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!
Month 2 in Australia
My second month in Australia on the Work and Holiday Visa began with a whirlwind trip around Tasmania and wound down with my getting settled in Sydney. I had a blast roadtripping around Tassie, and maybe slightly less fun trekking in the woods on the Overland Track. As incurable as my wanderlust is, I’m thrilled to stop moving for awhile and enjoy summer in Sydney!
I’m slowly making my way through my Sydney Must Do list with a harbour walk here and there, some coffee shop hopping, and, most recently, a stand up paddleboarding lesson. But admittedly, I am a slave to the beach. Every single day all I want to do is hit the sand, and with over 100 to choose from in Sydney, I’ve got options out the wazoo. More often than not, I end up at Bondi Beach – because it’s a 7 minute walk from my house, and because it’s so darn gorgeous there’s hardly a need to look elsewhere.
So yeah – beach bumming has taken priority over all other frolicking for the time being. I’ll get to the other stuff eventually!
One other administrative note: If you like these candid, somewhat off-the-cuff recaps of my Australian adventures, you should sign up for my monthly newsletter! In it, I usually blab about things that don’t quite fit into a nicely-packaged blog post, so it’s a slightly different view into my world than what you see on this blog.
Now, onto the Month 2 recap!
Favorite Moments From Month 2:
When the clouds cleared at Wineglass Bay
If you’ve seen any photos of Tasmania, then you’ve likely seen the stunning Wineglass Bay. The #1 thing I wanted to do in Tassie was see this bay in its bright blue glory, and I was willing to get there early for a tour group free view of it. The sun, however, was not. The whole bay was clouded over and gray, the water a dull blue – it was nothing like the postcard-friendly scene we’d envisioned.
So we waited and waited, with high hopes of the clouds clearing even though more appeared to be coming toward the bay. The longer we lingered, the more I didn’t want to throw in the towel. I hadn’t come all this way to miss out on such a beautiful and highly anticipated sight.
Then, after about an hour, the clouds cleared. It happened so fast and seemingly without warning – a weather pattern that would resurface near-daily while we traveled in Tasmania. The scene before us turned blue, and I turned giddy. It was definitely worth the wait!
Wine tasting in Tasmania
I’m sure my warm fuzzies for this particular day of our Tasmania roadtrip were partially alcohol-fueled, but nevertheless – I had a freaking blast vineyard hopping in the Tamar Valley with my Aussie friend and designated driver, Teresa. I had no idea how phenomenal some of the Tasmanian wines are – it was really hard to limit each tasting to just a few sips! The pinot noirs are consistently excellent across the whole region, but the runaway winner for me was the chardonnay at Goaty Hill. I didn’t even know I LIKED chard til I tasted this one.
Then for good measure, we slipped in a little Tasmanian cheese tasting and berry picking midway through our wine tour. It was a really delicious day to say the least!
Finishing the Overland Track
I swear I didn’t totally hate this 6 day trek, but I will admit that I was elated to reach the finish line. By the end of it, my feet were all but screaming bloody murder at me; my right assbone (er, rear part of the pelvis) was in enough pain that I was limping for the final 30 minutes of it. As soon as I got to my campsite, I tore off my boots, cleaned up my feet, and put on my flip flops. I then hobbled over to the Lake St. Clair visitor’s centre where I wolfed a massive double burger with fries in under 5 minutes. #NOREGRETS
Coming home to my new “family” at the Bondi Beach house
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I returned to Sydney to begin my HelpX stint at Bondi Beach. If it was anything like the few days I’d spent at the house just before I left for Tassie, it was bound to be chaotic and completely overwhelming.
So not surprisingly, I walked into a house full of people about to sit down to a dinner party. I knew just two of them from a few weeks prior, and they welcomed me with wide open arms and a glass of sauvignon blanc. I joined them and chided myself for getting worked up over frivolous things like where I was going to sleep and where my stored bag was, and just honed in on the moment. I was spending the evening with a lovely group of Brits, Aussies, and Americans in my new home in Bondi Beach – everything was going to be juuuuust fine.
Literally every time I set foot on Bondi Beach
I’ve been living at Bondi Beach for 2 weeks and I still have to pinch myself to prove that this is actually my life right now. Living on the beach anywhere in the world is pretty darn desirable, but Bondi is on a whole other level. It’s so beautiful that it makes the Jersey Shore look like nothing more than a dull strip of sand with a boardwalk slapped onto it (oh yeah, I said it).
But honestly: being able to wake up and go for a run and work out on the beach in the morning, do the Bondi-Bronte coastal walk in late afternoon, and meet up with friends for an evening swim (sometimes all on the same day!) is just incredible. I’m deliberately not taking this life for granted, however long it lasts. Look for a Bondi-centric blog post in the coming weeks!
The most romantical, magical night ever!
I had the most incredible night with a boy last week. We met on Tinder, natch, and on our second date we met for dinner and then walked to Bondi Beach to catch the sunset.
We ended up laying in the sand on my blanket, watching as the sky turned from blue to black and the stars gradually appeared above us, listening in silence to the waves crash before us. Then, as if on cue, a guy started to play the saxophone on the boardwalk behind us. It was ridiculously romantic and beautiful and, even better, spontaneous.
So, I’m choosing to ignore the fact that he completely pussied out and has since ditched me, and cherishing this night for what it was: magic.
Crappy Moments From Month 2:
Dealing with awful airline baggage policies and having to check my camera gear when flying to Tasmania
Ugh, you know the story. There’s nothing more demoralizing at 5:30am than being told the love of your life (ahem, my camera) can’t go with you on the plane, then being sassed at the check-in counter when you beg for them to make an exception. I’m immensely glad nothing happened to my camera gear that I had to stash in my checked bag. Also, I’m never flying Jetstar Airways again.
Getting wet, muddy, and sore on the Overland Track
I won’t lie: I was pretty miserable at times on the trail while tackling the Overland Track. Specifically on Day 3, when it rained all day and I thought I got hopelessly lost in the woods. Day 4 was also rough, due to the massive mud pits we had to trek through. I’m by no means prissy, but I really don’t like getting wet and dirty – especially when I can’t make it all better with a hot shower.
Randomly hurting my neck/back and being in pain for a week
It’s funny – I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment it happened, so I’m not even sure if it was any one thing that hurt me. All I know is that shortly after I turned 30 (like, maybe a little too soon after), it really hurt to turn my neck from side to side. I couldn’t tell if the pain was actually in the neck, or if perhaps it stemmed from the shoulders or upper back (which hurt too). My guess is that it was either an unwanted birthday present from the Old Age gods, or I pulled some muscles while working out on the bars. Either way, it was pretty painful trying to fall asleep every night with the injury.
Thankfully I started feeling better after a week or so. At any rate, it was a good excuse to splurge on a massage (which, mind you, was only $42 US for an hour and not the least bit dodgy!).
Leaving my iPhone on a bus in Sydney
That sinking feeling you have when you see your bus speed off downhill just seconds after realizing you left your iPhone on it? Yeah… worst moment of the month, and hopefully year.
You guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I’d gone 14 years of owning a cell phone without ever losing, breaking, or cracking it – then last month, I left it at a pub in Wooloomooloo (mid afternoon and sober, mind you). It wasn’t such a traumatic experience because as soon as I realized it, I called and confirmed that they had found it and were holding onto it for me.
Then about 6 weeks later, I did it again. I was on the bus back from the city on a Sunday evening, kindle and iPhone in my lap. Just before my stop, I remember putting my kindle and earbuds away in my backpack. I thought I had my iPhone in my lap, which I’d normally hold in my hand while exiting the bus. So imagine my reaction when the bus pulled away and I found myself on the sidewalk empty handed. My thoughts raced in the 20 seconds that followed: Did I put my iPhone in my backpack? Why would I do that, I NEVER do that! I quickly checked and confirmed that it wasn’t in any pockets, then took off racing after the bus toward Bondi Beach. Did I really expect to outrun the bus wearing flip flops and a backpack? Nope, but I felt like I had to at least try.
I returned home defeated and mildly freaking out. Then I checked FindMyiPhone (note to all iPhone owners: make sure you have this activated in your settings!) and watched in horror as the little green dot denoting my phone crawled its way back toward the city. It soon stopped moving around Bondi Junction and some massive park which, after a bit of sleuthing on my end, turned out to be the local bus depot. Brilliant! I knew my iPhone was at the depot: but was it still sitting on the bus, or had the driver found it and turned it into the Lost Property office there?
The next day I basically blew up the Lost Property office phone every hour on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour. Only once did I reach a human being, and they didn’t seem fussed or bothered to check through the supposed massive piles of lost items dropped off from a weekend’s worth of dumbassery.
Then on Tuesday morning, I walked to the office to plead my case. I saw a bunch of boxes of lost wallets and phones behind the desk just as they’d told me, and thought for sure it’d take ages to go through and find my phone – yet somehow the attendant was able to pull out my iPhone within seconds of me rattling off its description. “AHHHHHH THAT’S IT!!” I squealed with pure joy. I was happy to wait 10 minutes for my phone to charge back up so I could prove I owned it by reciting the cheesy note I’d left on the lock screen, which began with “Hi! I’m lost! :(“
But seriously, Imma need to keep my iPhone on a leash now because no WAY am I losing it for a third time this year.
Month 2 Numbers:
I spent a bit more money than I’d hoped to in Tasmania, but I don’t think I could have done it for much cheaper so I’m at peace with my expenditure.
Dates: 15-31 January 2015
# of Days: 17
# of Nights Spent in a Tent: 4
# of Nights Spent in a Hut: 5
Total $ Spent: $1426.54 US
Top Expenses: Flights to/from Sydney – $220.58 US, Car Rental & Fuel for 5 days — $179.84 US (my half of it), $161.88 US — Overland Track Permit
Splurges: Mani/pedi — $52.61 US, Cab to Sydney Airport — $48.83
Average $ Spent: $84 US/day
Average $ Spent without splurges: $78 US/day
I’ve spent hardly any money since starting my work exchange in Sydney. My sole expenses have been a few miscellaneous necessities, local transportation, mobile phone top ups, and the occasional drink or dinner out. Without those larger miscellaneous items, I think I could get my average daily spend down to $15.
Dates: 31 January – 13 February 2015
# of Days: 14
Total $ Spent: $358.88 US
Top Expenses: Down jacket — $100.28 US, Polarizing filter — $73.78 US
Splurges: Massage — $40.39 US
Average $ Spent: $25.63 US/day
Dates: 15 January – 14 February 2015
# of Days: 31
Average Miles Walked: 6 miles/day
Total $ Spent: $1785.42 US
Average $ Spent: $57.60 US/day
Year-To-Date Numbers (Months 1-2):
Dates: 12 December 2014 – 15 February 2015
# of Days: 66
Total $ Spent: $4450 US
Average $ Spent: $67.42 US/day
Month 3 is looking to be my first full *settled down in Sydney* month. I’ve gotten into a delightful routine of doing my daily HelpX work, spending some time on my own blogging endeavors, and fitting in some beach time almost every day. Next, I’ll be cracking down on finding some paid freelance work so I can start officially breaking even!