Australia, the land of red sands and poisonous animals.
“How did you ever end up there?”, You may be wondering.
And the answer is, well, it wasn’t a trip that I had planned!
My original travel plan was to stay in New Zealand and work for a year then come home, but after 5 months in New Zealand I was beginning to go broke. I was able to find some work on an apple orchard for a few weeks and then stripping vines on a vineyard, but a case of tendinitis in my wrist messed up that opportunity for me. So, eventually, after having spoken with a number of other travelers who had come from Australia, I had decided to jump down under, where the work was plentiful and it paid well to boot. The minimum wage in Australia right now is nearly 19$ an hour. Seriously.
When I first arrived in Melbourne, Australia, I had only $1500 to my name. I had to live as frugally as possible and survive on cheap, non-nutritious foods so that I could also afford my alcohol problem. I spent most my time out exploring the city, looking for work, reading books and writing in my journal.
Being a Canadian who had only ever seen Australia on the TV or in movies, I was somewhat disappointed to find out that not all of Australia was actually trying to kill me. I thought I would spend most of my days catching cheap thrills from near death encounters, but lo’ and behold, there were no such creatures to be seen in Melbourne.
I remember, one of my guilty pleasures in Melbourne was to get sloppy drunk and walk down to the park to feed possums pieces of bread, and then I would pet them.
Because why not? Wouldn’t you?
Anyways, after two weeks of getting drunk and petting possums without much luck finding work I took a bus ride 8 hours North-West to a city called Mildura. This area of Australia was known for growing a lot of grapes and citrus fruit, so there was plenty of agricultural work in the area. There were also some backpacker hostels that would find you work as long as you stayed at their hostel and paid them rent. So, this felt like my best shot at finding decent work at that time.
Mildura worked out for me. I worked a few random farm jobs and started bringing some cash in just as my bank account was about to hit zero. Within a few months, I was full-time employed by Zilzie Wines in their vineyard. I wrote about my experience there a few weeks ago in another post (Here), so I’m going to skip over most of those details, but it was a fun job! For the most part.
My travels took on a different pace at that point. I began to work for a living again, in a sort of monotonous routine. The monotony was nothing like it had been back home because I was still in another country and taking in loads of new experiences, but it was definitely a routine. Routines can wear me down pretty quickly.
Living at a backpackers was similar to living in a dorm, there were a lot of parties and things would get wild on occasion. It was kind of fun, and I met a lot of interesting people from all around the world. The Germans were friendly and entertaining, the French usually hung out together, and the Canadians were masters of networking. Life was fine here, and I was able to save a good chunk of money working at Zilzie for my next adventure in Oz.
The Great Ocean Road
After about 8 months in Mildura, I ended up leaving with my new partner to catch a flight to Thailand for 3 weeks. We took a road trip down South to Adelaide, through the Grampian mountains, along the Great Ocean Road and then back to Melbourne to catch our flight.
This ended up being a pretty scenic road trip to take in a cramped little compact car, but it made for a few good photos.
On our return from Thailand, we took a ferry over to to the Australian island of Tasmania and in case you’d like to know, I don’t do well with ferries. I spend most of my time laying in a chair somewhere trying not to vomit, but hey, Tasmania!
Here we lived in another Backpackers hostel, where we were able to find a little work. We spent a month or so working on a flower farm and after that, work dried up for the Winter. We were fortunate enough to be able to find work on a ski hill, called Ben Lomond. I barely knew how to ski but it sounded like it could be a fun experience.
Our boss, Eryl, was a kind and generous old man who acted more like our Grandpa then an employer. He allowed us to borrow a vehicle, and sleep on the mountain for free in a lodge on the back of his cabin. We worked as lift attendants and I may have even learned how to do most of my skiing there. Yes, a Canadian, learning to ski in Australia. It is true.
Oh, and I may have befriended another possum there and brought him into my cabin. I have a problem.
After the ski season had ended we toured around Tasmania for a while, with the vehicle that Eryl generously let us borrow. Then, we basically just bummed around for a few weeks before flying back to New Zealand so my ex could visit, then off to France to meet her family.
This relationship did not end well. Far from it. So I’ve avoided using any pictures of the two of us in this post or talking about her too much because frankly, she’s not but a stain on my past. Oh, and I haven’t kept our photos. I did the equivalent of the ceremonial photo bonfire and instead used the delete key with huge success! 🙂
Maybe I’ll write about the tragedy that followed me through the course of that relationship one day, but not today! (Since this was written, I have.)
So – to end this post, I wanted to leave you with 10 random facts that I had learned while living in Australia:
- Australian adults play in the snow like Canadian children, because, hey, snow!
- Beer is ridiculously overpriced and boxed wine is ridiculously cheap.
- The Australian minimum wage is amazing and other countries need to pay attention.
- There aren’t dangerous creatures lurking around every corner there. It’s actually more like every other corner.
- Kangaroo meat tastes like beef and smells like a dirty gym bag.
- Egg and beetroot on a hamburger is the bomb! Try it!
- Canadians can learn to ski in Australia, and I’m living proof.
- Tasmania has scorpions. Found one in the shower.
- Tasmania is home to land leaches that can crawl, found one on my sweater.
- Australian creatures are terrifying and also adorable. *cough* Wallabies.