Where I did my farm work

I started my farm work at the end of February 2013 (during the last 6 months of my first year Working Holiday Visa). I was just back from having spent Christmas and New Years in Toronto with my family, and was couch-surfing through Melbourne, VIC (I’ll save that for another post). After emailing a few farmers who were looking for workers through Gumtree, I got a call from a farmer in Mullumbimby (Mullum), NSW. After a short chat I agreed to join the farm and took a flight out the next day.

It was a WWOOFing farm, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, a placement where hosts (or farmers) agree to provide their volunteers with food and accommodation in exchange for their work on the farm. Volunteers also get the opportunity to learn more about organic farming and its benefits to the local community and environment.

I flew out from Tullamarine Airport and landed in Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. From there I caught a shuttle bus to Byron Bay. I was picked up by a pair of lovely English girls (also on the farm) and we drove out to Mullum. The town itself is one of my favorites. It’s a small town taking up one main street and a couple of side streets, surrounded by beautiful views of the Hinterlands and lush mountains. Mullum’s full of crafty markets, health food and book stores, vintage donation shops, as well a few friendly organic cafes. Be sure to set aside a few hours to dabble into the gardens of the Kiva Spa, a hidden gem off the main street.

The farm itself was a few minutes drive from the town, and only about 15 minutes away from Byron Bay’s main beach. Work was from 9 a.m.-4  p.m. (with breaks in between) from Monday to Friday with weekends off. The farmer owned a massive property that sloped on a hill. It wasn’t the type of farm you would compare to a Canadian prairie farm that’s flat and cultivated. It was filled with tropical plants, and everyday he’d have us planting more (banana trees, mixed greens, carrots etc).

Every morning we’d hop into the main house where he’d delegate our duties for the day. That could’ve included planting, pruning or cleaning. After work we’d take our turns using the shower, and every evening we’d rotate cooking dinner for the team. One of the farmer’s rules was that no phones or laptops were allowed at the table, a great rule that allowed us to really enjoy our time together, chat about our experiences and really feel like a family. Attached to the main house was a large room with 4 or 5 beds where we, the workers, slept. There was Wifi, phone reception (in certain spots) and an incredible view of the mountains.

The farmer was generous to lend a vehicle for us to drive into Byron Bay, or go on road trips on weekends. He would sometimes take us to Brunswick Heads for a swim after work if he had time. Of the farms I went to, this was by far the best. Not only for its location and free weekends, but it was the people that really made it. Working together, cooking together, sharing the same quarters and experience, made us a family.

I only stayed two weeks, sadly, because the sand flies were a little much for me (a lot much actually) and I developed an allergic reaction. I decided to try out somewhere new. Here are a few photos…

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I reached out to a woman on Gumtree looking for an au-pair for her 2 sons on their farm in Goondiwindi, QLD. After having spoken to 2 previous au-pairs that stayed with the family (and hearing their positive feedback) I decided to give it a shot. I took the Greyhound to Brisbane, then took another bus inland to Goondiwindi, a small town with a population under 6,000 along the NSW-QLD border.

I knew this was going to be as Australian as it would get. The town itself, like Mullum, contained one main street with a few grocery shops, a post office, library and a couple of elementary schools. Residents either lived in the suburbs close by the main street, or at least 10km away on farms that stretched as far as the eye can see. And there was a distinct difference between the way the people from the suburbs and the farm spoke, lived their day-to-days, and reared their children.

There were no buses and no way of getting into town, or to a neighbor’s property, unless driven. The land was flat, very dry, and pretty sparse, an incredible contrast to the lush tropical farms and hippie-like lifestyle of the Byron region. It felt pretty apocalyptic to be frank.

I was picked up in town by the children’s mother and brought straight home to meet the boys. The main house had 2 bedrooms, and another larger room split by a curtain and shared between myself and their eldest son. The only part of the house with phone reception was my room (thankfully), and the only access to internet was through their family computer in the sitting room. Outside their main house they had dogs, pigs, horses, chickens and lambs which kept the property very lively.

I was an au-pair to 2 boys (aged 2 and 4), and their parents worked the cow feed lot close by from morning to late at night. They provided the beef to many of Australia’s major food suppliers like Coles and Woolworths. The parents were very considerate and traditional, and very much a tough bunch. They were raised in the outback and stayed. Most of their relatives haven’t traveled or been to Sydney, and work hard everyday from 4 a.m. to late in the evening. It was a hard life they lived, but they loved it.

My day-to-day looked like this: wake the boys at 6:30 a.m., feed them breakfast, see the oldest brother off to the school bus, and mind his younger brother throughout the day. We would play all day while I squeezed in some time to wash and iron clothes, keep the house tidy, prep meals and get dinner started for when the parents returned. There were no days off so it really felt like you were a part of the family. It was very challenging to be deprived of a social life, as well as to come up with the daily energy to entertainment and keep the boys busy, but it was a harsh reality as to the work these families put in on a daily basis. I was also compensated $150 per week which went straight to the bank as food and accommodation were provided by the family.

The boys themselves were lovely, and as you could imagine, rowdy as hell. I stayed on that farm for 40 days. And after really missing the camaraderie and freedom of the Mullum farm, decided to try out one last farm to finish out my regional work. From Goondiwindi I learned what motherhood is like, and that was just enough for me. A few photos…

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I left Goondiwindi and stayed in a hostel in Brisbane for a week, getting in touch with other farmers through GumTree and chatting it up to other backpackers. It felt good to have people to talk to again. I got a phone call from a farmer who needed wwoofers in Bangalow, NSW, another small town just outside Byron Bay. I was excited to get back to the area and get in touch with my mates from the Mullum farm who now lived in Byron Bay. The wet season had also died down so I wasn’t worried about the insects.

I took a bus from Brisbane back to Byron Bay and was picked up by the farmer’s son who talked to me about the farm and took me through Bangalow. It was another beautiful little town, with lush backdrops and a colonial look and feel. The residents of the town were friendly, open-minded and very hospitable. The main street was a 35-40 minute walk from the farm.

This farm was a cucumber and fig farm. We worked everyday (excluding Sundays) from 7 a.m. -11 a.m. picking figs and cucumbers, and spent the odd day packing eggs and other produce to be sent out to the markets. We weren’t paid wages, but accommodation was paid for, as well as as many eggs, cucumbers and figs you could stash. The farmer lined up old used trailers in a large shed on the property. There were about 8 of us on the farm and we each had a trailer. Friends and couples who came together had the option to share their trailer. There was one shower shared amongst us and the bathroom was approximately a 30 meter walk from the shed where our trailers were, a terrifying walk in the dark considering the terrain is known for pythons and other critters. I held my bladder many nights. After one week living in the trailer, I decided to rent out a room in town and walk to work every day, an expense I found well worth it.

Aside from the unfavorable accommodation, it was great to be working with other backpackers again. Working days were short so we could head into Byron or check out Bangalow whenever we weren’t working. While living on the farm, most of us hitch-hiked into Byron, surprisingly a vastly used mode of transportation in the area (if doing so, always use your judgement and always hitch-hike with others to be safe). I found it quite fascinating to be meeting such generous people for however little time, only to never see them again. In that short drive we’d share stories and find out each other’s backgrounds.

When I moved into the town of Bangalow, I took the bus or drove along with my flatmates who were heading into Byron Bay when I wasn’t working. I didn’t take many photos of the farm but here’s a stunner of the main street in Bangalow…

Bangalow
AustralianTraveller.com

After completing my 90 days of farm work, I headed back to Byron Bay to spend more time with friends before heading back to Sydney. It was an incredibly valuable, amazing experience, but I was ready to head back to make money and indulge in city-beach living. A new adventure awaited.

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Regional work in Australia

Doing regional, or rural farm work, will be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life in Australia. If you’re on a your first Working Holiday Visa and want to extend it for an extra 12 months, then doing farm work is an absolute must.

Farm work? This includes working in a regional area of Australia (list of regional post codes here) for a minimum of 90 days. After your 90 days are complete, you can apply for your second year Working Holiday Visa (click here to apply for an Australian visa). The 90 days need not be completed on one farm. You can hop around to as many farms as you’d like, as long as your 90 days are logged and completed.

Different farms require different types of work from their visitors and employees, so choose the one that best appeals to you. Also, feel free to do some research on the different areas of Australia you’d like to visit, and search for farm work in those areas. Some farms are ‘WWOOFing’ (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) farms. This usually means that your accommodation and food is paid for (by the farmer) in exchange for a little hard work on your part. You receive no wages, and depending on the farm, you typically work Monday-Fridays only. Wwoofing also means you’re working on an organic farm. Duties usually include planting (seeds, banana trees etc.) and picking (fruit, veggies etc.), as well as some household tasks (cleaning, meal prep etc.).

If you’d like the most financial gain, pick a farm that offers wages. Wages could be hourly or by quota. For example, if you’re picking apples or oranges you may be paid $10 per bushel picked. Other forms of farm work include dairy (which I heard from others can be the most challenging yet well-paid type of rural work), au-pair (living with a family and taking care of their children), as well as construction. Those working construction in a regional area will make the most amount of money. Traffic controllers can also find regional work (click here to read about finding construction work).

As previously mentioned, the rules of the farm all depend on the farmer. Some pay wages, some don’t. Some pay accommodation, others won’t. Many offer food and accommodation alongside wages ($$$!). Thousands of backpackers, as well as residents, do temp regional work to make a few bucks because it’s an easy way to save money as well.

For those on their first year Working Holiday Visa, whether you’re unsure you want to extend your visa or not, do your farm work (it will be a great experience), and complete it within the first 6 months of your visa’s commencing. You could easily look for farm work on Gumtree, as well as through any agency. For those looking on Gumtree, be sure to ask the farmer for names and numbers of 2 or 3 contacts who’ve worked on the farm previously. Call them and ask them questions about what their experience was like. There are stories of backpackers gone missing, so use your judgement and be skeptical. If you’re going with an agency you need not worry.

The most valuable resource is word of mouth, so chat it up with other backpackers (maybe you’ll be staying with them in the same hostel room, or meet them on a night out on the town). They will be able to give you their farmer’s contact info, as well an honest account of the day to day.

Next up… my farm work experience. A breakdown of where I went, what I did, and what I thought about it. Stay tuned!

Getting a job in hospitality

The Australian hospitality industry is one boasting vacancies for both inexperienced and experienced professionals. A job in hospitality can include working as a motel or hostel receptionist, a hostess in a restaurant, a barista in a cafe, a bartender at a pub or club, and much more. There’s also great opportunity for good money to be made.

For those looking to work in a pub, club, bar or restaurant, you’ll need to get your Responsible Service of Alcohol or RSA. Some may also require a Responsible Conduct of Gambling or RCG. Attaining an RSA and RCG can be done in one day. Do a simple Google search for ‘RSA course’ in your neighbourhood. I paid $190 for my RSA and RCG at the Sydney Bar School for those in or around the CBD. I also did the cocktail course which may be helpful for beginners but unnecessary.

At the end of the course you’ll complete a multiple choice/fill in the blank test (trust me when I tell you this test is a joke). Then you’ll be presented with a certificate that will hold you over until your RSA/RCG comes in the mail. This looks like a simple identification card. If you’re planning on working in the catering industry, you’ll need your RSA (maybe your RCG) as well. One agency that gave me temp work right away was Nosh in Ultimo, NSW. They cater special events including sporting events and fashion shows.

Do a search on Gumtree for any jobs in hospitality. You could also look on Indeed and Seek under the hospitality category. Don’t be afraid to print off a few copies of your resume/CV and hit up a few spots that catch your eye. Ask to speak with a manager. If they’re hiring, chances are they’ll hire you on the spot or ask you to come in for a trial run. Regardless of your experience level, when they do ask, you say you ARE EXPERIENCED. Also, be certain to walk in looking polished, presentable and wearing appropriate attire. Hospitality is very much a first impressions-type industry, so the more put together you look, the better your chances.

For hostels and motels, your best bet would be to call or hop in with your resume/CV. Many hostels offer an opportunity for travelers to sleep at the hostel for free in exchange for a few days work a week.

The amount of money you make will definitely depend on the establishment and the neighbourhood you’re working in. If you’re hired on a casual basis as a caterer, for instance, chances are you’ll be paid a consistent base rate. If you decide however you’d like to get into bartending, or waiting at an upscale restaurant, you’ll likely make a good portion in tips. Do some research on the reputable restaurants in your area and walk in with your resume/CV saying you’re experienced. For those looking to work in the Sydney CBD, do some research on restaurants in Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Circular Quay. Plenty to be made there!

Have I missed anything? What industry should I tackle next? Comment below! 😉

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Although Australia is quite an expensive country to live in, and dining out frequently could severely dent your budget, if you’re diligent you’ll find a way to stick to a budget while allowing for a little wiggle room.

1. Re-evaluate your health/fitness goals- Is there a certain diet you’re following (ie. The Four Hour Body, Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb) and what sort of foods would you be eating to support this lifestyle? Write a rough list.

2. Set a budget- How much money will you spend in a week on groceries for meals you’ll be cooking at home? How much money will you be spending on take away meals? Be flexible with this. You eating out will depend on how strict you need to be with your budget. I recommend setting aside some money for 3-5 take away meals every week.

3. Meal Plan- Now if you’re not the meal-planning type, then just hit your nearest grocery store with a rough list of foods that you’ll need for the week. If you have a knack for meal-planning then plan your meals accordingly and shop for those meals.

4. Shop- Your nearest Coles or Woolworths should have most of what you’ll need. But if your budget allows for higher quality meats and food grown locally, then I would skip the supermarkets all together and shop at your surrounding farmer’s markets. No matter which suburb/city you live in, you’ll more than likely find at least one in your area kicking off on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Do also look for health-food supplement stores for high-quality vitamins and supplements or anything extra your typical supermarket wouldn’t carry. If you’re living anywhere close to a beach, you’ll find more than a few within range without a problem (near Bondi Beach, Byron Bay etc.).

5. Scope out the best takeaway’s- Here are a list of fast food restaurants that won’t do too much damage to your wallet while keeping your healthy eating in check (starting with my favourites). Individual meals average from around $10 to $18 depending on how you customize them to your liking:

THRIVE– Clean eating at its finest. And may I say absolutely delicious. The founders of Thrive follow a Paleo or Primal-type philosophy which you could read more about in Mark Sisson’s popular book The Primal Blueprint. They use only free-range and grass-fed proteins and the most delicious smoothies. They also have a small range of clean Paleo desserts if you’re feeling like a treat (try the Banana Coconut donut… it’s yummy). The best thing about Thrive is that you customize your meals to your preference. Choose a few sides, choose your protein, and few extras if you’d like. You can take a peek at their menu on their site here and scope out their locations around Australia.

Thrive, Canberra
Thrive, Canberra

Mexican eateries- I find these to be the easiest and cheapest way to get a healthy meal in on the go. For those low-carb fiends, skip the tortillas and go for a burrito bowl without the rice and added guac. Not a fan of dairy? Pass on the cheese. Ask if you can sub rice for extra veg. These franchises listed below have locations all over Australia

Mad Mex 

Guzman Y Gomez 

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Guzman Y Gomez

Zambrero  

Grill’d Healthy Burgers– If you’re itching for a delicious, satisfying, incredible burger that won’t bust your belt buckle then look no further. With locations all over Australia and a menu that uses fresh, local ingredients and grass-fed beef, you’re sure in for a treat. Low-carb goers can opt for the low-carb bun option, or skip the bun altogether. Try the Summer Sunset burger or the scrumptious sliders! Sweet potato fries? Yes please. Grill’d also supports their communities initiatives with a percentage of their profits going to local initiatives.

Grill'd Healthy Burgers
Grill’d Healthy Burgers

BOOST Juice BarsGreat stall to hit up post-workout or for a mid-day pick me up. Multiple locations in most major cities and Westfield shopping centres. A yummy menu of nutrient-dense smoothies and juices, as well as a selection of small meals like wraps and yogurt parfaits made with fruit. Try the Weekend Warrior!

Boost Juice Bar

6. Restaurants $$$- You should definitely save enough room in your budget for a nice restaurant date. That could be with a mate, your partner, a Tinder date, whatever the occasion, it’s important to treat yourself. Usually you’re pretty safe no matter where you eat at a restaurant. If you stick to protein and veg, you’re ok. For those of you who are vegans or vegetarians, there are still plenty of options. Just take a walk around your neighbourhood or give it a Google.

Closing thoughts

It’s definitely possible to eat healthy on a budget. May take some research and preparation, but it’s definitely worth it. As always, if your diet is extremely strict then your best bet would be to prepare all your week’s meals from home. Tupperware will be your trusty mate so stock up on a set or two and take an hour or two every week to cook your meals and freeze them until you’ll need them. This will also help you save a bit more coin.

If you have any more tips on staying healthy on a budget, or experiences from other take-away’s, comment below!

1 week/$100 (Day 4)

The Challenge?

Got up early to find 4 mosquito bites on my left foot. Got a razor, shaved over them ‘til they bled and threw a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide over them… golden.

Yesterday was the best and most disgusting day to date. Ate like a pig and spent unnecessary coin… I’m sure Tim Ferriss would approve.

As for travelling plans… I may be heading to Thailand in the next few days. The cheapest flight out from Perth looks like it’s on the 16th and the Swedish girls are there so that would work out great! I need to re-evaluate my budget and give Capitol One a call to see if I have enough points to redeem to pay for my flight.

To-do’s:

-call Capitol One

-establish budget (Thailand)

-mail letter to G

-grocery shopping

It’s only 9:30AM… feel like a nap. Gonna throw on some shades, get out my iPod and snooze by the dock.

***

Bought a book at Dymocks today for $5 from the discount bin. Usually known to skip to the Robin Sharma-esque section but decided to switch it up. Don’t know why but one called out to me: Play Dead by Ryan Brown. The cover shows the face of a zombie-werewolf-looking creature wearing a football helmet and uniform.

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Booker had just bludgeoned a toddler with a bicycle chain and was about to shoot a crack whore in the face with an assault rifle when the phone rang.

He hit Pause on the video game controller and picked up the receiver.

Art.
Art.

Shove a bum Eckhart Tolle. We have ourselves a winner.

 ***

Sat in Starbucks by The Rocks while it poured outside. In an effort to start sketching again, I saw to it to duplicate a print hanging by the coffee machines of two palms holding coffee beans. Turned out looking more like 2 Siamese spoons holding a mole hill of pinto beans and lentils. Success.

Yum.
Yum.

When Picasso hour was over I struck up a convo with an English-Indian girl and a fellow Canuck from Ottawa. Got some great tips from them about travelling through Asia and flight deal tips. Also got to share a few laughs with new friends. Love random chats. The rain stopped and we all headed our separate ways. Off to Woolies (Woolworth’s), then home for tea with the roomies. Starting to feel a tad sentimental over our nightly tea tradition. 🙂

Remaining to-do’s:

-call Capitol One

-establish budget (Thailand)

 Track of the Day:

BEN HOWARD– Only Love

Coin:

Groceries (tuna, beans, spinach, water) – $6.35

Green tea (Starbucks) – $3.20

Book (Dymocks)- $5

TODAY’S TOTAL: $14.55

WEEK’S TOTAL: $67.24

1 week/$100 (Day 1)

The Challenge?

Flight was awesome. Flew from Toronto to San Francisco to Sydney. The stopover in San Fran was only 45 minutes. The hop-off-hop-on connection made it feel like I flew 18 hours straight (approx.) from home to Oz. Quick and dirty.

While flying I was thinking of a way to get to my flat without paying for a cab. Cab fare from SYD would cost me around $35. Taking the Airport Link Train would cost me $15 but would only get me to Town Hall. I wouldn’t be able to carry my 2 packs the rest of the way by foot. Decided I’d figure it out when I got there.

Ready for take-off.
Ready for take-off.

Turned out United Airlines left my larger pack in San Fran. Baggage claim services assured me it’d be delivered (free of charge) to my flat the following day. Worked out PERFECT! I grabbed the Airport Link into the city for $15 and walked the rest of the way. I had another pair of pants and a tee in my small pack anyway. Plus I got $100 compensation from my Capitol One Aspire MasterCard under the included baggage delay insurance. All worked out. (TIP: A lot of private companies offer shuttle services to and from the airport for the same price. Give it a Google). 

***

Arrived back in Sydney on the bloody hottest day ever… over 43 degrees (C).  Hung out with my roomies, caught up with an old flame, took a couple of melatonin tablets and went off to bed. Snoozed.

***

Weather cooled since yesterday. For no apparent reason whatsoever this has to be my favourite day in Sydney to record. Over Xmas I decided I’d come back here, look for farm work somewhere in southern Australia to get my second year visa, then settle again and work… EFF THAT.

At THIS moment… I feel one year in Oz will satisfy me. Things could change (UPDATE: I want to stay longer). Right now I’m living at my old flat rent-free hoping my former landlord doesn’t hop in to catch me frying eggs in my PJs: “fancy seeing you here Canadia.” Might be a tad uncomfortable considering I have yet to hand back my key (forgot to before leaving in December). Opps!

My plans now? Possibly stay in Sydney for a bit… rent-free. How? Couch surf, work in a hostel or stay with O (my old boss). Before leaving for home she mentioned I could crash at her place if I needed a bed. Sweet. Plus my friend from the Philippines is looking for a flat so maybe I could crash there. Plenty of options.

Plans for the next week are to remain in tourist-mode until I’ve had my fill. Screw finding work, screw finding a new flat, screw pricey bonds. I love travelling and my closest friends know me to be a wanderer … might as well.

*** 

Today’s weather reminds me of springtime in Niagara Falls, ON. Cool and breezy… lovely. Tonight I’ll look up a few free things to do—or things that are going on in Sydney. Right now is Sydney’s festival time so there’s loads of things to look out for. Just winging it and keepin’ it simple.

Also going to keep up with my IWTK posts. I can feel it will lead to something great in the long run… looking forward to it. 🙂

*** 

Sitting in the Westfield food court. Grabbed some Guzman Y Gomez. Beef burrito bowl with guacamole… yummmmm. Grab a loyalty card if you’re a Mexican food fiend like myself.

A man and woman are sitting to my left. They’re colleagues. Actually… she’s his boss, and she’s politely bit*hing to him about his less than mediocre sales as of late.

To my right are a group of middle-aged Asian women who just ordered gelato from the Italian café behind us. They are looooving it. Just shared a few laughs with them and took a few pics of them with their waffle cones. They just called themselves ‘ice-cream addicts.’ Enjoying life.

Boss woman to my left just gave her employee some sage advice: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.

Time for a post-meal read. Today’s feature: Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. Highly recommended.

***

Almost 9PM. Sitting at Darling Harbour on a beautiful night. Live music playing in the background and a giant rubber duck floating by the dock. No idea why… possibly part of what’s going on with the Sydney Festival. The kids are looooving it. Really makes me want to buy a bow and arrow, shoot the rubber ducky and watch it slowly deflate as the kids wail in the background. I’m evil. 

Darling Harbour, Sydney
Darling Harbour, Sydney

Time to head home, make some din, then off to bed.

Track of the Day:

DRAGONETTE-Live in This City

Coin:

Lunch  – $12

Groceries (dozen eggs, baked beans) – $6.23

TODAY’S TOTAL: $18.23

WEEK’S TOTAL: $18.23

Free Theater in Sydney

The street-theater scene in Sydney is prominent, especially around the high-traffic tourist areas like Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.

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Most of the performers are men showcasing their dance tricks and practiced stunts.  All, if not most times, these shows come with a bit of slapstick to keep the audience of young and old entertained and content. If you take a day to wander the city you’ll start to recognize the performers and their different routines. I’ve seen a man from New Zealand tie himself up in chains and maneuver out of it, an Italian balance on a bike suspended 10-feet in the air while juggling swords and a fellow Canuck and break-dancer steal the crowd. Depending on my schedule I’ll pop a seat right in front to witness the action.

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Today by far was the best performance I’d seen. An Aussie native from Melbourne balanced—on his stomach—on a bed of nails while juggling lit torches. But it wasn’t the stunt that was most impressive. His jokes were HILARIOUS. I even chuckled when he poked fun at Canadians. He also kept his show short and sweet. Some performers will yap away for 20 minutes without performing squat.

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If you pass by and happen to like a certain performance and can afford it, do toss the performer a few coins or whatever you deem worthy. They make a living solely on charisma, creativity and brave brass balls! Just don’t believe them when they tell you they’re allergic to silver. 🙂

It’s been a while…

I know know… slacking a tad? I flew home to spend Christmas with the family and I’ll be flying back to Oz in early January.

Let me just say that Australia’s definitely a place to be seen and experienced at least 20 times.  Right now I’ll be enjoying the time I have to catch up with friends and family. But my hope is that when back in Oz to dedicate some time to posting (even if just once a week).

One thing’s for sure… I have a lot of helpful info to share and when the time is right I will definitely be posting my travel tips.

As for now… Happy Holidays and enjoy the New Year’s celebrations!

G’day mates!

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Travel medical insurance, adapters and Frommer’s

I bought travel medical insurance a few days before leaving. My Capitol One Aspire Travel World Mastercard comes with a host of insurance perks, but I needed something that would span the length of my stay. I received quotes from all the banks I knew of (PC Financial, CIBC, RBC, BMO, TD). Most banks’ websites make it super easy to obtain a quote. You’ll usually need to enter in your name, length of stay and answer 1 or 2 more questions.

I don’t remember how I came across their website but I found the best deal (with my desired coverage) to be with Travel Guard Chartis. I purchased the basic medical coverage for $342… valid from August 3rd to February 1st. I don’t know how long it’ll be until I return home to Canada so I stuck with their basic 183-day plan. They informed me that I’d just need to give them a shout and they could extend the plan for me. I was also quoted $510 for 9 months coverage… pretty sweet deal. Their customer service is also very helpful and the process took only a few minutes.

Note to anyone heading to Oz: buy an adapter so you’ll be able to use/charge all your devices requiring electricity. I don’t know if you’ll be able to buy one before leaving home but in Oz they cost on average $10. It wasn’t fun paying $2/2 mins to use the washroom’s hair straightener… it was late and I didn’t feel like heading to the convenience store in my PJ’s. Ah well! 🙂

My friend P bought me a Frommer’s guide to Sydney before I left. I would highly recommend you grab one if you’re planning on heading to Oz. If you can, purchase the Frommer’s guide to Australia… it will provide info about all the major cities and hidden Aussie gems. The one I have contains a big map of Sydney and other maps of individual neighbourhoods. It also has info about tours (free-$$$), adventure and special-interest tours, neighbourhood walks, shopping info, outdoorsy activities, dining hot spots and nightlife, the best of arts and entertainment and info about keeping savvy.

Transportation from Sydney airport

My flight into Sydney landed at 6:30am. Went through immigration/customs and took the rail to Bounce Hostel. I’d suggest taking the rail/train from Sydney Airport if you’re heading anywhere along or near the airport link (Mascot, Green Square, Central Station, Circular Quay etc.). It cost $15.40 one way and the train ticket’s valid until next day 4am (if you’re making multiple stops between stations).

There are also pickup locations outside all of Sydney airport’s terminals if you were interested in taking a cab, bus or coach. The rail made it easy b/c there were no routes to figure out and it was easy travelling with my chunky suitcase.

Bounce is located right across from Central Station… made it a synch to locate. Check-in’s at 2pm so I’m writing this while hangin’ out in the lounge/cafeteria with other fellow hostellers… watching a few Olympic events. This will be home for me for the next week. I’ll also be writing a review of the hostel after my stay, so stay tuned.

So far all the people I’ve come into contact with have been very helpful. I also became friends with fellow Aussie S during my flight. We exchanged contact info and offered to show me around to a few hot spots. Hooroo!