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.
My first day in the town turned out to be an interesting one, the whole town had turned out for the Charleville Cup, a horse racing championship that took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup. It gave me a real taste of life in the outback as I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the whole town and to see everyone dressed up to the nines. Coming from rural England, it was interesting to see the huge similarities and contrasts between that and rural Australia. Thinking back now, I was very lucky to arrive in time for the event because most of the people I met that day turned out to be some of the best friends I have made in the town. I'm so glad that I did meet them straight away because I think otherwise I could have had a bit of a lonely time in the town and might have struggled to meet as many people. I was amazed to meet a whole gang of English girls but it was great to hear some familiar accents among all the broad Queensland drawls, definitely comforting to know that there were some people who understood how nuts it is for an English girl to find herself living and working in the outback like this. The day was filled with horse-racing, fashion shows, betting and drinking, and was a great welcome to the town, I think better than any day I have been here, that one really summed up what my life would be like for the next three months.I'll be honest and say it took a few weeks to really adapt to the slower pace of life in Charleville after the last few months in Darwin, it took me a little while to realise there would be a lot more empty time spent here. Instead of spending my nights dancing my heart out and partying, I would exchange for a life of lazy mornings spent sleeping in, afternoon workouts at the gym followed by quiet nights in front of the TV. It was a shock to the system and to start with I couldn't cope with how bored I was, it seemed such a waste of time to relax but once I got over the shock I realised it was exactly what my body needed. I started to really enjoy having a break and pushing myself at the gym to get healthy and fit again - I'm probably now in the best shape I have been since travelling because I've been determined to get fit. I've taken the time to do other things I enjoy like cooking in a real kitchen, instead of a pathetic hostel offering, I've been reading and lazing by the pool. I've still missed a lot about my old life but knowing it was just for a short time gave me the motivation to make the most of it instead of fighting against it.Don't think for a second that means there is nothing to do in Charleville - it's just different. One of our favourite things to do was to get out of the town and head to the Ward, a part of the Warrego River where you can swim. On weekends you'll go there and often see groups who take boats and jet skis up there - I never thought I'd be seeing people riding jet skis in the outback that's for sure! It's lovely and I remember the first time I went up there, we stayed floating around in the muddy water at sunset, chatting away while I watched kangaroos hopping up the banks of the river while horses drank further downstream. I went several times after that and one friend even made me jump off the bridge - I lost my sunglasses but totally worth it! For some it might be a muddy river with huge fish that jump out of the water, but for me it was a taste of the real Australia - a side that even many Australian haven't seen for themselves. I got to see how these people had grown up and to experience, if only for a little while, how they live. That's what travelling is all about, experiencing other cultures, other ways of living, and throwing yourself in the deep end to experience it for yourself.Don't worry, I wasn't totally sober and devoid of nights out for the last three months, we still went out every weekend for drinks at the pub or parties at the Bowls Club or one of the houses in town. There was something going on most weekends if you knew the right people and luckily I did, it meant I always had something to look forward to each week and that the weekends flew by! The nightlife may not have been particularly buzzing, but there was a good crowd to have a few drinks with and laugh a lot with each time so we had plenty of fun. I did also get to experience some pretty entertaining nights including a Bachelor and Bachelorette Auction to raise money for a sports team - everyone was hilariously drunk and bidding on the brave would who had got up on stage. There were also great parties over Christmas including the annual Boxing Day party which had a huge turnout and was a great night filled with dancing and lots of drinking games. And of course, just a week ago I was celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue, pool party and drinks with friends - so I'd say I've done pretty well over the last few months.
Have you spent time in the outback? Where did you find yourself? How was your experience?
I've been a bit off the radar for the past week - don't worry I'm still alive! I've just relocated to the other side of Australia to start my regional work which will qualify me for my second year visa. It all happened a bit suddenly and I didn't have time to plan on some posts to cover the moving and settling in time but don't worry - I'll be making up for that soon and have lots lined up! But for now, I'm back with a competition for all the backpackers who read my blog - I've joined forces with a new company called Backpay to offer you all the fantastic prize of all that dollar you forgot about. Remember when you arrived in Australia and everyone was talking about new back accounts and superannuation funds? Well, the money in that superannuation fund is something that you get back by filling out the right paperwork. For most backpackers that can mean getting thousands of dollars returned to them upon leaving Australia - a pretty sweet deal if you ask me! I'm looking forward to claiming mine back when I leave, but for now I'm sure there are plenty of backpackers who have still left theirs unclaimed and would love a cheeky cash boost.
Founded by a former backpacker, Backpay is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Damien, who spotted a niche in the market after progressing from being a backpacker himself, to starting his own backpacker accommodation in Sydney, and eventually setting up the company. Back in 2000, during the Sydney Olympics, Damien moved to Australia for a working holiday and now, 15 years later he prefers Damo as he's now a proud Aussie citizen. After years of getting to know backpackers personally, Damien discovered that it was a pretty common occurrence for many of them to leave unclaimed cash in the form of superannuation and sometimes tax. This year has seen the launch of his new company, Backpay, which is here to solve the problem, with Damien remaining passionate about driving the business towards returning every dollar to backpackers after they leave Australia. The only criteria travellers have to fulfil is that they have been in Australia at some point on a working holiday visa and that they have now left the country - you cannot claim while still in Australia.
Now I'm still a long way off claiming my own superannuation or tax back, but that doesn't mean I haven't thought carefully about how I would spend it... My top five ways to spend it seem to boil down to the same final list:
How would you spend yours?
WIN - WIN - WIN
To win the chance to claim back your super and tax free of charge - click this link to like my Facebook page then comment on the link to this post and tell me what you would spend the money on! The winner will be announced Friday 20th November.