There's no denying the last few years of my life have been all about excess. I've been throwing myself in 100% to grabbing life by the balls, to traveling solo and to having the experience of a lifetime. But there comes a time when that becomes exhausting to maintain 24/7. I'm not ashamed to admit my life has changed a LOT in the last three years of traveling, and particularly during my second year in Australia – I've changed. My priorities are different and my goals are taking me in a different direction, and that's okay.
It's been two years since I first arrived in Darwin, and don't get me wrong, I still love it up here but this time I'm doing things very differently to the last time I was living up here. My last Darwin experience was full of wild parties, traveler friends, hostel life and raving until dawn. I loved every second, I really did. It was one of my best traveling experiences with some of the most amazing friends, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life. But this time in Darwin, I feel like I've purposefully done everything the total opposite to not end up ruining good memories - I started working at a different bar, got out of the hostel and moved into a house, stopped partying as much to save money and have been trying to live pretty healthily. I feel like a completely different person to the girl who arrived here two years ago, so it feels strange to come back and find Darwin as unchanged as ever, totally familiar and yet completely different.
I have just two months left on my Australian visa and I'm very aware of the clock ticking down - I'm trying to use my time wisely around working to make sure I see anything I've missed because I probably won't be back in Australia for a long time. For me, that isn't partying with the same old crowd, it's seeing the national parks and the parts of the Northern Territory I missed previously. I'm also trying to work as much as possible while I'm still on a good Australian wage with plenty of dollars rolling in so I can save for my next trip.
For the first time in a long time, I actually have a home that feels like a home. I moved into a house with my boyfriend - yes, that's right, I have a boyfriend - and we're really happy with our amazing new home that even comes with a dog! After moving around so much over the last six months and feeling as though my life was very temporary, it's nice to have somewhere, and someone, you can't wait to go home to at the end of the day.
After spending months hiking, climbing and exploring the coast of Western Australia and living off the healthiest food - I'm full of energy and was excited to get back in the gym. I feel like my body is stronger and fitter than ever, my skin feels great and I'm enjoying eating healthily thanks to my lovely kitchen. Because of all this, it hits me 10x worse when I'm hungover or feel rubbish for drinking. I'm still drinking and going out, but I'm drinking less and trying to reduce how often I go out partying, instead preferring to make the most of my days.
I've been spending a lot of my time working on this blog and after several months away and even more out of the blogging loop, it's been nice to spend time working on my true passion. I've been redesigning my blog, working with new brands and creating a whole series of amazing new content. It's felt great to dive back into it and right now that is what I want to dedicate my energies towards. I've also been thinking about my next career move - it's been fun working hospitality and various other jobs over in Australia but I miss my work as a journalist and writer.
Perhaps it's me getting older, perhaps I'm past this stage in my life, or perhaps it's just a phase - after all, I can still party as hard as the rest when I want to. I think I've just found there is so much more to life than getting shit-faced every night with the same crowd of people. There's sleeping under the stars, watching the sun rise and set with the one you love, there's throwing yourself into your passion and seeing the satisfaction of your own success. There are workouts where you aren't hungover and saving money towards a goal that will be a lot more epic than any night out you've already lived 100 times over. Now I don't know if you can identify with any of what I'm saying here, or whether I'm just warbling on, but if you find yourself nodding along with what I'm saying, this next section is for you.
Don't be so hard on yourself if it doesn't work out in your career or relationship - we all have these moments when things don't pan out as we expected and it throws us off course. But the important thing to remember is each failure teaches us and makes us stronger for our next attempt. If the path was easy, reaching the end wouldn't be worth it.
How do you find balance in your life? Have you changed as you've hit your late-twenties? Do you find it difficult to balance your career, relationship and having fun?
After 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.Darwin 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.Regardless, 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.Of 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.Whether 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.
Have you been to Darwin? Which is your favourite bar? What did you think of the nightlife?
I 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?A 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.During 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.
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?
* 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.
As 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.We 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.We 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!There'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'.
Have you been to Darwin? What did you think of it? Have you found an amazing hostel family?