Tag Archives: Australia

Leaving Australia

P1000809Firstly, so many apologies for not writing anything on here for such a long time, I’ve had a really busy couple of months, which leads me to the subject of this post. I left Australia in February and I have been trying to get my head around what to do next ever since then.

I regretted my decision as soon as I got on the plane.

In fact, I think I had been regretting it much longer than that, but I couldn’t really change anything.

I decided I wanted to leave Australia at the beginning of December and within a week I had booked my ticket – it was very similar to how quickly I had decided to go to Australia in the first place. Thinking about things too much tends to make you regret those things, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing.

I had been talking about the possibility of going home for a couple of weeks and I couldn’t shake that feeling – friends at work kept coming up to me and saying ‘I heard you’re thinking of leaving, whyyyy?’ and at that time I thought it was strange because it was only a subconscious thing that I had mentioned to a couple of people. The more I thought about it though, the more I couldn’t shake the feeling. Something about England was calling me back and I didn’t know what.

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In the back of my mind, I had always had this idea to come home in February to surprise my dad for his birthday. The idea of travelling home without my family’s knowledge was exciting and being home for my dad’s birthday would be great.  When I looked at the flights, tickets seemed impossibly cheap and I took it as a sign. I thought that if I waited to be talked out of it, the tickets would go up in price and I needed to make a decision.

Another reason for leaving was that my contract with Octopus would have been up at the end of January and there was no guarantee of more work. I could either try my luck at getting my seasonal work out of the way – so that I could come back to Australia in the future for a second year of working holiday – or I could stay in Melbourne until July (when my first visa will end) and go home without the option to come back. One thing Florence and I discussed obsessively during this time was the need to get on with our lives; that being in Australia was great but we were somewhat in limbo because we couldn’t get permanent jobs there as we were not residents and it meant that we were just waiting until it was time to go home and get on with our lives.

P1000690One thing I found in Australia which I hadn’t really thought about before I left was that I was just having a constant holiday (oh I know, how terrible) but it meant that I was lackadaisical about work and didn’t work enough for what I was managing to spend each month – I didn’t factor in that I would need to earn money for rent; my savings couldn’t pay for it forever. It got to the point that even when I was working six days a week, I wouldn’t earn enough to do anything other than sit in my house and watch TV. I could have scouted around for other jobs that would give me more consistent shifts, but I would come up with the same problem I had when I first got there; I wasn’t a resident so people were reluctant to employ me.

Unfortunately, as soon as I booked my flight, I started having the absolute best time – I was living in South Yarra, which I much preferred to the Darling house and loved my housemates Lauren and Amy, I was hardly ever working, so I spent so much time at Port Melbourne beach soaking up vitamin D, I had a great Christmas with Erin’s family in Adelaide and I had a great group of friends around me, with whom I spent all of my spare time. The more I knew I had to let go of Melbourne, the more it clung to me until, on the 10th February, I said goodbye to our sweet little South Yarra apartment and was borne away by Amir and Florence to the airport.

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I actually had a bit of a stressful time getting onto the plane – I was informed, when I went to check-in, that my bags were overweight by 7kg. I would be allowed to have 2 free kgs but I would have to pay $150 per extra kilo. I did not have that kind of money so I panicked, but rational Lucy had been quite clever and included a folded up canvas bag in my hand luggage which I was able to transfer some heavy items into. With an hour and 10 minutes to go before my flight, I lined up in the passport control queue and waited, becoming more anxious with every second that passed. I was somehow convinced that I would miss my plane as the queue was talking longer than the time they allotted for it.

After 50 minutes, I went through to duty-free to find that my flight had been delayed – all that anxiety for nothing. Fortunately we were not delayed by long and I boarded the flight. I love flying with Qatar Airways; along with Singapore Airlines, they are my favourite airline. On both flights I had two free seats to myself and I was able to sleep for most of the time.

I arrived back in the UK after just under 24 hours of travelling and was met by Rachael who I used to live with before I left for Australia. This delay in catching a train to Weymouth was a great opportunity to catch up with Rachael, Steve and my almost-2-years-old godson Samuel. After spending a couple of hours with them, they gave me a lift to the train station. 4 hours and 2 changes later, I arrived in Weymouth, Dorset, where I caught a cab to my house, hoping someone was home as I had packed my house keys in the wrong bag.P1000840

None of the cars were there when I got home, so I did panic for a second that no one would be in to greet me and I’d have to wait even longer for my surprise. However, the door was open and my dogs came to greet me at the door (one of which I had never met) and they dragged me up the stairs where my mum was sitting doing some work in my sister’s room at the top of the house.

Needless to say there was screaming AND crying involved, although she swears she knew I was in the UK/coming home so that was nice. Next to surprise was my brother who was just coming home from work; he did actually look quite surprised which is nice. The final surprise of the day was for my dad who I surprised as he came in the door from band practice. He looked very shell-shocked but was very pleased to see me so it was a lovely welcome home.P1000829

We planned to keep the secret from my sister, Emily, until she visited the next day for my dad’s birthday and I honestly wish I had filmed it. Seriously, the video would have gone viral. Emily is absolutely gorgeous but she really is an ugly crier and the surprise and delight that was brought about by seeing me just showed up all over her face, as well as a high pitched scream which totally freaked the dogs out.

All in all it is pretty great being home but I miss Australia so much. My time there won’t stop me from going back, in fact it will only work to encourage me. My visa runs out next week so I unfortunately won’t be going back there to live but I’m enjoying being back in the UK for the moment and working out what my next adventure will be.

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The Australian Open

P1000729I have always loved tennis. It probably sprouted from Wimbledon always being on in the background at home during the Championships and the hypnotic draw that the dull thud of a tennis ball on a racquet creates. From there, I would always yearn for us to play tennis at school during the summer months, but my school seemed to place much more importance on athletics, which I really had no interest in. A couple of friends of mine encouraged my interest in tennis during my teenage years and even let me hit a ball with them a few of times. 

My interest, however, really was in watching rather than playing, despite a couple of summers of coaching and casual games with friends and family members. Every year when Wimbledon came around, my whole attention would be on the tennis whether I was watching it at home on the TV, at school on a live stream or following the Twitter feeds whilst out and about. An interest that started with Wimbledon soon developed to span all of the Grand Slams and impacted some of my fictional writing too.

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The first year I really followed the Australian Open was in 2013 when Andy Murray reached the final for the third time. I’d followed Murray’s success almost constantly that year, along with the rest of the British public, willing him to get the country out of its tennis depression. I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning keeping track of the match and finally going to sleep after he was defeated by Novak Djokovic in four sets. I didn’t follow tennis as much during 2014 as it was a pretty hectic year from me; more responsibility at work and then moving to Australia meant that I didn’t have time to follow tennis thoroughly and therefore only paid attention via Twitter.

During December a friendship with a professional tennis player, John-Patrick (JP) Smith, reaffirmed my interest in tennis as I was able to watch him during the Wildcard Playoffs at Melbourne Park. A couple of friends had also approached me as someone who would come to the Open with them, as it was too hard to miss when living only 10 minutes away from Richmond, where the tournament is held.

One thing I have been impressed with since the start of the Australian Open is the sheer amount of Australian tennis players taking part. In the main draw, 10 Australian tennis players started out, and while one only made it to the second week, I think this speaks volumes of the wealth of tennis brilliance that will come from Australia in the coming years. The UK could really take note from Australia in the quest to produce players of a high enough standard to enter Grand Slams.

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I made a decision to attend the Open at the end of the first week as there would still be a lot of big names in the tournament and not all necessarily playing in the main arenas, where I, as a poor traveller, would be unable to afford a ticket. I instead opted for the 3-day ground pass, which allows you access to any of the courts other than the Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas.

To be honest, the first day was fairly intimidating. After watching JP and his doubles partner Omar win their first match, the heat of the day was beginning to get to us slightly. We therefore took cover in a nearby tent and rehydrated before making a plan as to who we would watch next. The problem with this was that all of the courts were in brilliant sunshine and because of the number of Australians playing that day; all the courts were essentially full with spectators.

P1000731We spent some time in the Garden Square where there is a big screen set up, which plays matches from the main arenas, just like Henman Hill at Wimbledon. Murray was playing, so we were content with sitting there for a while before making our next move. I wasn’t what we would call ‘enthused’ by the half of the draw we could have watched that day as there were a lot of new names there. We actually called it a day pretty early and I made the ten minute journey home, out of the heat and into my house where I could watch the matches unfolding in the main arena.

P1000747Day 4 (my day 2) was much more promising as John Isner was up on Show Court 2 at 11am, the first match of the day. Since winning the longest match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, I’ve had a soft spot for him. Isner beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in four sets, sending him through to the third round. Later that day, on the same court, I also watched Ferrer win against Sergiy Stakhovsky in four sets along with a women’s singles match. Being able to watch top ten players at the Australian Open was one of my highlights.

The next day was even better. JP and Omar were first up on Court 6; playing against Jamie Murray and his doubles partner John Peers. This was rather a conflict of interests as I had to decide whether to support a fellow Brit or back the Aussies. The underdogs won my support but unfortunately lost the match against the no. 16 seeds.P1000756

It was Friday at the Open and Day 5 so things were getting interesting. So many punters were coming through the doors and people were clearly desperate to get the best seats in the house. I thought it best to make my way over to Hisense Arena as soon as possible so that I could at least get a seat in time for Andy Murray’s match against Joao Sousa. Before their match began, there were two women’s tennis matches taking place. I’m not usually a fan of women’s tennis but watching it at the Australian Open gave me a better appreciation of it.

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The arena filled up during the afternoon, not only due to Murray’s match but also because, later that evening, there was an all Australian showdown to be played between Tomic and Groth. I was joined by two middle-aged Aussies who had links with the Australian Tennis League and they provided me with interesting conversation throughout the match as well as inviting me to join them again at the Open on the following Monday.

Murray won in straight sets and I left with the crowds to make the short journey back to my house to tune in to the evening sessions on Margaret Court and Rod Lever.

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Overall my three-day experience at the Australian Open was the best I could have hoped for and living so close to Richmond madeseem as if I was always in the thick of it. I must commend the organisers on how well they accommodate the punters and feel as if the other Grand Slams could really learn something from the ticketing system. I would recommend investing in a ticket, even if you are not particularly interested in tennis as the atmosphere and quality of tennis is enough to make you a complete enthusiast.

I really admire Melbourne for its sporting events, not only for the importance of AFL, but cricket and soccer also play an important part in Melbourne life. For anyone living in or visiting Melbourne, I would encourage getting along to some sporting events; find a footy team and really gun for them (ehm… Geelong), watch cricket at the MCG and get involved with the crowd at a Melbourne Victory match.

 

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The Roadtrip Part Two

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We awoke to a gloriously sunny morning in Apollo Bay, with cows grazing in the fields opposite

where we had pitched our van-tent. We got up fairly early as the tent became hot during the morning sun and we were also keen to be on our way. We packed up our makeshift home and bid farewell to our home for the last 14 hours.

Wicked Campers have a deal you can take advantage of to get an extra day free if you send them a naked photo with you and your van, so the order of our second day was to get the naked photo taken so that we could confirm our extra day. The problem with doing this was that we needed something clever to cover some of our modesty and also, five girls getting naked on the side of the Great Ocean Road would probably attract quite a lot of attention. We therefore set about finding a private area in which to take the photo and perhaps some leaves or something to artistically lay over ourselves.

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We eventually stumbled upon a spot whilst we were looking for a petrol station and got the photo taken on the GoPro, however; it didn’t come out very well. I therefore sacrificed being in the it and took a photo which managed to earn us our extra day of road tripping. Due to this, we were able to take things slightly easier and also deviate away from the Great Ocean Road. One thing I will say to check is that you have enough petrol to get to the towns with the cheaper fuel because we did get fairly low at one point and some of the more rural petrol stations ration fuel (they will give you enough to get to the next town).

P1000607Once we had our fill of views from the platforms, we decided to explore the beach below the road and spent a couple of hours sunbathing and paddling in the sea – the waves were far too strong for any real swimming, and the sea was freezing. Surprisingly, there were very few others on the beach, so it was an incredibly peaceful experience; so much so, that I fell asleep for a while. Our time on the Great Ocean Road was coming to an end, as we knew there wasn’t far to go until we reached Warrnambool. We therefore climbed back into the van and made a plan for the rest of the afternoon.

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One of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road is Twelve Apostles Bay, which constitutes of a series of limestone stacks. Though the stacks are famously known as the Twelve Apostles, there were originally only nine. Presently, eight stacks remain and this number will decrease over the next few years due to the extreme climate of the Southern Ocean. In the meantime, though, tourists come from all over the place to see the view and are able to experience it through the purpose-built visitor centre and walkways to and from the viewing platforms.

About an hour after leaving Port Campbell, we came to the end of the Great Ocean Road – marked by a wonderful place called Cheese World. Erin and I came to Cheese World in December, but I was far too ill to enjoy it. This time, I made the suggestion that we stop so that we could have a drink and perhaps try some of the cheese they had on offer. We tried some of the award-winning cheese and each ordered one of their ‘world famous’ milkshakes. If you have the time, and enjoy cheese, I would certainly recommend a visit to Cheese World during your Great Ocean Road adventure.

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We stopped for supplies in Warrnambool and then set about finding a place to stay for the night. Using WikiCamps again, we found a campsite which boasted free camping with koalas in the trees overhead, just outside of Port Fairy. The only downside was that there were no facilities, so it would be a case of going where you could and no showering. I am, unfortunately, not as at one with nature as my companions, so the following twelve hours were a bit of a struggle for me.

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The campsite was beautiful and there were two other lots of campers staying there. It wasn’t regulated by anyone and you just parked yourself wherever you could find a clearing. Once we had set up camp, we decided to see if we could find any of the fabled koalas, and we were not disappointed. The first koala was pointed out to us by one of the other campers. Unsurprisingly, the koala looked very chilled while he balanced on a branch, completely asleep. We walked on a little further and were very lucky to find a koala with a joey sitting next to her. The joey looked like a grumpy old man and was obviously a little freaked out by the five girls ogling him from below.

Emily cooked dinner for us on the gas stove which came with the van and we sat out all evening eating pasta and drinking goon. Once the bugs began to eat us alive, we reconvened to the tent and Stef told us hilarious stories into the night.P1000629

The second day of our road trip was just as interesting as the first and I think we all had a very enjoyable time. Watching the sunset over the trees, while we were in what was essentially the middle of nowhere, was a tranquil and beautiful experience. Hearing savage koalas in the trees overhead was somewhat less tranquil and rather more like the Blair Witch Project…

The final two days of the road trip will be up in the Road Trip Part Three.

 

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The Roadtrip Part One

P1000524One of the best things about living in Melbourne is the location. I know I complained about the location when I first moved here because it was the main reason for the bad weather, but there are so many things on Melbourne’s doorstep that makes the location actually fantastic.

The Great Ocean Road is a 243 kilometre stretch of road which runs from Torquay to Allansford along one of the most scenic stretches of coastal road in the world. The first time my travels led me there was in December 2013 during my roadtrip with Erin. We began at Warnambool, which is often cited as the start of the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, I was incredibly ill during that first trip and was therefore unable to enjoy it as much as we could. Due to my illness, we made haste on the journey so that we could get to Ballarat where a good nights’ sleep awaited me.

My second visit to the Great Ocean Road was, however, very different. I’m not sure who first had the idea, but it was certainly struck upon that we needed to hire a camper van and go on a roadtrip for a few days while we had a little break in our workload and before 3 of our group went off on their next adventure. Stefani found a great company called Wicked Campers who have vans that have been painted with various slogans and spray paint, with tents added to the top, tables added to the inside and a kitchen at the back. Stefani was also hard at work planning the route for our trip which would take us all along the Great Ocean Road and then perhaps on to South Australia or further North into rural Victoria.P1000517

One Monday morning, on a bright October day, with an assortment of bags and Eskies, the five of us showed up to collect our camper van. The van, an old Toyota, was decorated with an array of colours and peace signs, bearing the slogan ‘Hippy Freaks’ on one side, with ‘Smelly Hippies’ on the other. This was to be our home for the next four days. We were given brief instructions on how to erect the tent on top of the van, told where the nearest petrol station was and we were off.P1000530

The first part of our journey was spent getting to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, which was about an hour and a half to Torquay. Once there, we were able to really begin exploring.

There are so many coves and beaches which run all along the coast of Victoria. We ventured on to one such beach and were mesmerised by the beauty of the rock formations; caves and cobbles and beach for miles to see. Dayna decided that wading through the sea to get round a headland was a good idea, but was quickly thigh deep in water and the rest of us deigned not to follow.

P1000545Just outside of Lorne begin sign posts to Erskine Falls. We took a winding road up from coastal road and after twenty minutes we arrived in a car park surrounded by trees. The decent to the waterfall was steep and we were warned by those walking back up that though the sight that awaited us was stunning, the climb back to the top would be intense. We did have the thought of perhaps being able to swim in the waters beneath the fall but once we got to it, we realised this would not be possible. Not only was the water dark and dingy, but it was also freezing cold. However, we were able to explore and scramble over rocks – although on a return visit, I will remember to wear better shoes.

Our fellow tourists were not wrong when they told us the climb to the top would be difficult, but we persevered and got to the top, perhaps a little more sweaty than we would have liked.

We pushed on to Lorne, which was practically a ghost town compared to when I had previously been there during Falls Festival. The shops were quiet and we took our time looking around. My favourite stretch of the Great Ocean Road begins just out of Lorne and continues for the next 140 km; the most beautiful and breath-taking views I have ever seen. On a day like the one we had – bright and sunny – the views of the coastline extend for miles. The road winds in and out of rock face and bush, with houses suspended on stilts looking over the Bass Strait.P1000572

The sea was a little moody due to the wind but it was still the most brilliant blue colour and the contrast between it and the sandy coloured rocks made for many a perfect photo opportunity. We were able to stop at lookouts and marvel at what lay before us before clambering back into the van to continue the journey.

We began to think about where we would stay for the night and Dayna suggested using Wikicamps to find a cheap or free campsite where we could park our van and erect our quarters for the evening. The campsite we settled on was just on the way out of Apollo Bay and had a wonderful view over a river and farmland. It was $9 each for the night which was pretty good considering the facilities (shower and toilet), as well as the location.

The tent went up just as the guy we picked the van up from said it would and it was incredibly spacious inside; plenty of space for the five of us to sleep. Without much further ado, we created a nest for ourselves, got our goon and clambered into the tent. None of us really stopped to check the time and were therefore very surprised to find that it was barely 7pm and we were all feeling incredibly tired after our day of travelling. The wind picked up and we were glad of our shelter. After chatting for a few hours, we got into our sleeping bags. Needless to say, we were all asleep by 10pm.

Our first day was probably our busiest so the remaining days adventures will be up in The Roadtrip Part Two.

 

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Life in the Southern Hemisphere

photo 1 (3)I am pleased to report that I am feeling much more settled in Melbourne. I am even beginning to call my house here ‘home’ instead of just constantly referring to it as ‘the Darling House’. When I first moved in, I would spend whole days on my own in the house, not going out because of the weather, lack of things to do, lack of money or lack of people to do things with. I spent a great deal of time wallowing, and not doing much of anything else.    

After a month in Australia, desperate the start doing something with my time along with earning some much-needed money, I signed up to a hospitality agency. The agency provides staff for different venues around the city to help out at sporting events, conventions and private parties. I was fairly shocked to receive a call from them, after submitting my CV, as I have absolutely no experience in hospitality. However, I was given the job on the spot and began working at events in the city centre almost straight away.photo 3 (4)

Through work, I have managed to start meeting new people, which has been a godsend because for a little while I was feeling very lonely and really wanted to cut my losses and head back to England (around the time of my last post). Working for an agency is great because you end up working with lots of like-minded people e.g. travellers looking for enough work to save money and then continue their travels. The people I work with are from all over the world and all have so many different stories; work is never boring because of this.

Meeting new people means I always have something different to do and new suggestions for places to try. Grabbing a knock off drink or something to eat is a great way to realise that your job is actually not that bad, even when your feet have been torn to shreds by your new shoes. We went out as a group to the local bar outside work and got to know each other better, enjoying spending time together away from work.

photo 1 (2)Through the combination of iPhone apps and advice from people I’ve met, I’ve tried out some fantastic places to eat and drink; notably Huxtaburger in the CBD, which sells arguably the best burgers in Melbourne. It is set up with a sort of American diner-feel, with a selection of burgers named after characters from ‘The Cosby Show’, including Bill, Sondra and Rudy. The tag-line is ‘Hot Beef. Cold Beer’, which describes the simplicity of the joint perfectly.

The reason I rate it? It’s so unusual to find such a good veggie burger in any restaurant which boasts about the best burgers in town on the menu. Huxtaburger has accomplished this hands down. Not only is there the perfect veggie burger on the menu ‘Sondra’, you can also opt to have the tofu pattie in any one of the burger options. With generous toppings smeared between a brioche bun, it’s like heaven in your mouth with every bite. Worth noting are the crinkle fries, which go perfectly with mustard and complement the burgers ingeniously. With three restaurants around the Melbourne area, I thoroughly recommend trying it out as soon as possible.

Having tried Siglo, may I also offer up another fantastic rooftop bar in the CBD, Campari House, on Hardware Lane. Stefani and I went to Campari for lunch and drinks on a brilliantly sunny, but windy, Monday afternoon. Anyone who has been to Hardware Lane in Melbourne knows that it hold an incredible array of restaurants from a baguette shop to an atmospheric Italian restaurant. Campari House boasts seating downstairs as well as upstairs, with slightly different menus in each area. We chose to climb the jailtime stairs with interestingly decorated walls to the rooftop bar, where we were rewarded for our efforts with a vast selection of wines, cocktails and beers along with a delicious gourmet pizza menu. We were also sheltered from the wind.photo 3 (3)

I would recommend Campari House as a great place to go for lunch during your working day or for drinks on any balmy evening. There are plenty of tables and an interesting prospect (though no view over the city), of the tall buildings around you, and the faint city noise below. We both opted for pizza – mine was eggplant (aubergine) with smoked mozzarella. The combination was stunning and I enjoyed every last bite, washed down with a glass of white wine – recommended to me by the barman.

We then stopped for macarons at La Belle Miette, just because we could.

photo 2 (3)My parents came to Australia in August which gave me a huge pick-me-up. I spent the weekend with them in Hervey Bay along with my uncle and my grandparents and it really helped me gain some perspective and help me realise that what I was doing was the right thing. I decided to move here, so I need to make it work. It is a comfort to know I have family a short plane journey away too (though Queensland is surprisingly far from Melbourne). I was never any good at keeping in touch with my parents when I lived in Ascot, but I’m really enjoying the contact since I’ve been here. Little reassurances go a long way.

I have now spoken to my housemates – eventually we all came out of our rooms and now spend quite a bit of time together. We are a quirky bunch, and all of us from somewhere different; I’m English, Luke is Australian, Simon is a New Zealander, Marcel is from the Czech Republic and Ronnie is from India. I don’t see Marcel and Ronnie much because they work all of the time but Simon and Luke are around quite a lot and each of them are interesting in their own way. Everyone looks out for me too, to makes sure I’m eating correctly and getting my life on track a bit more or even bringing me McDonald’s in bed after a heavy night. I’m very lucky to have them.

I have had plenty of time to think about what I’d like to do going forward, but things are still very much up in the air. Due to the nature of my lease, and my mental state at the moment, I think it unlikely that I will complete my reigional work in order to stay in Australia another year. I am, however, incredibly keen to see more of the country, so I hope to accomplish that over the next few months, but also find a job which fills more of my time.

I will continue posting photos and updates about my adventures, and would love to know if you are reading them. Please leave a comment to let me know what you’d like more of and perhaps suggestions of what I should do in and around Melbourne.

 

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