Thursday, November 28, 2013

Into the Outback

I've always associated Australia with its renown notion of 'the outback': vast, empty and dry spaces of land. However, having spent almost all of my four-ish months here in cities I've yet to experience anything resembling the wild and rugged outback, until now that is! Allow me to explain...

See, if you're from a Commonwealth country (ie. Canada or the UK) an Australian working holiday visa is as easy to get as candy on Halloween. You fill out an online application, fork over a few hundred dollars and within a few hours you're legally entitled to work in the country for one year. Staying longer, however, is a bit more tricky.

In order to extend your visa and work in Australia for a second year, you need to complete three months of a specific type of work in areas deemed to be part of "regional Australia". This could mean picking fruit, milking cows or diving for pearls (the latter sounds absolutely amazing, though I've yet to hear of any backpacker who has managed to land a job as sweet as that).

So back to my original point: In order to extend our visas, Ben and I are heading to a farm just outside Narrabri, a small town in New South Wales. We'll spend three months working at Yera Farm Stay, a working organic beef farm that also serves as a rural getaway for tourists. From the sounds of it we'll be doing a bit of everything: herding cattle, helping with the horses and taking care of the farm owner's six children! We're not entirely sure what to expect but we're both looking forward to trying something completely new and different to anything we've ever done before.

One thing we know for sure... life in the outback will require some serious fashion adjustments!

Yes, we will actually be wearing these.

P.S. There is no Wi-Fi on the farm and the internet they do have sounds less than reliable, so I'm not sure how often (if at all) I'll be updating my blog over the next three months. Rest assured I will be keeping notes, taking lots of photos and will be posting things as soon as I'm able. Wish me luck!

The Sunshine State

After one of the longest flight itineraries known to man (London-Manila-Darwin-Brisbane, ouch!) Ben and I found ourselves in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Situated in north-eastern Australia, Queensland has earned the self-explanatory nickname of 'the Sunshine state'. Having just visited England and Canada (where chilly autumn was in full-force) we couldn't wait to slap on our shorts and bask in the glorious sub-tropical climate.

Unfortunately, most of our time in Brisbane thus far has been spent on the couch job-hunting, although the sunny weather nearly convinced us on several occasions to abandon our search for employment altogether. (We do have a job now by the way, but more on that later!) We did however manage to squeeze in an overnight camping trip to nearby Straddie Island, known for its abundance of wildlife, pristine beaches and overall natural beauty, making it a holiday hotspot for locals and foreigners alike.

Excited to be camping

Straddie Island

Queensland, I love you

Oh hello crystal clear water and incredibly fine white sand beach...

We had it made in the shade, literally

View from our campsite, not bad!

These guys were everywhere

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, budgie smugglers = speedos

Considering we are about to start what sound like pretty strenuous 40 hour work weeks (again, details to come!) this brief island getaway could not have come at a more perfect time.
I cannot wait to see more of the Sunshine state!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Photo Blog: Windy Day in Aberdovey, Wales

Three Cups of Tea

I first visited England a few years back while I was studying in France and it pretty much charmed the pants (which to the Brits means underwear!) off me. The quaint pubs, beautiful old buildings, the accents, drinking at least three cups of tea per day... I loved all of it, and I'm pleased to say I'm enjoying it even more the second time around.

I'm staying with Ben's family in his hometown of Shrewsbury, located in the county of Shropshire, and it's absolutely lovely. I've spent the last week wandering around town, walking in muddy but gorgeous fields and hanging out at '71 The Mount' (Ben's address, located on the same street Charles Darwin was born on!)

It's been so enjoyable that I'm already looking forward to coming back, which luckily will be next July!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh, The People You'll Meet

It's always a bit strange to think back to where you were a year ago. In my case, I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I had left home just over a month before with the intention of traveling solo for about a year and was spending the first couple of months of my trip teaching English in Cambodia. Last November 8th was a Thursday and for a reason I can't recall there was no school that Friday. Taking advantage of our long weekend, the other volunteer teachers and I set off for a night out.

The night started off like any other. The bars were packed with travelers from all over doing the usual circuit through Southeast Asia and taking advantage of the ridiculously cheap alcohol. Amidst the sea of people, I made eye contact and exchanged a smile with a guy nearby.

We somehow got to talking (we still disagree on who started talking to who first) and ended up hanging out not only the rest of the night but pretty well the whole time he was there, drinking out of coconuts, visiting the temples and bargaining in the market.

After three short days it was time for him to go. We said our goodbyes, obviously not knowing if we would see each other again (although I think we were both hoping we would.) He continued on to Japan where he spent a few months teaching skiing and where I paid him a visit in January. I told him I was thinking of heading to Melbourne, Australia to look for work come the spring, so after his contract was up in Japan that's where he went. 

I met up with him there in May and we were both set on working in Melbourne for a while. We hadn't planned on living together but an opportunity arose for us both to live in a flat with some other travelers, and although we'd only spent a total of about three weeks together face to face by that point - we went for it. We've now been to seven countries together, and plan on visiting many more.

As my best friend said to me before I left home to go traveling, "Just think of the people you'll meet!" How right she was. A year ago today I was lucky enough to meet someone who not only became my boyfriend but an awesome travel buddy as well.

Ben and I, around the world





Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Land of Ice

I've arrived in England and I'm happy to say it's just as charming as I remembered, but more on that later!

Deciding to come to England before heading back to Australia was a relatively last minute decision, and the cheapest flight we could find from Vancouver to London was with Iceland Air. All I really knew about Iceland was that it basically went bankrupt and one of its volcanoes seriously messed up my travel plans when I was in Europe back in 2010 - until now that is. Here are some interesting facts about Iceland that I learned while on the plane. 

- Iceland has a population of only 320,000 people.

- The Prime Minister is listed in the phone book.

- It was a part of Denmark until 1944.

- 'Women's Day Off' takes place every October 24, to commemorate the day thousands of women walked off the job in the 1970s in the fight towards greater gender equality in the workplace. (Absolutely fascinating story; read more about it here.)

- Although a member of NATO, Iceland has no standing military, navy or air force.

- It appears to be a pretty expensive place; granted we were only in the airport where food is always more pricey, but we paid 22 USD for a roll of (awful) sushi and a sandwich.

- Whereas most Christmas characters in North America are jolly and full of cheer, Iceland has
GrĂ½la, a mythological monster and giantess who comes into towns at Christmas time to eat naughty children. (Scary holiday story in my opinion?!)

Learning these little tidbits about Iceland (plus ogling over photos of its breathtaking scenery) has me wanting to plan a trip there in the very near future, but I guess England and Australia will do for now!

I hope I'll see you soon Iceland!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Round Two

A little over a year ago I left home to go traveling. I bought a round-trip ticket and planned on returning home after a year, thinking I would have seen and done enough by then. Exactly one year later I returned home as planned, except I didn't feel I had seen and done enough; on the contrary, my year on the road only made me want to see and do more. 

It is for this reason, although the time I've spent here at home has been absolutely wonderful, that I'm setting off for round two. This time around will undoubtedly be quite a bit different than the past year for several reasons (primarily because I'll be traveling with a boyfriend rather than on my own) but I can't wait to see how it will turn out.

Some people might/probably do think I'm crazy, or that I'm avoiding getting a proper job but I don't agree. There are literally countless reasons why I'm choosing to travel but the bottom line is that I think there is so much value in it, it makes me happy and it's what I want to do. 

That's not to say that leaving home (again) will be easy. Coming home and spending time with my incredible family and wonderful friends has reminded me just how much I miss them, so much so that I'm truly tempted to stay just to avoid saying goodbye. But I'm a firm believer in living life to the fullest and for me personally, that means traveling.

Shots of home over the past month, with the people I love most in the world

The old gal, packed and ready to go

Here goes nothing something!