My first month in Australia!

Today is the 4th of October, which means that I have been in Australia for exactly one month now. For me that’s a pretty crazy statement. Whilst I was living at the hostel, I could have sworn I had been here two or three months, certainly not two or three weeks. It felt like forever since I left England. Now though, sat in Jeanette’s house typing this, I feel like a month is actually quite a long time. The last two weeks working full time have been some of the quickest in my little life.

I’m very sorry for neglecting this blog, and I’ll definitely be writing more once I move into my own place with wifi…. which should hopefully be in two weeks time!

I thought I would do a summary of what I’ve experienced this month:

* Flew from London to Brisbane
* Got my phone and bank sorted
* Wandered through Brisbane and Southbank
* Visited Lone Pine where I stroked a kangaroo, held a koala and saw lots of native Australian birds and animals
* Moved down to the Gold Coast
* Stayed in a hostel for a few weeks
* Joined SurfCity church and made lots of new friends
* Worshiped and chatted by a campfire by the beach
* Had four great surf lessons at the Spit
* Stargazed at the beach at night
* Had a job interview and got the job
* Found a place that sells sourdough bread
* Saw a wild dolphin whilst surfing with friends
* Fell in love with tim tams
* Moved into the flat of a lady from church
* Played beach volleyball and swam in the sea
* Went to lots of flat viewings
* Completed my first two weeks of full time work
* Went to the Moscow Circus with a friend
* Started negotiations for a flat

And that’s my list so far! If I missed anything, let me know and I’ll add it in 🙂 I feel so incredibly blessed by God, in so many ways. I know he has good plans for me. To be in this position already, on the brink of having a flat as well as a good church, new friends and great full time job, can only be a miracle.

Bring on more miracles 🙂

– T

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Day 1 in Brisbane

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I had a lovely, relaxed day yesterday in Brisbane. It’s a city on the east coast of Australia, in Queensland. When I initally picked where I wanted to go, I chose Brisbane because of the climate! Hot summers, warm winters – the sea temperature is higher in their winter than in our summer. And as a wannabe surfer this was high on my list of considerations.

Of course, it was only after I’d booked the flights and made the decision that I realised that Brisbane has a total of 0 surfable beaches. Oops. Turns out that two annoying islands block all the waves, and the nearest surfing beach is either an hour north or south.

However, Brisbane is still a lovely place! And I feel extremely lucky to be staying with my very lovely host, and to be able to see this very lovely city.

We started out by buying a “Go Card” which is like a rail loyalty card. The deposit was 10 AUD and I put 20 AUD of credit on it. We then wandered through the shopping area called the Mall, and stopped off in all the phone shops to see who had the best pay as you go sim deal. It turns out they’re all 30 AUD (about 15 GBP) a month and they run out each month, so the credit doesn’t roll over if you haven’t used it. Having been paying a third of that in the UK, I didn’t feel ready to splash that kinda cash.

So, I went for the only one (“…this is really aimed at seniors…”) that sold me a sim whose credit would last a year, which happened to be Vodaphone, and loaded 20 AUD on it. If I need more than that a month then I’ll upgrade, but at least for now I only need a phone for emergencies and to be able to give an australian phone number in job applications!

Next we headed through the food court, bustling with asian cuisines, to Coles where we picked up rolls for lunch. We walked across the Brisbane bridge and sat by the river to eat. It was really lovely. Here we were on South Bank – which is, it turns out, the place to be. image

Something that really impressed me was the free herb, fruit and vegetable garden. There were banana trees, pineapples, green beans, strawberries, peas, onions and much more. Everything was laid out so beautifully, and all the produce were completely free. Wow!

In fact, the whole of South Bank was laid out beautifully. It even has it’s own beach, which is really cool although definitely not suitable for surfing! There’s what looks like the london eye, and lots of market stalls, a water park and playground, an art gallery, a performing arts centre, sculptures everywhere, and lots of food outlets.

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After looking around, we caught the end of a hip hop competition as part of the Brisbane Festival which is on at the moment. It was really impressive, and the little kids who came up from the audience to dance at the very end were extremely cute.

We then headed home; took the train back, collected some groceries, and have had a lovely chilled evening since. It was a great start to my big adventure 🙂

– T

Take Off!!

On Thursday 3rd September I flew from London Heathrow to As Singapore with Singapore airlines, and then on to Brisbane.

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My flight from Heathrow.

I couldn’t believe how huge the plane was when I saw it, and my leg room was pretty massive too! I paid extra for the seat for that very reason, but only on the first flight.

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If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t do that again. Because your inflight entertainment system is attached to your chair instead of the person in fronts’, it got in the way a lot when I wanted to move.

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I also didn’t really miss the room on my second flight either. Although, once the person in front of me put their chair right back, so my screen was far too close to me, I did feel a little hard done by.

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My seat on the first flight.

My entertainment system was actually a lot better on the second flight. The control itself was not very receptive, the sound not good, the words very difficult to hear. I actually had to use subtitles!

The second  flights’ system was way more receptive, and also had a lot more films weirdly. I was extremely happy to see Pitch Perfect 2, Spy and Aloha had been added to the list ( though I didn’t get time for Aloha due to the second flight being shorter).

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Definitely less room on my second flight!

Food wise, it was okay. I chose fish in coconut broth with rice and veggies. As expected, the fish was way overdone but it all tasted nice. We also got offered free salted caramel ice cream and magnums for dessert!

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My food on the first flight.

Anytime you could ask for any drink from the list for free, and any snack (crisps, chocolate, cookie, fruit, filled roll). It was quite a novelty for me that everything was free! Nothing like Easy Jet…

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All the free drinks.

Changing at Singapore was also fine. I’ve heard the airport is incredible (with multiple gardens, cinema room and swimming pool!!) but I only had time to head to my next flight. Whilst trying to find where to go, I met two lovely Australian ladies who were also flying on to Brisbane and we stuck together until the flight which was great.

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Smoking garden at Singapore airport.

A friend of friends picked me up from the airport just before 8pm. We then headed to her home and I finally got to sleep! I’d decided not to sleep on the aeroplane (though I doubt I could have if I tried) as I could that way normalise my sleep pattern straight away.

Both flights having the lights dimmed for most of the journey didn’t help though. I couldn’t really understand why they’d done that on the flight to Brisbane – it was day time! But a lot of people were sleeping, so I guess they were happy.

Today I am getting a tour of Brisbane and I can’t wait!!

– T

Best laid plans

About a month ago, I called up the fruit picking farm I had applied to, to find out how my application was going (que staying up until 1am so I could call them during their few reception opening times!) They informed me that I was applying pretty early considering I would only be available in September, and asked me to email for a ring back date on the 25th August.

So late last night I emailed with my reference number, and when I woke up this morning I already had a reply. The farm are waiting for fruit before they hire more people, so please ring back on the 22nd September.

What?!

I was basing my whole trip around those months of fruit picking. Plus, without the fruit picking I’m going to Australia job-less which is a little bit scary (but also kind of exciting).

However, I recently found out about a course in Germany that would allow me to study to become an occupational therapist despite my lack of a levels. This has definitely made me less scared of the prospect of coming home at the end of my time in Australia, and so also meant that only going for a year could be okay. Though it scares me that I might love it and be devastated not to be able to stay on for a second year, my eventual goal is to be an OT, so I need to come back to the EU to study at some point anyway. At least once I’m qualified, I should be able to get a job in aus if that’s where I want to be.

So, although the news from the farm felt like it should be a bad thing, I’m not too worried. As my mum said “God knows!” And he’ll hopefully help me find where I’m supposed to be.

Next steps are to cancel my hostel booking for the farm job, and to start applying for other jobs near Brisbane. I know that even if I have to go knocking door to door once I get there, I will find something. This makes it much more of an adventure!

– T

The changing of plans and the power of networking

I don’t usually like it when plans change, but in this case I’m pretty relieved. Somebody I know from church recently gave me the contact details of somebody they know who lives in Brisbane. I sent them a message via facebook, and they extremely kindly offered that i could stay with them whilst I’m in Brisbane, and also that they’d pick me up from the airport when I arrive.

I was feeling kinda apprehensive about getting to a busy hostel the other side of the world, in the evening, tired and probably grumpy. Having to pack up all my stuff again just 48 hours later was also something I was worried would be stressful in a hostel environment. Not to knock hostels, but I’m pretty glad that my first three days in Australia will be staying in somebodies home. This feels less daunting.

Networking is such a great idea. It turns out almost everybody I know, knows somebody who lives in Australia! I’ve been given countless names and though almost all of them live in Melbourne, I also have contacts from people living on the Gold Coast and in Sydney. As these are all places I definitely want to go, it’s really nice to think there would always be somebody I could get in touch with if need be.

Because my Taylor Swift concert is in Melbourne, I’m hoping somebody may be able to put me up for my time there. Christmas is another consideration; I plan to be in Sydney and may try and find a family to stay with during this time.

So, my advice would definitely be to tell as many people as possible about your travel plans, and likely if they know people there they’ll tell you. Try and write down any details – you’ll never know when you need them.

– T

Not long now!

Well, it’s less than two weeks until I go on holiday with my family and I need to be pretty much ready for Australia. Now that it’s August, I was able to look at the Singapore Airlines website to find out which films would be available in September (yes, that is the kind of person I am!).

I’m excited to see that Inside Out, Pitch Perfect 2, Spy and Aloha will be there! Terminator and Man Up also look okay. That’s at least 12 hours sorted, right?!

Gradually, the list of things that I need to buy is decreasing. One thing still to sort, however, is a backpack. Here in the UK I squeeze things into my handbag, but as it’s fairly small it seems a shame not to make the most of the hand luggage allowance. Plus, I really could use the extra space. I’m thinking a bag that can fit two 500ml bottles, a lunchbox, a cardi and a few other bits, would be good for whilst I’m fruit picking.

I considered the idea of buying a proper backpackers bag, because although I’d like to find somewhere in Aus and settle, I’m sure I will also want to travel up/down the east coast at some point and I don’t want to lug a suitcase along with me.

The problem is size. If I bought the travel backpack now, it would need to be hand luggage size as I’m only allowed one piece of checked luggage for my flight to Australia, and also the train from Brisbane to Coffs Harbour, and I’ll have my suitcase with me. Finding a travel backpack that fits the hand luggage specifications proves impossible, as it’s basically then the size of an average backpack. So, the plan is to buy a bigger backpack whilst I’m out there, if I decide I need one.

Not long now!

– T

The question of bravery

Quite strangely, I get asked the exact same questions in the exact same order every time somebody finds out about my travel plans. It goes like this:

1. “So where are you going?”
I always have that double take of…I just told you – Australia, before I remember they actually mean “where exactly in Australia?” This is also my least favourite question because I’m not just going to one place! I’m flying to Brisbane, then heading south for fruit picking, followed by Melbourne in december for a concert and then Sydney for christmas and new year. After that, who knows?

After initially replying with “um”, I now have this answer memorised. I think I worry though, that my answer is too long. This is something I worry about a lot actually; that I take up too much time, that if I say something or tell a story it can’t be too long. I don’t think boys have this concern.

2. “Are you going with anybody/friends?”
“Um, no.”

But I think it’s better this way. If I get a job, I don’t need to worry about the other person getting one in the same place. If I want to stay somewhere, I can, if I want to leave, I can! Travelling by yourself means the ultimate freedom.

3. “Do you have family out there?”
“Nope!”

4. “Ooh you’re so brave!”
Okay this one isn’t a question, but again is said without fail.

For me, this move is a brave one, yes. I spent most of my 17th year in hospital, and the last four and a half years in varying degrees of unwell. I was discharged from hospital less than six months ago, and still rely on my parents a lot. I am not your average 18 year old! Because I think if I was, it wouldn’t be particularly brave. People go on gap years all the time! Plus I think Australia is one of the safest places to go…it’s just a hotter version of the UK right?!

I’m not worried or scared. I would be more worried to stay here, in actual fact. I need a change, some freedom, a chance to make friends and build up my life again. To find a church I love and to follow my passions. I won’t get those things staying here.

In many ways it would be easier not to go. The path of least resistance! But every time I wanted to back out in the beginning, I remember those Taylor Swift tickets and knew that I couldn’t. The nerves are mostly gone now, replaced by excitement and restlessness. It’s six weeks tomorrow until I go, and I can’t wait!! In three and a half weeks we go on holiday, I need to be ready by then. It’s not long!

5. “Your mum must be so worried!”
This one is always funny because I always answer “No, she’s actually really excited for me!” – but when I think about it, I realise that this maybe just be my truth. I think probably she is worried, but mostly only shows her excitement.

6. “Who are you flying with?”
This one is only asked 50% of the time, but without fail I always misunderstand and reply “…I’m flying by myself…” when really they’re asking about the airline. “Ooh, singapore.”  Que nodding.

Maybe next time I’ll remember, as I’m sure to get asked these questions many more times before I go!

– T

Collecting…

This week I’ve started collecting things to take, and keeping it all together in my poppy bag. So far I’ve stocked up on hayfever tablets, tissues, hand sanitiser and toothbrushes.

Hayfever stuff

Whilst making a list of things I want and need to take, I came to realise that moving out (which is essentially what I’m doing) means there are actually a lot of things i need to buy eg. toothpaste and nail clippers etc.

Not quite as glamorous as moving out sounds!

20 pound note

This £20 note I was given today as thanks for looking after my neighbor’s dog for a couple of days. I’ll be putting it in my having-fun-in-australia fund, and in case you’d like to know what that will go to: take a look at my bucket list.

– T

To fruit pick or not to fruit pick?

It’s probably the question that every single working-holiday-visa-in-Australia-backpacker asks themselves. To fruit pick or not to fruit pick? To be eligible for a second year of a working holiday in Australia, the humble backpacker has to complete either three months or 88 days of “regional work” which mostly means fruit picking. To quote WWOOF, this disadvantages anybody who isn’t a twenty something, very fit, strong, white male. But doesn’t that sum up most of life? I’ll save that (rhetorical) question another blog post!

I had actually initially dismissed the idea of fruit picking because

1. Three months is a long time
2. It’s fruit picking…who would want to do that?
3. I was only going for one year and then back to the UK for uni (or an access course and then uni to be precise)

However, my mum started researching it which meant I had a look. The idea of a second year definitely interested me, as I worry that one year might not be enough if I want to both see all the main sights, and settle somewhere for a longer time to really make good friendships and enjoy the lifestyle. And what if it takes me nearly a year to find that place I want to settle?? My worried little mind was soothed by the idea of more time.

What really clinched it for me was finding out that your second year doesn’t have to follow your first. You can postpone it right up until your 31st birthday. Perfect! That would give me the freedom to either stay on if I wanted to, or come back and get trained up in Occupational Therapy, before going back out again in a few years.

The next step was more research. I read all the blog posts I could find about people’s experiences and noted that there weren’t many, and the most weren’t particularly positive. Tales of back breaking work, huge spiders, and tyrannical bosses certainly planted seeds of doubt. Lack of toilets at the farm, 12 hour days and weeks without work didn’t sound appealing either. My mum was naturally concerned, but being stubborn as I am, I told her that I’d already made up my mind. (And unlike when I insisted I would go for the cheaper flight – and then didn’t – and that I would fly to Australia just three days after returning from holiday – and then reconsidered – I really meant it)!

The place I decided on was Coffs Harbour. Mum had sent me a document from the government harvest website listing all the fruit picking places in Australia. Spotting the dot on the east coast, I scrolled to the page for Coffs Harbour. Here they grow bananas, blueberries, avacados, stone fruit, coffee and macadamia nuts. I also found a working hostel called Aussitel that offers free transfers to airports/train stations and free surf board, scuba gear and more to use! Since further research, I’ve only heard brilliant things about them which is a nice change from looking for a hostel in Brisbane!

I decided to start my trip with the fruit picking, because it would help me get to know lots of people, and also mean there’d be no frantic rush at the end to get in my 88 days. It also means that if I like somewhere I go, I can stay there with no worries about time running out, and still needing to fit in fruit picking. Also, as I’m going in September it hopefully wont be too hot for the most part…

One thing to note about the three months is that it has to be consecutive. So, if you go away for a few days (for example to a taylor swift concert), you can then only count the days you work; and to get the visa you need to work 88 days. This works out as more than three months. In contrast, if you work the three months in one go, your weekends count despite having them free. Definitely the better option!

My problem is that I’m going to see Taylor in Melbourne on the 12th of December, so that only just gives me three months – I really need to start working as soon as I arrive in Coffs. This is a point of great nerves for me; what if I just run out of time? What if it rains so we can’t pick (that’s a thing – nobody can pick if the fruit is wet) and that day then doesn’t count towards my 3 months? What if I can’t find work?

I contacted all the churches in Coffs Harbour to find out about their young adult things, and also ask about fruit picking. I needed to know if it was going to be as bad as everybody else had said! They all replied, and two referred me to the same girl called Spliv. She lives in Coffs and also picks fruit at a local farm! Perfect 🙂 We’ve exchanged a couple of emails so far, and she gave me the contact details of the farm she works at in Corindi. I’ve sent them an application form, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a job with them, as Spliv says it’s nice place to work. If I could have a job lined up already, that would be amazing!

So, after my three days in Brisbane I’ll be taking the train down to Coffs Harbour for three months of fruit picking. Hopefully I’ll be working at Costas berry farm in Corindi in the week, and surfing all weekend. Not to mention getting involved with the young adult group and church. I know that it’s going to be really hard work, and I’m anything but fit, but it’s a challenge which I plan to rise to. I’m stubborn – I can do this! And everyday I’ll get stronger. Nothing ventured, nothing gained – these words have stuck with me when thinking about fruit picking; and there is a lot to be gained.

– T