Well, May has arrived (I can’t bloody believe how fast it’s going) and I’ve crossed the halfway point in my year Down Under. In many ways, it’s as though these first six months have flown, barely giving me a breather and a chance to absorb everything that’s happened. In other ways, it’s as though they have happened at precisely the right pace and even if I haven’t always had the time I need to absorb things, now that I’ve stopped (temporarily travelling) I have all the time in the world to think back on my travels to this point, very fondly and in so much detail that I missed out on before when I was too busy being caught up in the moment. Maybe that’s just how travelling is, I don’t know. I think it’s very difficult to explain in words within just one blog post what a long period of time travelling in another country – alone – does to your character. If I ever do find the words to explain, it’s potentially book-worthy. (Alright Luce, steady on).
My life for these last six months has been a cycle of unpacking and repacking my possessions into one 70litre backpack, sitting through long bus journeys and waking to A LOT of early alarms, cautiously-but-gladly throwing my money at several travel agencies, mingling with backpackers from all over: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, all across Asia – and of course there’s bloody loads of Brits. Poms as we’re called here (I like to think it’s mostly an affectionate thing). It’s been a big contrast to what my life essentially was six months ago. And now, almost exactly at the halfway point, I’ve begun another new chapter and joined the working world. Yep, a full-time job after completely embracing months of roaming free as an unemployed bum of a backpacker. It’s the boring but honest truth to tell you that when travelling for a while, you do reach a stage of desiring some level of routine once again. And as much as I loved my freedom to travel (I do miss it already), I reached that stage and now I can settle for a while, experience what it’s like to actually live and work in Australia, earn money and organise the time that I have remaining in this glorious country.
Since I’ve settled and started working, I haven’t even felt rushed to find somewhere to rent therefore I’m still living in a hostel. When you speak to most people after managing to secure a job, they automatically assume you’re also looking for a house-share and will most certainly give you a look when you tell them you’re quite happy staying in a hostel for now. So at first, I questioned myself – should I be looking for somewhere more normal to live? Why would I want to stay in a hostel? Particularly now that I have an income and can afford not to live in a hostel… The way I see it is: I am still only a temporary visitor to this country, I’m living a stage of my life that I’ll never really be able to re-live and I very much still consider myself a traveller. And I guess, where do travellers live? Hostels. I don’t know if it’s the right or wrong decision, I’m simply choosing to live by the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it‘ expression. I’m not the world’s biggest socialiser either but I still want to be surrounded by other people, even if it’s just for 2 minutes of small talk in the kitchen and even if it means befriending more travellers who are most likely to move on to their next destination within a few days of meeting them. That is one flaw in travelling but equally something I’ve got used to and don’t need to feel sad about. The bonus is having several catch up’s to plan when I get home!
Sticking with the whole reminiscing-on-my-travels theme, something great happened recently – thanks to my new job – where I was fortunate enough to go on a short trip to a few spots on the East Coast that I’d never heard of before (not surprising, the East Coast is loooong). One was Barrington Tops, a beautifully green piece of rural New South Wales where my cubby-hole bed for the night was in a dreamy retreat high in the mountains, complete with a hot tub looking out on said dreamy views. We were served garlic bread and pizza fresh from a stone oven by the side of the tub and honestly now I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening. By 6am the next morning, I was awake with the rest of the group, wearily wandering outside on the deck in our pyjamas to the most glorious of foggy sunrises. Traveling has given me a new love for the morning. I just need to love it enough to get myself out of bed for even more sunrises!
Anyhow, soon after the foggy haze had disappeared and the sun started to beam, I’d finished sipping my tea next to the resident dog, who must be one of the luckiest dogs in the world, and it was time to move on. Departing Barrington Tops (far too quickly for my liking) the onward journey gave me the chance to once again cruise by the early stops in my own East Coast travels like, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Yamba… all the places that I felt most ‘new’ to this whole travelling thing. And now, here I was – on a bus with a bunch of other ‘new’ travellers, experiencing Australia for the first time – just as I did six months ago. I watched and spoke to them all, recognizing their excitement and listening to their plans, whilst remembering all of my own. For moments, I wanted to do it all over again. There’s nothing like that feeling of being new and curious in a place, being free to explore and do whatever you choose. But the ‘holiday’ part of my Working Holiday Visa is over – mostly. I’m sure there’d be people sickened to hear me say that I’m not living just ONE BIG HOLIDAY, but honestly Byron Bay isn’t even sunny every day anymore! Oh yeah, it’s Winter in Australia now. I have to wear shoes and socks and had to purchase a pair of joggers to wear in the chilly evenings whilst I snuggle up inside with my tea and biscuits. Yes, I know… am I 25 or 65?
Stopping has given me the time to appreciate everything that little bit more. I can’t express how bloody lucky I’ve felt recently. Firstly, to return to the one place I adored visiting on the coast and now be able to call it my temporary home – Byron Bay – where my temporary backyard is a beautiful beach merely a five minute walk away. Although these days I only go there for the sunsets. And I’m not even sure if that’s the best idea, considering how sentimental the bloody things make me every time I watch one, accompanied by the mellow tones of the hippie drummers who play by the rocks at the top of the beach. But it’s exactly that view that makes me remember how lucky I am on a regular basis so for that reason I need to stop being a complete sop and continue to watch every beautiful sunset I can while I still have the chance to live here! Secondly, getting a job in travel after my own travels was not something I ever remotely expected. It’s perhaps the one big detail of my year in Oz that I never planned – the working part – so perhaps that’s why it feels so great to have happened the way that it has.
And so, I’m left with six months – even less by the time I’ve posted this. Six months of working and earning and saving and learning (wanted to end on a rhyme). Six more months of appreciating this little home I have in Byron Bay – this unconventional but incredible home in a hostel, surrounded by ever-changing backpackers and barefoot hippies on the street who have lost any understanding of the word ‘haircut’ and dress themselves in all colours of the rainbow. Six more months of embracing the fact that I live by the sea – perhaps one of my biggest childhood dreams achieved – and can paddle and collect shells and stare into rock pools as often as my little nerdy heart desires. And six more months of eating overly-priced food that’s so damn good, the resistance I have parting ways with my money subsides more and more every time. Because I don’t need money to be happy… I just need cake. Inspirational quote material, or what?!
Travel-wise, all I can do now is slowly save my funds again, squeeze in the odd weekend adventure (I hope) and plan a little skit round New Zealand before I make my way home. And then… I don’t know what home holds for me and the thought of it is all kinds of strange and exciting. A year is a long time to be living – partly on the road, in between lazy coastal towns and partly in one coastal town inhabited by hippies (and Chris Hemsworth wherever he’s lurking). And returning to England will just be… so different. I think about it a lot, can’t help forward-thinking. ‘Please let it be okay, please let my friendships be the same, please don’t let me moan about the cold 1000 times a day’. Something I do know of my return home are the long-overdue dinner dates with my friends, because naturally the one plan you do make after a year abroad is centred around… food. Obviously.
Finally, as this is my blog I should say sorry because I’ve neglected it lately (with good reason) but I’m still insistent on trooping on to share genuinely helpful writing on Australia, not just one gal’s encounter of bussing along the coast and recalling her old lady, tea-drinking habits and growing addiction to ALL foods. I promise, a year in Australia does get more riveting than that.
So thanks for sticking with me. I post photos on the reg at @lucethurlo_ – occasionally food pics do make an appearance, if that’s your thing. Can’t say it’s mine but ya know.