Australia – Review of my Time Down Under

After just over two years I have now departed Australia. Never in my wildest dreams when I touched down in Cairns on the 24th of April 2019 did I think I’d still be in the country over two years later. A lot has happened in that time, mostly good, some bad but when I look back in years to come I shall always have such fond memories from this beautiful country. The first few months in Aus were pretty tough, after going from the best 6 months of your life travelling Southeast Asia, to back-breaking work on a farm, you come back down to earth and reality pretty quickly. If I’m being brutally honest those first 4 months or so in Aus are some of the most depressing/miserable days of my life. Now that also makes me feel incredibly lucky to make that statement, as it means my life has been amazing if that’s the worst it’s got. But those 4 months were tough. You learn a lot about yourself in hard times though and we all need to experience these things to grow and develop as a person. I’ll take a lot of life lessons from my time on the farm. I do wish I had tried to enjoy myself a bit more while doing it but we can’t change what has happened, only learn from it for the future. Those 4 months of farm work were also what enabled me to spend my second year in Aus, so long term they were 110% worth it. I do also think anyone coming to Aus on a WHV should go and do farm work right away. It’s the best place for you to make friends & they will stay your friends throughout your whole time in Aus. They will be your friends in the big cities when you finally settle down and those you travel around the country with. By doing farm work straight away not only do you make your new friends for life down under, but you also get it out the way. Paving a path for 20 months of uninterrupted life in Australia if you so wish. Therefore as rough as it may be at times, I also do encourage everyone to do it. 

Throw back to being a pepper picker everyday

After farm work I road-tripped down the East Coast in a camper van, it was a great way to see this part of the country & tick off the major sights and attractions but I still wasn’t blown away at this point. Don’t get me wrong it was really fun, but we were very much on a budget, didn’t meet too many people and by the end of it were sick of living on top of one another for 5 weeks haha. Again everyone’s experiences differ and I know some people have the time of their lives down the East Coast, for me it was good, I’m glad we did it, but I wouldn’t rush to do it again. 

After road-tripping, I based myself in Sydney. This was now back in October of 2019. The plan at the time was to stay for around 4/5 months before moving on. Little did I know then that I wouldn’t leave for another 15 months. I found a room to rent in a house out west and also a job at a company through a recruitment agency, who I ended up being employed by for 18 months in the end. The room served a purpose and with hindsight it’s easy, however, if I was to do it again I would never have moved there. At the time it seemed right but the location was just wrong & having now lived with much better housemates (the lady I lived with was lovely just at very different stages in life), I realise how much an impact this has on your overall enjoyment of a place. It’s not the make or break, but living in a good place with good people has such a positive impact on your time somewhere. 

We all know what happens next, I was due to leave for NZ in April 2020 after my first year in Aus, but COVID put an end to that keeping me in the country for the second year. At the time I was a little gutted, but looking back now I’m actually so happy I was forced to stay. You can probably pick up from the tone of this first section of the blog, that personally, my first year in Aus was average. I enjoyed my time and saw some amazing places, but overall I didn’t see what all the fuss was about and why everyone loved the place so much. I would have left Australia not really that bothered if I ever returned. My second year here changed all of that. I moved house in Sydney, got prompted at work and made some new friends in the second half of 2020. I finally came to appreciate the city a little more after moving and what life in Australia was all about and what it could offer me. I took a few trips to various new places which I felt privileged to do during this time, seeing as the rest of the world was locked down due to COVID. And realistically there weren’t many better countries to see out the pandemic. Work continued to get busy and I just kept saving money for a time I could use it again. I was then lucky enough to be offered the chance to relocate to Melbourne which I jumped at. Sydney had been great, but I had itchy feet and was excited to see new places and meet new people. The 3 and a half months I lived in Melbourne from Jan 21 to May 21 were probably the best months I had during my whole time in Aus. The work side of things was pretty stressful, but outside of that I had such fun, the house I lived in was great, my housemates even better. Desi pretty much became my personal tour guide for Melbourne and was determined to ensure I fell in love with the city. It certainly worked, so thank you Desi I owe you! I would work hard in the week, but on the weekend would always be doing something new, whether that be, nights out, dinner, comedy shows, the theatre, something was always going on. I also went away camping for Easter weekend with a group of friends who I got to know from two of my friends from Uni living in Melbourne. This was a true Aussie weekend out in the bush, with just great company and good weather. Then for my final weekend in Aus, I went away with Desi to explore Phillip Island which is a few hours outside Melbourne. Again this was fantastic and the perfect end to my time in Aus. I didn’t save as much money as a result but after all, you don’t count your money when you’re dead. If it wasn’t for the fact I was ready to leave my job (or NZ opened a travel bubble) I would have been very happy to stay in Melbourne. Also, it’s probably the one place right now I could see myself settling down long term if given the opportunity one day. 

Desi & myself on the “Melbourne Eye” as it were during my final week in the city
View from the Nobbies at Phillip Island

The second year in Australia allowed me to finally love the country like so many others do. It allowed me to see a little more of it, although there is still far more I’m yet to see. But I now know one day I want to come back and see the places I didn’t. I would love to do a big road trip of the West Coast and that’s probably the one regret I do have from my time here is not finding the time to do this. But again I also made the choice not to do this and elected to save my money for other things. It just gives me an excuse to come back and see that part of the country, plus others I didn’t see. On the whole, the past two years of my life have been unreal in Australia, made even more amazing by how much I was able to do while others couldn’t. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about myself, what I want to do in life and what makes me happy. Although I worked in a normal job for the vast majority of my time in Aus this also taught me a lot from a professional sense which will stand me in good stead. It has also inspired me to ensure I chase my own dreams and goals before settling into that way of life long term. It’s from this newfound perspective that has spurred me on to pursue my travel blog & now Instagram a bit more seriously. I also brought a new laptop to start editing videos again. I also want to try and find ways to make this life a little more sustainable and create the ability to generate income while on the road as opposed to working for 6 months of the year normally then leaving. For now, I’m happy to continue doing that but if I can find a way to combine the two that would be amazing. There is certainly opportunity out there but it isn’t without its fair share of competition, I’m more than prepared to work at it now though. 

Some concluding remarks on Australia as a whole then before wrapping up this part of the blog series and my life. 

Firstly a few things that annoyed me a little. No.1 the traffic lights, anyone who has been in the USA will understand as it’s the same but basically cars can turn while you cross the road, they just have to wait for you to finish doing so. I don’t really get it, I think they should just wait for everyone to cross before going green, you get used to it and I’m being extremely pedantic here but still, it annoyed me. No.2 no one waits for you to get off the train before they start getting on. Everyone just stands directly in front of the doors even though they know full well people are going to be getting off. Just stand to the side, leave a path for everyone to get off then you can board! No.3 there isn’t really a number 3, that’s about it that annoyed me, so if that’s the list some country ey! Now onto the good stuff! 

The weather, on the whole, is decent as you’d expect, but the country is also so varied due to its size. Meaning there is something for everyone here and every climate. But what certainly is no joke is the sun. My god, it’s a different kind of heat to that back in Europe and on some days I felt like I was in an oven, some places get up to the mid 40s at times and it’s roasting. The sun is also so strong, likely the result of that Ozone hole. I’d never wear anything other than SPF 50 here. Even after applying it every 30 minutes it seems, if you’ve missed the tiniest part on yourself somehow, you’ll know as you get home and notice all the red patches on your body.  

The wildlife, despite what everyone will tell you before coming to Australia, not everything wants to kill you. Yes, there is a shit load of animals here that certainly could, but if you are sensible with what you do chances are you will never come across them or put yourself in danger. I only ever saw one snake during my whole time in Aus and only a few spiders, granted pretty big ones haha. But as I said while the danger is there and should be taken seriously, chances are you are highly unlikely to ever come across anything. 

The cost of living, while it was a shock coming from Asia to Aus, once you get up and running in a job that pays even minimum wage, but ideally something a bit above this. The price of things is very reasonable. It’s all relative, so while certain things may be a bit more pricey compared to home you get paid more. Overall I found that I could work 9 – 5, pay all my living expenses & bills for the week, go out and do things at the weekend and still have money left over to put away at the end of the week. It was great being able to live the life I wanted to but still be able to save good money. 

This leads me nicely onto way of life. I think this is partly for the reason above, but also just due to the nature of the country. The way of life here just seems so good. Yes, you have to work hard still, but you are rewarded fairly for this and with that money, it enables you to live a decent life outside of work. Also, there is so much for you to do when not at work. Not just man-made things such as eating out or going drinking, but the country itself is the biggest playground you could wish for. Heading to the beach after work for a swim or surf, taking a nice walk along a coastal path or the numerous national parks and unspoilt natural locations there are to explore. Australia’s biggest selling point is the great outdoors. There is so much to explore and new places to see. You could spend a life time and still not see them all! You’re sure to find yourself on a few stunning beaches while you’re here as well. Some in the big cities can be busy, but others you will often have to yourself. To add some perspective, Aus has around 12,000 beaches, so if you were to visit a new one every day it would take you about 27 years to see them all! Spoilt for choice! 

Finally the people, Australia is a very diverse country, even those who are “Australian” if you go back a few generations are descended from elsewhere. This creates an amazing mix and melting pot of cultures that you can dip in and out of but also leaves you with the stereotypical Aussie as well. On the whole, they are great people always willing to help and just out to enjoy the great country they call home. You might think they speak English but they don’t half have some funny slang words. General rule of thumb, just shorten everything and put an O at the end. Over time you do catch yourself saying and acclimatising to the lingo which is all part of assimilating into the place you live. But that’s the beauty of living somewhere for so long, you get to pick up on these nuances that you don’t discover if only somewhere for a short period of time. 

There we have it two years in Australia – what a time it was, thank you to every single person who I met there and who was part of my experience. There are far too many to name, but if we ever cross paths again I can’t wait to have a beer and catch up. But as the plan was a year ago I had my heart set on New Zealand and it was almost poetic that a year to the day I was due to leave my job the New Zealand government announced a travel bubble with Australia. A thing I had been hoping to happen for months now. I’m actually glad it happened when it did as it meant I got the full use & then 10 extra days out of my second-year visa. But finally, on the 5th of May 2021, I left Australia and arrived in Christchurch, NZ. It feels great to be here at last and I’ve so much to look forward to in the next months. It wasn’t without its challenges and I’m sure there are more to come, but I shall update you all in a subsequent blog dedicated to NZ as this one was to wrap up my time in Aus. So Australia you bloody beauty, thanks for the best two years, all the memories and experiences. You’ll forever have a place in my heart and I can’t wait to return. 

As for the blog, stay tuned, there should be some bloody good days ahead!

Cheers to you Aus

6 thoughts on “Australia – Review of my Time Down Under

Add yours

    1. Great blog really enjoyed reading it . Hope you find NZ just as good. Carry on having a wonderful time and enjoy it all. Take care lots of love N&G xxxx

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Love reading your blogs Calum. They are both factual and amusing at times making me laugh out loud. Keep living the dream and stay safe. Lots of love mum 😘😘😘

    Liked by 2 people

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