The Down Under Report: Month 10 of 12

The Down Under Report is a monthly recap of my time and money spent in Australia on the Work and Holiday Visa in 2015. Be sure to check out the other monthly recaps as well!

Australia work and holiday visa

Month 10 in Australia

My transition from the hot top end of Australia to the cooler, temperamental south coast went far better than expected. Early September had some cold rainy days, but by the end of the month Melbourne started seeing consistently warm, sunny spring days. I’d been mentally preparing for heinous weather til November, so this was a very pleasant surprise indeed!

Upon my arrival, I cabbed it from the airport straight to Ghost Legs’ house and we reunited after 4 months apart. Unfortunately he’s been more than a little preoccupied with an upcoming interview and hasn’t had much time to hang (slash, does that mean he’s just not that into me?), so I’ve given him his space. Translation: I had a Tinder relapse and am keeping my options open ;)

Melbourne Star

After 2 days, I headed out to Templestowe Lower for a 3-week house sit. I spent most of the time holed up inside (or on the deck) hanging with a cat and two bunnies while applying to jobs and house sits. Nights saw me bingeing on Netflix and staying up way too late watching Pretty Little Liars – oh my GOD, where has this show been all my life?! I’m addicted, to the point where it’s actually interfering with my life because I chain watch episodes, sometimes at the expense of getting writing or other work done. It’s just so good!

House sitting in Australia
House sitting in Melbourne

Don’t worry, I saw some sunlight occasionally and did leave the house almost every day either to go for a run, go to yoga, or trek into the city. You read that right: I joined a yoga studio! I’ve never been into yoga, but I found myself really enjoying it. I’m eager to find a new studio closer to where I’m living now (i.e. in or near the city, rather than way out in the outer suburbs). I didn’t spend as much time in the city as I would have liked, mostly because getting there via public transport was way too much of an effort (often requiring multiple buses). It was probably a good thing, though, ‘cause it allowed me to focus on getting my life in order.

With a few promising job leads and dating prospects, I moved into a sharehouse in Brunswick in October. These things are slowly working themselves out, and I’m feeling pretty good about life these days. Minus the whole *my visa expires in 2 months* thing, which I’m still in denial about but should probably start dealing with soon.

Yoga in Melbourne

Crappy Moments From Month 10:

The disastrous house sit that almost was

This month, I learned a very important lesson in house sitting: Always meet up with the house owners at their house before agreeing to sit for them. I’d agreed to 2 sits in Melbourne before my arrival, which I was jazzed about because it meant I wouldn’t have to waste time going back and forth to meet them. My first blind sit went swimmingly. My second sit ended up not being so blind because I went to meet them the week before to get the run down on caring for their 5 cats, 2 birds, and 4 chickens. The second I walked through their door I was bitchslapped by the stench of cat pee. I thought maybe it was just because the litter box needed a changing, but NOPE – the smell had permeated the entire house, as I found out while being given the grand tour.

Other tour highlights included multiple rooms with various crap thrown all over the place, and a non-potty trained toddler streaking down the hallway with poop smeared on her rear end. After she confessed to “going potty” somewhere in her parents’ room, the same room I’d be sleeping in for 2 weeks, I all but beelined for the door. The tour ended with them telling me about how their last sitter had taken down all their wall hangings and hid most of their belongings while he stayed there because he couldn’t handle the mess.

Turns out, hygiene isn’t a priority for some people after all. These are not people whose houses I’d like to care for. Needless to say, I sent them a note after the fact and backed out of the sit.

House sitting in Australia
House sitting / Bunny sitting

Too many failed house sit interviews

This somewhat contradicts what I said before about the importance of meeting house owners before agreeing to sit for them, but I really overdid it with all the house sitting interviews I attended this month. Between the aforementioned unhygienic house fail and a few other sits that didn’t work out, I only had a 1 in 6 success rate. Since I had to commute via multiple buses to get from the outer suburbs to these houses, each interview cost me nearly a half a day. Can you say colossal waste of my time?

Going forward, I’ll try to better vet these sits and ensure that they’re serious about potentially picking me before agreeing to meet up. I’m finding that owners like to meet with multiple people and then pick one, rather than pick one and then meet to make sure the sitter is cool. Collecting more positive reviews from past sits should help catapult me to the top of the Potential Sitter list, I hope!

View of Melbourne from Lower Templestowe
View of Melbourne from Lower Templestowe

Majorly stressing about work and housing

Part of me feels like I have no right to complain about how stressful it is to keep fighting for work that pays and housing that’s free. This is just the nature of the lifestyle I’m leading right now. Living a life in constant flux means having to keep hitting the reset button. If I don’t want to be stuck working the same boring job in the same jaded town, I have to keep finding new options. The stress arises when none of the options you’ve found seem to work out; it peaks when they all fail around the same time.

I spent a few days practically paralyzed by stress. Then after all those house sit fails, I booked a room in a sharehouse and moved closer to the city. Soon a couple of freelance gigs just magically worked out in my favor. So go the perpetual ups and downs in the life of a digital nomad.

Melbourne Australia

Fine, I admit it – I was a little lonely!

We all know I’m an introvert – I adore being on my own, and could probably go weeks without human contact. (Spoken like a true hermit, right?). But when you’re feeling down, it’s often what you need the most.

I spent most of my first 3 weeks in the boonies of Melbourne trying to sort out my life, leaving little free time to make new friends. It would have been therapeutic for me to have hung out with other people – both to distract me from the stress and to talk it out. Instead, I let the stress build up and talked more to the pets than to anyone else. Yes, I felt lonely at times, and it sucked.

View of Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance
View of Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Favorite Moments From Month 10:

Taking a barista course

A surprise to exactly no one, I had a freaking blast taking a barista course in Melbourne. I finally took my shoddy guesswork at working an espresso machine and turned it into consistent confidence in my drink making. Only problem is I don’t have a machine to practice on, and all I want to do right now is play barista.

Melbourne barista school

Sleeping with a kitty!

You guys, I think I met my kitty soulmate. All I’ve ever wanted is a docile cat that’s soft and pretty, happy to curl up on my lap and purr nonstop, reasonably obedient, and sleeps in bed with me every night. I loved watching Tricse for 3 weeks at my first Melbourne house sit! And I think the feeling was mutual because when the family came home from their trip at 1am on my last night, she went out to greet them but returned to my room shortly after and resumed sleeping next to me. THE. HAPPIEST. :D

House sitting in Australia

Frolicking around Fitzroy

For an instant hit of joy, Fitzroy never disappoints. Wandering the streets in this hip ‘hood feels like I’m perusing an open air art gallery because there’s street art everywhere: from murals flanking entire sides of buildings on the main streets to colorful collages decorating side alleyways. Getting lost in Fitzroy’s maze of street art is one of my favorite things to do in Melbourne!

Street art in Fitzroy Melbourne

Getting a web design job!

Australia’s the kind of place where it’s perfectly normal to meet for coffee at the mall and call it a “catch up” when in actuality it’s a job interview. Treating it so casually makes it a little less nerve-wracking, I discovered, while meeting outside the cinema at the Doncaster Shopping Centre to discuss a Wordpress Expert job at a digital marketing startup. During out informal chat, this guy revealed to me that he’d basically stalked me online and liked what he saw, and I got the impression that he’d already made up his mind to hire me before we met (assuming I didn’t reveal myself to be a lunatic and/or fraud in person). He offered me the job, I eagerly accepted, and then I was giddy all day long. My workload will depend on how many deals he closes that require a website build or redesign, so it’s very much a freelance gig with hours that could vary drastically from week to week. I’ve gotten good feedback on my first project, so things are going well so far!

Coffee at John Gorilla in Brunswick Melbourne
Coffee at John Gorilla in Brunswick

Coffee crawling my way through Melbourne

I’ve spent about $100 this month on coffee and I’m not sorry about it. Because if you’re going to blow your cash on a caffeine habit (*ahem* love affair with a man named Joe), it may as well be in a city with consistently amazing coffee on every block.

What I’m really digging about Melbourne is that people seem to be equally passionate about coffee. My Tinder dates have taken the form of coffee crawls around the city, and consequently I’ve got a rapidly growing list of favorite spots to grab a flat white. I’m perfectly content sampling coffee on my own, but it’s been fun nerding out with fellow coffee snobs. I’ve found my people here!

Brunch at The Grain Store in Melbourne
Brunch at The Grain Store

Brunch, coffee, and drinks on a holiday Friday

For the first time ever, Melbournians enjoyed Grand Final Friday without the burden of going to work. Apparently Melbourne is so fanatical about footy that a dedicated holiday to celebrate the AFL finals was mandated this year. This has zero to do with my monthly highlights, other than that I had a really fantastic day that happened to fall on this particular calendar date. With objectively glorious weather, the best pancakes I’ve had since Clinton Street Baking Co (hooray Aussie brunch), sampling an iced latte for the first time at one of my favorite CBD coffee spots – Brother Baba Budan, soaking up the sun and holiday vibes at Ponyfish Island (a bar in the middle of the Yarra, under a bridge), and strolling along the riverbank at dusk, I had one of my best Tinder dates ever with Crossfit Guy (and really, just an all around perfect day regardless).

Ponyfish Island in Melbourne
Ponyfish Island

Exploring my new ‘hood Brunswick

In October, I relocated to a neighborhood much closer to the city than the one I’d been house sitting in. I’m currently renting a room in a sharehouse in Brunswick for a few weeks, until my next house sit. This ‘hood has so much to love: parks fit for running, bike trails that run along graffiti-lined train tracks, street art for DAYS, coffee shops with free wifi and plenty of outlets for plugging in your laptop (and duh, fab coffee). I haven’t even delved into the shops and restaurants along Sydney Road and Lygon Street yet, but I’ve got the weekend flea market and a brunch spot on my upcoming to-do list. In the meantime, I’m having way too much fun wandering the pedestrian/bike path and ogling all the murals erected alongside it, and camping out at Lux Foundry and John Gorilla when I need a change of scenery (and a hit of espresso) to get my work done.

Brunswick Melbourne

Being a featured photographer on Sydney.com

I was pretttttty stoked to see 20 of my favorite photos of Sydney featured on Sydney.com – even moreso when it gained me some new Facebook and Instagram followers. And on that note, I’m missing Sydney’s beaches like mad these days.

Sydney photographer

A great interview with a recruiter

One notable difference I’ve observed between Australia and the US is how often job seekers rely upon recruiting agencies to find employment here. I know of other working holiday folks from overseas who have snagged high paying temp jobs via this avenue, yet somehow all I’ve gotten is automated rejection emails for every job I’ve applied for through these agencies. I’m a little too confident and stubborn to think it could possibly have anything to do with my lack of qualifications, so rest assured my self esteem is still in tact. Really though: who are these people hiring over an ivy league educated, entrepreneurial, digital media jill-of-all-trades? (Probably someone who’s Australian and the master of one specific trade)

Last week I finally heard a positive response about one freelance job I applied for and got invited to meet with a recruiter. I know it’s a recruiter’s job to get to know their talent pool and invest interest in their career well-being, but this one genuinely loved my story and seemed eager to be my cheerleader. It felt really good to have someone believe in me other than myself.

The Tessalaar Tulip Festival near Melbourne

3 dates in 4 days with App Guy

Not that I believe in jinxes or other such bollocks, but I’m keeping the details of this last hot-off-the-press monthly highlight under wraps for the time being ;) [insert copious heart-eyed emojis here]

View from Melbourne Star
View from the Melbourne Star

Month 10 Numbers:

Despite a few splurges this month, I was able to keep my average daily spend under my $35/day budget. I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned, splashed out for a yoga membership and mat, splurged on a mani/pedi/facial groupon deal to clean myself up after a few months in the Outback, and enjoyed a few brunches. And um, can we gloss over the fact that I spent nearly $100 on coffee? Thankfully 3 weeks of free accommodation via the house sit kept my total monthly spend under control.

I’m also pretty pumped about clocking 5.3 miles a day on foot – that’s a new record for this year!

Dates: 7 September – 9 October 2015
# of Days: 33
Top Expenses: Teeth cleaning – US$97, spa treatment – US$55, public transport – US$69, coffee – US$99
Total $ Spent: US$1095.86
$ Made Freelancing: US$613.66
$ Made at Jobs: US$292.07
Total $ Made: US$905.73
Average $ Spent: US$33.20/day
Average Miles Walked: 5.3 miles/day
# Beds Slept In: 3

Centre Place laneway in Melbourne
Centre Place laneway

Year-To-Date Numbers (Months 1-10):

Dates: 12 December 2014 – 9 October 2015
# of Days: 302
Total $ Spent: US$10,846.61
Average $ Spent: US$35.92/day
$ Made Freelancing: US$1857.43
$ Made at Jobs: US$6242.76
Total $ Made: US$8100.29
# Beds Slept In: 33
# Couches Slept On: 3
# Nights Camping: 50
# Days Roadtripping: 26
# Dates: 19
# Flights: 9
# Books Read: 21

The Yarra River in Melbourne

What’s Next

I’ll be continuing to build up my freelancing, aiming to piece together enough gigs to a). Make a full-time income, and b). Be sustainable long-term (i.e. post-working holiday visa). I’d like to do some day or weekend trips around Victoria, but for the most part I’ll be staying put in Melbourne and enjoying this fantastic city.

Later this month, I’ll be moving up to Reservoir for my next house sit, where I’ll be joined at some point by a friend from El Questro. I’m excited to show her around Melbourne and hopefully go adventuring somewhere outside the city!

Fitzroy Melbourne
The streets of Fitzroy

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

Where in the World is This?