The fact that I’m now 5 months in to my year in Australia feels pretty bizarre. Thinking back on certain places and moments along the way can sometimes feel like a lifetime ago. But thinking of day to day life here has become just like normality to me now, it feels almost like a standard pace of living, especially now that I’ve finally stopped and for the first time in 5 months, I don’t have any plans for an onward journey…
I’ve looked at my trip so far as a series of different phases. There was the first three months – phase 1 – along the East Coast. Then there was travelling the Outback, which was a new phase of it’s own for the simple fact that I hopped over from Queensland to the Northern Territory and went from being solo to being part of a group tour. Next was sort of a mini phase while I briefly visited South Australia – Adelaide – before heading off to Melbourne. I spent 10 days in Melbourne, followed by another 10 in Tasmania – another two ‘mini phases’. And now, for what feels like the next most important phase – returning to Byron Bay in an attempt to settle, to find a job and essentially to live out the ‘working‘ part of a Working Holiday Visa in just one place potentially for the remainder of my time here.
It’s struck me now that I’ve achieved a whole chunk of travelling in these first 5 months – the ‘holidaying‘ part – and now it’s about stopping and retrieving a sense of routine in my life again. Because if there’s one thing that does not exist while traveling, it is routine. And that’s great for a while (trust me, I loved nothing more than the early days of lazing around at the beach and taking 3pm showers to wash off the sand) but there’s been times where I’ve really yearned for at least some form of routine.
I returned to Melbourne already planning ahead, knowing that Tasmania was going to be my last ‘jaunt’ and that by the time I reached Byron, I was going to be hit with some reality and some changes. Most importantly, I need to find a job if I want to watch some money come back into my account instead of watching it continuously disappear. Once I find a job (if I do – fingers crossed) I can have structure again, which I’m strangely or not looking forward to. I’m a planner, I can’t help it. So naturally, I always think about my days and my weeks long before I’ve even reached them. I’m excited to start living on a weekly basis where I know what I’m doing, what I’m having for dinner, where I’m sleeping – all the little things that gradually become big things to someone travelling who loses all sense of structure.
Being back in Melbourne was great for so many reasons. It was a well-needed break from the intensity of the heat in the Outback and Adelaide. It gave me a sense of home, not sure if this is because I began my journey in Melbourne and have a soft spot for it, or because it genuinely resembled England (the weather certainly helped). It gave me a chance to reflect on the months prior and on my first time in the city as the new, confused and amused solo traveller that I was. And it made me realise just how far I’ve come from that point, in distance but personally too. Don’t worry – I’m not about to drop the ‘finding myself’ line.
I just noticed things in Melbourne like how everything seemed so much clearer to me this time around – the tram system and the streets, which ones connected to the other and where I needed to go to find this shop and that café. I realised how much my sense of direction had improved due to relying entirely on myself to get around these past few months. Another wonderful thing that came from Round 2 in Melbs was a sense of comfort that I’d been craving. I splurged a little on an Airbnb for my last 4 nights in the city to remove myself from hostel life just for a short while. It’s definitely called for sometimes – real alone time with space just for you, away from dorm rooms and communal kitchens and bathrooms. I can’t express how amazing it felt to enter an apartment that I knew for 4 nights was just for me, to have a shower and blow dry my hair in peace, to wash and iron ALL of my clothes (for free), to slip into a comfortable, clean bed with a cuppa tea and cookies AND to watch a whole load of cheesy films on Netflix (thank you Chelsea). It was THE life.
Even stranger than the ease I felt in Melbourne was the flight I took from Hobart, Tasmania to Sydney on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I stepped on and off that plane as though I was stepping on and off a train into London, somewhere I’m familiar with. No sooner had I got off the plane, my bag was one of the first on the carousel at baggage and I was following arrows to the trains into the city. Topping up the Opal card I’d used months before, I was oddly now the person at the ticket machines being asked for help and directions. I don’t know the logic behind asking someone with a rucksack the size of a camel on their back for directions (kinda screams backpacker no?) but nevertheless I was asked and I answered! That afternoon, I walked to my hostel and checked in, dumping my bag and hitting the streets again for food. I’ve never not unpacked my bag at least a little, but one night in Sydney was the only time I was spending there. Unlike Melbourne, I just wasn’t fussed to spend more time and money in Sydney again. Especially since I’d rather spend my time and money (less of it hopefully) in Byron Bay.
So that’s where I was headed next. And 12 hours later, my train arrived in a place called Casino where I watched dusk drawing in and bats flying overheard. From there I jumped on a bus for the final hour and twenty into Byron. It was just how I remembered it and how I always fondly think of it. The sound of live music from The Rails followed me as I made my commute to my new hostel, already passing crowds of travellers and hippies on the way.
The last time I was in Byron was Christmas. I fell in love with it, not instantly but pretty quickly. And the day I left and watched the town disappear from my vision as the bus pulled away in the drizzly rain (the first day it had rained since I’d been there – how cinematic) I knew I’d be back. In fact, of all the East Coast spots, Byron is the place that most people return to which is what worries me about successfully finding a job here. Who knows what this next phase will bring but it’s early days.