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 4 in Australia
While Month #3 was a bit, shall I say, *boring* to recap, I feel like I’ve got loads more to say about Month #4 even though I spent most of it in Sydney as well.
I closed out my time in Sydney with as much beach bumming as I could manage. There were day trips to Jervis Bay and the Northern Beaches, more Sydney Harbour coastal walks, and afternoons spent at some Sydney beaches I’d never been to before. I’m already having withdrawals as I write this from colder pastures and occasionally glance down at my significantly less tanned skin :(
I also hustled hard on Tinder after laying low last month and had some really fun dates in Month 4 (prefaced by official nicknames):
- The Nudist: Riding on a motorbike and hanging out at a nude beach with a self-proclaimed Aussie nudist. Yes, he was naked at the beach; no, I was not.
- Beautiful Brit: Fancy cocktails and a great meal at an open air hipster restaurant with a visiting Brit.
- Nappy Hair: Dinner and a movie night in, then sunset on the beach the following week with an Aussie.
(Hmm, should I start listing out my dates in each recap? That could be fun!)
The sunset I caught with Nappy Hair. How romantical!
For a nice change of pace, Anna and I headed down to the South Coast of NSW for a week in Kangaroo Valley in early April. We stayed at Broger’s End, an “eco-eclectic accommodation” where we had a massive converted shed all to ourselves. The original plan was for us to work a few hours a day doing work around the farm as part of HelpX, but it turned into me working on their new website instead while Anna weeded and painted and cleaned. It was such a wonderful break from city life!
And lastly, I bid adieu to my love Sydney and flew south to Melbourne to help my first HelpX host run a booth at the Fitness & Health Expo. We rented an apartment off AirBnB in Southbank for 5 nights while we prepped and worked the event and it was EXHAUSTING. The best part of it was coming home after a long day to our swanky apartment and ordering really delicious Thai and sushi to be delivered. I’ve hardly had any non-home cooked meals the past 2 months, so it was pretty amazing to change it up this time.
Our accommodation in Kangaroo valley
Favorite Moments From Month 4:
Experiencing energy healing
Admittedly I’m more than a little skeptical of much of the hippie-dippie alternative medicine stuff that’s out there. I’m a girl that believes in SCIENCE and FACTS, dammit! You know – things that make sense. But in the name of growth and self-development, part of my sleep coaching with my old HelpX host involved some relaxation exercises, like meditation. One night she performed some ‘energy work’ on me – I’m not sure if it was proper Reiki, but I was lying down on my back while she slowly touched my head, arms, and legs at certain points, then worked whatever magic was needed to move energy through my body. I’m not kidding when I say that I felt ALL THE TINGLES, moving outward from whatever point she was touching and pulsing through my body. It was magical. How do I experience this again? Do I just walk into some spa or massage place and ask them to move my energy around? Maybe I need to go back to India…
A hot day at a secluded beach, followed by champagne with a view!
I don’t know why I left one of Sydney’s best beaches til my very last week, but alas – Milk Beach was worth the wait. It’s a tiny little beach on Sydney Harbour, nestled on the outskirts of Rose Bay with a particularly lovely view of the Sydney skyline. I spent the afternoon laying in the sun with friends, then later that night met my HelpX group at the Shangri-La Hotel to have champagne at the bar on the 36th floor. I could not get enough of the ridiculous view above of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. So stinkin’ gorgeous, this whole day was.
A Dinner Date with a Beautiful Brit
Ever have a really solid, wonderful date with a beautiful stranger who you’ll never see again? That was this night. He was tall, handsome, well-dressed, polite, funny, generous, smart – basically he ticked all the right boxes and we got along swimmingly. I pitched the idea of meeting for dinner at The Grounds of Alexandria, which I’d been dying to do ever since my quick business meeting there several weeks back. It’s this beautiful open air warehouse-meets-garden type of space that looks straight out of Brooklyn or Portland (aka hipster-chic). We enjoyed some artisanal cocktails, ordered food so fancy I don’t even recall the names of the dishes, and he graciously paid for everything (though I offered to split). Even better, I got to listen to his adorable British accent and admire his dazzling smile while engaging in some interesting conversation. Unfortunately he was on his way to Brisbane a couple days later and wouldn’t be returning to Sydney, so it was a one time only thing. Sometimes it’s almost better that way, you know?
Finding out I got selected for a press trip!
As an alum of the MatadorU travel writing course, I have access to their job opportunity board. Unfortunately most opportunities are aimed at US-based writers, but when I saw one for a camping and trekking trip on an island off the coast of Queensland, I KNEW this was my trip. How could they not give this one to a travel blogger currently in Australia who specializes in affordable outdoor travel, amiright? So I applied for it, then several weeks later heard that I’d been selected to explore Hinchinbrook Island with a small group and provide content for both Matador Network and the Queensland tourism board. I’ll be flying out from Perth and will be in Queensland from May 11-15, all expenses paid :) I’m so excited!
Reaching the Palm Beach Lookout
One of the best things I’ve done in Sydney is a day trip to the Northern Beaches: specifically Palm beach, where I hiked up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse for a most fetching view of the peninsula from the headland. STILL NOT OVER IT.
My ‘Bon Voyage’ cake from Nappy Hair
So, I did the thing I keep doing in Sydney: I left something behind. This time it was my favorite rings, which I’d taken off in the bathroom to wash my hands, then forgotten to put back on. Said bathroom was in the bar at which I first met Nappy Hair, who offered to stop by and retrieve them for me since he lived closeby. Had I not stupidly left my rings, I likely wouldn’t have seen this guy again. But my carelessness led to an unintentional second date, where he invited me over for dinner and a movie and we ended up staying up til the wee hours just talking (YES, really). He’d even baked a chocolate cake and wrote ‘Bon Voyage’ on it since I was leaving Sydney a few days later. It was too sweet!
Escaping the city for a week in Kangaroo Valley
Kangaroo Valley pens itself as the perfect weekend getaway for adult Sydneysiders. I understood this completely upon settling into our cushy digs by the river. It was just so quiet and peaceful in the countryside – I hardly knew what to do with myself! Everything we needed was right on the farm, including freshly-laid eggs and all sorts of herbs from the garden. We stayed at Broger’s End in a beautiful converted shed adorned with all sorts of decor salvaged from the junkyard. Days were spent with my work materials spread out across the massive dining room table, frequently distracted by the valley view through the windows and tempting espresso machine just a few meters away. By late afternoon, I’d pull out my camera and shoot the grounds, play on the river rope swing, or go for a run down some country roads. In the evening we’d make use of our ginormous kitchen and wood fired oven, star gaze, and curl up by the fire. It was exactly the break we needed – I only wish we could have stayed longer!
Running along the river at night in Melbourne
After a really long day working our booth at the Fitness & Health Expo, all I wanted to do was break free and get outside. It didn’t help that the weather was completely gorgeous while we were cooped up inside. One night I had so much pent up energy that I bolted outside immediately afterwards and went on a 5 mile run around the Yarra River, which flows right through the city. I’ve no idea why no one else (no, literally – no. one. else.) was running along the river, but I had myself THE BEST TIME falling in love with every bridge I passed, and the city all lit up in the dark. It was one of those rare runs where I felt amazing and unstoppable.
My bed in our Melbourne rental
Enjoying a massive home-cooked meal on the last night of the expo in Melbourne
One thing I’m still trying to better embrace is being more of a Yes Girl – i.e. saying yes to more things despite being lazy or scared. The second my last expo shift ended, I wanted to run for the hills and be alone (my body was screaming for sleep to fight off exhaustion and an oncoming cold) – but we’d all been invited over for dinner at some penthouse apartment that night. I knew there was no way I could gracefully get out of it so I reluctantly tagged along as our HelpX team cabbed it to South Yarra. We walked into a gorgeous apartment with the most colorful plates of food laid out on the table and I instantly felt like a fool for wanting to bail. Delicious healthy homemade food in fine company, followed by champagne in the hot tub? Seriously, life could be much worse. Also, reinforced note to self: keep saying yes!
Swimming in the Kangaroo River
Crappy Moments From Month 4:
Our last day in Kangaroo Valley
This was just one of those days where everything went wrong, from start to finish. On our last day in the valley, we had to pack up and clean our accommodation. We’d underestimated just how much cleaning was needed and it took WAY longer than planned. My god, I was doing crazy things like scrubbing a shower and dusting bookcases – and don’t even remind me of the battle I lost trying to change sheets on the bunk bed! I was already flustered when the new guests arrived a couple hours early, so we had to rush even more to get out of there. On top of that, they were a pretty unpleasant bunch. We headed out in the rain and Anna drove us in a beat up 4WD uphill across the property to the caravan we were meant to be spending the next two nights in. We had a near-death experience when the car went flying off the path and nearly hit a tree – I’m still not sure if it was Anna’s driving or the faulty clutch that caused it, but either way my heart was pounding like crazy. Soon after, we drove into town to spend the afternoon warm indoors. We had planned on picking up some wine to make it through a cold wet night in the caravan, but apparently no liquor is sold here on Good Friday so we were out of luck. And finally, to complete the circle of womp womps: the car wouldn’t start! We were stuck in town for 3+ hours and our host had to drive down from Sydney to come pick us up. We felt terrible, though how could we have known that the car they’d lent us would crap out like that? Oy, what a day.
Working a booth at the Fitness & Health Expo
I’ve already alluded to this being less than enjoyable, but to make it official: yes, this was most definitely a lowlight from the past month. We spent way more time than expected just setting up the booth – then during the event, we were boxed in by a boisterous crowd that gathered right in front of (and sometimes in) our booth to cheer on the bodybuilders on the main stage right next to us. Being forced to watch oompa loompa-colored, over-muscled and under-fed folks strike ridiculous poses ad nauseum was amusing at best, and nearly vomit inducing at worst. Woof.
Month 4 Numbers:
I’m really proud of how little I spent this month – I averaged about 8.50 USD/day, in Australia. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one! ;)
Turns out it’s really easy to not spend money when all your food and accommodation is taken care of. I think I did a better job in Month 4 than in Month 3 with this because I really didn’t buy many *things*. My one big expense was paying to ship a 5.3kg box home, half of which contained heavy layers that I probably shouldn’t have even brought with me to Australia, the other half being part of a care package for my old roommate in NYC. Nearly half of what I spent this month went toward this package (both the postage and the gifts inside the package).
And just as exciting as my exceptional frugality: I actually made a bit of money in Month 4 as well! This extra spending cash came from selling a photo on Flickr, cashing in on my Amazon Affiliate sales, and doing a few extra hours of work for my HelpX host. BOOM!
Dates: 14 March – 7 April 2015
# of Days: 25
Total $ Spent: $221.25
Top Expenses: $75 – postage for a package shipped to the US
Average $ Spent: $8.85 US/day
Dates: 8-12 April 2015
# of Days: 5
Total $ Spent: $33.20
Dates: 14 March – 12 April 2015
# of Days: 30
# Beds Slept In: 5
# Dates Went On: 5
Total $ Spent: $254 US
Total $ Made: $172 US
Average $ Spent: $8.48 US/day
Average Miles Walked: 4.5 miles/day
Year-To-Date Numbers (Months 1-4):
Dates: 12 December 2014 – 12 April 2015
# of Days: 124
Total $ Spent: $5088 US
Total $ Made: $172 US
Average $ Spent: $41 US/day
What’s Next in Month 5
I’ve just finished my two-month-long HelpX gig and now have a few weeks of freedom in Melbourne! I’ll be frolicking around the city, getting some writing and web design work done, and hopefully exploring nearby Victorian sights (Great Ocean Road, Wilson’s Promontory, Yarra Valley).
Then near the end of the month, I’m heading to Perth! I wasn’t originally particularly eager to revisit what I had quickly deemed a boring city 9 years ago, but that’s the beauty of being able to go with the flow. Circumstances change, minds change – and really, I don’t think I gave Perth a fair chance last time. This time around I’m hoping to dig a little deeper and find more to love about it.