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imageThis post has been a long time in the making. I’ve started writing it about a hundred times and scrapped several copies. It’s just hard to know where to start, to even begin to find the words to describe the amazing group of people that have made your Australian experience complete. But it seems appropriate to post this at Christmas, a time when we are all thinking about family. I’ll be honest and say that when I planned my trip I was really excited about Asia and New Zealand, but saw Australia mainly as a place to earn good money in-between as I was only expecting to stay five months. I didn’t really have many expectations for the country as I didn’t really know enough about it despite knowing so many travellers who have been here. Arriving in Sydney, visiting Melbourne, and then travelling the East Coast was amazing and I wouldn’t trade a second of it, but I couldn’t help feeling like I hadn’t yet seen the real Australia, it was just partying your way along the beaches. But then I arrived in Darwin, it was hot and dusty and full of outback attitude. People drove around in pick-up trucks and there were drunk aboriginals laying in the streets, if you did anything that went against what was normally socially acceptable you’d just hear the locals cry “well fuck it you’re in the Northern Territory now, everybody does what they want”. It was clear from the start that anyone who lived there did it for the lifestyle – different to other parts of Australia, everyone just worked to pay for having a good time. There was no reason not to go out on any night of the week and the weekends were sacred.imageimageI was staying at Dingo Moon Lodge – which was great on the surface in the sense that it had a pool and wifi, free laundry and breakfast. But beyond that it was a bit of a dump, riddled with bed bugs and the owners were awful. They would spend hours in the office screaming at the staff – my friends – for nothing and often would come in and throw away people’s possessions from the washing line or the kitchen for no reason. But you know what they always say, it’s not the places you stay or the things you see that make the experience, it’s the people you meet along the way. I’m a firm believer in this and it’s one of my main reasons for travelling – I’m a journalist at heart and I’m driven to talk to people, to discover the world around me through people’s stories. I want to know where they’ve been, their annoyances, their loves and deepest desires, I want to know what makes them tick and I want to know where they’re going. So it makes sense that Darwin is where I met the most diverse and beautiful group of people yet in the whole of Australia, that this is what made my experience and my time at Dingos quite as special as it was. As the title of this post says, even now, nearly two months later and hundreds of kilometres further into the outback, my heart is still with the Dingos who are now scattered across the world with some in Melbourne, Sydney, Asia and Europe. But no matter what the distance, I know that all of us feel the same.imageimageSo how did it all start? Well as I said in my job hunt post, a group of us all rocked up at around the same time and formed a pretty close-knit group as we hunted for work, but over the next week or two even more dingos arrived and became a huge part of our group. We were ever changing and ever growing, but all accepting as people from all over the world came to join our ranks. It was great to be surrounded by so many people from so many countries and one thing I loved was that there were actually very few English there. I was constantly surrounded by French, German, Irish, Swedish, Aussie and many more accents – this is what I came travelling for! Being in the hostel with so many incredible people meant I had a family right from the start, and other backpackers will know that in the right hostel you quickly become very close to those around you. You cook together, you eat together, drink together, work together, party together and sleep together. Before you know it, they’ve become the biggest part of your life and you can’t remember what it was like without the family around you. It’s a pretty special experience to go from being a solo traveller to feeling like you have the biggest family in the world but it seems to come at exactly the right time. It’s easy to forget that even when you’re travelling people are going through their own personal dramas and we had our fair share. We had everything from relationships, and even engagements, that were taking place with thousands of miles between the couples, we had work stresses and money worries, depression, we even had one guy who was fighting to get residency so he could stay in Australia with his child. But the important thing was that with our dingo family, not a single person went through anything alone. And I tell you, the day our friend got his residency approved was a big day of celebrations for everyone there, it meant the world to each and every one of us because we had been there every step of the way.imageimageSure we partied a lot and some of the great memories I have are of nights when we were all drunk and rampaging the streets of Darwin or attempting to find our way home from a rave with one token naked guy. But there are also so many special memories of us all just hanging out, chatting shit and putting the world to rights. I lost count of how many nights were spent sitting around a long wooden picnic bench that we were just waiting to collapse beneath the weight of us all, drinking Whispers and laughing at one thing or another. Or the times we would cook up feasts for groups of us in the kitchen, or laze around the pool catching some rays. The times when we would scrape ourselves out of bed for the free breakfast and attempt to make conversation before heading back to bed until a normal hour, or those mornings when my roommates would wake me up by playing “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” for the millionth time. Those nights getting ready to go out when we would have the tunes playing and would make stupid music videos in the dorms or have photo shoots, the nights when I would finish work at 10pm and get thrown in the pool fully clothed as I walked in the gate. The days spent making up crazy competitive games with the boys in the pool, or attempting to climb the trees in the yard. All those spoon sessions, Sunday Sesh BBQ’s, surprise birthday parties and don’t forget the time Robin got my name tattooed on his bottom! Then there were the chilled nights when we would all veg out in the dorm watching various different movies but would all have to stop every five minutes to show each other something hilarious. Starting up art club when we were hungover and needed to colour something in mindlessly, or sunset walks to the park or beach, and midnight runs and workouts on the esplanade. My head, and my heart, are about ready to burst from all the memories.imageimageSo here it is, my attempt to conclude a post that I don’t even think I have done justice to. I want to thank every single member of the dingos – whether you were there from the very beginning or you came in right at the end – for being the best friends a backpacker could ask for. For picking me up when I felt down and for being as excited and happy about everything as I was the rest of the time. For making me laugh until it hurt, for making me dance until I could no longer stand, for making me party until I dropped. Everything about you made my Darwin experience more than I could ever have dreamed of, and for that I am grateful. Most of all, I want to thank you for making me fall in love with this country – you made me see the real Australia and you made it harder to leave than any other place has since I started travelling. And if ever there were a time to talk about #squadgoals I think this is definitely it! Here’s to three months of going full bush like never before – best three months ever! For the travellers who have moved on to Asia or returned home, good luck and see you again! For those who are working their way down to Melbourne for our huge Dingos reunion, I’m counting the seconds until I see you again.image

 

Have you found an incredible traveller family like the Dingos? Which place stands out in your memory because of the people you met along the way? 

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imageI’m just days away from my one year travelling anniversary and I’m not going to lie, I’ve missed some pretty important things in that time. From birthdays and anniversaries, to my sister’s graduation, and my best friends making huge life changing decisions about their careers and love lives that force them to move across the country. The world doesn’t stand still when you jet off to the other side of the world, it’s easy to forget that life as you knew it carries on and the people you leave behind continue to grow and change. And it’s okay, most of the time, because we’re so damn distracted by the beauty and epic nature of the travelling life we have chosen, we kind of forget about what’s going on at home. We have our moments when we get a rush of homesickness as we sit in a hostel hallway on the phone to mum and dad, or catching up with our best friends over FaceTime – and we do, we really do feel it. But then, more often than not, that fleeting feeling is gone, dancing away on a warm breeze like it was never there. You see, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that our life as a backpacker is all about living in the present, and pining for what once was just doesn’t have much of a place here. Yes we all have days where we wallow and we miss home, but you’ll notice those were the days when we didn’t have much on, when we were a bit bored and allowed ourselves the time to think of home uninterrupted.

There will always be certain times that bring up a wave of emotions for backpackers – perhaps it’s the birthday or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, perhaps it’s a certain holiday or something happens at home. For others it can be as simple as the first time they spend Christmas away from their families on the other side of the world. I’ve seen countless articles posted on backpacker Facebook groups lately about all the awesome things about spending Christmas in Australia but I wanted to talk about the other side of this experience. It’s not rosy and lovely for everyone who is away, and I think it is important for backpackers to realise that it’s okay if they don’t have an amazing time. Everyone at home always thinks we’re out here having the most incredible time 24 hours a day, and most of the time that is true, but there are rubbish bits as well. There are times when it rains, we feel like crap, get ill, break down and have rubbish moments just like we would at home – and when we have to spend the holiday that is all about family half a world away from everyone we love most, it can be a bit pants. Every moment is what you make it and while some people will have the time of their life celebrating this Christmas away from home, others will find it a little harder.imageI had no idea where I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family, I didn’t know who I would be with or what I would be doing. For all I knew it could have been anything from a BBQ on the beach to a homemade roast with friends – the reality will be a little different. You see, I’m still living and working in the outback to get my second year visa. I took this job knowing full well it would mean spending Christmas and New Year away from my friends, mainly because I was so desperate to make sure I had my visa days sorted early and could really relax for the final five months of my first year. I don’t regret that decision because I only have six weeks left to work out here and then I will be reunited with all of my amazing Darwin and East Coast pals, and we will more than make up for lost time. But in the meantime that does mean I’m feeling a bit lonely this Christmas and because I’m not surrounded by all my closest friends it’s making me think of what I’m missing out on at home. I’m pretty close with my family and between them and all my friends at home, we have a mountain of Christmas traditions that I know I’m missing out on. But don’t worry, there’s no chance I’m going to let it ruin my Christmas in the outback because when on earth will I ever get the chance to experience this again?

10 things I really missed about a UK Christmas:

1. The build-up: from the UK’s Christmas adverts to Christmas shopping and finding the perfect present for someone special. From hearing festive songs played in the supermarket, to planning the food for Christmas Day and the countdown to finishing work.
2. The weather – it’s rubbish, cold, wet and miserable outside. It’s dark at 3pm and much as we all complain about it, that’s part of Christmas. It gives us an excuse to wear extra sparkle when it’s dark outside and that chill in the air gives all the more reason to get all snuggled up inside.
3. Nights spent drinking and laughing with friends in boiling hot pubs with steamed up windows, not thinking about work the next day or how cold it is outside.
4. Family traditions – putting up the Christmas tree and decorations with my dad while we blast the Christmas songs, festive baking with mum, a trip to Winter Wonderland with my sister, the Royals on Christmas day.
5. Family gatherings – when family from all over the country get together for a day of food, wine and fun at their annual Christmas party. A chance to catch up and have everyone together.
6. Festive food – the mince pies and puddings, the roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire puds and roasties, and cheeseboards, oh god, the cheeseboards. It’s too hot out here to really gorge like we do at home and the stuff they sell just isn’t the same.
7. Christmas TV in the UK is great – from soap specials to period dramas like Call the Midwife, comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey and The Royle Family, classics like The Snowman and all those great movies from Elf to Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
8. Christmas jumpers! What is Christmas without wearing the worst jumper you can find, or a snuggly onesie that makes you look like a reindeer, or great big wooly socks? It’s just not the same on a bikini.
9. The actual day – getting drunk with your family, seeing the surprise on someone special’s face when they open their gift, the aftermath when you can’t move because you ate so much…
10. The bit when your head feels like it’s going to explode – too many people, too many parties, too much food, too many hangovers – you’re almost glad to see the back of the holiday season.

imageimageI do have to just add to this post that I did still have a pretty fun Christmas thanks to some really good friends I’ve made here in Charleville and a huge thanks to them for not leaving me alone. I ended up having a turkey roast at a friend’s house with her family, spent the day enjoying drinks followed by two Christmas parties. Boxing Day followed with more drinks with friends and a party at the Bowls Club with everyone in town and a lot of fun was had. It was better than I could ever have expected and that’s all down to the wonderful people in this town who have made me feel so welcome.

What’s your favourite thing about a UK Christmas? Have you had a lovely Christmas? What was your first Christmas away from your family like? 

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Finding backpacker jobs in Australia is high on the list of priorities for any traveller over there. It’s an expensive country to live and travel, unless you have the opportunity to rack up those Aussie dollars. The good thing is – it’s also super easy to get jobs, to earn large amounts of money and to save a lot fast once you start working. I can’t recommend it enough that if you plan to travel over there for any length of time, you get the working holiday visa. It’s aimed at those between 18-31, can include up to 4 months of study time over there, and just requires 3 months of working in a rural area to qualify for a two year visa. (UK citizens) I spent two years over there and it was absolutely incredible – I’ve missed it every day since I left.

During my time in Australia, I worked in Darwin and Melbourne twice each, and in Central Queensland for my “farm work” to get my second year visa. My jobs around the country ranged from sales and hospitality, to au pair, ticket seller and receptionist. Darwin was the first place I worked in Australia – it was also the first and only time I’ve run out of money while travelling. I saved up a lot of money before travelling, but the East Coast was hard on my wallet and by the end, I was desperate to start working and earning again. Any backpacker who has reached the instant noodles and can barely afford rent moment – will know how rubbish it is. So here are my best tips and advice for helping you to avoid reaching this stage.

Read these posts:

Absolutely Lucy backpacker jobs Australia

How I found backpacker jobs in Australia

Now while I want to stress it is a lot easier to find backpacker jobs in Australia that pay well, than it ever would be in the UK. It still takes a bit of work – those who find jobs are not just lucky. They are the ones who put the work in and make the effort to stand out. While Australia’s system may be more relaxed than the UK, you will find that a lot of whether you get the job relies on in-person first impressions and personality. So let yours shine, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

One thing I really loved was the real range of jobs that are open to backpackers. You’re not always limited to the usual backpacker jobs in Australia – barista, bar work, hospitality or retail. There’s a whole world of office jobs, sales roles that take you all over the country, farming, fishing, construction, pearling, fruit picking and au pair work. You don’t have to stay working in the same roles you’ve always worked in, why not branch out and learn a new skill or have a once-in-a-lifetime experience like when I worked on a cattle farm?

Jobs in Darwin

When I knew I would be arriving in Darwin in need of a job, my first port of call was Facebook. Before I even boarded the flight, I put out a shout-out looking for contacts there and asking if anyone knew of jobs. By the time I landed, an old friend contacted me to say he knew of a job at a bar and to get down there quick with my CV.

Within an hour of checking into my hostel, I had reorganised and updated my CV to highlight hospitality work and printed off countless copies. I walked the length and breadth of the city handing out CVs in person, chatting to managers and making a good impression. It worked! Within two hours I had two trials and two new jobs. One job as a waitress in a party bar, and the other at a nearby events centre. When I returned to Darwin a year later, I had two jobs within my first week there, so it wasn’t just a one-off.

Jobs in Melbourne

Finding jobs in Melbourne was a bit tougher as there’s more competition there. However again, straight away I was on Indeed & Seek to find jobs advertised online and apply for all. I also rang about several jobs and handed out CVs at a few places. Both times, within a few weeks I found sales work which paid very well and saw me travelling across the whole of Melbourne. And on my second time in the city, I found work as a waitress at the number one rooftop bar in the city, which again, was very well paid and meant I could pay my rent out of my tips.

Jobs Australia

Top tips for finding backpacker jobs in Australia

Do some scouting before you arrive

Ask any friends who might be there or who are in Australia as often they have contacts – use Facebook! Use the Darwin Backpacker Facebook page as jobs and tips are always being posted up there. Perhaps even contact bars/hotels asking if they need staff.

Online Job Listings

Backpacker Job Board is the main website for backpackers searching for jobs in Australia. This is a useful resource which is specific to working holiday work. You’ll be able to find job listings for all major cities and also dedicated second year visa jobs if you’re looking to extend your stay down under.

Look on Gumtree

It’s a reliable source for jobs in Australia unlike at home and I know lots of people who have found great jobs and casual work through it. I found my “farm work” cattle farm job in Central Queensland through Gumtree which qualified me for a second year visa.

Sign up to agencies

If you’re looking for specific farming, catering or construction work it might be worthwhile signing up to one of the many agencies in town. In Darwin there is one that is free to join called Top End Consulting, and another good one for tradesmen was Skilled, which managed to find work for several of my friends.

Update your CV and make it relevant

If you’re looking for bar work, just stick your bar/restaurant experience on there. I don’t recommend lying, but embellish a little if needed, usually references from a different country will not be checked. Hospitality is easy to pick up on the job and you will be trained in anything you don’t know.

Get a white card or RSA

Anyone who works on a construction site in Australia will need a white card. Anyone serving alcohol, or working in a place that does in Australia, will need an RSA. Do your research and make sure you get the one you need – and only if you need it. If you’re set on working construction, get it ahead oft time to avoid slowing the process. But for RSA, don’t rush and spend unnecessary money. In the Northern Territory, it took 25 minutes online and cost me $10. In Melbourne, it cost $40 and meant going into a centre for several hours to complete the course. Check online for the cheapest and best offers for these at the time you are planning to complete the course.

Look good and have a big smile on your face

First impressions are everything. Especially when looking for backpacker jobs in Australia. Go by yourself, it looks better than having a friend waiting for you, ask for the manager in every place and hand over a CV. Ask if they are looking for anyone, tell them your experience and that you can start straight away.

Find Aussie jobs

Commit to the job and be there to stay

If they ask you how long you’re staying in town, always keep it vague and make it clear you’re there for the season, or the long haul. No company wants to train someone up to have them disappear two months later. I stayed for around 3-4 months each time I worked so I could save money. I always tell employers four months minimum, or even mention vague ideas of sponsorship. If you are there just short-term, either you will have to lie about this, or look for casual work instead.

Speak good, clear English

This is super important when you go for a job. Employers will always favour those who have a good level of English and can chat fluently with the customers. Particularly if you’re working hospitality! If your English is less good – I recommend looking for job roles that are not front of house – perhaps work in the kitchens if you wish to stay hospitality. Or look at fruit picking or manual jobs that don’t require such a high level of English.

Wear appropriate clothing and footwear

This is very important, especially if you are going for a trial. In my hospitality roles I had to pick up a black skirt and top plus black shoes, but luckily this outfit worked for many of my jobs so I could get a lot of use out of it. If you’re working for construction or fruit picking companies, you may need boots, hi-vis jackets and much more. Set money aside for this and always check the backpacker Facebook groups as often those leaving will sell theirs on.

Don’t get the trial?

Don’t lose faith. Perhaps even contact the company to ask for any feedback so you know what you struggled with for next time. Keep asking around, keep handing out CVs to everywhere and ask friends who are already working if they can put a word in for you or listen out for jobs that come up. Many backpacker jobs in Australia are actually shared through word of mouth. I got two of my jobs this way and know lots of other people who did the same.

When you do get a job – what do you need?

Make sure you have your RSA or white card, tax file number, back account and superannuation set up ready so you have them ready to hand them over and will get paid straight away. You will also need an Australian mobile number so you can set all of these up. I recommend Telstra for a SIM card as they work all over Australia, even in the most rural of places.

Pay it forward and help the backpacker community

Don’t forget those that helped you! Once you have a job, use it for good and help other backpackers in a similar situation to find work. Across my two jobs in Darwin, I managed to find jobs for about 15 other people and that’s not even including the people who replaced me when I left. Spread the love and help everyone you can.

Jobs in Australia, backpackers

What if you really can’t find a permanent job?

If worst comes to worst and you can’t find anything permanent. Why not do like a friend of mine who arrived in Darwin with a beat up old car, which he was sleeping in, and no money? He found some casual work, then more casual work, then more. It ended up being more reliable for him than permanent work because he could work several jobs around each other.

He was doing everything from waitering, to bar work and front of house, to landscaping and odd jobs. It helped that he had a car and wasn’t fussy what kind of work he would take on. Within a month he had a good income and an apartment. It was another month until he found a steady job as a landscaper to get his second year visa signed off. But he still continued to take on casual jobs as well.

Have you worked in Australia – how did you find the job hunting process? Any other advice for finding work fast? Tell me about your experiences as a broke backpacker.

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imageAfter two weeks of being boring Lucy, eating rubbish noodles and working every hour I could get, I’d had three glorious pay checks which had put me back in the green. I was so happy to not be clinging to every dollar for dear life any longer – don’t get me wrong, I was still living like a seriously poor backpacker but I could afford to eat and sleep, and even treat myself to the odd $5 bottle of wine. The beautiful thing was that I had a whole gang of friends around me who were all in the same position – some had been lucky enough to find work straight away – others were working for the hostel in exchange for a tuppence and free accommodation, others were just living off nothing while they applied for every job going. I was the lucky one. But as the weeks went by, everyone managed to find jobs – some of them just casual and others full time and permanent. As that happened, our priorities changed. We had a big group of new friends and we all wanted to celebrate. The hot weather made everyone feel the good holiday vibes and even though we were all working crazy hours we were determined not to let it stand in the way of having a good time. As one of my friends said: “We left the UK so we wouldn’t be those people who are living for the weekend, I’m sick of living for the weekend, I want to live for every single day.” I guess it’s the party animal in me, but luckily I was surrounded by people with exactly the same attitude to life as my own. They wanted to have the best time, to grab every moment with both hands. They wanted to spend their evenings laughing hysterically with new friends, dancing all night and creating memories, then finishing the nights when the sun was rising with our feet in the sand as friends for life.imageDarwin is a great city for nightlife – it lacks all of the formality and rules of Sydney and Melbourne and attracts a totally different and totally wild crowd. Everyone is friendly as hell and game for anything, it was outback nightlife and we loved it. From acoustic live jam sessions at a little bar called Nirvana on a Tuesday night to crazy Friday nights and $5 drinks at Throb, the gay club down the street. I spent way too much time in Monsoons considering I worked there, but I think most people who go to Darwin can say the same, and Thursday nights were never fun unless I was at Ladies Night! And don’t forget Wisdoms, which was just a few doors down, and had great live music on, plus it was great for an early evening drink. Or if you fancy something a bit classier, there’s always cocktails and wine at Rorkes, a 1920’s inspired bar and restaurant through the town centre, plus there’s loads more down by the waterfront. The only place I wasn’t so impressed by was Lost Arc (also known as Discovery), I know others who had a good night out there but I never really felt the music or the bar was that much fun.imageRegardless, there is something for everyone and we spent our weeks rolling around every venue in town with the infamous Sunday Sesh kicking off at Shenanigans (fondly known as Shags) the Irish bar, which would be packed every Sunday with live music, before everyone headed off to Hotel Darwin at closing time for more bad behaviour. Sunday Sesh was the biggest event of the week in Darwin – it never mattered how hungover you were from the night before, everyone who wasn’t working made it out and partied like they didn’t have work the next day. For us, we started to create our own Sunday Sesh at the hostel – we had so many friends at our hostel that in the end it made more sense to all chip in $10 to buy everything we needed for a huge BBQ and beers. We had a pool and everyone we wanted to hang out with, a bit of food and way too much glitter and excitement – some of the best Sunday’s I have ever had have started out as a BBQ at the hostel and ended up as a naked pool party. There so many stories from my three months at that hostel, so much cheeky behaviour and so many laughs, I think I’ll have to write a book one day of all that went on with the Dingo Mooners.imageOf all of these nights, there are some that really stand out in my memory – some of them somewhat hazy – but all of those are the parties that didn’t take us to any of these venues. Darwin was rave central while I was there and luckily I made friends with all the right people who just happened to know the people who were sitting up these wild parties on Mindil Beach, out at abandoned quarries in the bush and even on the esplanade. The great thing about the Northern Territory is that there is a little bit more freedom, I can totally understand why raves can be harmful at home because they damage land, property and disrupt the wildlife in our smaller country. But up here there is nothing but desert, dust and open space, it’s perfect for parties out under the stars and that’s the best kind of party to me. Plus those organising the parties were so responsible and organised clean-ups as well which really impressed me. Even the police were happy that the parties were not bothering anyone so they would keep an eye in case if things got out of hand but they never once shut down a party that I was at. There was at least two months when there were raves every weekend, alternating venues between Mindil Beach and the quarry – both were amazing and featured great DJs, some local and others travelling through. And just before we all left, a special rave was held on the esplanade as a goodbye to everyone who had partied hard all dry season, just as the rains were due to arrive.imageimageimageWhether you agree with the idea of hundreds of youths raving from sunset to sunrise or not, I won’t deny the memories I made there will last forever, and that many of the friends I went with will without a doubt be friends for life. Even now, thinking back, every second of those nights puts a big smile on my face. As far as I’m concerned, getting to dance to great music and watching the sun rise over Mindil Beach as dolphins played in the waves and a horse rode through the surf is more than just special. We saw the real magic of the Northern Territory in those nights, from the red dust that covered us from head to toe as we made our way home the next day to the reflection of the stars in our eyes the night before. I’ll always remember the night we all lay on a sandbank at the quarry exhausted from dancing our hearts out, without realising how close we were to the airport when suddenly a plane flew overhead, looking almost close enough to touch. Or that perfect sky filled with fire as the sun rose above us the morning after, and the long walk we faced through the bush that morning when it took us three hours to get a taxi and get home, but the jokes that kept our spirits up and the memories that remain. Darwin, you were something special alright.imageimageimage

 

Have you been to Darwin? Which is your favourite bar? What did you think of the nightlife?

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imageI worked pretty much flat out while I was in Darwin. I may have been on a mad partying phase but I was also determined to work as many hours and save as much money as possible. Because of this, I ended up not having very many days off in the three months or so I was there, even if I only worked a few hours, I was pretty much working every single day and I was happy about that. My working hours fitted in well with still having a social life, I often wouldn’t start until lunchtime so I had my mornings to relax and see friends, the. I would work a ten hour shift, or split shifts across both jobs, and then I would finish as everyone was getting into the party mood. It was great, but it did mean that I didn’t get to see many of the Northern Territory’s natural wonders. I never had the chance to go to Litchfield or Kakadu to see the waterfalls or the amazing landscapes. But when I had l had particularly sad few days after some close friends left, another friend decided to get me out of my funk by insisting we get out of the city and do something fun. He was certain my bad mood was down to being trapped in the city and all I needed was a bit of wide open space and a bit of nature to feel good again. It made sense – after all, being a Norfolk girl I’m used to having endless fields, wide open spaces and the ocean at every turn, why wouldn’t I be affected by the lack of it?imageimageA group of five of us hired a car – for incredibly cheap at just $20 each – and off we drove on the highway. I ended up driving and even that was such a relief, I didn’t realise how much I missed having the freedom of a car since travelling and it was great to have my first real experience of driving on Australian roads. We headed out further into the outback and as the city disappeared, the land because dryer, dustier and emptier. It was brilliant to see the bright red colour of the earth contrasted against the clear blue of the sky and with the music turned up we sped out further and further. Eventually we arrived at our destination – it was the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise! Located on the Adelaide River, on the road to Kakadu, the cruise gives tourists the opportunity to see one of around 80,000 saltwater crocs that roam the waterways of Northern Australia. The creatures became protected around 30 years ago after nearly facing extinction thanks to hunting, now you can see them in their natural habitat thanks to the work of the company. The crocodiles recognise the boats and know they have a chance of food from them, which means you actually get to see animals that would normally be hidden away under the mud of in the shade. But don’t think that means the crocs are tame – you wouldn’t want to mess with these guys as they are still forced to hunt for their food and will happily hunt you too.imageDuring our cruise we spotted at least five large crocs – two of them were absolutely huge and the other three were still pretty big. You definitely wouldn’t want to cross any of them, whether in the water, or on land as we saw. They were magnificent creatures and it was interesting to see how they hunt – especially how they naturally jump up out of the water to stalk their prey – something I never realised they did. Both terrifying and fascinating at the same time – especially when you see the size and number of their teeth! A few people in the boat were a little nervous, but I have to admit I wasn’t scared, just curious. One of the crocs came right up out of the water on one of the banks and it was really great to see his entire body, to see how powerful his legs were and his scaly hide, plus to have it pointed out to us how his scales are designed to absorb the sun and warm the creature’s body. On our way back to our landing spot, our guides spotted an eagle up in a tree and wanted to show us the power of the creature so after stringing up some meat, we got to see the huge bird swooping in for the kill. Plus all the gulls swooping on either side of the boat for scraps of meat – it was amazing to see them flying around us so precisely and yet so chaotically – for someone who doesn’t really like birds, it was a beautiful sight. We drove back to Darwin with smiles on our faces after a brief stop in Humpty Doo for some food, it was a great day out and one I would recommend. And trust me, if, like me, you felt trapped in the city but were unable to fit in a trip to one of the national parks, this one is a great one to fit in around work. You can easily make it there and back in a few hours then go and work a night shift like I did.image

Have you been on the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise – what did you think? Have you ever had that feeling of being trapped in a city and needing to get back to nature?

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* There is also a Crocosaurus Cove located on Mitchell Street in Darwin, which I purposefully chose not to visit because I felt it was cruel to have an crocodile as large as that enclosed in such a small tank. I had seen from photos by friends who went along how small it was and I didn’t like that it was being kept this way. I would always choose to see the animals in the wild instead of locked in a cage. This trip was using the crocodiles’ natural hunting behaviour as a way of enticing them into our view instead of teaching them unnatural ones that would inhibit their lifespan.

imageAs all the trips came to a close and we wound up our time in Cairns, we started to think about the next adventure. I was all out of money and it was time to find a job and try somewhere new, after five weeks on the East Coast and a month in Sydney, I was eager to see somewhere totally different and a bit more ‘real Australia’. I wanted to see a bit of outback, some really hot weather and dust, lots of red dust. I always had this niggling thought in the back of my mind, a memory from when I was in Cambodia and met a couple in Siem Reap. They had actually both met in Darwin and travelled Australia together – knowing I was going to Australia a few weeks later, I wanted to know everything they had to tell me about travelling and working there. All they went on about over two nights was Darwin! They loved it there, had returned several times and found work easily, they loved the place, the people, the atmosphere, the money and the memories. I may not have realised it at the time but I was already sold on their recommendation and that when the time came to find work, I would be heading there. It’s so strange to think back on it all now – it just seems like Darwin was exactly where I needed to be. I ended up spending three months there and even now, over two months later, my heart still remains there. It’s just amazing how things fall into place when you travel – like there really is some greater plan for you, I feel like this so often when I end up in places I never dreamed of visiting. To be honest, Darwin wasn’t even on my radar before I met the couple in Cambodia.imageimageWe booked our flights and after a few hours in the air, we touched down to find exactly what we were after: intense heat, dust and dry barren land. It was the Northern Territory, and it doesn’t get more outback than that. I was instantly in love with the place and after we rocked up to our hostel and got settled, we went out to wander the streets and see what lay in store for us on Mitchell Street. We were staying at Dingo Moon Lodge, which was down one end of Mitchell Street, and anyone who moves there should prepare for their life to centre around this one street which is full of hostels, bars and a scattering of shops. Now I did t really know what to expect of Darwin, I had never been anywhere like it before, but I instantly loved it and felt like it was a place I wanted to settle for a while. I started my job hunt and had two jobs within 24 hours of being in the city – great news for my bank balance but not so great for getting off the main street as both my jobs confined me to around 300m of street and I was working as many hours as possible. For the first two weeks all we did was keep to ourselves – we were sick of meeting new people and exhausted from the east coast – it was time to recuperate and relax. Luckily the hostel had a pool and wifi so most of our time, around me working, was spent making the most of these and at the markets.imageimageWe were lucky and arrived at a great time to enjoy some of the great things Darwin had to offer, we spent our Thursday and Sunday nights at Mindel Markets which were packed full of food, music, jewellery, clothes and trinkets. It was a fabulous place with a great boho feel and I have to admit I couldn’t help myself when it came to the jewellery stands. They would have fire shows, magic shows, plus a great variety of music acts from acoustic singers to reggae artists on tour. Plus it all took place right next to the beach and started at sunset, a perfect time to head down with your friends and a bottle of wine before perusing the stands. Another night was spent at the flicks, but this wasn’t just any cinema. I finally had the chance to tick off going to an outdoor cinema in Australia from my to-do list. We caught Mad Max at the Deckchair Cinema and had a brilliant evening – the air was so warm and we could watch bats swooping over our heads as the sun set and the screen filled with action. The cinema is amazing and I’m just sad I never had the chance to go back around work – perils of working nights in a bar! It’s well worth a visit and shows a great selection of movies, plus it hosts the film festival. We also arrived perfectly in time to catch the Darwin Festival – a yearly event filled with music, arts and culture spread across several locations within the city. I was actually working at a venue that was hosting some of the acts. It was great for us poor backpackers because they also hosted several free events including some lunchtime sessions and live music in the evenings at a special park they created. It was a beautiful location and had lots of food and drink stalls, a great atmosphere and the music was lovely. I was amazed to arrive in Darwin and find so much going on!imageimageimageThere’s plenty more to tell but I’ll save that for some upcoming posts. After a week of quiet life, we met a group of awesome people who had arrived at around the same time as us, we ended up forming a little family that soon grew to the entire hostel as more and more people arrived. I’ll talk more about this in a special post I’m working on, but I’ll say this, there was a lot of love there and there’s a lot of memories in my heart because of that place. After three weeks there, I had to say goodbye to Mark once again, this time after we had spent two amazing months together, and it was heartbreaking, all over again. I’m not sure I could have coped if it wasn’t for my Dingos, they refused to let me mope around, they filled my life with laughs and craziness so that it didn’t feel empty without Mark there. I never actually spoke about how hard it was to say goodbye to him and the fact that they just knew and they were just there to make everything better was what sealed us as friends for life. That and a whole lot of naughty Dingo behaviour that I probably can’t publish on here. Let’s call this ‘to be continued’.imageimageimage

Have you been to Darwin? What did you think of it? Have you found an amazing hostel family?

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imageSome friendships break at the first sign of trouble – perhaps a boy gets in the way, or the distance becomes too great, or it’s just not as easy peasy when you’re not in the same class at school together. What it comes down to is often laziness when your lives start taking you in opposite directions, a shame, but often it is the best way to cut down your friends to the ones who really deserve to be on your Christmas card list. I’m talking about the ones who will pick you up in the middle of the night when it all goes wrong, who will sit out with you until the sun comes out talking about life and setting the world to rights. Those soulmates that you know you just can’t live without, whose voices appear at the end of the telephone line at the slightest sniff of trouble and scream with excitement at any tiny piece of good news. They’re the ones you want around and they’re the ones who stick by you even when you make a life changing decision to jet off across the globe without any idea of when you will return.

I won’t lie to you, it’s not easy to maintain friendships and relationships over Skype and Whatsapp, many just won’t make it. But the world we live in makes it easier than ever to keep in touch and there really isn’t any excuse for not showing the people you love how you feel. Often I find friendships like these fall into one of two categories – there’s the ones you speak to all the time, whether it’s just a like or comment on a picture on Facebook, a long old chat on Whatsapp, or FaceTiming once a week to update each other on all the gossip. Then there’s the friendships that seem untouched by time, the people you don’t speak to for weeks, even months on end and yet you know that you could call on them any time of day for help, or even just a chat. Both types are just as important and I know my best friends fit into both of these categories and all of them are just as important to me while I’m out here, as I hope I am to them. When it comes to family, there’s nothing more important than letting them know you are safe and well, and for you to know the same about them. Trust me, if you’ve ever had drama while travelling or felt unsafe at any point, you’ll know the first thing you want to do is call home.image

 

So how can you keep these friendships and relationships alive?

Compromise is key
They have to understand you are travelling and that you won’t always have good wifi or the time to be on the end of the phone or message 24/7, just like you have to understand that life at home goes on without you and that family and friends have lives and jobs too. Try and organise a time that suits both of you to Skype or message, that way everyone is happy.

Flexibility helps
Sometimes you just need to talk to the other person even though it’s the middle of the night, sometimes you’re upset or things have gone wrong, or you’re just plain homesick. Other times, your best mate’s cat might have died, or his girlfriend dumped him – perhaps they need to talk. Or there could be a family crisis that doesn’t fit in with your free time for skyping. Be flexible and open to talking when it doesn’t suit, it might be necessary.

Be honest
If something the other person has said or done has annoyed you, just come out with it. You know how they always say married couples shouldn’t go to bed on an argument? Well it’s the same principle even when you’re thousands of miles apart. Often they don’t even know you’re annoyed but just saying it out loud can ease the problem.

Make the effort
There’s no debating – relationships are built on the effort you make and the time and love you put into them, if you can’t be bothered to call and catch up or to listen to their problems every now and again then you can’t expect them to return the favour. Friendship and family are a two way thing, let down your end and you can’t be sure the other end will still work.

Don’t forget the small gestures
Sometimes it can just take a thoughtful tweet or Facebook message to make a person’s day, things like wishing them a “Happy World Elephant Day” because you know it will make them smile. Or sending them a message to say how proud of them you are for passing an exam or coping with something big by themselves – remember to do the small things.

Don’t go changing
Travel has a huge impact on your life and you can’t deny it changes your priorities, but don’t let it change who you are as a person. Remember the people who were with you from the start and don’t forget to value them even when you’re swept up in meeting new people and making new friends.

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Have you lost touch with friends at home? What’s your preferred way of keeping in contact with friends and family? Do you prefer to message all the time or save it for a big catch up?

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imageThe final East Coast trip I will write about was sadly a bit of a disappointment. We were kind of expecting it so it wasn’t a big shock, but when we booked the trip we hadn’t really known much about it. Cape Tribulation was sold to us as being a chance to get closer to nature and see the rainforest and national parks in all their glory, it was sold to us as a completely different experience to all other trips on the East Coast and not one to be missed. Well, I’m sorry to say it but I think it was one that could easily have been missed out on. I spent most of the day feeling like I was on a school trip being lectured with fact after fact instead of somewhere I could really experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting national parks and forests – I actually prefer that kind of trip a lot of the time, but I just didn’t feel we really had an opportunity to get much farther than the footpath. Nothing felt very wild about the trip, it was all so safe and so controlled. The trip cost around $187 but I really don’t think it was worth that – I would much rather have kept the money and used it to hire a car for the day to go with friends.

We started off early on a long drive out to World Heritage listed Mossman Gorge which was probably my favourite part of the day – I loved the setting, it was beautiful and great to start the day with a swim, even if the water was a bit cold! It was nice to have the chance to stretch our legs after the long drive, but sadly we were on a tight schedule and didn’t stay there very long.just before we had headed down to the gorge we were welcomed to the visitor’s centre by an Indigenous guide who told us about the history of the area and the Ku Ku Yulanji people who inhabit the region. It was really interesting to hear about the beliefs and the traditions of these people as I hadn’t yet had much of an opportunity to learn much about the indigenous population other than those I had seen drunk in the streets. It was so lovely to be welcomed be someone who had grown up in the community from which these beliefs came. After we were finished at the gorge, we went down to the Daintree River where we were taken out on a cruise to spot crocodiles and any other wildlife along the banks. It was nice to see a different landscape for a bit, but I have to admit we were pretty bored on the boat, there were just a few things spotted – some birds and two tiny crocs that looked more like big lizards to me.imageimageAfter the cruise, we were off for a guided walk around the forest where our guide took the opportunity to teach us all about the different plants and the history of how they came to be in this place. He talked to us all about how the landscape emerged and how the ocean met the jungle causing mangroves – it was interesting but it did feel like I was in a lecture for university. Filled to the brim with knowledge, we headed to Cape Tribulation for lunch and to head down the boardwalk to see for ourselves where the coral reef met the rainforest. This was beautiful. And why? Because it was the wildest and most uncontrolled part of the day – we were allowed to walk down by ourselves to discover what lay at the end of the short walk and we had free time to walk around the beach and take photos. It was lovely to not be rushed and to have time to actually appreciate what I was seeing, plus it really was beautiful. The day finished with homemade ice cream and a stop at Alexandra Lookout – an amazing viewpoint from which you can see for miles. This spectacular viewpoint offers views right across the Daintree River estuary and beyond to Snapper Island and the Coral Sea. It was a lovely note to end the day on.

I’ll be honest and say that I would never do this trip again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to others. While there were good points, like getting the opportunity to learn a lot about Aboriginal culture and history, I did feel like the information could have been better delivered to feel less like a lecture. It was a long day where I felt I spent a lot of time wanting more from the trip – whether it was more excitement, more freedom or less lectures. Perhaps me and that type of trip just don’t go well together, but I think if I were to return to the area I would definitely want to check out the Uncle Brian’s Fun, Falls and Forest tour, which according to some friends of ours was a great day of swimming in waterfalls and exploring the rainforest. Much more what I had in mind when I booked the Cape Tribulation trip. It totally depends on what type of trip you prefer, but for me, I would have preferred not to spend nearly $200 on the Cape Tribulation trip – I just feel there are ways of giving an education tour without losing the interest of your audience, and ours was definitely lost. Plus there was a real lack of getting the group to bond – we were just left to our own devices which meant a lot of people kept to themselves and barely said a word all day. I much prefer the trips that get you all involved from the start all day long and who throw facts at you but interweave them with fun, conversation and stories.image

Have you been on the Cape Tribulation trip – what did you think? Did you do Daintree and Cape Tribulation by yourself – how was your experience? What kind of trips do you prefer?

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imageThis was without a doubt one of my favourite trips of the whole East Coast, sitting happily alongside Fraser Island in my memories it was one of the most unexpectedly awesome trips I have done since travelling. Why? Well, when we booked it, we were just so excited about Fraser Island, Whitsundays and all the rest that the white water rafting trip kind of fell to the back of our minds, especially since we wouldn’t be doing it until the end of our travels. The backpacker/travel agent who booked our trip for us raved about the trip after she had booked it for her and a friend, she really recommended the Xtreme trip. I was naturally cynical because I figured she was mainly just trying to sell us a trip, but when else would I get a chance to try Xtreme white water rafting? It made the final cut of our plan and off we went for four weeks of fun on the East Coast, but when we reached Cairns we were getting a bit bored of trips. Not so much the trips, but the ‘organised fun’ with these groups when we wold have preferred to be with the friends we had already made. It sounds a bit negative, but we’d had four weeks of intensive travel-party-trip-party-repeat and we were exhausted. Plus we went on two trips in Cairns alongside this one and they were both let-downs; our Great Barrier Reef trip as you read about in my previous post, and the upcoming Cape Tribulation.I was still really excited for the trip, and a little bit nervous, but my expectations were definitely lowered after the other two. Possibly a good thing, I love when that happens and you end up having an even more amazing time because you’re not expecting as much.

We had been booked in with Raging Thunder Xtreme Tully Rafting for the day – sounds epic doesn’t it? The trip is priced at $225, but again our price went down as part of booking a larger package. This included pick up from the hostel, a full day raft adventure plus all equipment, you can go from Cairns or Mission Beach, lunch, small groups of six and only about four boats, and lots of other adventures along the way like swimming through rapids, cliff jumping and raft surfing. The guys who ran the trip were brilliant, they were so much fun and really got us all enthused for what we were about to do – each group took it in turns to face along parts of the river and take on tricky areas while the others watched how they would handle it and who would fall in first. The whole day is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Tully River – and trust me, you couldn’t feel further from the East Coast. We were lucky and the weather was perfect, just warm enough to dry you off after fall in the water, but cool enough that we weren’t getting burnt to a crisp.imageI won’t talk too much about what you do throughout the day because I loved that I had no idea what was coming next around each corner, but I will say this: without a shadow of a doubt, you should choose to do the Xtreme Tully Rafting. Unless you happen to be a really weak swimmer, you will want to experience this. It is scary in places but only because it gives you a chance to conquer fears of jumping from high places, swimming in rushing water and the like, while in as safe an environment as possible. The guides are great at giving advice and talking you through every step, but they also won’t let you wuss out or take the easy route. I had done some cliff diving and rapid swimming back in Vietnam but after I injured myself doing it, it did make me a little nervous. But I was more than game for this, you couldn’t hold me back from throwing myself off the highest points, diving into the rapid water and sliding around in the raft with the rest of my group. We had a great group and some hilarious moments including one when our guide played a trick on one of the guys and tipped the boat so it flooded on his side – we were all in hysterics while he was screaming in panic.

My favourite part? It had to be when we would go through the large sections where we had to all work together to navigate through the rocks jutting out across the water. It was brilliant fun and we all felt awesome after making it through first time on most of them – although there was a funny one were we all got stuck on a rock and had to climb off the boat to get it free. We made some good friends on the trip and had the best day – we went straight back to the hostel and raved about it to all of our friends who actually booked on to it the following week and said it was amazing! After trying white water rafting for the first time, I can say I am definitely going to be doing that again – it’s such a fun adventure day out, a great adrenalin rush and a fantastic workout – we were exhausted after a day on the river. Plus it’s so nice to see a different landscape to all those beaches, seeing mountains and river was just so refreshing. It was nice to be reminded that there is something in Queensland other than ocean and dust! Top tips for this trip: wear shorts not just swimwear and don’t worry about a camera, you don’t have a chance to take photos and they’ll do it for you.image

Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go and would you recommend it? Have you done this trip – what did you think? What was your favourite East Coast adventure?

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imageGetting your heart broken is never fun, whether you’re at school, you’re working full time or whether you’re off travelling the world – it hurts the same. What is different, is the way you deal with that pain. I remember the last time I had my heart broken in extraordinary detail, I remember every ache of my heart, every tear that threatened to spill down my cheeks, and every painful second of conversation as everyday life carried on around me. It was horrible, the worst pain I have every felt, because unlike a physical pain it wasn’t something I could escape from. I still had to get up and go to work every single day, I still had to see people and to force myself to do things when all I really wanted was to run away or hide under my duvet. It’s hard when you get your heart broken at home because you’re still in close quarters with the person who did it. Even if you’re not living together or right round the corner from each other – you’re acutely aware of their presence, of their routine and knowing you could bump into them at any time. It makes it harder in many ways because you feel like you can’t move on while they’re still around you, while every memory of what you had with them haunts your journey to work.

I’m lucky, it’s been a long time now since I had my heart broken, but what healed me was coming travelling. Escaping from my norm and going off in pursuit of the adventure I had been longing for all along. I spoke to a friend the other day who has just had her heart broken and who is being left to travel solo as a result – she’s devastated, unsure of where to go next, or whether to even carry on, as you might expect. Talking to her about the situation inspired this post – it made me realise that so many of us travellers go through exactly the same. When you’re away travelling, you constantly feel like you’re on holiday and what comes with holidays? A holiday romance! It’s a natural fit and seems only right that it is so much easier to fall head over heels for someone new, exotic and exciting in the heat of the moment. There’s just something in the air that makes you fall a lot harder for people when you know that there is no pressure other than time pulling you in different directions. It’s a special feeling when you know that you actually have the complete freedom to follow your heart – that if you want to change all your travel plans because you fell in love, you actually can do it at the drop of a hat. You don’t get that in real life – back at home your alarm clock will always go off for work in the morning, distance will always be a problem and there will always be other demands on your time.

So say it all goes wrong and that guy, or girl, you’re crazy about just decides they have to go in the opposite direction, or they’re not quite ready to change their plans. What do you do? How do you get over the devastation? Here are my top tips for getting over travelling heartbreak:

Feel sad
Often travellers feel guilty for feeling sad when everyone says they should be having the time of their lives – but it’s no different to being at home. Feeling the sadness will allow you to move on quicker.

Look after yourself
If you have friends or family you can go and visit, go and do it! Allow them to look after you and give you the moral support you need – travelling solo doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone! If you can’t, spend a lot of time catching up with family and friends on FaceTime, and pamper yourself! Look after yourself until you feel better.

Throw yourself into something
Working, playing or planning usually works for me. Focusing on work and saving up for your next adventure can be good, or if you have some money saved, spend it on going out and having fun, make new friends and distract yourself. Or just start planning your next adventure.

Don’t give up
There will be times it all seems hopeless and you feel like packing it all in and going home to your mum – but you will regret it more than anything in the world. This is one of those character defining moments you will look back on and say, “that’s when I changed, that’s when I became stronger.”

Prepare for your escape
Plan to get out of wherever you are as soon as you have healed. This place will stay in your head as the place you recovered after having your heart broken, why not have a fresh start somewhere else and get ready to take on travelling solo. That’s the beauty of travelling, you’re not tied to any one place.

Arrive somewhere new
Feeling stronger, but still hesitant, you’re not sure you’re ready for the next step. But you are, I promise. Throw yourself into your new life, tell yourself you’re okay, tell yourself you’re more than okay. Eventually you will believe it and by then you will have a whole bunch of new friends, a whole new story to tell.

Look back and realise it all was worth it
Months later, you’ll suddenly realise you haven’t thought on that guy, or girl, for ages. For a second you’ll think back fondly on the memories as something reminds you. You’ll realise you really have moved on and will only look back with a smile on your face. That’s the traveller – he, or she, looks back with love in her heart on every person she meets, because they all helped shape the person she is and the memories she has made.

It might not feel like it now, but everyone recovers from a broken heart and comes out stronger on the other side – it takes time and it hurts like hell but it also helps you become the person you are. I’ve met so many people on my travels who were crazy in love with someone but sadly torn apart. I’ve met others who were crazy in love but their other half just didn’t feel the same way – it’s not easy But it happens. Just don’t let it stand in the way of your travels being the best they can be.

Have you been heartbroken while travelling? What are your top tips for dealing with heartbreak? 

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