So, friends, it’s been awhile. I have arrived in Byron Bay, and promptly decided that I would like to try to stay. I stepped off of the evening bus into a crowd of people with the steady rhythm of bongo drums suspended in the warm evening air. The energy was apparent immediately. Admittedly, the crowds of people were, for the most part, “schoolies” — 17-18 year old kids who have just finished their Year 12 exams and flood the east coast for a couple of weeks of debauchery. Byron’s gaining popularity as a destination, but nearby Surfers Paradise is the hub — over 10,000 schoolies descend on Surfers for their celebrations. A word of advice for any future travellers to Oz – avoid Surfers for a couple of weeks at the end of November and beginning of December.
Even with schoolies, Byron is a fantastic place.
Long stretches of gorgeous beach and a few busy streets are full of barefoot buskers, barefoot surfers, and – this is serious – barefoot skateboarders. You don’t have true summer feet until you can stop your skateboard barefoot. These people are hard. Bongo drums appear to be the instrument of choice, and I would bet that a solid chunk of the permanent population owns at least one hula hoop. It is a tiny town, but it is full of cafes, restaurants, and yoga studios. And backpackers. Oh, the backpackers. Most of us now have our “Hi, I’m a backpacker,” schpeel sorted by now. It goes something like this: “Carmen, 23, Canadian. Oz for 6 weeks, Byron for 1, working holiday, going up.” The most likely response includes a 20-something German who began their trip in Cairns, and is also on a Working Holiday.
So, these backpackers. This is where my problem lies. Because when you take a town like this, and throw in a couple hundred backpackers on working holiday visas, what you get is a lovely town with no jobs. Unless you are a bartender or a barista. Which I am not. A week of unsuccessful job searching is never fun, especially when you are trotting/biking around in business clothes in 30 degree heat. (I realize I may not get much sympathy about this from my poor, freezing Canadians, but I should.) In the last couple of days, I have had a trial shift at a restaurant and an opportunity to do another one, which I have jumped on. Both of these, I’m guessing, would be part time — and probably quite variable hours. So, I’m giving Byron a couple more days, and then I’m calling it. I’ve also started to believe that the appeal of Byron may not last long enough to make settling here the best idea. I may just be trying to convince myself of this, as the chances of me being able to stay look pretty slim, but I’m going to stick with that notion. It makes me feel better.
This is the first bit of stress I have experienced in Australia, which is actually probably a good thing. It is also a good thing that I’m looking now. Though I feel like the savings are running dry, I still have about half of the money I came here with. I could, in theory, survive for another six weeks. I had hoped to have a job at about this stage of travel, but I guess it just goes to show pre-conceived plans, however vague, rarely work while travelling.
The best part of the last few days is that the person I had met in Sydney has booked a ticket to visit me in Byron in a couple of weeks. It will be most excellent to spend some time relaxing with someone familiar, particularly in this town of transient encounters. In the meantime, I may head to Surfers or Brisbane, check out the job scene (which, in reality, could be no more promising than here), hopefully score some lovely couches to crash on (which are noticeably absent in Byron), and just come back for that weekend.
I will check in again soon. In the meantime, I encourage you all to encourage anyone you know looking for work in Oz to avoid this area, both for their good and mine.