September 2016 Recap: Australia + Philippines

Man, this month was bonkers! Looking back at all the awesome stuff I did and all the stresses surrounding the Australian visa process, I can’t even believe all of it fit into just 30 days. It felt like a much longer stretch of time.

At the start of the month, I fled from the house sit from hell (aw, love you Hendrix-pup, but you be CRAY) to the house sit from heaven, relocating from Camperdown to Coogee. For 16 glorious days I lived just a 10 minute walk from the beach and got to hang out with a cute ginger cat named Chopper who was just the easiest pet ever to care for. I made it to the beach nearly every day, did yoga a few times a week, worked a lot at the oh-so-trendy Coogee Pavillion, and did plenty of coastal walks. IT WAS THE BEST. In fact, I realized that I was basically living my ideal life during this time, and that I must do everything in my power to permanently live in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I love this area so much!

sydney travel blog

Not so much the best? Dealing with all the ongoing visa nonsense. I spent much of early September in various states of stress as I waited for all my job references and documents to be mailed to my parents’ house in Connecticut, and then for my sister to mail them all to me in Sydney. I know how nitpicky they are with visa applications and I really wanted to get everything exactly right – which meant ensuring all documents included everything required, and that they were all properly certified. It was a bit hard to micromanage from overseas. Plus, with such a tight deadline, it meant I had to have these documents in my hands before I left for the Philippines, else my skills assessment would get pushed back at least a month til after I returned. STRESS PARTY CENTRAL.

I was quite literally the happiest person in all the land (the land being Malapascua Island) when I got word that I had passed the skills assessment. With the hardest part out of the way, I continued through the never-ending series of hoops Immigration is making me jump through by taking the TOEFL English language test once I got back to Cebu city. I have some more things to say about this, but it’ll have to wait til next month’s recap (hint: it involves copious angry/anguished emojis).

Speaking of the Philippines, I flew there on the 18th to kick off a month in the country. The first half of that was spent in or around the island of Cebu, getting my Advanced Open Water diving certification on Malapascua and learning how to surf on Siargao. I have so much love for those two islands and have been missing them terribly since I moved on to other isles. The Philippines in general rocked my world and is the perfect destination for beach lovers like me.

philippines hammock
Digital nomad life on Siargao Island.

September 2016 Numbers

Days: 30

  • 17 days in Sydney, Australia
  • 13 days in the Philippines
    • 3 days in Cebu
    • 5 days in Malapascua
    • 5 days in Siargao

Total Spent: US$1830
    + $740 for student loans
    + $112 for business expenses

Average Spent: US$61/day

Overall 2016 Numbers

Days: 274

Total Spent: US$12,447
  + $6660 for student loans

  + $753 for business expenses
 
  + $792 for tech/camera gear

  + $335 for travel insurance

Average Spent: US$45/day

malapascua

September 2016 Highlights

A Tibetan Singing Bowl & Reiki Session

I first experienced these magical energy healings a year and a half ago when I was working for a sleep coach in Bondi Beach, and ever since then I’ve been super intrigued by energy-everything. I’m not sure why it took me this long to book a formal session, but at any rate: I went to a New Moon Energy Soak this month and felt all sorts of tingly vibrations from the bowls and the reiki.

If you’re thinking that all sounds a bit hippie-dippy, fair enough – that was me, too, until last year. But once you FEEL the energy moving through you, you know it’s for realsies. These healing sessions help remove blockages in your body so that the energy can move more freely, and as a bonus they totally relax you. I can’t wait to do another one soon!

Yoga at The Living Room

Does it get any better than practicing yoga with a view of Coogee Beach? NOPE. I adored my yoga classes at The Living Room, the view was just an added bonus really.

living room yoga coogee

Living at Coogee Beach

After living in the Inner West of Sydney for 2.5 months, I escaped to the sea for a 2.5 week house sit at Coogee Beach and finally got to care for a kitty(!!!). I swear, as soon as I arrived there I felt so much lighter, freer, happier just being by the beach. The open air and sea breeze were such a lovely change of pace from being landlocked.

More than anything, it made me realize that this is where I’m meant to be, and I decided that if my work visa goes through and I get to stay in Australia for realsies, I absolutely need to live in or near Bondi or Coogee. This is my happy place!

sydney house sitting

OD-ing on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

I swore I’d take advantage of living on one end of this glorious walkway and that I did, walking it three times. I liked to end in Bondi either laying out at the beach or grabbing brunch and/or coffee at a nearby cafe. When I lived in Bondi last year I didn’t get to sample many eateries because I had all my meals covered, so it seemed kind of like a waste of money to pay for a meal out. It’s been so fun revisiting my old ‘hood and uncovering spots that are new to me. Bondi Wholefoods has some killer fruit and granola bowls and I’m dying to try the rest of their menu. I also scored a free brunch at Porch and Parlour because they forgot about my order, so that was a win!

bronte beach
Bronte Beach is so underrated!

The Five Senses Pop-Up Shop

I’ve been missing Five Senses coffee like CRAZY since leaving Melbourne, so you better believe I was all over their Sydney pop-up shop this month. Remember how I went to barista school last year? That was through Five Senses. I’m a major fan girl, to say the least.

During the second week of the pop-up, they had Geisha flights! For you non-coffee snobs (i.e. normal folks) out there, geisha beans are rare and expensive and basically the equivalent of hard drugs in the coffee world (without the health risks, of course). For AU$20 I ordered a tasting flight that let me sample two geisha coffees and a geisha tea that was surprisingly phenomenal. And then I bought a bag of geisha beans to take home with me, which cost about 4x what a normal bag would cost – yikes! But so worth it.

five senses coffee

Hiking in the Blue Mountains

With my time in Australia rapidly drawing to a close (at least for 2016), I just had to fit in a trip to the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney. Ideally I’d have liked to have gone camping overnight to maximize my frolicking time, but for now a day trip will have to do. I hiked the Grand Canyon loop with a couple of young European backpackers (hmm, why does this sound familiar…) and had an excellent time. It was a nice change of pace from the beach bum life!

blue mountains sydney

Diving on Malapascua Island

I loved everything about my time on Malapascua and would happily relive it if I could (seriously life, where’s the rewind button?). I made my little home for 5 nights at Evolution Diving Resort and spent most of my days completing my Advanced Open Water diving certification or laying on the beach. By night, I’d be hanging out at the onsite Craic House eating fish-anything for dinner and working on my laptop. I loved my island routine and was devastated to leave! But, you know, other islands awaited me, so I kinda had to move on. Tough life, right?

malapascua diving

Finding Out I Passed My Skills Assessment

I had the BEST morning diving with thresher sharks, then checked my email between dives and saw that I had passed my skills assessment and was deemed “suitable for migration” to Australia! I instantly started crying and shaking and OMG-ing. What an amazing feeling it was knowing all the stress had worked itself out – and more than that, that my lackadaisical course work and career path that at the time made no logical sense, somehow lined me up perfectly for the ICT Business Analyst skillset.

A Day Trip To Kalanggaman Island

Holy wow, did you see my recent post on this stupid-stunning sandbar island? On my last day at Malapascua I hopped on a boat trip to Kalanggaman Island and it was hands down the most beautiful thing I saw my entire month in the Philippines.

kalanggaman island philippines

My First Time Surfing!

I spent a week on the magical island of Siargao intending to sample all the outdoor activities on offer at Kermit Siargao, including surfing. Because how could I not partake in THE thing that the island is most known for? I don’t scare very easily, but I admitted before my trip that I was a little bit scared to try surfing.

Welp, I needn’t have been because guess what? IT WAS AWESOME, and nowhere near as difficult as I had made it out in my mind to be. I was able to stand on the board within my first few attempts and was catching waves by the end of my first lesson. And even through all of my epic wipeouts, I could not wipe the massive smile off my face. Surfing is so exhilarating!

surfing siargao

The Filipino Surf Doctor Singing Miley Cyrus

How’s that for a headline? :)

My surf instructor was late in picking me up for my lesson one day, so the other local surf guys who were hanging around waxing/fixing surf boards invited me to sit with them. One of them, introduced to me as the surf doctor, soon picked up a guitar and started playing and singing along to an obscure Miley Cyrus song THAT JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE MY FAVORITE MILEY SONG (“When I Look At You”, FYI). My heart swelled with joy and I seriously could not stop smiling. And then he played it a second time after I told him I loved it and I couldn’t help but record it. I’m pretty sure no one else will get quite such a kick out of it, but I’m ok with that!

Rock Pool Hopping on Siargao

How cool are rock pools? There was no way I was gonna miss out on the ones at Magpupungko on Siargao, even though it required me to hire a habal-habal (motorbike) driver for the day to ferry me there and back. (Fun fact: I am also scared of driving motorbikes in Asia… though this fear is not unfounded because I crashed one in Thailand!)

It was SO worth it though because these rock pools were fantastic! There were a few different ones to hop between, and the crazy part is that they kept changing colors the entire two hours I was there. Really, how can the same pool be electric blue and then deep green moments later?

siargao rock pools

September 2016 Lowlights

Feeling Lonely (Again, Still…)

I recently wrote about my struggles with wanting to “settle down” in Sydney and start developing meaningful relationships with people here, which is something I haven’t been able to do with all my traveling and visa runs and house sits. The first half of September I remember feeling somewhat lonely as I hung out alone in my house most nights. Then I reminded myself that I was about to take off on another epic adventure where I’d be sure to encounter many a fellow wanderluster (which I did!), and the loneliness would subside.

The Awful Journey to Malapascua

Uh yeah, the bus journey where I sat in my own sweat for 5 hours and held a pee, followed by the boat trip where I got scammed, definitely had to make the lowlights list. I’d still say it was worth it for the incredible time I had on Malapascua Island though!

kermit siargao
Chilling out at Kermit Siargao.

Getting Horribly Sunburnt on Malapascua

You know what’s the worst? Getting sunburnt when you don’t even deserve to! It’s one thing if you’re careless about applying sunscreen when you’re out in the blazing sun for hours, but I swear that’s not what I did! I got burnt while sitting on a boat for 2 hours in the shade, on a cloudy morning. WHAT THE HELL. What little sun there was must have hit me from the sides of the boat and torched my arms and legs. So unfair!

Getting Caught in Torrential Rain With All My Un-Waterproofed Gear

My camera bag’s rain cover decided to commit suicide early on in my Philippines trip, just in time for a torrential downpour that I had no choice but to face in order to leave the island of Malapascua. Just picture this: me on the back of a motorbike with my camera backpack and tote bag strapped to my body, holding an umbrella over my head as we speed off to catch the ferry. Um, needless to say the umbrella stayed up for like 5 seconds before turning inside out.

The worst part, though, was when we had to take a tiny boat to reach the ferry at low tide. And by tiny, I mean so narrow that we had to sit single file in it, and so low that I could easily put my arm over the side and touch the water. I hugged my camera bag to my chest and leaned over it in an attempt to protect it from the rain and waves crashing over the sides of our boat. The bag was completely soaked by the end, but miraculously my gear stayed dry.

A Really Disappointing Hotel Splurge

In very uncharacteristic form, I booked two nights at a fancy boutique hotel in Cebu. The Henry Hotel just looked SO cool in every photo I glimpsed of it online, and I reasoned that I’d spend the entire stay holed up in my room to catch up on work so it’d be worth the splurge.

NOPE. I’m going to write about all the reasons why it sucked, but admittedly it had a lot to do with me blowing half of a day on the stupid English test I had to take (making it less worth the splurge since I didn’t get to spend as much time there). Also, the lack of stable wifi and adequate lighting in my room made it really challenging to get work done. UGH. Such a waste of money. Back to budget accommodation for this girl!

henry hotel cebu

What’s Next in October 2016

October is shaping up to be another exciting and beach-happy month! I’ll be in the Philippines til the 18th, wrapping up my week on Siargao and moving on to Palawan and then Manila for TBEX.

When I return to Australia, I’ll be staying in Bondi (YAY!!!!!) for about a week before I head off to meet my friend Teresa in Adelaide for our Kangaroo Island roadtrip!

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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