decent basic wage + commission. I was lucky enough to pick up a well paid job at $20 an hour plus commission, so smiles all round! 

Apart from the fact that a sales job does most certainly NOT involve smiles all round. What it actually involves is being glared at, frowned at, scowled at or even worse - ignored completely. At one point, I managed to convince myself that I was completely invisible - that was until I said 'hello' to somebody else, who promptly put their hand in my face and made me wish that I was invisible again.

Of course, I'm not denying that it's a little bit annoying when a sales person stops you in a shopping centre, or a charity worker stops you in the street. If you're like me and leave things until last minute, then you're going to be in a rush and probably the last thing you need is somebody taking some of your precious time to sell you something that you more than likely don't need. It's not annoying enough, however, to be downright rude to the person, who at the end of the day is just trying to earn a living.

I actually met some wonderful, amazing people too. People who managed to make the part of me that wanted to scream at the top of my voice, not want to scream at all anymore. But for the most part, a sales job is spending your day wondering how much longer you can continue to smile at people, simply for them to shoot a filthy look back in your direction or completely avoid eye contact with you altogether. It's the potential to earn a LOT of money in exchange for being made to feel very small. It's the feeling of not wanting to to get up for work, the feeling of anger when somebody puts their hand in your face and the feeling of frustration when you're trying to figure out if you'd rather continue as you are, or just live on pasta and nothing else for the rest of your time in the city.

For me, a sales job was the realisation that I'm not even slightly ready to spend my time in a position that constantly exposes me to the harsh reality that people are dicks - something which I have long been aware of, but something I feel I don't need to be reminded of all day. It was also the realisation that I'm lucky enough that I have the option to make that decision.

Cut a long story short, a sales job is not for me.

 

The Cheapest Way To Transfer Money Abroad...

Seeing as I tend to spend hours researching and usually end being more than organised, (at least when it comes to travel or festivals anyway) I sometimes find myself waking up to one or two or five people asking me questions related to cheap flights, cheap hostels, cheap food or saving money in general. Recently, I've had quite a few people ask me about sending money home, or how I brought my spending money to Australia with me. I figured that a blog post on the subject might be useful, (even if it's a little boring, sorry.)

When it comes to sending money home, (or to pretty much any country to be fair) I've found the online money transfer service, TransferWise, to be by far the cheapest option. By using TransferWise, you're eliminating the high bank fees that you would normally incur from a foreign exchange, by using technology that works on a peer-to-peer system. I could explain in more detail, but all you're probably interested in is the fact it's up to 89% cheaper than using your bank! (If you really want me to explain it, feel free to shoot me a message and I'll happily go through it with you!)

TransferWise is easy to use, the money is usually within your account in around 24 hours, and the company have a 'Cheapest Money Guarantee,' meaning that if you do find a cheaper service, they'll beat that price for you - which is pretty nice!

What's really nice is the rewards scheme that TransferWise run, which involves them paying you £50 for each three friends that you get to sign up - and what's even nicer still is that if you do sign up on somebodies invite code, you get your first transfer FREE! (Which is win-win for everybody involved!)

If you would like a free TransferWise transfer, just click here!

Revolut
Before I moved to Australia, I spent a lot of time debating the best (and cheapest) way to take my spending money with me. The exchange rate was really good, and although changing all my savings into cash worked out as the cheapest way to do it, who wants to be carrying a couple of grands worth of cash on them? After lots of careful research, a couple of months before the moving date, I opened an Australian Commonwealth bank account online, and used TransferWise to send the majority of my savings to my new bank account. A lot of people don't actually want or need a foreign bank account though, and for those people there is another option...

productbox_revolut-v3.png

I discovered an amazing app called Revolut. At the time of my discovery, I didn't put much faith in Revolut, due to it being a fairly new app with not many reviews online. You download the (free) app to your phone, and then you have the option to order yourself a (free) Revolut bank card. Although I wasn't overly sure about the app, I ordered myself a card anyway. It arrived within a week and I put it in my purse without much of a second thought.

The theory behind Revolut is that you transfer money to your Revolut app, and you can either convert your money to a different currency within the app, or simply use your card as you would a normal credit or debit card. You can use the card at cashpoints, in shops or even online, and the card automatically converts your money into the local currency using the best available rate. The best thing about the card is that there are NO fees (which is especially good if you're accustomed to paying for everything by card and sick of racking up lots of costs in fees!)

As I said before, I was initially fairly sceptical about the app, but after testing it out over the last few months, I now have full faith in it. (Especially as it managed to save us when we needed $4000 for a deposit and a months rent on our new house by the end of the day, and the only cash we had was tied up in a UK account, which would normally take at least 24 hours to transfer over to make it accessible without facing huge withdrawal fees!)

You can transfer money to the app using a bank account or PayPal, or simply via the app to somebody else. The transfer is INSTANT, and obviously means that you can use your card to withdraw cash, or pay for something a shop straight away. You can currently use the card in around NINETY countries too, which means that if you're going traveling, you can whack all your savings onto the app, and use the card every single day, keeping an eye on your spendings on the app as you go! Also, if you're really struggling for cash or happened to find yourself in an emergency, a friend can send you some instantly accessible funds.

I get the feeling that Revolut is going to be huge once more people start to find out about it - I'll certainly be using it when I travel the world!

Revolut saved the day. (It didn't save my flip flops, however, which broke when I was running to the bank!)

Revolut saved the day. (It didn't save my flip flops, however, which broke when I was running to the bank!)

There are obviously plenty of other ways to send money abroad. These are the methods that I've used and found to work best for me. Hopefully this has been of at least some help to somebody. (If not, don't worry, my next post will be back to chatting rubbish about my adventures!)

 

It's A Bloody Good Job I Like Reading...

It's always been my intention to keep a weekly updated blog. This notion is all good and well if you've got quite a bit of spare time alone with your laptop, or even if you get stuck working on the photo booth at work, which is usually so quiet, you get a couple of hours to write out a blog draft on the back of some old scrap photos. (Huge thanks to Luna Park for some decent stints sat in that booth - my last couple of posts have basically been written in between selling customers their rollercoaster photos...)

In reality, as much as I would like to update every single week, I've recently discovered that it's not always going to be possible. The last few weeks have been pretty manic for me, (and I've not had any shifts on the photo booth) and as a result, this post comes over two weeks after my previous one. (I doubt that anybody aside from myself is actually even bothered at all, but my apologies all the same!)

I've actually been a really busy little bear. I've moved out of my cute little place by the beach, and into an even cuter little place in the city with Chez. We've got the whole place to ourselves, and the hallway is so long that you could play cricket in it. (And we DO of course play cricket in it....)

Our new house.

Our new house.

Super funny, let's go.

Super funny, let's go.

Thanks to a drop in hours at Luna Park, (nothing to do with my blog writing sessions!)  I've had to get myself a new job too. The park is only open on weekends at the moment, and as much as I'd love to be able to survive and pay rent by only working on weekends, I've come to the conclusion that it's not really doable. (I gave it a damn good go though!) I now work for a marketing group, selling the Herald Sun newspaper, and my uniform makes me look like a darts player. It's also a round FOUR hours of commuting to and from work each day, so I'm having to get used to getting up at what I consider the most ridiculous of times, to catch the train. Some nights, I do wonder if it's even worth going to bed. It's a bloody good job I like reading too, as there's not much else to do on a train. As much as I hate getting up while it's still dark, I've been secretly enjoying the fact I'm getting in about 20 hours of reading a week on the commute, and I've smashed through four books in about eight days. Please, please, please - if you have any book suggestions for me, please, please send them my way! (Please.)

Up the Herald Sun!

Up the Herald Sun!

Moving and working has taken up a very large amount of my time, and the rest of it has sort of been filled with random things like making cheesecake or colouring in pictures of snails. A few of us went to Dekmantel last weekend too. There's not really much to report about that, aside from the fact that I really liked the venue, the lighting was really nice, San Proper was really mental, and I had a really good time. The next day was alright too. We ate loads of KFC and watched Human Traffic. In hindsight, I probably could have written a blog post then, but I was stupidly hanging, so it's maybe for the best that I didn't...

Now that all the moving and interviews are out the way, (and I've nearly finished colouring in the snail) I'll hopefully have a lot more time on my hands to write more often. Maybe if I'm extra lucky, I'll get put in the photo booth this weekend...

 

I Haven't Been Everywhere, But It's On My List.

When every country is on your bucket list, it makes for some interesting thoughts on how you're going to be able to afford it all. Especially when you want to take part in absolutely every single activity that the world has to offer. Obviously I shouldn't really have to worry about all of that money business, as I'm about due to win the lottery any week now...

In the meantime, (whilst I'm still very much poor) I've been forced to work out a sort of backup plan , which will allow me to complete my quest of seeing everything, doing everything and meeting everyone. (And eating lots.)

Eating lots and lots.

Eating lots and lots.

I'm not sure who actually told me about Workaway, but I'm pretty sure I've told approximately nine thousand people about it since. You can basically volunteer all around the world with one of the thousands of hosts listed. Did you know that you can head off to the Colombian jungle to work with jaguars and monkeys and get free food and accommodation in exchange?

I WANT TO WORK WITH JAGUARS AND MONKEYS IN COLOMBIA ANYWAY.

You can also help somebody in Brazil practice their English, work on a farm in India or even look after a dog in France.

So on top of getting to do cool stuff like help the animals, you get fed, you don't have to pay rent, (I HATE paying rent.) you get to help out local communities, probably find out some local tips and secrets for 'off the beaten path exploring,' you get the chance to participate in some absolutely priceless experiences, and I imagine if you wanted to, you could become pretty fluent in the language of your host family too. What an absolute no brainer.

With Workaway, I've already got my heart set on working with copious amounts of animals - all around the world, sailing from Croatia to The Caribbean as a deck hand, discovering myself on a Jamaican Yoga Retreat and living in a Nicaraguan tree hostel (to get started of course...) And the best thing about it, is it's such a cheap way of travelling, that it's easily affordable - even if your lottery numbers are taking a god awful amount of time to show up! (The actual best thing about it is how much it helps out in areas which most need it, but the cheap thing is really bloody good too.)

I do often wonder exactly how long I will be away from home. (Sorry, mum!) Every week I seem to meet someone new who tells me about the chance to camp in the Amazon Rainforest with a man named Rambo, the opportunity to help with the rehabilitation of mistreated elephants in Thailand or look after a pack of huskies in Canada. I've obviously got to do it all.  And that's before you get me started on the fact that my travel blog addiction is constantly fueling my ever growing mass of plans.

When every country is on your bucket list, know that it still won't be enough for you. There's always going to be another adventure you want to be part of - you just don't know what it is yet.

 

15 Things I've Learned About Australia (So Far....)

Of course when you move to a new country, you're likely to encounter some differences when it comes to general everyday life. After roughly three and a half months of living in Melbourne, here's what I've learned about Australia so far...

1.  'Alright?' doesn't mean 'How are you?' over here. In fact, if you say 'Alright?' to an Aussie, they seem to think that you're starting on them or something, and can sometimes get pretty worked up. 'Yeah, I'm alright. Why? Are you not alright...?' Try to stick to 'How you going?' if you want to ask someone how they are...

2.  It takes FOREVER to cross the road. You press the button and that little green man takes his sweet ass precious time to start flashing. (And the red man is of course back in milliseconds.) And God forbid, you attempt to cross when the green man isn't showing - if looks could kill, you'd have a better chance of surviving getting hit by a car! Plus, the entire time you're waiting, there's this weird ticking noise which gets faster when it's time to cross the road. The whole experience can be quite tense to be honest.

3.  There are puppies in the pet shops here. Real, LIVE puppies.

4.  Aussies don't like to waste time saying entire words. (Maybe something to do with the amount of time wasted crossing the roads...) For example, the word 'afternoon' is shortened to 'arvo,' Instead of saying 'The Salvation Army,' the Aussies simply say 'Salvos,' and 'McDonald's' is 'Macca's.' Even 'Australia' gets shortened down to 'Straya.'

The Macca's on Swanston Street.

The Macca's on Swanston Street.

5.  'Macca's' in Australia is ridiculously good in comparison to the UK. You can create your own burgers, buy a large frozen Coke for $1, (which is about 50p) and the cake selection probably has more variety than Greggs.

6.  'Crisps' are called 'chips' and when anybody wants to order actual chips, they order 'hot chips' which means that all the extra letters saved from shortening words are wasted, because they're adding in a whole extra word, just to order chips.

7.  'Free Wi-fi' just isn't a thing here. With the exception of Macca's, there's pretty much zero free public internet. On the very rare occasion that you do find some, you'll have ordered, eaten and paid for your meal before Google has even loaded, it's that slow.

8.  It does actually rain here. A lot.

Drenched.

Drenched.

9.  When it is sunny though, the sunsets are absolutely stunning.

Elwood Beach sunset.

Elwood Beach sunset.

10.  Contrary to popular belief, there aren't kangaroos bouncing about all over the place. Apart from my short encounter at Melbourne Zoo, I'm actually yet to see one...

11.  Every single toilet has two flushes. EVERY single one. Every single public toilet has sharps bins to dispose of used needles. (Even at places like the zoo...) There are public toilet capsule things with electronic locks, which play music to you while you wee, and won't let you out until you've pulled the flush and washed your hands. 

12.  You can't buy alcohol in the supermarkets. But there are drive-through 'bottle shops' to make up for it.

13.  It's not unusual to be sent home from work if the weather is too hot. Fantastic news for your tan. Tragic news for your ever dwindling bank balance.

14.  Australia isn't as expensive as everybody makes out. Sure, it's not as cheap as Thailand or Magaluf, but with the exception of alcohol and cigarettes, everything else seems to be cheaper than the UK to me....

15.  The food here is unbelievable. Apart from the Nandos. The Nandos is terrible.

Considering I'm yet to visit anywhere else in Australia, this list may well be exclusive to Melbourne...

 

 

 

Sondering...

I absolute love people watching - especially at a festival. I think it's pretty safe to say that if you want to idly spend your time observing the diversity that occurs within humanity, a festival is the perfect place to do so. I recently got back from Rainbow Serpent Festival, (Yes, another festival!) and I spent quite a large portion of my time doing exactly that.

I'm hardly the most fashion conscious being in the world (I'm in fact probably in the running for the least clued up,) but I'm absolutely fascinated by festival attire. I honestly love seeing other people's creativity and ideas, and it's amazing how much time people obviously spend on costumes, signs and body art. In my opinion, the world is a much better place when there's glitter involved too. 

Some people are more creative than others...

Some people are more creative than others...

As well as all the colours and face paint, headbands and sequins, there's actually something really special about watching people enjoy themselves - especially when it involves music. I thrive off seeing people's faces light up when they hear the first notes of their favourite tune kick in, or two friends grin at each other before embracing or pulling off some questionable dance moves. It's the best feeling when the DJ drops a tune that creates an energy in the crowd, and I can't help but look around and just take in everybody having a good time.

For a couple of years now, one of my favourite words has been 'sondering,' I thought about it a lot this weekend. It means 'the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.' I smiled at a lady with a shaved head when she caught my eye from across the dancefloor, she walked over and gave me a huge hug before smiling back and walking off to disappear in the crowd, and I couldn't stop thinking about it after. Isn't it mad, that for a split second, you can share a small moment of intimacy with someone, brush their arm as you pass them in the street or even just make eye contact for a quarter of a second, and that's it. They're a flicker in your life, they appear for such a small portion of it, and for the most part they're completely irrelevant to you and you won't ever give them a second thought. Yet they have an entire life themselves. I'll probably never see that woman again in my lifetime. Or the man who turned to me on the brink of a particularly big drop in a song, grinned and proclaimed that 'it's time to celebrate,' 

I guess when you're travelling, you get to cross paths with a more diverse selection of people than you would normally. I suppose I'm going to spend a lot more time than usual 'sondering.'


And The Stars Look very Different Today....

I'm always fascinated at how the loss of someone I've never met can hit me as hard as it sometimes does. When I started this blog, it was only ever intended to be related to my travels. Now, merely a few posts in, I feel compelled to at least touch upon the terribly sad death of arguably one of the most influential artists of all time.

I'm by no means going to sit here and pretend that I'm the world's biggest David Bowie fan - it's actually only in the last few years that I've even come to fully appreciate his genius. (Though 'Space Oddity' did make the final cut as one of the twenty five songs that I could fit onto my 128mb 'Ministry of Sound' MP3 player when I was in Year 7....) Upon hearing the news of Bowie's death however, I could have quite easily curled up in bed and cried.

As Britain awoke to the news, social media seemed to explode - as it does following the death of a star - with tributes, memories, links to songs and stunning photos. For once to me, the commiserations seemed heartfelt. For once, a variety of favourite songs filling my homefeed, as opposed to just 'the one that everybody knows.' Over 24 hours have passed, and I still find myself engrossed, scrolling through to see how David Bowie has influenced and inspired the lives of so many of my friends and especially some of my idols.

The scenes in Brixton - fans paying tribute by gathering to sing Bowie tunes in the middle of the night - they're proof that he was an influence to an unbelievable amount of people. I'm fearful that in this day and age, we're highly unlikely to see another artist able to liberate so many - it's improbable that in my lifetime I'll have the chance to see an artist thrill the world in such a way that Bowie seemed to. A man who made it fine to be weird. Provocative and glamorous. Original and bursting with talent. An innovator - an inspiration. 

Sleep tight, Ziggy. 




Falling In Love On Your Travels.

Before I moved to Australia, I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard 'Travelling eh? Mark my words - you're going to get to the other side of the world and fall in love...' I honestly think that if I had a quid for everyone who said something along those lines, I could have at least funded my flight ticket here - and probably bought a couple of new bikinis too.

Being the stubborn little sod that I am, I made the decision very early on, that under no circumstances whatsoever, would I prove anybody right in their premonitions, and I would remain firmly apathetic. 

As much as half of me is dying for everybody to be wrong, the other half of me is more than ok with everybody in fact being right - and I'm ready to accept that I've gone and fallen completely head over heels in love. Admittedly it might be with a city and not with some random stranger I met at boozy bingo, but that still counts, right?

In my defence, Melbourne is pretty damn easy to fall in love with. I've managed to find myself a nice little place right on the beach, a tram ride away from the city and a short drive away from the Dandenong Mountain Ranges. I can go from swimming in the sea, to getting lost for hours in the ridiculously huge shopping centres in the city, to climbing trees (and falling out of trees) in the mountains - all in the space of a day.  (And seriously - leave trails of breadcrumbs if you go shopping in the city. I couldn't find my way out of The Emporium for nearly an hour and have been too scared to go back in since.)

Don't go chasing waterfalls. 

Don't go chasing waterfalls. 

Melbourne is a city abundant in culture, with unbelievable food and insanely good desserts. I've indulged myself in every cuisine imaginable, and never before moving here had I found myself halfway through a meal, excited to be hungry again just so I can try something else. There's street art on every corner, and the buskers are so talented I could watch them for hours. There are hidden laneways, quirky little bars, night markets, and so many ice cream flavours that I really do fear I won't get the chance to try them all. The people here are the friendliest I have encountered - I challenge anybody to make it through an entire day without someone striking up a conversation with them in the street. Even the public transport system is cheap, runs on time and  is therefore worth a mention! (Although even the Kenyan public transport I found to be more reliable than Bristol's...) 

I'm pretty sure that Bristol is always going to be my number one. I love it with all my heart, and I can't imagine anywhere else ever getting me like Bristol does. But Melbourne has well and truly got my heart in a headlock - and something is telling me that it's going to be my first love of many on this trip.... 

Rainbow Road.

Rainbow Road.