Well, I can't believe I'm saying this after you've been my home for two years, but Australia, it's time for me to go. It's been one hell of a wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish and I've lived some of the highest of highs over here, as well as some of my lowest moments. I feel so privileged to not only have had a chance to travel here, but to have actually lived here, I've become a part of the community several times over and I've built several amazing lives for myself and found family at every turn. In my two years over here I've been lucky enough to call so many exciting new places home – to find so many families waiting to welcome me with open arms, warmth and kindness at every stop on my travels.
Australia, you've taken the solo travelling girl from across the globe, who was fiercely independent and so sure of what she wanted out of this world, and you've changed everything for her. I arrived a little bit broken with a heart that still ached, but every experience and every person I met along the way has helped shape me into the happy, confident woman I have grown into. In those precious two years of my working holiday visa, I have achieved so much this side of the world despite being away from everyone, and everything I know. Whether in my career, my friendships, my relationships or even in this blog - it's been a big two years for growing as a person and realising what I want out of life. I may have been a bit unsure of myself when I arrived, but I'm leaving Australia the happiest I've been in a long time, with a new purpose, a whole heap of exciting plans for the future, and someone amazing by my side who can't wait to begin our life together.
There have been so many amazing moments in these past two years, like partying my way up the East Coast and meeting friends who would become some of my best and closest friends in Australia. Getting my first taste of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays, learning to surf in Byron Bay and swimming with dolphins. For a girl who had originally planned to stay just five months, my decision was quickly changed as I realised how much more I wanted to see of this incredible country. New Zealand was put on hold for adventures up in the Northern Territory where I had my first taste of outback life and a true hostel experience - still my best in Australia as I became one of the Dingos and found a family I never knew I was missing. We went through everything together, forged a bond for life, raved until dawn at bush doofs and then went our separate ways to all corners of the globe.
Then it was time to knuckle down and get those three months of farm work done if I wanted to make sure I had that second year visa under my belt. Off to Central Queensland I went, 800km west of Brisbane to a tiny outback town where there was nothing but dust and giant kangaroos. I spent three months working on a cattle station, looking after children and even helped out during lambing season - it was a real culture shock, hard work and I loved the experience. Then it was time to head to the city I would come to know as my home away from home – Melbourne. The next few months saw me becoming a sales manager and managing a team of 15-20 people who became the highest selling team in the country. I had an apartment, great friends, a great guy and so much to be grateful for.
After going home for six months to travel around Europe, I felt the call from Down Under, we weren't finished yet, there was so much left to see and do. Dropping into Bali for a month beforehand, I headed back to Australia and landed in Cairns before making my way down to the fresh air and mountains of Tasmania. A real highlight of the year, I explored Hobart before setting off on a two-week road trip around the island. Climbing mountains, camping wild, sleeping under the stars, hiking national parks – it really was a dream trip. Then it was time to head home to Melbourne for Christmas, the next few months would be filled with festivals, epic nights out, camping trips, beach days and countless adventures. Picking up a job as a cocktail waitress at a 5* hotel, I was working as a hostess at high class parties held by Ferrari and GQ Magazine and served celebs like Nicole Kidman. But just like that, it was time to move on. So I flew to Adelaide to catch up with an old friend and make special new ones, but a week was short and then it was time to go again.
I touched down in Perth and quickly found a home in Fremantle with the Pirates, for weeks of reminding myself what it was like to be a backpacker and live a hostel life. It was a precious time of laughter, new faces, crazy nights, sunset dates and a new family I never expected. I even celebrated my birthday surrounded by amazing people, three special birthday cakes and one new person by my side who I didn't realise had already been written into my story. Sad goodbyes later, it was time to head off on the road trip of a lifetime, the epic journey I had been waiting to experience. Leaving with a group of four in two cars, our convoy covered over 4,000km and grew to 10 people across six cars. We made memories that will last a lifetime, spent every waking second together, learned about the world, grew as individuals and some of us even fell in love. It was a road trip that genuinely has changed my life and I couldn't be more grateful for the people I shared it with – from the girl who invited me to travel with her, to the guy who drove over 1,000km overnight to experience the trip with me.
Now I'm saying goodbye to the second life I have built for myself in Darwin – it feels right for my Australian journey to end here, in the place where I have felt the most love and friendship both times around. While I'm sad to say goodbye, it feels so right to leave. Always go out on a high I say, and I don't think I could reach much more of a high if I tried. Now it's time to take on the next adventure and see where life takes me. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of these past two years in Australia, thanks for making it special whether we spent months together or just a few hours. I hope you'll all be right by my side in the next chapter of Absolutely Lucy's travels.
I'll be spending the next month back in Asia, a place that has held my heart since I first set foot in Thailand. This time I'll be living my dreams as I'll be travelling around Sri Lanka! On a trip that is much needed for some serious relaxation time for myself and my boyfriend after we've been working every hour possible in Darwin, this could also be the biggest trip for this blog yet! I have been invited to work with and review five luxury and budget adventure accommodations while over in Sri Lanka - from incredible resorts to magical treehouses. For some of these, I will be the first blogger to have ever worked with the companies, so I'm very excited for this opportunity. It gets even better, I am such a lucky girl because I have even been invited to review two safaris and a hot air balloon ride – this really is a dream come true trip. I've had some tough moments this year that have really affected my blogging and even had me thinking about giving it up, but instead I persevered and even spent weeks redesigning my entire website and designing a brand new media pack. My hard work really has paid off and the opportunities I'm getting now show it was all worthwhile. I can't wait to share this trip with all of you who supported me through the toughest times.
I've been waiting a long time to write about Fremantle, it's hard to sometimes find the words to describe a place that you feel in your heart. But this cute little port town really did become an unexpected home from home for me. It's ironic really, that I travelled to the other side of the world to set up camp somewhere just like home - a little port town by the ocean steeped in history and quirky culture. But perhaps the home we find is in the people we meet and the way that we feel rather than the place itself. After finding Perth a tad impersonal, Freo couldn't have been more different as it welcomed me with open arms. Read my Perth city guide here.
A good friend of mine drove me from the city to Freo one sunny afternoon, and even as we pulled in amongst the old fashioned buildings and smelt the sea air, I knew this was a place I would love. Walking into my hostel and seeing the family style tables across the courtyard and the group who were keen to invite me in to join them - it was just the kind of place I love to make my home. I was staying at Pirates Backpackers on Essex Street, right in the centre of Freo - it was just a minute's walk from the weekend markets and the harbour, close to the beaches and the shops. I'll be reviewing the hostel in an upcoming post - so watch out if you're looking for hostel recommendations.
It was the first place I had been in a long time where I felt I could really relax - Melbourne was full of working and living life to the max, Adelaide was a blur. Fremantle had a slower pace of life and because I wasn't planning to work, I could really relax and enjoy it, joining in with hostel life and having time to dedicate to my writing. I had a cafe I would go to for breakfast and coffee while I wrote my articles, I would go running each morning around the harbour and to the beaches. I could spend my nights laughing, playing cards and drinking with friends, or go to watch the sun set with a cute boy I met, or even hit the bars. The world was my oyster and I really enjoyed every second, especially those spent with the amazing group of friends I made while I was there, and the wonderful guy I met. I think I had been missing something from my life the previous few months and it was those incredible traveller personalities that really bring something new and exciting to the table. Freo brought that all rushing back into my life and was the perfect way to kick off my amazing Western Australia trip with the best people.
I might love to treat myself every now and again, but I'll always be a backpacker at heart and I'll always find ways to explore a new place on a budget. After all, the money you save on activities can always be put towards that next flight, an epic night out or a once-in-a-lifetime experience - I know what I'd prefer to spend it on. When I was in Freo, I knew the money I had saved working in Melbourne was to go towards my epic Western Australia road trip and had to pay for a road trip covering over 1,000km from Perth to Darwin for up to two months, and then setting up a new life in Darwin. So although I wanted to enjoy my life, I was very conscious that I had been waiting my whole two years in Australia to experience this trip and that I wanted to live it to the max. This meant cutting corners where I could to enjoy myself for a few weeks in Fremantle beforehand - here are my top 10 free & cheap experiences you don't want to miss when you visit:
Without a doubt the best way to spend your weekend in Fremantle - running Friday, Saturday & Sunday in the market hall at the top of Essex Street - look no further for cheap, delicious food, live entertainment and fresh fruits and vegetables at great prices. Offering a huge range of street food stalls from all over the world, including the delicious bao buns, the gozlemes and paella, plus fresh teas and juices - it's the perfect place to pick up a cheap meal ($10-15) as you walk around the stalls. Make sure you walk around the fruit and veg stalls and pick up all the free tasters for your daily dose of vitamins, then head back to the market on Sunday afternoon to get your heavily reduced fresh foods shop. I used to buy all my fruits and veggies there for just $7 for 7 items - perfect for a backpacker budget.
You'll see them all over Freo, whether it's live music, comedy, magic or something crazy that you can't take your eyes off. There's plenty going on around the markets at the weekends, but even during the week you'll often see performers take to the streets to entertain the crowds. I was gutted to miss the Street Arts Festival by a few weeks, it filled the streets with live entertainment and attracted thousands of visitors. Or why not grab a guitar or a ukulele and hit the streets yourself? I saw plenty of travellers doing just that to earn a few extra dollars and to have fun with their friends - if you've got a talent, why not use it?
My hostel was great for group activities, the owner made sure there was something going on every night from movie nights to pizza and wine evenings, marshmallows on a log fire, paddle boarding or volleyball afternoons and even wine tours - see my Swan Valley review here. It was great and brought the whole hostel together for some fun afternoons and evenings, it even inspired us to hold our own group evenings like the family dinner one woman decided to cook for the whole hostel. On Sunday's we would drink for free at Left Bank bar thanks to a hostel organised trip. I got to go on a full day's wine tour with tastings & travel included for just $30. Another day, I went paddle boarding for the afternoon for just $10 and had a great time with the group. It's always worth seeing what is going on in your hostel.
I didn't realise until some Canadian girls moved into my dorm that you can borrow bikes for free from Little Creatures Brewery (which is just across the park from my hostel). All you need is a passport ID and a credit card for them to keep on file, there is no charge unless you don't return the bike. We borrowed three cute little bikes for the afternoon and biked all the way from Fremantle to Cottesloe Beach where we sunbathed and relax all afternoon, diving into the waves to cool off in the sunshine, before heading back to Freo. It was a great afternoon and completely free - well worth looking into if you fancy getting out of the town with so many great beaches right on your doorstep.
Perth is known for it's beautiful beaches and I was lucky enough to catch the last few sunbathing days before the weather changed. While I was there I made it my business to explore as many beaches as I could, from the tiny Bathers Beach and South Beach which I went running between every morning. To the vast empty beauty of Scarborough Beach and City Beach - City Beach was actually my favourite by far because we had the whole place to ourselves when we went. And the famous Cottesloe Beach, which sadly was covered in smelly seaweed when I was there, but was still a great place to watch the surfers and enjoy the sunshine.
There are so many great historical sites in Fremantle and you can easily spend a day, or two, exploring these for a bit of culture and heritage. Why not check out Fremantle's Roundhouse for great views across the harbour, then explore The Shipwreck Galleries and Western Australia's Maritime Museum for a glimpse int the town's past. Don't miss a look at the war memorial and then head over to Fremantle Gaol for a wander around - you have to pay for entry to the tours, but you can have a good look at a gallery and the courtyard for free.
Probably one of the priciest things on this list depending on where you go, but much like having fish and chips on Brighton Beach in England, it's something you just have to do. You'll be fending off manic seagulls but the freshly caught fish and chips is well worth it, especially overlooking the water at sunset. There are plenty of places to choose from so enjoy.
One of my favourite experiences while I was in Fremantle, visiting the Little Creatures Brewery is definitely something to try. It's a lovely bar to sit and have a drink and food in, or take a free tour at 1, 2 or 3pm each day. Tastings are available for around $20 and give you an opportunity to taste each of their craft beers and a cider - a pretty good way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Whether you fancy a laid-back breakfast with friends or want somewhere peaceful to work, look no further than Moore & Moore cafe. The food is fantastic and well-priced and they have a lovely sheltered courtyard with heaters for when the weather isn't great. The wifi is really good for those who need to work, and it's a nice relaxing atmosphere, often with live music in the background.
Always one of my favourite things to do - pick up some cheep wine and snacks, get a group of mates together and head to South Beach or Bathers Beach and end the day on a high. There really is nothing better than watching a beautiful sunset with people who mean the world to you.
What are your favourite free activities when visiting a new place? Have you been to Fremantle - can you add any suggestions to this list?
Happy WA Day! Just a short post today as I'm just having one last breakfast at my favourite Fremantle cafe before heading back to the hostel to finish packing and get on the road. Yes, that's right, we're finally setting off on our West Coast adventure after weeks of organising and waiting. It seems only right that we should set out on this amazing trip on the day that is all about celebrating what is great about Western Australia. I'm excited for that feeling of freedom that you only get from living on the road, camping out under the stars every night and spending your days on the beaches.
I can't wait to not have a care in the world, after working so much for so long, I'm more than overdue for a holiday! You may laugh but I work a heck of a lot when I travel, if I'm not working crazy hours in a bar to save money, I'm working to tight deadlines for articles and posts as a journalist/blogger. It never stops, this feeling that I should be working, and yes I've admitted before I'm a bit of a workaholic but I also know when I need a good break from it all. So I'm taking the next few weeks for me - I'm focusing on having fun, exploring the world and having lots of adventures to tell you all about in my upcoming blog posts.
I'll still have a few blogs posts to come that I've had time to organise before now, but I'm not going to think too much about pressuring myself to write when on the road. The thing about travel is that you have to live it, to throw yourself into every moment, experience and exciting opportunity that presents itself. I plan to do exactly that because travel comes first. Keep up with my adventures via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Today marks the start of a brand new adventure. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment attempting to squeeze my life into my backpack and felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump. Oh god how I've missed that feeling. I've missed the feeling of freedom and excitement at picking up and starting again somewhere new and different. I've been back in Melbourne for five months after living here for five months last year - don't get me wrong, Melbourne has turned into a home from home for me and remains one of my absolute favourite places in the world. But when you know it's time to go, it's time to go.
Living in the city, both times, has been a real challenge with surreal highs and some crazy lows that have left me questioning everything. Every time I come here, I seem to end up in jobs that push me to the very end of my tether and while I've loved my cocktail waitress gig and have had an amazing time working on a rooftop bar all summer - I am more than ready to move on and get back to traveller life. This last few months have been both amazing and exhausting - I've worked too much in my goal to save as much money as possible and I've had to sacrifice my writing due to lack of time and routine. But at the same time, I've made some amazing new friends and I've had some pretty special adventures in this city and beyond. I don't regret a single second of it, but I know that out there a healthier and happier life is waiting for me, so I think it's about time I went and found it.
This past week has been a flurry of goodbyes and leaving drinks, after living here for a total of ten months I've picked up a pretty special crowd along the way. I want to say a huge thank you to every single person, who no matter how short a time we spent together, really made my Melbourne experience. Now I plan to finish my time here with a bang, tonight I'm heading to a pretty incredible house I've rented with my friends for a joint-birthday celebration along Great Ocean Road. We'll be spending the weekend there and, just as it should be, I'll be finishing my time in Melbourne with the people who mean the most to me. Follow me on Instagram and check out my InstaStories for all the live updates.
So what's next for Absolutely Lucy?
On Monday I'll be flying to Adelaide, where I'll be catching up with an old friend and checking out the city for a week. I'm definitely going to need a chilled week after this hectic last few weeks in Melbourne! Then I'm heading to Perth, where I'm hoping to find some road trip buddies to start heading up the West Coast with - it's been a dream trip for a long time and I'm so excited to be on the road again. I can't wait for the sunshine and beaches after this last week of rain in Melbourne, get me tanned, fit and healthy again. I've slipped into so many bad habits lately, not sleeping enough, barely eating and drinking way too much - hospo life has definitely got the better of me - so now I'm looking forward to taking care of myself for a while.
I'm excited to get back to blogging and to be able to focus on my passion for a while instead of working the same repetitive job and having the same conversations over and over again. Being a waitress in the bar was fun but I'm so much more than that and I can't wait to pursue the things I really love, to have the time and the energy to be creative again. I'll miss my big city life, my cute little apartment all to myself with a gym downstairs, my local coffee shop and bars where the staff remember my orders, my work crew and how much they cared about each other. I'll miss the families I found in my neighbours, my work crew and my besties I've met all over Australia. Melbourne is an incredible city but it is always the people who make the place and I've been lucky enough to meet some amazing characters who I already can't wait to see again. Next week I'll have lots more to share with you all - trust me I have a lot of adventures to catch you all up on! But for now Melbourne, over and out.
After an epic four weeks of travelling up the East Coast - taking in the stunning sights of Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, traipsing through the national park in Noosa and kayaking across Byron Bay, we were more than ready for the final stop on our tour. Cairns is one that everyone talks about and we were excited to see what it would have to offer - if our previous stops were anything to go by it was going to be pretty amazing! More than anything, we were looking forward to the huge reunion we would have with all of our friends we had met along the way - with countless more stops along the East Coast route, we'd lost some friends to places like 1770 and Mission Beach, but we were all due to arrive in Cairns during the same week. When you've got a huge week like this planned, it's important to have a good hostel ready and waiting for you, and in Cairns there's only one that people talk about - Gilligan's! Owned by Base Backpackers, the super-hostel is a multi-level hostel with rooms ranging from four to ten bed, each boasting en suite facilities with a kitchen on every level. To say it was one of the best and most impressive hostels I have stayed in was an understatement - the nightlife was great, the location was perfect being right in the middle of Cairns, it was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in and there were loads of deals for those staying there including free backpacker dinners when you bought a drink each evening. We had booked in for four nights, but already planned for stay for at least a week.As soon as we arrived the reunions started, we bumped into some friends we had met down in Airlie Beach and Noosa and went for drinks and dinner. That first night there saw us joining upon the fun and games downstairs as the staff had us all playing Bogan Bingo - a hilarious game we ended up playing over a few different nights. The next few days were spent exploring Cairns - we checked out the lagoon and spent a few days sunbathing and barbecuing down there with friends, we headed out in the evenings for drinks and ended up partying in the Woolshed - another place you simply have to go. It was a blur of fun, goon and complete exhaustion - every night we partied and every day we spent the whole thing out in the sun. Between this we had trips planned including The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and White Water Rafting Xtreme - more on these in my upcoming posts. So we were fully booked with plans and on top of this we had to find time to hang out with everyone before we all parted ways as some people flew home, others to New Zealand and others to the other side of Australia.Cairns was a great little place, as soon as you arrived it felt like you were on holiday as you could tell most of the people walking the streets were. It was full of shops, bars, restaurants and more, and the lagoon was packed with sunbathers every single day. I could understand how some people could love it and end up staying to work, but personally it wasn't somewhere I could have stayed longer - I was happy to stay for 10 days of fun with friends but that was what kept me there for so long, not the place. I found myself very aware that it was a holiday town and that people were constantly passing through - that the backpacker culture there was so transient it was less of a culture and more of a business. But that was fine with me, I had no plans to stay longer than we did and I didn't want to work in Cairns, it was just a perfect end to our East Coast trip. So where did we spend our nights? In true backpacker style, we followed the cheap drinks and food which took us to our own balcony, to Gilligan's bar, the Woolshed and Irish bar, and for one night we ended up in a bar around the corner after being offered unlimited drinks and pizza for $20 or $30 on a Sunday night. Best advice for saving money, trawl the streets and keep your eyes open for deals - these girls just passed us some leaflets as we crossed the street for that one and it was a great night!Another really great night we had in Cairns was actually one when we were bored one night and decided to go out for a drink and a walk. We were walking when we heard a load of fireworks going off and spotted the shower of stars beyond some trees, we headed over and saw that they must have been part of an event that was ongoing at the cruise terminal - naturally the journalist in me wanted to know what was going on and walked straight over. Despite it being a private and ticketed event, we waited until the doormen were distracted then snuck in to find a really lovely party going on. It was celebrating an Aboriginal art exhibition opening and how better than to do that with music, champagne, fireworks and food? We ended up checking out the exhibit which featured pieces worth tens of thousands, hobnobbed with the other guests and enjoyed some fancy foods and fine wine. It was a bit of a treat considering we had been living off scraps for the last week. It was a really refreshing change to be around that kind of event and some of the pieces of art were amazing - we ended up having a really interesting night and it was totally different to what we had been up to every other night. I love when you stumble across things like that.
Have you been to Cairns - what did you think? What was your favourite bar in town? Have you crashed any exciting events?
One of my favourite places in Sydney was Manly - I only went there twice in the month I spent in the city, but both times I fell in love with the seaside town. It's one of the places you could just see yourself living long-term, and I know many backpackers who moved there despite working in the city and facing a bit of a commute every day. My first time there was actually the first Sunday I spent in Australia, just two days after I arrived. A group of us caught the ferry over from Circular Quay (an easy free bus ride on the 555 from the top of the CBD, and just $2.50 on the ferry as all travel prices are capped on Sunday's) and after just 30 minutes we arrived at the small harbour there. As you walk out, you come to a little Boardwalk that takes you past a selection of bars and restaurants which look out right across the water. Don't be put off thinking they are really expensive, actually a couple are really well priced and I had a lovely meal in one of them. Once you get to the road, it's just a short walk through the town centre towards the main beach, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop along the way.The main beach is heavenly - the golden sand goes on for miles and as far as the eye can see there are surfers riding the waves. Up and down the beach you can see groups playing volleyball or runners making their way along the sand, picnics and children playing. It's just perfect, although be sure to get there in the morning or early afternoon because the sun actually sets on the harbour side and the beach is cast in shadow from the late afternoon thanks to the buildings. But I'm sure the sunrise is gorgeous there, and I know the sunsets are absolutely stunning over on the harbour side. There are lots of walks for those who want to explore further along the coastline, or to find somewhere a bit more secluded. I think what I loved most about Manly was that the beach and town felt like a place where people live, not just where people go on holiday or visit to pose like they do at Bondi and some of the others along the East Coast.Another beach I visited, which is definitely worth a visit, was Maroubra. Sadly the day I went it was absolutely chucking it down and I got soaked through, but even then the surfers were out in full force and you could tell it would be a beautiful beach on a sunny day. Even in the rain it was pretty awesome, just miles of open sand and more of a deserted feel than the others. If there's one thing Sydney boasts a lot of, it's miles of gorgeous coastline with endless sandy beaches, waves packed with surfers and that beachy Aussie lifestyle we all come here looking for. Definitely try and fit a visit into some of the beaches into your stay. I'm already looking forward to heading back when the weather is better for a chance to sun myself on that golden sand.
Have you checked out Sydney's beaches - which is your favourite? Are you a beach bum, or do you prefer city life?