Cheap Thrills

Again, when the travelling stops and the “real” life begins, I feel as though the stories will begin to become less entertaining, but for now all I have are the tales of living in this city. In practice it is far from boring, but I’m not sure the retelling will be quite to thrilling so I’ll just mention a couple of key new happenings.

The big happy news is that Kiwi is back, and suffice to say things are good on that front and it’s almost impossible to believe that it has been four months since we saw each other. As when I’ve reunited with some of my best friends after a year or more of being apart, we haven’t really missed a beat, which is excellent. The house search went impressively well, and the place that we viewed on Sunday afternoon (the day he got back) was a winner. The bond and rent are paid and the move-in date is set for Wednesday (tomorrow). We will be living with a friend of his and another roommate who is new to the place as well. It’s about a five minute walk from Bondi Beach which is excellent for lifestyle if a little draining for commuting. My job at the restaurant is about a 40 minute transit ride away. There is another location right in Bondi as well, but most of the reason that I like my job is the people that I work with, so I’m not sure if asking for a transfer would be worth it. I have also collected a second job as a waitress at a cafe. It is generally good, but the atmosphere is a bit lacking, and it is still a commute from home. I think I will start scouting out other options within walking distance as a second income to save myself a bit of headache. My combined hours are plentiful, if a bit draining and I’m going to have to finesse the schedules a bit to create a balance that leaves me with heaps of savings and still gives me a life. All of the hours (as I essentially could be working any day of the week any hour of the day from 7 a.m. until midnight or later) generally clash with Kiwi’s schedule as he has A Day Job. The promise of fun weekend missions including canyoning, rock climbing and diving are also beginning to encourage me to consider my options, though any hospitality, hotel, or retail job will require weekend work so I think I’ll just have to go with it and request the occasional Saturday off.

Future missions are already being schemed upon, as I consistently get asked “what next” after Australia. I still don’t have an answer, but the future looks bright. Two of my good friends appear as though they will be both be in Thailand in June, so I may have to justify a trip there for a couple of weeks to visit them. One of best friends from Canada has broached the subject of coming to Oz for a couple of weeks in September, which would be a definite highlight of the year. My parents, aunt, and uncle are planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand in October, which coincides nicely (and purposefully) with the end of my year-long visa. Finally, another great friend and her boyfriend are seriously considering moving to New Zealand in November and are in the process of convincing me this is a good idea for myself as well. Not to mention squeezing in as many mini holidays in this area as I can. All of this on the horizon, and the goal is still to have a substantial stack of money in the bank at the end of these six months to travel, and it’s looking as though New Zealand and/or South America are winning the destination race at this point. The world is our oyster, my friends.

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A Selfish Note on Life So Far

I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve been extremely content here. This has a number of driving factors, and in the last few days I’ve really been thinking about what it is that has changed between my life in Canada and my life in Australia that has contributed to this. There are the obvious things, of course. The sun, the beach, the fact that I’ve been funemployed for the majority of this trip so far. But that’s not entirely it. I’m employed at the moment, living in a city that has the unmistakeable feel of fall in the air – knits and boots popping up in shops, crunchy brown leaves on the ground, and a chill that (overnight, at least) makes you want to huddle up in front of a fireplace – yet this is where I have probably felt the happiest. It’s almost impossible to pinpoint or accurately describe why or how this has manifested. As I’ve said before, I was certainly happy in Canada as well, but this is somehow just … better.

I believe the root of it comes from living my life, at least for a period of time, completely, shamelessly, and fully for myself. For the last six months, I have made decisions nearly solely on what I want, and I have done exactly what it is that I want, no more and no less. I have always strived to make decisions that will make me happy at home, but there is always an element of compromise, of doing things you don’t want to, of making decisions based on other people’s desires. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be. I will, no doubt, find myself doing this more as I become settled in Sydney and have a job, friends, and a relationship that require my time and energy, and I’m very much looking forward to this. As much as doing what you want all the time can be fantastic, it is also easier to fall into the trap of not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, becoming too settled in your ways, and not trying anything new. It is important to put yourselves in situations where you are driven to explore the unknown, and surround yourself with people that push you to do so. I am happy to have be in a place that encourages me to do this, and to have people in my life – one in particular – that consistently challenge me.

That being said, I do think that the word selfish has far too negative of a connotation. I believe you must be happy before truly making anyone else happy. And I’m in no way saying that all of these things that I have wanted to do are strictly for myself, as I get happy from making others happy, so it just creates a big happy circle. (We could get into a discussion on the ethics of this – is it really a good deed if it stems from making me feel good rather than pure intent of goodness? – but lets not.) The point that I’m trying to make here is that living in a completely selfish manner for a few short months has been an exceptionally freeing experience. I have learnt things about myself, what I want, and – probably more acutely – what I don’t want. I’ve become more balanced , both literally and metaphorically. Even in the weeks before I left Canada (a few of them happily unemployed as well), I had trouble holding a balancing pose in yoga. Now my ankles tend to get sore in tree pose before I begin to tip. I’ve had the strength to turn down opportunities that I know will not make me happy, and I’ve realized I have certain requirements for any job that I do take. One of these, as trivial as it sounds, is that I very much want to be able to keep the collection of bracelets that I’ve accumulated while travelling – the standard pseudo-hippy traveller arm. I’ve realized any job that is a bit too professional where I would have to take them off just wouldn’t sit well with me, that’s just not what I want at this moment. I’ve become more comfortable expressing myself and what makes me happy, and this is an example of that, though it may seem superfluous.

I don’t like the word blessed, and lucky seems to not give enough credit where credit is due, but you get where I am going. I am fortunate enough to have a family that supports this type of life. My brother, though exceptionally different from myself in many ways, is similarly chasing the world despite – or, in my personal opinion, because of – his endless potential and boundless intelligence that would enable him to become any number of rich and successful things. My parents have, without fail, supported our decisions to do this, as well as every other endeavor we’ve embarked on. I have no doubt they will continue to do so. This has been instrumental in my life, as making the decision to come here was not necessarily an easy one, though it may have appeared to be. It was simply set in motion for much longer than most people realized, so the final purchasing of a plane ticket didn’t take any deciding at all. It wasn’t even necessarily Australia that I would be going to, I just knew I would go somewhere. I completed a four-year Bachelor of Commerce degree and, despite Dalhousie University’s best intentions, came out of the program with a rather bitter take on the business world as a whole and very little interest in diving directly into the rat race. I chose to remove myself before I even got started, and took a position in a hotel that I was severely overqualified for. This made it easier to quit my job after just over a year and depart to Australia, to chase my real dreams of travelling the world. As happy as I am with this decision, and as much as I plan to continue this type of life for a lot longer than one year, I have watched many of my commerce counterparts become Chartered Accountants, sales managers, and alike. It’s almost like watching an alternate life that I could have had, one with savings, investments, a career, a car, and a house. I certainly can’t imagine it, don’t want it, and am pleased to watch from afar, but it is rather fascinating to see how completely different our choices make our lives. I am not unique in my choices either, by any means. A few people who graduated from my program made comparable decisions to live or travel abroad; one woman volunteered in Africa for several months and is now studying to be a doctor.

So, after that rather long and rambling post, the moral of the story is that life is good at the moment. So good that I feel almost obnoxious for having this good of a life, but simply refuse to apologize for it, because I’ve worked my arse off to get here, and because being selfish is good sometimes : )

prettyugly

Time is already flying by at an alarming speed. Work at the restaurant has been going well and I’ve really been enjoying it. Everyone I work with seems really great and the atmosphere is professional yet fun. As long as you are working – and working hard – the bosses are fine with you having a laugh along the way. I’ve been assured by a couple of members of staff that I’ll be moving up from food runner (where they have everyone start to learn the basics) to waitress soon. Unlike in Canada, where this move would result in a huge increase in income due to tips, I can probably expect only around $30 – $50 extra per night, as Australia is not a big tipping country. Serving vs. running has other benefits, one of which is simply being a bit easier on the body. My arms, shoulders, and upper back have definitely been feeling the effects of trays full of beer and platters of bratwurst. I’ve begun to combat this by scoping out yoga in my current area and signing up for a one-week unlimited introductory offer at hot yoga studio called Hom Yoga. It had been about a year since my last hot class, and I definitely got a good kick in the … abs. Most studios offer very cheap introductory rates for about a week, so I plan to just hop from studio to studio to get my yoga fix for the next six months.

A while ago, I had a conversation with someone – I think it might have been someone I was couchsurfing with – about useless superpowers. For example, a friend of mine has the uncanny ability to tell the time at any given moment, almost down to the minute. A couple of years ago, while travelling in Greece, our motley crew of temporary friends were all declared to have a power. I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember that one of my glorious powers was the power to lead the group to ugly places. In Santorini, this is quite a feat, as the island is probably on of the most picturesque places in the world. Somehow, without fail, when I was steering our wanderings, we would turn up in crumbling car parks with graffiti on the decrepit walls. I tend to be drawn to ugly places such as these, and I’m always the one taking photos of tagged dumpsters and crumbling ruins. (See Exhibit A: Greece and Exhibit B: Melbourne).

Greece

 

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The moral of this rather unrelated story is that I think I have discovered another (somewhat more useful) power of mine: the ability to find the best coffee shops. This is a lofty statement, I know, but as I think I’ve mentioned before, I love a good coffee shop (such as The Sweatshop in Townsville). I can’t think of many places I’d rather be than curled up in an eccentric coffee shop, with mismatched everything, excellent brew, indie creativity-inducing music, and slightly hipster staff. Indeed, most of what you read was probably written in such a coffee shop, first scribbled into my trusty Moleskine notebook and then transferred to the Mac to enter it into the blogosphere. Just this weekend, I found myself drawn back to Rozelle for markets and wandering. I managed to snag a $20 wool blend pea coat in preparation for winter, its only flaw being that it is slightly too short in the sleeves. Debating a more expensive but enjoyable ferry ride vs. a cheap and boring bus ride back to the centre of the city, I wandered somewhat aimlessly until I came across The Old City. Something about its eclectic collection of pillows and record player drew me in, despite the fact that the cafe was entirely empty. About ten minutes after I arrived the place started to fill up and the owner (who had taken over only five weeks previous) announced that there would be live music that afternoon. He also asked us to have patience, as their barista had called in sick and a young (14?) barista-in-training was doing the role, so I forgave my slightly cool cappuccino. The music was great, the staff genuine, and the coffee would be excellent when this mini barista was all trained up. Most importantly, I was happy to be supporting – unknowingly at first – this new business endeavor.

Yesterday marked my 6-month anniversary in Australia, and the bones of a life reflection post have slowly started to come together. They will hopefully make their way up here sometime soon. A few days ago I added some photos to a post a couple of posts ago about Sydney, scroll down if you missed them!

Jah Won’t Pay the Bills

Sydney is awesome. My level of happy has increased since being here, and that’s saying something. In fact, my level of happy in Australia has been consistently higher than usual, and that really is saying something as I’m generally very happy anyways. The climate, the lifestyle, and zero pressure to have a real job, a proper place to live, or a plan longer than a week, have really agreed with me. That, and the fact that Sydney life seems to be falling into place a lot easier than set-up-life-in-Australia-attempt-number-one.

You guessed it! I’m officially employed. (In less than a week, winning!) You’re looking at the newest waitress at at German restaurant in downtown Sydney. My friend Jane works at a different location and suggested I apply, as they took her on with basically no experience and have a tendency to hire working holiday staff. I popped into my nearest Cafe on Wednesday, had a trial that night, and was signing my “hire me” papers the next day. I have been told to expect around 20 hours a week to start off with, so the employment search is not fully complete, but it’s a good start. I also learnt to carry three plates on my first shift, which further increases my chances of employment at any other food outlet anywhere.

I am apparently feeling confident enough to actually turn down jobs as well. Mixed in with my restaurant trial were a couple of interviews with a direct sales and marketing company, which proceeded to offer me a commission-based sales position. After my last foray into sales I was reminded that sales is not a field I want to be in and I swore that I would never accept a sales job again. This time I actually listened to myself and declined. That’s sort of a lie. I accepted, as the job was offered to me face-to-face, and then called them later that afternoon to explain another job had come up that I had to accept. Mostly true.

My other prospects on the horizon include a trial at a cafe on Tuesday morning. The manager said that the position that I had applied for had been filled, but he wanted to get me in anyways as “Canadians tend to be good workers.” This being Canadian thing really works in my favour. He said that he has some potential staffing shifts on the horizon so I have a possibility of working there as well. This would be great as, though I am definitely not a morning person, I would prefer a 7 am – 4 pm type of day rather than a 5 pm – 12 am type of day in the long run. Especially on weekends. I learnt this after working in the hotel industry; the evening shift agrees with my inner clock so much more, but the social life sacrifices make it a tough sell.

The real hope is that I will get the job with lululemon. I did have my group interview, and as a mentioned in my last post, I had three minutes to teach the group something. After asking  everyone whose time zone coincided conveniently with mine for ideas, and after chucking out my initial thoughts of the Bend and Snap (from Legally Blonde), folding an origami penguin, and the effects of alcohol on balance (thanks Michael, for this suggestion), I settled on the country two-step. It went down brilliantly. I’m not sure I eat enough kale or do enough (ahem, any) CrossFit to be invited into the lulu club with open arms, but we shall see (by Tuesday, I was told). The trick about this position is that the location I applied for is closing their doors for 4-6 weeks for expansion and renovations, so full-time hours would not start until June-ish. And I have a feeling my visa may be a deal breaker with these guys, but here’s hoping!

That’s about all of the life updates for the moment. Still living in my hostel, which is remaining satisfactory. Weather is getting colder, and when I have a steady income I will be investing in some new layers.

Sydney, Round 2. The Extended Version.

I’ve started this post about three times, haven’t gotten around to actually posting it, and then things happen so I have to start over. The first couple of drafts were roughly as follows:

Part 1 – T-3 Days:

Three sleeps until I move to Sydney – one of the most iconic cities in the world. The excitement of this is by no means lost on me, but most of my thoughts at the moment – aside from just enjoying the rest of my time on the Gold Coast – are focused about the practicalities of it all. Namely, finding a job and a place to live. Two and a half weeks after I get there, at least I’ll have the place to live sorted out (sorta). The roommate bit at least. Kiwi is back at the end of April and we will, at that point, be taking on the house hunt team style. Yes, I realize this is skipping a few steps. Shhh.

I have a couple of weeks during which I think I will just put myself up in a hostel due to the fact that the short-term rental market in Sydney appears either (1) grim or (2) shiny but ridiculously expensive. So it is really the job (or lack thereof) that’s staring me in the face at the moment, so the hope is that something opens up on that front pretty quickly upon arrival!

Part 2 – Re-Return:

It took approximately 30 seconds of flying over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House at night for the excitement to go from one lonely butterfly flying around to full-blown kid-in-a-candy-store.

Sydney at Night

The day after I arrived began with productivity and ended with me getting re-captivated by Sydney and wandering around for approximately six hours. And giving my knee something to complain about, as this much walking, especially on concrete, hasn’t been done in months. I took a break late afternoon in Circular Quay and, surrounded by iconic Sydney views (of which there are countless photos, I assure you, still trapped on my camera’s memory card – photos recently freed!), I realized how truly happy I was to be back in this city.

Sydney Opera House

Harbour Bridge

The familiarity of the centre was welcome, as I had stomped these same grounds for weeks back in November. After so many quaint, coastal towns, the bustle and chaos and excess of Sydney energized me. I became immediately more optimistic and confident about the job hunt. Unlike my last Aussie job hunt adventure, where I followed the job to where I would live, I am determined to stay in Sydney and lock a job down here. That I like. Lemon squeezy.

Part 3 – Right Now:

So, the past few days. I left my beloved Michael on the Gold Coast on Thursday evening, which was a sad goodbye, but much more comforting than the last one, as I know I will be seeing him sooner rather than later. The excitement for my return to Sydney was slowly starting to build. Our too-early arrival at the airport ended up being a good thing, as I got bumped up to an earlier flight. I arrived in Sydney in the dark (I always do this in cities, it seems), and flew over most of the glittering city before touching down at the airport. An easy hop onto the train and I was off, transferring at familiar stations, and only briefly having to look at Google Maps to orientate myself. Good feeling. I had booked a hostel in King’s Cross (an area notorious for its nightlife, among other things), mainly due to its reasonably central location and the fact that it is steps from the train. I had a cheap vs. good struggle when booking this hostel, as it pains me to spend more money than necessary, but I also knew I would want to be reasonably comfortable while job hunting. I settled somewhere in the middle, and managed to negotiate Asylum’s price for a week down to an amount that I had to swear not to reveal.

The following day (which is when Part 2 was written) was lovely, as I rediscovered many of the things I love about this city. I met up with a couple of friends that I had met along the coast that evening, and had a great first day back in Sydney. The next day, I opted to take advantage of the sun and tagged along with the same friends to a surf competition in Manly Beach. Manly is about a 20 or 30 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, and is one of the most popular surf spots in the area.

Ferry Views

This particular event was a fundraiser for Surfers Against Suicide, and Kelly Slater (eleven time world champion, best surfer in the world) was surfing in the competition, which was a treat to see.

Kelly Slater

After scurrying home from the beach, I put on my face and met up with Jane. You may remember Jane, I met her in Byron, reunited with her in Rainbow, and now have the pleasure of sharing Sydney with her. Upon arriving in Sydney, I had learnt that Carmen, the opera, was playing and happened to be ending this weekend. I will admit that it is mostly because of the fact that I share the opera’s name, but I have always wanted to see it. Jane was down, so we met up (ticket-less) and hoped for the best as we approached the outdoor set-up. This miraculously worked in our favour, as we ended up scoring a pair of $215 tickets for $79 each. The stage was floating on the Sydney Harbour, with a magnificent background of the downtown core on one side, and the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge on the other. I would have been happy enough to just stare at the view for three hours, but then the real show began, and I was completely captivated. The story takes place in Sevilla, where I had the utmost pleasure of living for five months. That city will always hold a special place in my heart. Carmen, the captivating gypsy, was an amazing character. The talent – singing, dancing, music, set design, stage hands, all of it – was absolutely outstanding. Bravo!

Carmen Set IMG_2162

I called it a relatively early night (which can be tricky to do in a hostel in King’s Cross) as I had to be up early Sunday morning. I was off to attend a free yoga class at a lululemon store in Bondi Junction, which was to be followed by a quick, informal interview. The yoga was exhilarating, relaxing, and difficult (a sure nod to the fact that my solo practice clearly does not push me enough). A quick chat with the (Canadian) interviewer and I was set up to come in for a group interview on Tuesday morning. Yay for potential job prospects! One aspect of the interview is to teach the rest of the group something. In three minutes. So, for those of you who know me, if you can think of anything I can teach a group of people in three minutes, please let me know. Because I can’t think of anything.

And that’s all. (Phew!) – I will strive for more frequent and less lengthy posts in the coming days. Determined to enjoy the remainder of my time being unemployed, I think I will go for a bit of a stroll. Perhaps head to the beach tomorrow. Bask in the sunshine as I’m sure the “I hate job searching” feelings and resulting posts will be coming soon!

Vacation From Vacation

A few non-eventful but lovely days later and it was time to leave Cairns. It’s a good city, and it definitely has the heat going for it, but I was happy to be moving on. A handful of the people who I had met in Cairns really love this city, so there is definitely something about it that can grab certain people. To me, it’s a shame to live in the tropics if you don’t have a beach. Cairns happens to be one of a handful of Northern Queensland towns that makes do with a manmade lagoon (i.e. public, outdoor swimming pool). Part of this may be a good thing, as the number of stingers in these northern waters is quite high, so at least people avoid pesky/painful/serious/deadly jellyfish stings.

I took my first domestic flight in Australia a couple of hours south and was picked up from the Gold Coast airport by Michael. Michael is my best Australian friend, and we had met while he and his partner were living in Canada. They recently made the move back to Australia and are in the process of setting up life on the Gold Coast. I was in for 10 days of reminiscing, catching up, and making all kinds of new memories. I shall not go into the details of the copious (some might say excessive) amount of wine that was consumed during this time, and the resulting singing, dancing, and bowling that ensued.

Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise

I also got the benefit (we’ll go with that) of beginning to adjust to the cooler climate as I move south. My timing on this Aussie trip has been essentially completely backwards from ideal, as I spent wet season travelling around the tropics in the north, and will spend winter shivering in the south. Apparently my Canadian blood isn’t that strong, as I found myself curled up on the balcony in 20 degrees, wearing two hoodies and a pair of sweatpants, complaining about the cold. I’m prepared for the barrage of hate I will get from that statement, but I have apparently acclimatized to the warmth very quickly, and to come from 35 degrees and humid to this is quite a change. Reunions in Canada must take place in August, folks.

The other part of my 10-day “vacation” (essentially) is to begin the life-set-up process in Sydney. The goal is to soon no longer be unemployed and homeless. Constantly searching job websites for hospitality jobs in Sydney has led to a very small handful of positions that I’ve chucked my resume at, with low expectations of responses. Being on a short-term visa tends to not help your case, I’ve discovered, as many postings state that I need not apply if not a permanent resident. Ahh, I’m sure it will all come together. Eventually.