The Down Under Report: Month 12 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 12 in Australia

First off: HOW HAS IT BEEN A YEAR ALREADY?!

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was stranded on the Canberra Airport tarmac for a day before arriving in Sydney to kick off my year on the Australia Work and Holiday visa. Since then, I’ve visited every state and territory in this country, logged some serious beach and Outback time, and met some damn fabulous folks.

My last official month in Australia was a shortie, as I jetted off to Bali before my visa was up so that I could apply for the tourist visa while out of the country. BUT, it was packed with lots of good stuff – and a lot of freelance work, which I am oh-so-grateful for and oh-so-terrified could just evaporate without notice. But no matter what, it’s all part of the adventure! I need to remind myself of this whenever I start worrying about the what-ifs.

So, Month 12: let’s get into it, shall we?

Melbourne Sandringham beach
Sandringham Beach.

Favorite Moments From Month 12:

Booking my flight to Bali

When an immigration agent in Melbourne tells you that your best option for remaining in the country after your Australia Work and Holiday visa is up is to leave and then come back on the Tourist e-Visa, you say WELL OK and immediately start scouring Momondo and Skyscanner for the cheapest international flights out of Melbourne.

And that, my fellow frolickers, is why I ended up cutting my last month Down Under short and flying to Bali for US$280 return including checked baggage fees. I’m thinking it won’t be so bad having to leave Australia every 3 months next year if it means a self-imposed holiday abroad!

Melbourne barista course at ABA

Hanging out at the Australian Barista Academy

I spent a good chunk of time this month hanging out at the Australian Barista Academy, who generously offered to take me on and make me into a barista. I loved spending afternoons in their modern, naturally-lit space, playing on the espresso machine and ODing on the best coffee around. I took 5 different barista courses with ABA, spanning from beginner-level to advanced. Depending on the course, I was either in the company of other amateurs, or of working baristas who already knew how to make good coffee but wanted to fine-tune their skills. No matter the class, I felt at comfortable, encouraged, and at home – I’m telling ya, coffee people are good people!

Mornington Peninsula vineyard

A perfect day on the Mornington Peninsula

My friend and fellow NYC wedding photographer Nicki (aka the same Nicki I traveled to both Colombia and Iceland with last year) jetted to Australia between shoots last month and spent the last bit of her trip in Melbourne. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to get out of the city and take a roadtrip to the Mornington Peninsula!

Our first day down there was picture-perfect. We had glorious weather supporting our peninsular escapades, from wine tasting at fancy wineries with ocean views to hiking along the coast to Bushrangers Bay. It really was such a beautiful day – and it got even better at night with a sunset jaunt to the Peninsula Hot Springs, and then (Sparkling) Wine Time at our phenomenally kitschy Airbnb studio in Rosebud. Our place was decked out in all sorts of flea market garb – think lots of clown paraphernalia, antique sporting equipment, and witty signs. Oh yeah, you know a tipsy photo shoot happened! Note: Sign up for Airbnb using this link and you’ll get $25 off your first booking!

Mornington Peninsula Airbnb

Street art frolicking in Collingwood

I’d been meaning to attend an Instameet (instagram meetup) for quite some time. Melbourne seems to have them pretty regularly, but the ones I’ve seen have all taken place in the laneways and CBD area. I’ve done plenty of my own frolicking in those parts, so it seemed kind of pointless to join in on them.

On my very last day in Australia, I tagged along at an Instameet around Collingwood, one of Melbourne’s most street art-dense neighborhoods. It was pretty cool to learn about some of the art and gain access to buildings I might not ever have been able to wander into on my own, but overall: photo meetups just aren’t my jam. I love my solo frolics, where I can just zen out and see where my camera takes me. I also enjoy wandering around with maybe one friend who’s also into shoot-shoot-shooting and doesn’t get annoyed when I go camera crazy.

I broke away from the group at our lunch stop and had a fabulous afternoon on my own, soaking up more street art, popping into uniquely decorated shops, and taking a coffee break in Fitzroy. It was the best!

Melbourne street art in Collingwood
I posted a similar shot on Instagram and people instantly started quoting lyrics from “Downtown” by Macklemore. Love it!

The last morning with App Guy

The morning of my flight to Bali, App Guy woke up early and surprised me with jam doughnuts from the Camberwell Sunday Market and coffee from My Other Brother, which I enjoyed while he drove me all the way to the airport. It really is the little things, am I right? I’m glad I got to spend my last moments of my Year Down Under with him, and can’t wait to kick off my next Aussie stint with him as my partner in crime!

Eating in Melbourne
This was not from said last morning, but it’s App Guy mid-Movember, eating pasta I made for him during his lunch break!

Crappy Moments From Month 12:

Schlepping to the Toll depot to collect a package

New Yorkers, you’ll feel me on this: is there anything worse than not being home for a delivery, continually missing it on the reattempts, and ultimately having to wait in a massive line at the post office to retrieve it 2 weeks later?

I can now assuredly say that yes, there sure is: waiting nearly 5 months to get your new pair of hiking shoes, generously gifted to you by your favorite outdoor brand (Merrell), after countless emails sent back and forth to coordinate, moving around too much to have an address for them to be delivered to, having the first attempt be shipped from NYC to Australia only to be sent back to the States when the package couldn’t clear customs, and THEN the usual missed delivery / reattempt dance.

Once I left El Questro, I had them ship the package to the house where I’d be sitting for awhile. Keeping in line with this ridiculous story, they chose to deliver on the one day I wasn’t hibernating at home getting shiz done. The lousy “Sorry we missed you!” card they left had zero information beyond this fact: no note of a reattempt, or any action needed. The tracking number turned up nothing all 50 times I typed it into the Toll Group tracking webpage, so I filled out their contact form pleading for someone to please tell me where the eff my package was. I was shocked to get an answer within a couple days, though less-so to hear that the package would need to be re-scanned into their facility before they could give me further information.

A little over a week later, I received the most joyous news: my package was at the depot! I could either arrange to have it redelivered, or go fetch it myself. After everything my package and I had been through, I wasn’t going to risk a never-ending chain of missed deliveries.

And that is how I found myself schlepping for 1.5 hours on public transport all the way out to Altona North to pick up my package. I was ok(ish) with writing off a chunk of my day to get there and back, but had I known how terrible the walk would be from the last bus stop to the depot, I might have reconsidered the schlep. I got dropped off by a shopping plaza, from which I followed a road meant solely for delivery trucks that had no sidewalks and little room to distance myself from the vehicles thundering past me. I reached the plaza weary and with sore feet (oh the irony!), only to bounce from building to building as one security guard after the next sent me around the depot complex on a wild goose chase.

The story ends with me accepting the package in a near-defeated state, then schlepping back into the city to meet Nicki for a little reunion slash pseudo-celebration at the Night Noodle Markets. THANK YOU SWEET MERICFUL BABY JESUS.

Kangaroos in Australia
Sadly these fellas were not seen on my journey to the Toll depot.

The New Orleans Party

I allowed myself one ticket purchase for Melbourne Music Week, and that was to the New Orleans Party. I figured jazz and American food trucks would make for a killer date night, except we got there and hardly anything was happening. There was one stage with a band performing, and a bunch of small groups just sort of standing around paying half-attention. There was no energy to it. And everyone else was standing in line to get food, which meant we had to wait an hour to get our grubby hands on some nachos and pork rolls (which thank god were absolutely delicious).

I just really hate spending money on things that turn out to be disappointing. I know that’s life, but still – I’m so frugal with my money that when I do splash out for something, I want it to be worth it.

Month 12 Numbers:

Thanks to this month being cut a little short and including a little getaway, my average spend was a little higher than normal. But I think I can make peace with this because I brought in more money than ever before in Month 12, wahoo! (mostly ’cause I finally got paid for that $2000+ image sale)

I also walked more than any other month this year, logging an average of 5.7 miles a day. Solid way to close out my Year Down Under, if I say so myself.

Dates: 10-29 November 2015
# of Days: 19
Total $ Spent: US$880.13
$ Made Freelancing: US$4309.52
Total $ Made: US$4309.52
Average $ Spent: US$46.32/day
Average Miles Walked: 5.7 miles/day
# Beds Slept In: 2

Year-To-Date Numbers (Months 1-12):

Dates: 12 December 2014 – 29 November 2015
# of Days: 352
Total $ Spent: US$12,571.66
Average $ Spent: US$35.71/day
$ Made Freelancing: US$7489.66
$ Made at Jobs: US$6242.76
Total $ Made: US$13,732.42
# Beds Slept In: 36
# Couches Slept On: 3
# Nights Camping: 50
# Days Roadtripping: 28
# Days House Sitting: 42
# Dates: 19
# Flights: 9
# Books Read: 21

Melbourne street art

What’s Next

I’m currently writing this post from Indonesia, where I’ll be for nearly 3 weeks while my Australia Work and Holiday visa expires. A week playing health-conscious digital nomad in Ubud, followed by traversing the eastern half of Java to climb volcanoes, and rounding out with some quality beach time back in Bali – that’s pretty much how this unplanned trip has unfolded.

Assuming all goes smoothly with the tourist visa, I’ll be back in Australia for the holidays and house sitting in Melbourne for a month. It’ll be my second Aussie Christmas! Though this year, instead of laying on a beach by myself, I’ll be celebrating with App Guy’s Australian-Italian family. I can’t wait to get back to my favorite country!

Stay tuned for all sorts of recap posts from my Year Down Under on the Australia Work and Holiday visa!

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!

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