Falling In Love On Your Travels.

Before I moved to Australia, I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard 'Travelling eh? Mark my words - you're going to get to the other side of the world and fall in love...' I honestly think that if I had a quid for everyone who said something along those lines, I could have at least funded my flight ticket here - and probably bought a couple of new bikinis too.

Being the stubborn little sod that I am, I made the decision very early on, that under no circumstances whatsoever, would I prove anybody right in their premonitions, and I would remain firmly apathetic. 

As much as half of me is dying for everybody to be wrong, the other half of me is more than ok with everybody in fact being right - and I'm ready to accept that I've gone and fallen completely head over heels in love. Admittedly it might be with a city and not with some random stranger I met at boozy bingo, but that still counts, right?

In my defence, Melbourne is pretty damn easy to fall in love with. I've managed to find myself a nice little place right on the beach, a tram ride away from the city and a short drive away from the Dandenong Mountain Ranges. I can go from swimming in the sea, to getting lost for hours in the ridiculously huge shopping centres in the city, to climbing trees (and falling out of trees) in the mountains - all in the space of a day.  (And seriously - leave trails of breadcrumbs if you go shopping in the city. I couldn't find my way out of The Emporium for nearly an hour and have been too scared to go back in since.)

Don't go chasing waterfalls. 

Don't go chasing waterfalls. 

Melbourne is a city abundant in culture, with unbelievable food and insanely good desserts. I've indulged myself in every cuisine imaginable, and never before moving here had I found myself halfway through a meal, excited to be hungry again just so I can try something else. There's street art on every corner, and the buskers are so talented I could watch them for hours. There are hidden laneways, quirky little bars, night markets, and so many ice cream flavours that I really do fear I won't get the chance to try them all. The people here are the friendliest I have encountered - I challenge anybody to make it through an entire day without someone striking up a conversation with them in the street. Even the public transport system is cheap, runs on time and  is therefore worth a mention! (Although even the Kenyan public transport I found to be more reliable than Bristol's...) 

I'm pretty sure that Bristol is always going to be my number one. I love it with all my heart, and I can't imagine anywhere else ever getting me like Bristol does. But Melbourne has well and truly got my heart in a headlock - and something is telling me that it's going to be my first love of many on this trip.... 

Rainbow Road.

Rainbow Road.

When You're A World Away From Your Family At Christmas...

Apart from being about having a really tidy bedroom, (because if it's messy, Santa won't come) Christmas is all about family. (And actually quite a lot about food too...)

Being the other side of the world at Christmas time isn't the easiest. The really hot weather obviously helps a little bit, but it's just not the same as being at home. Plus, you're constantly aware that there's not a single chance that you'll be able to enjoy your nan's stuffing for Christmas dinner - and even the sunniest of December days spent at the beach isn't going to make you feel any better about that!

Unlike most travellers/backpackers/whatever it actually is you want to call me, I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend Christmas Day with the family friends of a friend and her family and my friends too. (How's that for a mouthful!?) Such a lovely gesture is one that I'll be endlessly grateful for - especially as it made my first Christmas away from home so much easier.

Waking up on Christmas morning was strange. For a start, I wasn't freezing cold, and second of all, the fact that I didn't want to jump out of bed straight away made me realise exactly how much I love sitting with my mum and brother (and obviously my cats too) and opening our presents together. McDonald's breakfast made me feel a little better as we started the journey to Eltham to meet everyone.

I can't begin to explain what an incredible feeling it is, to be welcomed into the house of a family you have never met, on a day as personal as Christmas is to most people I know. Made to feel instantly welcome and provided with the most amazing food - it was like having an adoptive family for the day!

Christmas adoptive family.

Christmas adoptive family.

After dinner, things escalated pretty quickly and before we knew it a slip n'slide had been set up in the garden and we'd borrowed swim suits so we could partake in the fun. I never thought I'd spend Christmas Day sliding down the garden on my stomach - but then again I've never spent a Christmas Day in the 35 degree heat before! There were lots of jokes, some fantastic dance moves and endless laughter. I had an absolutely unbelievable day - I think the only time I (just about) managed to stop laughing was whilst I was eating my dinner! 

This years Christmas attire.

This years Christmas attire.

I always knew that being away from my family at Christmas time was likely to be the hardest part of travelling, but it was made so much easier by the fact that there are such good, accommodating people in this world. I can't begin to thank everyone enough for providing us with a surrogate family, a welcoming home, an absolutely delicious meal and a phenomenal day.

 

There's A Difference Between Being Lucky And Being Stubborn...

Obviously not everybody wants to travel, and to be honest, I'm pretty happy about that. For a start, the world would be boring if absolutely everyone had the same interests. I'm quite confident that the costs of travel would significantly increase if plane seats were selling out faster than Glastonbury tickets too, (and who wants to go through that stress any more often than they have to!?) Plus, imagine yourself in paradise - the white sands, crystal blue waters - tranquil and peaceful until half of ASDA Bedminster turn up to break the peace with stories of 'our Daz,' who only has five months left on tag... Although I'd love for everybody I know to experience what I'm getting to experience, travel really isn't for everyone!

For me, it's a massive priority. I get told most days how lucky I am to be travelling, and even more often than that, I get asked, 'How do you afford to do everything?' And told that I must be loaded! The truth is, although I do consider myself extremely lucky to be doing what I'm doing, it's not luck that got me here. And I'm by no means loaded. In fact, I can't remember that last time I wasn't skint.

God's honest truth - if I decide I want to do something or go somewhere, I buy the ticket there and then. Whether it be on a credit card, (interest free of course) or with the money that I'm supposed to be using as spending money for one of the many other spontaneous trips I happen to have booked. (Who can say no to £50 return flights to Amsterdam!?) Once I have a ticket, I simply work as hard and as much as I can and sacrifice certain things to try and raise some cash as spending money for whichever trip it is I've booked. (Anybody who knows me well, will know that more often than not, the spending money will again just get spent on yet another festival or flight!)

Sometimes, I wish that people would realise that they can do the same too if they really want to that badly. Sure they'll probably have to work an extra few hours a week or take on an extra job, cut down on takeaways or eating out or clothes shopping or drinking or smoking or most likely all of those things put together - but they can do it - it's just a case of prioritising what you want more in life and then working towards it. I guess that really I'm quite stubborn. If I want to do something badly enough, you can be sure as hell I'll find a way to make it work. (And I've gotten really good at finding good travel deals, travel budgeting and saving money by researching things properly too!)

St Kilda Beach sunset.

St Kilda Beach sunset.

I'm by no means denying that I'm lucky - I'm grateful every single day for the opportunities that I've had and am still continuing to receive - I'd just like to encourage more people to do the same, and for them to understand that all you really need is that ticket, and once you have it you'll find a way to make it work, if you want it badly enough that is.

I know that I'm by far not the only person whom people tend to assume has lots of money because of the lifestyle I choose to lead, (and I guess it is a fair assumption to make, especially with the amount of adventures I actually manage to cram in) but here's an assumption on my part too - next time you're admiring the updates of somebody who seems to constantly be travelling - if you're going to comment, they might appreciate you mentioning that they must have worked hard to get there, rather than commenting that they must be really well off. You never know - they might be living on the 80 cent tins of tuna from Coles. (Which are actually really nice by the way...)

Once A Festival Addict...

Being a self proclaimed festival addict, it was hardly a surprise to anybody when last weekend I packed up my belongings and headed off to Strawberry Fields - my first ever 'bush doof,' (which is an absolutely ridiculous name for a festival out in the Australian bush, but despite them having such a stupid name, 'bush doofs' still happen to be my new favourite thing.)

Obviously because I'm a massive keener, I actually bought my ticket whilst I was still in the UK - back in April in fact, for the bargain early bird price of $209. I know that I've hardly been spending dollars long enough for there to be much competition, but I'd say that it was the best $209 I've ever spent.

The festival was out in Tocumwal, New South Wales. It took what felt like forever and a day to get there, first on the train and then what seemed to feel like twenty buses after that. (It was in fact three, I think?) Considering we'd actually travelled to a different state just to get there, I don't think anybody was even slightly prepared to go back for the tickets when we realised that we'd forgotten to bring them! Luckily, the festival lady must have been fed up of working that day - or just didn't care- and happily gave us our wristbands without any questions. 

The first major difference that I noticed in comparison to the UK festivals is that you camp with your car. Which meant that people were bringing all sorts of mental crap to put in their campsites. I couldn't help but think how good it would be to not have to do the dreaded Glastonbury trek with all my stuff every year, and also how good it would be to have a sofa back at the tent for morning Capri Sun club.

Sofa life. 

Sofa life. 

Speaking of Capri Sun - they don't actually sell them here in Australia, which is a slight issue for me, (but I have found solace in Scooby Doo's rip off version.) I think so far, Capri Sun are the things I miss most about home. 

Beggars can't be choosers...

Beggars can't be choosers...

The festival was really very good. The bush location and hot weather meant that we could walk around barefoot all day, and it felt so good to not be wearing shoes and feel the dusty sand stuff in my toes. There were big colourful shade covers all above the areas where people were dancing, and they had built in sprinklers to keep everybody cool. The music was spot on, (apart from the random heavy psy trance we could hear from our tent one night) and The Pier Group had built some mental art stuff around the festival so it looked wicked. (And there was also lots to climb on!) It was such a different setting in comparison to anything I'm used to - it's probably one of my favourite festivals I've been to!

To sum up, I've got a feeling that my addiction to festivals is only going to continue getting stronger, and if anybody fancies donating some cash for me to go and check out Rainbow Serpent , I can accept PayPal.

 

Hostel Life.

Considering I'm yet to become a 'proper backpacker' and travel the world, I've completed a fairly decent stint of hostel stays in my time. I've always been fairly lucky, and haven't really encountered any that were too bad - until now.

It was inevitable that at some point I'd end up sleeping in a disgusting hell hole, and I'm certain it'll be the first of many more to come. Although, I do have to say, however bad it was, it did spur me on to start my blog - so a huge thanks to St Kilda Hostel for getting my ass into gear. 

When I arrived, the man at reception told me I wasn't booked in for the room which I'd paid for, which was funny for about a split second before I realised he was being serious. Luckily, (or rather, unluckily as it turned out) he managed to find me another bed. Because it was obviously hammering it down in sunny Melbourne, I practically ran to my room, put my key in the door, and was immediately shouted at. 

Now, I have absolutely nothing against tattoos - including tattoos that completely cover every single inch of somebodies face, but when I open the door to my room to be greeted with 'WHO THE HELL IS THAT!?' and a giant tattooed face in my face, I think I'm well within my rights to be slightly dubious about my new roommate.

It actually turned out that Michael, the shouty person who owned the giant tattooed face, was lovely - a classical piano player (never judge a book by it's cover) from Melbourne who lives in the hostel long term. He had the best bed in the room and instantly offered it to me if I wanted it. I didn't actually mind having a top bunk though. (Mainly because I'm a giant kid at heart.) I was the only female in a room of six, and to be quite frank the room was an absolute dump.

Despite the funny smell, it was all going fairly well until I decided to put my bag in my locker. The first problem occurred when I realised there were no lockers. Which probably partly explains why the room was such a mess, with the floor appearing to be the only place to keep my belongings. The fact that there was nowhere secure to keep my things was pretty annoying, but the main issue arose when I tried to clean my teeth in the bathroom and a sink that was so blocked with pubic hair filled up to create a frothy, minty pube filled swamp for me to heave into. 

The next three nights were pretty sleepless. On the first night I awoke to one of the guys having an extremely loud wank. I couldn't work out which one it was, but that was probably for the best. Night two consisted of me waking up to what appeared to be a drug deal taking place next to my bed, and by the third night, I wasn't surprised to wake up to find the front door wide open - though I didn't get up to close it, because it was nice to get some air in the room considering the other occupants had decided it was fine to chain smoke in there. 

On check out day, I awoke early to be out of the room at the earliest possible moment. Walking the streets of St Kilda in the rain was definitely preferable to staying there any longer. The pubic hair fountain was getting worse by the day, and although it was nice of the boys to attempt to hide the massive porn DVD collection that was originally scattered all over the floor, it still wasn't enough to make me want to extend my stay. 

The final straw came when I handed my keys in and the reception man tried to tell me that I hadn't paid for my stay and I owed him $90. There wasn't a chance in hell that I was going to pay twice, so I told him where to stick it, and walked out.

And so begins the travelling life...