Category Archives: Australia

Travels from Australia

Travel | Off on my 3rd solo adventure!

imageIt’s official – tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I’ve been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you’ll know I’ve been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I’ve loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It’s been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.

Perhaps that’s what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I’ve visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn’t enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I’ve exhausted all career options and I’m a working girl at heart – I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I’ve been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I’m more than ready to move on again.12140590_10153104137662617_1072458207340519505_n

So what’s next?

Well, that’s the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn’t quite ready to return to Australia and I think I’m long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I’ve been working A LOT since I’ve been back – my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It’s been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I’m done. I’m completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all – told you I always overdo it!

But that’s okay, because I think I’ve earned a week completely off from life. So I’m heading to – wait for it – my 30th country!! And I’m doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn’t be more excited to be travelling to Bali – a place I’ve long since dreamed of – and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there’s nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can’t think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I’m about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I’ll be taking a week off from blogging – but true to form, I’ve over-prepared and you’ll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.12066066_10153150235258779_1396839736833225395_n

And after that…?

The travelling dream will be back on track and I’ll be heading back to Melbourne – the city that well and truly has my heart – to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I’ll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you’ve been living. Well I’ve had an extreme version of this and just couldn’t really settle at home, hence why I’m so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.

I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I’m sure I’ll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I’m looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I’ve been a watered down version of myself since I’ve been home and it’s time to get back to being the real me.13920864_10153669383367617_3668028187169531860_n

Here we go again!

Right now I’m spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can’t wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it’s so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can’t wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia – it’s been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – I’ll be posting all of our misadventures!

Have you been to Bali – any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?

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Travel | Absolutely Lucy turns 3 and the end of my Eurotrip!

imageI’ve been back in the country less than 24 hours and it’s safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and  sightseeing for days – I’m glad to be home. I’ve had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It’s been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after  a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!

So what next? You all know I’m never one to stand still for long so of course I’ve already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll already know that in just one month I’ll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can’t wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you’d think I’d need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I’ve ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I’ll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I’ve got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I’ve come. This week my blog celebrated it’s third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time – from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog – from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.14368820_10153777471112617_1681907711635110597_nWhen you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover – one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning – and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it as I’ve been away, but I’ll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives – I’m so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.14354903_10153777471157617_3487606775261715180_nThese last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can’t wait to share with you. I’m planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I’m also on a serious health kick – after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish – I’m looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It’s time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I’m so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool – actually, I’m going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.

Have you traveled around Europe – what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts – tell me about it! What’s your workout regime – got any tips for me?

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Travel | My top 10 places to go for an adventure holiday

africa-toursMy life has always been about adventures. Call me cup-half-full but I like to view the world around me as a series of exciting opportunities that I just can’t wait to seize with both hands. Looking back, adventures have come in all different forms throughout my life. Career-wise I’ve had the amazing experience of working as a journalist and an editor, my nine-year relationship was an adventure from start to finish and more recently, you guys will know all about my travelling adventures that never seem to end. Well this life of adventure chose me and I’m more than happy to live it every single day. Since travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to live some adventures beyond my wildest dreams and I’m so excited to share some of them with you in this post as part of a collaboration with Encounters Travel. This post is taking a look at some of the incredible adventure trips I’ve taken and some that remain firmly on my bucket list… for now!

Australia

Australia was one of the biggest adventures of my life. Not only was I literally on the other side of the world from everything I knew, but I was thrown between living life in the middle of a bustling city and the dry, dusty outback. Outback life is an adventure anyone who travels to Australia should not miss out on, it was one of the most incredible experiences I have had since travelling. From working on a cattle farm by day and watching endless shooting stars at night, to learning to ride bareback and swimming in flooded rivers. It was epic and I can’t recommend it enough. If the outback isn’t for you, then head to the coast for no end of adventures from diving on the Great Barrier Reef and swimming with whale sharks, to white water rafting and skydiving, perfect for all the adrenaline junkies.princess-junk-halong-bay-vietnam

Thailand

Thailand was my first solo adventure and one I won’t forget in a hurry. Adventures came in all forms there from volunteering with elephants and exploring ruins by bike, to partying the night away on the islands and trekking through jungle to visit hill tribes. No matter what part of Thailand you head to, there is an adventure just waiting to be uncovered. For a taste of the untouched, head deep into the middle of the country to Khao Sok, an 80 million year old rainforest just packed full of exciting adventures. There’s hiking to waterfalls, swimming through caves, jungle safaris and kayaking to be done, and you can spend your nights sleeping either in treehouses or in a hut on a raft deep in the middle of the jungle. If that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is.

Vietnam

Vietnam is an adventure for all the senses as you escape the beaten track and take the chance to explore Sapa, visiting local families and experiencing life as they live it. Kayak around a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Halong Bay, navigate the crazy traffic in Hanoi or even motorbike from one end of the country to another. For those who want to feel their pulse race, look no further than Dalat, where you can experience the ultimate adventure at Canyoning, a day of abseiling down waterfalls and freediving from huge heights. There’s time to squeeze in mountain biking to waterfalls before heading to Hoi An to taste delicacies you never knew existed.peru-machu-picchu

Borneo

One of my absolute dream destinations – Borneo is the home of the orangutan. After volunteering with elephants in Thailand, my taste for wild an exotic animals turned to another favourite and I can’t think of anything more incredible than seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. The jungle in Borneo looks absolutely prehistoric and I love the idea of seeing this incredible landscape with my own eyes, plus the opportunity to climb Mt Kinabalu would be a complete adventure. Once done exploring the centre, there is so much more waiting along the coastline from national parks to stunning wildlife – this land literally seems to have it all.

South America

I know I’ve overgeneralised here but that’s because at the top of my bucket list sits a trip to South America – I can’t break it down because quite frankly, I want to see it all. From the Inca Trail in Peru, to the Bolivian Salt Flats, to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and seeing the Amazon with my own eyes in Ecuador. From the physical challenges to the language barrier, I love the idea of throwing myself into harder travelling where I have to really learn along the way. That’s the true adventure to me. There is so much to see and do that I know I’ll never manage it all, but that won’t stop me trying. I’m hoping to experience this adventure from start to finish in 2017/18 and can’t wait.local-woman-india

India

Ever since I read the book Shantaram, India has been firmly on my must-travel list. The book describes the culture, colour and character of India so beautifully and uses such poetic prose that it made me long to experience it for myself.Travelling India just sounds like it would be such an adventure, to truly immerse yourself in the land, every aspect of it from the people, to the spirituality and the food. It seems like a country that would change the world as you know it, that would change your whole understanding of life. Any true adventure should rock you to your very core and change you as a person, India is an adventure waiting to happen.

Iceland

Somewhere I have been lusting after for years – as someone who always plumps for tropical locations the idea of experiencing the magic of this snowy land really appeals. Friends who have been have described action packed weekends exploring glaciers by snowmobile, diving into the Blue Lagoon and even riding through the mountains on horseback. But nothing would compare to my dream of seeing the Northern Lights with my own eyes, this may be one of the few times I stand still but would be one of the greatest adventures of all. Especially with my plan to also see the Southern Lights while down in New Zealand.blue-eyed-shags-antarctic

United States

Over the years I’ve made the standard trips to the US, I’ve spent Christmas in New York gazing at the views from the Empire State Building and wandering around vintage markets in Brooklyn. I’ve holidayed in Florida exploring all the theme parks and splashing my way through the water parks. But I have such an urge to one day experience so much more and how better to do it than by experiencing one of the greatest road trips. Gathering up a solid gang of mates and setting out to explore every state would be an amazing adventure. Highlights for me would be San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and LA. But another amazing way to do it would be by venturing from one national park to the next – there are some beautiful natural sights such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone that would be the perfect stop-offs. It is my dream to visit New Orleans either for the Jazz Festival or for Mardi Gras – what an adventure to party there!

Africa

An African adventure is probably on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but for me it goes a little deeper. With half of my family coming from Mauritius, I find myself longing to explore more of the continent from jungle to desert, and city to beach. There are so many amazing ways to have an adventure here and I’m sure you could spend the rest of your life in Africa without really delving into the depths of this land. For me, most of my ideals of Africa have centered around the idea of going on safari on the Serengeti, or waking up to the sight of giraffes and zebras roaming free, of waking in the night to the roars of lions and the trumpeting of elephants. I love animals and particularly I love seeing them in their natural habitat so this would be the ultimate adventure and a dream come true for me. One thing I must do in my lifetime is a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise. Elsewhere, there is endless desert to explore, bustling modern cities and luxury resorts dotted along the coastline. Africa looks like a traveler’s paradise, if you’re planning a trip there check out the overland tours available from Encounters Travel here.

Antarctica

Call me crazy if you want, but Antarctica has always seemed like the most incredible adventure. Going to the coldest place on earth where nothing but penguins seems to survive and witnessing the weather and wildlife is such an exciting prospect. A place where tourism is absent, where you get back to basics and focus purely on the landscape. That is what travelling should be all about and that seems pretty adventurous to me. Sadly it is very expensive and seems like the least likely of my list, but that doesn’t stop me imagining what it would be like to embark on this adventure one day.

What has been the biggest adventure of your life? What is your dream adventure destination? Do you dream of visiting any of these places?

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Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia

imageYou’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

  • A working holiday visa or a student visa to work limited hours – you cannot work on a tourist visa.
  • A tax file number – apply when you arrive and it’s posted out within a few weeks.
  • A bank account – you will need to set this up immediately and make sure you also have a Superannuation account (for this you will also need an…)
  • Australian mobile number – easy to get a SIM from a corner shop/supermarket, go for Telstra as they offer the best coverage even in the outback.
  • White card – this is compulsory for anyone that wishes to work in the construction industry in Australia.
  • RSA – this is compulsory for anyone who works in a job with alcohol involved – bars/restaurants etc will require this and there are different RSA’s available for each Territory. Northern Territory is the cheapest and easiest to get online, New South Wales and Victoria require you to actually attend a session at a centre.
  • CV – always arrive with two or three copies of your resume at the ready. You want to make sure you have one that is in your chosen field with all relevant experience (mine is a journalism CV) then another that focuses on hospitality work with bar/restaurant experience. Then it can also help to have another specialised CV available – I have one that focuses on administrative experience and another on sales experience and all of these have come in handy at one point or another. If you have any outdoor work/construction/manual labour experience, this is also a good one to have at the ready.
  • References – whether you have good references from back home or you put down a mate’s number – make sure they are aware they may get a call and have something prepared.

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coastimage

Where to look for work:

  • Sign up to Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter to make sure you get instant updates of job alerts.
  • Use social media to ask friends/contacts when you move to a new place – if lots of your friends are travelers too this could help get you a tip. This scored me a great bar job in Darwin thanks to a friend-of-a-friend messaging me back.
  • Word of mouth – speak to other travelers in your hostel, they’ll always know if anyone is leaving and their job might be up for grabs.
  • Hostels – check the jobs board daily and talk to staff, they have all the insider information.
  • Hayes Recruitment are fantastic for finding administration jobs and, if you’re looking for sponsorship, a more long-term prospect. My friend found a job as a property manager and is now being sponsored to stay.
  • Job seeking agencies – don’t get sucked into paying to join a club or job fair who promise to find you a job, just get out there and find it yourself. It saves you money and is quicker.
  • Print off CVs, walk to every business/cafe/bar/shop in town and ask to speak to the manager. If they’re not available, ask what time they will be and go back. It’s much easier to secure a job in person than over email/the phone.
  • Check out Seek and Indeed – they’re great for the professional job seekers.
  • Gumtree and Craiglist are a used a lot more in Australia than the UK – I found my second year visa job on Gumtree. Obviously be careful but don’t write them off as full of creeps. These are great for one-off labouring jobs and these can be almost as good as a full-time job.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

  • First of all try to choose a Territory where you would like to work – narrowing your search to QLD, VIC, NT, NSW, WA, SA or TAS can really help when trawling through endless job lists. Also, you’ll be spending three months in a place – make sure your location is suitable.
  • Be aware that a lot more different types of job count in the Northern Territory and you don’t have to be quite so remote when completing your 88 days there as you would in Queensland or Victoria.
  • Think about the type of work you would like to do – you could do anything from fishing and pearling, to fruit picking or landscaping, even working in a vineyard counts. Think outside the box and turn it into a travelling experience not just ticking off your 88 days. I have a friend who worked in real estate and on a cattle station and said it was an amazing experience, he was glad he didn’t just stick to fruit picking. Check out a full list of suitable jobs here.
  • As mentioned, sign up to alerts from Fruit Picking Jobs and Working Holiday Jobs, plus any others you can find, these are great for finding work. Also, check out Gumtree as this can be a goldmine for second year visa work – be careful and don’t take risks.
  • Look carefully at what is offered as part of the deal – some will offer reduced wages to cover food and board, others will charge you after wages have been paid. Be savvy and compare different jobs so you have an idea of what is fair.
  • Likewise, compare wages for fruit picking, check how they pay – whether by hour or by bucket and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. You can actually make and save quite a lot of money doing your farm work, but you have to be clever about the job you take.
  • Speak to other backpackers/friends who have completed their farm work and see if they can recommend a job/place, also listen to the warnings. I heard on the backpacker grapevine that Bundaberg was still accepting backpackers despite there being no work, so I knew to avoid.
  • Try and get it out of the way in plenty of time – don’t leave it until the final three months as seasons and work aren’t always reliable. Give yourself six months to complete it and then enjoy the time if you get done early.
  • Make sure you get payslips, evidence of you working – pictures etc – and any paperwork signed off. You need payslips now since the laws have changed – and you need to have been paid for the work. Extra evidence will help you if you end up being one of the unlucky ones to get investigated.

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

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Top tips for job-hunting:

  • If English is not your first language, get a friend/dorm mate to check over your CV and right any wrongs. Bad spelling is a big no-no for employers.
  • Be available – if you’re asked when you can start, tell them straight away.
  • Have a smart outfit at the ready for interviews – and if you’re going for a hospitality job having an all black outfit can be helpful in case you’re asked to start the next day.
  • If you can’t find something immediately, ask in the hostel. There are almost always opportunities to work for accommodation or to take on paid roles in hostels.
  • Don’t be afraid to big yourself up – list your skills and talents with pride.
  • If you don’t have any experience, gloss over the truth. A lot of jobs, especially in bars/cafes/restaurants, you can learn on the job so if you’re not getting anywhere you can easily pick it up if you’re willing to work. I don’t recommend outright lies claiming you can do circus tricks while laying tables but it’s okay to bend the truth a little.
  • Ask those already working to recommend you at their workplace – I got a lot of my friends jobs in this way.
  • Don’t give up. It can seem hopeless and frustrating if you don’t get something straight away, but don’t lose hope. Keep at it and you will find something – it’s much easier to find a job Down Under than it is in the UK!

What do the travelers say?

  • “Word of mouth. My friends were at a hostel where the manager finds you the work. Just had to wait til there was a free space at the hostel and then was working two days after.” – Devon Tobin
  • “Go to a cattle station or crop farm where you get to do actual helpful work that’s fun and really teaches you something!” – Holli McCarthy
  • “Remember that people also can do construction in all of NT, SA, Tassie and lot of other smaller towns for the second year.” – Robin Lassinniemi
  • “I had to be up as early as 6am as the farmers were up posting jobs. The good jobs went fast so you had to be up at the crack of dawn.” – Stuart Harrowing
  • “Make sure you’re getting a legal wage ($17ph) and check how many days are you actually being signed off for? Don’t assume a week sign off if you didn’t work the weekend.” – Jodie Green
  • ” I lied about being a farmer in Sweden on Gumtree to get a job.” – Richard Andersson
  • “I’ve heard a few stories about people working picking jobs and having to spend most of their pay just on the accommodation and food but I think if you can make the right contacts and get smart about it, you can find some good jobs out there. Pro tip though: prepare an iPod with all the music/audio books you can get your hands on, three months is a long ass time and the days go faster if you’re listening to tunes!” – Paul Jefferyes

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

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Australia | My ultimate budget guide for a month on the East Coast

11745765_1147415768609240_7957452483586575087_nThere’s no denying the East Coast is a huge draw for young travellers heading to Australia. With its white sandy beaches, epic party spots and the Great Barrier Reef on your doorstep, it’s become something of a rite of passage for backpackers. For first-time travellers, it’s a perfect place to start out with all the familiarities of home but a damn sight more sunshine and fun trips to do. There’s no better place to make friends in Australia and many of the people I met on the East Coast actually became some of the best friends I have found since travelling. There’s so much fun to be had along the way with Fraser Island being a huge highlight for me, but don’t forget Whitsundays cruises, skydiving, white water rafting, surfing in Byron Bay and all the rest. The list of amazing trips and things to do is endless, and it can become a bit daunting when you first start thinking about planning your East Coast adventure, it doesn’t take long for things to get very expensive! The East Coast will without a doubt be the most expensive part of your time in Australia – why? Because you’re spending weeks partying non-stop and going on incredible trips – don’t worry, it’s worth every penny! But there are lots of ways to cut costs along the way – it just takes careful planning. So how do you go about budgeting for your trip?11224855_10152949576367617_5464624702726152160_n

How long does it take?

First of all, you need to decide how long you’re going to spend on your trip – whether you’re squeezing it in just before a flight home or have endless time to stop off along the way. I took five weeks to complete the trip, starting in Sydney and including one final week in Cairns. This seemed a perfect amount of time to fit in all the trips we wanted while still getting some downtime to relax between the nights out. I’ve had friends do it in two or three weeks, but they all wished they had longer to do it. Likewise, I’ve known a lot of people who, instead of booking a whole trip in one go, have figured it out along the way and stopped off in places to work. After asking a lot of travellers I met along the way, the consensus was that four weeks was the optimum time to take travelling the East Coast. 

It’s important to work out what your budget will allow for, to work out who you’ll be travelling with and how long you want to spend at each stop. Also, think about whether you want to do it during peak season, we did it during winter and still had amazing weather, and met lots of people – but it did make the trip cheaper overall. If you’re travelling with a big group there may be less flexibility on time and costs, but you may also manage to get great group discounts if you all book together. If you’re travelling as a pair, or alone, you get total freedom over every stop and can just decide on the spur of the moment to hitch a lift with anyone you meet along the way which can work out a lot cheaper. Even booking as a pair will wind up being cheaper overall than booking individually as they’ll often throw in extra meals/trips for free or discounted rates. Speak to a travel agent when you’re looking to book and ask for their best offer, then visit three others from different companies and ask for their best offer. Ask them if they can beat the previous offer!11898942_10153005074437617_7025964837598304311_n

Where to stay?

There are lots of different accommodation options from camping and couch surfing, to hostels and hotels, but by far the best option is hostels when you’re on the East Coast. They’re the best place to meet people and get further discounts on food and trips. I saw the very worst and the very best of hostels on the East Coast – from the bed-bug infested and the filthy to the luxurious chalets and en suites. The best way to find the best of the best – ask other travellers you meet along the way for up-to-date reviews and cheap deals.

  • Cheapest hostel: Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort at £14/$25 for 10 bed dorm
  • Most expensive hostel: WakeUp Hostel in Sydney at £22-26/$38-45 a night
  • Favourite hostel: Base Backpackers Airlie Beach Resort at £19/$33 for a six bed dorm
  • Least favourite hostel: BUNK Brisbane at £14/$25 a night for a 20 bed dorm
  • Average bed: £18/$31 a night

TOP TIP: Always ask at the travel desk – often backpackers run it and they’re just as keen to get you the best deal as you are to find it. They’ll often give you huge discounts and throw in extra free meals or the odd night’s free accommodation.

Total: £360/$635

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How to get there?

There are lots of options available, from flying and organised bus trips, to renting a car, hitchhiking and hop-on hop-off Greyhound. On a tight schedule and without much money to spare, I’d recommend the Oz Experience Greyhound pass which costs just £213/$375 to travel a whopping 3150 kilometres at your own pace, it’s actually cheaper now than when I used it, so even better value! It does mean one or two long journeys by bus but it does give you the luxury of sleeping through them rather than having to drive and skip nights out. Before booking I really wanted us to drive the East Coast, but now I’m glad we didn’t, it would have been significantly more expensive and we would have missed out on meeting a lot of people if we had a camper van instead of hostels. Camper van hire starts from around £40/$70 a day but you also have to factor in fuel and insurance costs – it just depends on your budget and the experience you want. Internal flights are available if you’re on a very tight schedule and need to travel quickly between Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns for trips, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you have only two weeks for the East Coast.

TOP TIP: Always go prepared on Greyhound – take warm and cool clothes as the temperature can be unpredictable and there’s nothing worse than shivering for a whole 12 hour bus journey. Take a packed lunch/dinner, the rest stops can be pretty grim for snacks and this will save you a lot of money. Don’t rely on the wifi on the bus as it’s pretty rare that it will work well for the whole journey.

Total: £213/$375 for Greyhound

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What to do?

The whole of the East Coast is chock-full of amazing trips and things to do, and there is a huge list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you simply cannot miss out on! During my five weeks I swam with sea turtles, kayaked with dolphins, went whale watching, diving, white water rafting, drove 4WDs around a desert island and saw the Great Barrier Reef with my own eyes. It was incredible and definitely not something you want to scrimp on. Trips you don’t want to miss:

If you can’t fit all these in or just don’t have the money – narrow it down to the main ones (Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays and Diving). There are plenty of other cheap, or even free, experiences to enjoy along the way!

TOP TIPS: Always look for trips that include free meals and shop around, often the travel agent next door will try to undercut the first one you go to. Also, enter competitions! They’re held at every hostel along the way and you can win some amazing trips – we won a Whitsundays cruise and a Kiwi Experience bus pass for New Zealand in one night!

Total: £1,470/$2,590

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What to eat/drink?

Food and drink can quickly blow your budget way out of control – it’s important not to get carried away, but also not to miss out by being too tough on yourself. You’ll meet all kind of travellers along the way – some are living off instant noodles and goon, others are surviving from one budget backpacker deal to the next. You need to work out what is realistic and try to balance your own meals – we flitted between eating out, taking advantage of backpacker hostel deals and cooking our own meals during our five weeks. Something to consider is going veggie, if you’re looking to cut costs this is a great way to do it. Meat is expensive in Australia and I’d much rather spend that money on activities or alcohol, I found it cheap and easy to eat healthy as a vegetarian in Australia. Just make sure to stay healthy – no-one wants to get ill on the East Coast!

  • Cheapest backpacker meal: instant noodles at 30p a pack!
  • Best hostels for budget backpacker meals: Wakeup Hostel in Sydney and Gilligans in Cairns from as little as £2.50/$4.50, or even free if you buy a drink!
  • Cheapest home-cooked meal: veggie pasta £2-3/$3-4
  • Best budget group meals to make: beach BBQs, fajitas, pasta
  • Average cost of goon: £7/$12 (Golden Oak 4l)
  • Cheapest bottle of wine: £2.50/$4.50 (Whispers)
  • Cheapest beer: £3/$5 (Tooeys stubble)

TOP TIP: Head to the backpacker bars and take advantage of the drinks deals, free breakfasts and food deals. Group together in hostels to rustle up a meal and find the costs cut hugely by sharing. Enter competitions and win drinks for you and your mates!

Total:  £200/$350 for food (based on spending £10 a day when not on trips with meals included) For alcohol it totally depends on how much, and what, you drink!11222133_10152951499637617_5982267502697766247_n

So how much will it cost you?

I’ve budgeted generously here and know lots of people who have done it on a lot less, but if you want to go all out and enjoy every amazing trip – you can do it in £2,000/$3,500. With a budget of £2,500/$4,400 you could easily drink every night and squeeze in even more trips along the way – likewise you could cut back even more on trips, food and drink to spend less. It sounds like a lot of money but when you see what you get for it, it quickly becomes clear this is a once in a lifetime trip, and one you want to do well! Nobody wants to regret not going diving on the Great Barrier Reef or not taking the catamaran to Whitsundays. If you’re on a tight budget, just prioritise the things you really want to do and cut out some of the less important trips/stops – you could easily cut this budget down to around £1,800/$3,100 this way. Every backpacker is different, but it’s important to find the right trip for you and to make your experience the best it can be. Talk to travel agents – their job is to make your backpacking dream a reality – and don’t forget the goldmine backpacker Facebook pages that hold a wealth of travelling experience and advice within them. Need any tips? Leave a comment with any questions and I’ll help you plan!11168431_10152928893202617_9101439380460830205_n

What was the highlight of your East Coast trip? How much did you spend along the way? What tips can you give other backpackers?

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Australia | It’s tax back time and I’m celebrating!

imageI write a lot about budget travel – about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that’s what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I’ve been the poorest I’ve ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don’t know how you’ll afford a bed for the night or how you’ll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I’ve worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I’ve given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I’ve worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I’ve ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.

Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don’t just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap – without any control over what was happening. Now I’m not saying all employers are like this in Australia – some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don’t like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I’ll talk about that more in a later post, I’ve had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don’t get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we’re over there. I know it’s not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don’t feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.

So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you’re getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia – a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne – I also managed to work a lot. If you’ve worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you’ll understand why I feel like I’ve had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There’s something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself – I’m always proud of the fact that I’ve funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it’s like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let’s face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.image What’s that quote? “If travel was free, you’d never see me again” and how true that is, if it wasn’t for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I’m just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don’t need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don’t have expensive tastes – I’ve spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you’re jetting all over the world. Even if you’re staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you’re talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it’s like some new version of the American Dream – as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who’s to say it wouldn’t, these days money spells freedom and that’s all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.

That’s why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers – because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven’t already applied for your tax rebate – why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I’m getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 – so it’s definitely worth doing. Don’t be put off by the paperwork – it doesn’t take long and it’s more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way – don’t miss out on claiming back your money because you’re lazy – that’s your next travelling fund right there!

What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax – can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?

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Travel | My ultimate tips for backpacking on a budget

imageFor months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you’re finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money – all us backpackers say “if travel was free, you’d never see me again” and I can tell you it’s true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We’d rather sleep on someone’s floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you’re starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia – one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world – I think I’ve picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:

PREPARE

  • Before you go, make a short term sacrifice and give up everything to save. I worked five jobs before I went which was bloody hard, but it meant I saved £10,000 for my adventure and went nine months without working.
  • Work in different types of jobs to get experience – I made sure I had recent bar work and nanny work on my CV which scored me instant jobs in Australia.
  • Invest money in getting a good quality backpack – it will save you a lot of money on lots of cheap replacements later on.
  • Don’t waste money on buying “travelling clothes” and accessories, it’s much cheaper to buy them along the way – keep packing practical and useful.
  • Spend money on items that will last you – things like solid shampoo can be a great way to make more space in your bag and will last for ages so you don’t have to constantly buy bottles of shampoo.

TRAVEL

  • As soon as you know when you aim to be flying somewhere, start looking at flights and get an idea of how much they will cost. You can get apps to track the cheapest flights to your destination and Skyscanner is great.
  • Hitchhike – not something I have done but some of my friends travelled the length and width of Australia safely like this and had an amazing experience.
  • Don’t be surprised by visa costs – they can be pricey and you always need to budget for them in advance to avoid being caught short.
  • Be flexible – most backpackers don’t mind what day they travel on, hell they usually don’t know what day of the week it is. This can save you a lot of pennies if you’re happy to delay travel to save money.
  • Don’t pay for expensive buses and trains – often they’re no safer and a lot more boring than travelling with the locals. You haven’t travelled until you’ve been on a bus with goats and chickens!

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STAY

  • Try Couchsurfing or similar options for a chance to stay with the locals for free, you get a more authentic experience and free digs!
  • Work for accommodation – it’s an option available in most hostels and can be a great way to cut costs getting a free bed for just a few hours work.
  • Visit family and friends – no matter how loosely related people are always welcoming to visitors and want to help out. A few nights in a proper bed with  family meal can do a world of good for a backpacker.
  • There are websites that look for house sitters for while homeowners are away – free accommodation, plush homes and potentially even food thrown in.
  • Camp – there are so many amazing locations around the world to camp and get closer to nature, if you pack your own tent you could save a fortune in hostels!

EAT

  • Find a hostel with a free breakfast or free/cheap dinners, it can make a world of difference to your budget if you are getting one free meal a day.
  • Street food – trust me it is the best way to cut costs and it’s easily the tastiest food on offer. Check the stalls for hygiene and don’t eat food that has been sitting out, but most of it is cooked to order in front of you.
  • Save eating out in restaurants as a treat for with friends – having that attitude will make you appreciate it more and will save a lot of money.
  • Prepare your own dinners and live off instant noodles – its an easy way to save a lot of cash if you want to splurge on rock climbing or a boat trip.
  • Go veggie – I barely ate meat when I was in Australia because it is quite expensive and you can’t keep it for long in a hostel. I saved a lot of money and felt really healthy.

DRINK

  • Be prepared to sacrifice your favourite drink. I had to give up wine and cider in Asia and lived off cheap beer and spirits to save money.
  • Scrimp on quality to get drunk – goon is disgusting but it does the trick, so do the $5 bottles of wine in Australia, good for pre-drinking before heading out.
  • Don’t waste money on bottles of water – keep on with you and fill it up at water points – unless you’re in Asia and water bottles are the safest option.
  • Take advantage of backpacker bars and cheap deals, enter competitions and try to win booze – it’s worth embarrassing yourself for a bucket.
  • Skip the lovely coffees and smoothie bars when you’re in the cities – do you really want to waste precious money on a drink that is gone in seconds when you could save it for your next adventure?

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ACTIVITIES

  • Whether you’re in Asia or Australia – trips can quickly add up. It’s important you research and ask around to get the best deals. Don’t be afraid to haggle.
  • Think carefully about what trips you want to do, some trips will often double up on experiences so by not going on one you won’t be missing out.
  • Look for group deals and discounts, often you can save a lot of money by getting a group of mates together and filling up seats on a boat/bus.
  • Go independent – often the trips are expensive because they use specially-chartered boats/buses etc, going it alone by hiring a car with your mates, or paying a fisherman for the day can work out a lot cheaper.
  • Take advantage of free activities – whether you’re in a national park or a city, there’s endless free things to do. Check the newspapers/online for free activities in the cities or ask at your hostel. Or head out into nature and go hiking or exploring waterfalls for the day.
  • Why not check out voucher code sites like DealsDaddy for bargains when shopping – that way you can save your money for other fun activities?

WORK

  • Working along the way can really help keep your money topped up – whether you stop and work a more permanent job in a bar/restaurant, shop or something else.
  • Run an online business – whether you’re a good writer, blogger, coder or social media expert, there’s loads of jobs you can work freelance around your travels and earn good money
  • Teach English, it’s fantastic money in the right job, I have friends working in Dubai and they earn a fortune and have their accommodation paid for.
  • Find a job that helps you travel – whether it’s a career that takes you around the world or just work for a tourist attraction. One of my friends worked on a catamaran that cruises around the Whitsundays for months – her dream job!
  • Woofing can be a great way to support organic farming in the country you are travelling while getting free food and accommodation. If it doesn’t appeal, there are lots of other volunteer organisations that might be able to take you on in exchange for room and board.

Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!

Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring – there’s always the chance you’ll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!

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Melbourne | Escaping to Lysterfield | Australia

image1-2I’m not much of a city girl, being born and raised out in the English countryside seems to swing you one way or the other. My sister is the ultimate city girl living in London and working in the fashion industry, but while I’ve loved the crazy hustle and bustle of visiting cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hanoi, I’m always glad to escape again to the coast, countryside or mountains. I crave space, open fields, endless ocean or the fresh mountain air, too long spent breathing in the fumes of the city, dealing with traffic and so many people drives me crazy. Living in Melbourne was the longest I have ever lived in the middle of a city other than Sydney, and I know the old rivalry between the two is still strong for good reason. Both are amazing cities but Melbourne is where my heart is, even before I left the UK I knew it would be and everything I experienced while I lived there for four months only further cemented my love for the city. Melbourne is a fantastic city to live in if you don’t really like cities – despite my apartment being in the most central part of the city I never felt trapped the way I do in London. The beach was just a short tram ride away and on either side of my apartment you would find beautiful Albert Park and the Botanic Gardens with running tracks, endless open space and huge lakes. It was perfect for me, but even with all of this natural beauty surrounding me, it did sometimes get a bit too much living directly in the city. I’d still feel the need to escape and get away.13043643_10153463041487617_1676119061737887273_nNow I hadn’t even heard of Lysterfield Park, nor had many of my friends who had lived in Melbourne for a lot longer than I had, but it turned out to be the perfect pace to cycle away a hangover one Sunday. Around 30km out of the city, the park was created following the decommissioning of the reservoir that sits behind us in the photo above, which has left a beautiful woodland set against the banks of the lake. It was the venue for mountain biking events of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and features a wide array of trails suitable for beginners like myself or the more experienced rider. I was definitely feeling a little less enthusiastic at the thought of mountain biking on a hangover than Evan, but it turned out to be a really lovely day and perfect weather for escaping the city. We rode around the park and I attempted the mountain bike trails while he showed off. Wandering around the lake the banks were filled with families who had come well prepared with barbecues and all sorts of goodies. It was beautiful standing there as the sun was setting. We headed back into the woods to find the car and spotted some of the biggest kangaroos I’ve seen in the whole of Australia as we rode along the path towards the car park.image2-2We ended up having a rather entertaining drive home as the car decided to pack in and leave us stranded until we could get a lift, but it didn’t take the shine off what was a rather perfect day. It was just the death of fresh air I needed before heading back to work the following day – when you’re working 12 hour days six days a week, it becomes even more important to really make the most of your days off. It was really nice to have the opportunity to see another part of the city that I hadn’t yet explored. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Lysterfield, I would really recommend you head out there one weekend – whether you like biking, running or just fancy a nice stroll around beautiful park, it’s a lovely day out and well worth a visit. While you’re at it, why not check to some of the other stunning walks and parks scattered around Melbourne – check out my blog posts on Great Ocean Road, Cape Otway National Park and Grampians National Park. I can’t wait to visit the Wilson’s Promontory, Dandenong Ranges National Park and Philip Island when I return to Melbourne in a few months.13139215_10153486432222617_5936569580819338290_n

 

Do you crave city life, or you prefer a country escape? Where are your favourite places to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city?

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Melbourne | Living on the Edge at Eureka Skydeck | Australia

imageAs the clock ticked down on my final days in Melbourne, it struck me that there were still several things I had yet to do before leaving. All those touristy things we want to do but simply forget once we start working and life gets in the way. Well working 12 hour days six days a week definitely cut back the amount of time I had to give to such activities, but I was still determined to give it my best shot. So when the birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, I thought how better to celebrate than with a trip up the Eureka Skydeck to see our beautiful city twinkling in the moonlight followed by a night of cocktails by the river. We met at Ludlow’s, a bar along the river where loads of our friends who worked there were celebrating the boss’ birthday with drinks and food. The crowd that work at the bar are great, such a friendly bunch and they definitely know how to party. The company actually owns part of the Skydeck and when they heard we were going up there that evening, the bosses gave us free tickets to both the Skyjack and The Edge – we couldn’t believe it! It was so lovely of them and we really appreciated it. Normal prices at $20 for entrance to the Skydeck Experience and a further $12 for The Edge.imageWe walked over to the entrance and were given a warm welcome by the staff to ushered us into the lifts which carried us a whopping 285m above ground in just 38 seconds! No wonder my ears were popping. The fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere took us directly to the dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck – and I wasn’t sure how well this was going to go down. Heights have never bothered me in the slightest, but the birthday girl suffered terrible vertigo as we had found in the Grampians and I hoped she was going to be able to enjoy it. We walked around the Skydeck where we experienced Melbourne sightseeing at its finest, the whole city was alight and glowing against the dark skies. It was beautiful – take your breath away beautiful. I was so glad we hadn’t come up during the day, but also wondered what it would have been like to witness this spectacular view at sunset. We had an incredible 360 degree view of the Melbourne skyline thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From the top it is possible to see Albert Park Lake, Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. There are also 30 viewfinders around the Skydeck, so you can take a closer look at some of Melbourne’s favourite landmarks such as the MCG, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.imageAfter exploring the platform, we decided to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the view over the city – it really was a breathtaking sight. We all had to take a minute to breathe in the fact that this was our home, we lived in this amazing city. It was one of the moments I really found a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Then our buzzer went and it was our time to check out the second stage of the experience – The Edge – a glass cube that projects from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne. A world first, it gives you a chance to stand over the city and really experience the view from a whole new perspective. Now I know that it might not appeal to those who are scared of heights but with me were two of my best friends who were both nervous about the experience and worried they couldn’t cope with the height. Both came out with huge beaming smiles on their faces and not a hint of shaky legs. Even if you hate heights and ca’t usually deal with them, don’t write off this experience because my friends coped well and were so glad they had given it a chance. There really is no other way to see Melbourne like it and I will always remember seeing Melbourne twinkling below me.

For more details about the Skydeck Experience, prices, opening times or The Edge, check out the website for more details.

Have you been up the Eureka Skydeck? How did you find The Edge? What other top Melbourne attractions could you recommend?

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Travel | Coming home – The end of an era

13227097_467600236762891_2670598566680473826_nI wrote this while I was floating high among the clouds somewhere between Australia and Malaysia, feeling like my life was some strange version of limbo caught halfway between two worlds – reality and the incredible life I’ve been living for the past 18 months. After quitting my job and deciding to travel the world solo, I set out on the adventure of a lifetime planning to return within a year and settle back into normal life. Well, that’s what I told everyone, even then I was planning to be gone much longer so it was never really a surprise to those closest to me when I skipped my flights and decided to follow my heart, instead exploring more of Australia than I ever dreamed I would and making plans for the future. I can’t even begin to put into words the effect the last 18 months has had on every aspect of my life – meeting such amazing people at every turn and seeing such incredible sights has really set my heart on fire and has opened me up to a whole new world that I could only fantasise about before now. But you see, the thing is, I felt totally unprepared for returning home. Yes that’s right, after the last 18 months of pure happiness I was finally headed back to the UK. It kind of snuck up on me, despite knowing for months my time in Melbourne would be ending and at some points really looking forward to my return simply to see my family and friends again after so long away. But when it finally came down to it, I just wasn’t ready.13241315_466927216830193_2112462883777615447_nI thought I could handle it, I thought I would be okay. I said my final goodbyes to the very closest of friends and refused to shed tears as I knew it was really just “see you later”, but later would sit in the bath and cry at the thought of leaving this amazing family I’ve found in Melbourne. It really has been home – a place I finally felt settled in and loved my lifestyle, with fantastic friends and regular haunts, a career I could build into something greater than I ever imagined in such a short space of time. A chance to really make something of myself. Melbourne really was the city of opportunity for me and I will never forget the final months I spent here, they were more than I ever hoped they could be. But the one thing that really made it special, was the fact that this was where I was when I realised I was totally healed. I left the UK with a broken heart but returned the happiest I’ve ever been – travel was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It truly is the greatest healer for a broken heart and I tell you why, it’s because it makes you focus entirely on yourself and what makes you happy, it forces you to be self-reliant and to fall back in love with yourself as a person, to truly learn to be alone and to enjoy it. I learnt so much by travelling solo and it has honestly been the best and most valuable experience of my entire life.13139101_462393443950237_7458104603258956728_nEven though I know my journey is not at an end – I already have travel plans for the next few months across Europe before returning to Australia after the summer – I know that it is the end of an era. When I begin my travels again, I will no longer be a first-time solo traveller, I will know what I’m doing, I won’t a mess of butterflies figuring it out and hoping for the best. I’m proud of that because it shows how much I have learnt since travelling solo, but it also means starting afresh in a whole new way of travelling. I really feel the last 18 months are the best reason to celebrate that I could ever think of – much as we celebrate when we graduate university or marry, we should all celebrate the fact that not only did we survive travelling, we smashed it! I learnt more in the last 18 months than I did from three years at university or a nine year relationship. I am so grateful for every single person who has been with me, whether it was the very first group of friends I made in Bangkok, or the amazing group of Pioneers I found on the Thai islands, whether it was the Darwin Dingos – the greatest travelling family I have ever known, or the crazy beautiful people I found in Melbourne. You’re all so special in so many ways and you all brought such laughter and happiness into my life, you made my travelling experience.13238967_466927206830194_1731875816918540482_nNow that I am half a world away from everything I have known for the past 18 months, I find myself reminiscing over every forgotten moment, every tiny detail and loving every part of the experience for what it was. I can’t believe some of the things I have seen and done, and while a good rest was well-needed after working flat-out for so long, it just gets me even more excited for the next stage of travelling. So what am I doing back here? Well my plan is to be back for a few months, a couple spent working back at the newspaper before heading off to Europe to holiday with family and to visit friends before returning to Australia in September for Part II of my travelling adventure. I still have so many blog posts about Melbourne to share with you, plus any parts of Australia and Asia I may have forgotten to share with you all. Plus I have some exciting collaborations coming up and as always I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with my adventures in the UK – it’s been great having you guys along with me for every step of this adventure and I can’t wait to share the next part with you all!

How did you find returning home after travelling? What travel plans have you got for the summer?

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