Can I trust GumTree?

11.25.15

“Are the people who post on Gumtree trustworthy?”
“Are there scammers?”
“I’ve heard of backpackers gone missing…”
“What can I do to make sure I’m safe if I’m travelling alone?”

Gumtree is a tool that people in Australia use to advertise anything they may be selling or looking for, a job they could be offering, a place for rent they could be leasing out, maybe a local meetup they’re trying to get the word out about etc etc.

Like Kijiji or Craigslist, you don’t need to meet any sort of criteria in order to post, all you need is an email account. A lot of farmers use Gumtree to let backpackers know they have work available. Employers do the same. As mentioned earlier, you’ll also find many rooms or flats on the site that are available for rent.

How to keep from getting scammed or kidnapped…
Not that I suggest this will be for everyone, but I went to Australia on my own and used Gumtree for everything… finding flats, organizing my farm work placement, and searching for meet ups. Here’s what you’ll do to make sure, the best you can, that you don’t find yourself in a precarious position.

1) Travel in groups
Being in a group can never assert you’ll always be making the right decisions, but it will leave you less vulnerable than if you were travelling on your own. Together you can decide which prospects seem legit and talk to each other about your best options. They’ll always be someone there to watch your back and clue you in to anything you may have missed.

2) Get referred by other backpackers
Talking to other backpackers can be an incredibly valuable resource. Chat to them in a hostel you’re staying in and share your contact info. Chances are you’ll have talked to someone who’s completed their regional work and can get you in touch with the farmer themselves. You’ll also get an honest rundown of the day-to-day so you’ll be well prepared upon arrival. Other backpackers may be renting out their room or flat temporarily (and often cheaper than regular prices), so you could luck out there as well.

3) Ask for references
If you’ve gotten in touch with a farmer over Gumtree and want more info, ask him or her for the contact info of 2 others who’ve worked on the farm and contact them. I did this for every farm I went to. This resource is as valuable as any, and backpackers are usually blunt about their experience, so if they found it unfavourable, they’ll likely tell you.

4) Identify the scams
There are heaps of scams on Gumtree targeted specifically to those new to Australia. Many of you planning your trip may want to get all your ducks in a row before arrival (ie. place to stay, work).

My opinion? Sort out a place to stay when you’re in Australia. Stay in a hostel for a week or so, chat to a few others, do your research and look around. There are some posts of beautiful rooms for rent at reasonable prices that require you to pay a bond (electronically) to secure it. Firstly, you haven’t even seen the place and let me tell you, pictures ARE deceiving. Secondly, most of the people behind these posts are planning on running with your money. Take your time and SEE the flat you’re interested in before making any commitments.

5) Use your judgment
No matter the precautions you take, you can never really know for sure. So in this case, you’ll have to use your judgment. If you’re speaking to a farmer, do they sound sincere over the phone? Are they giving you references? Do you know anyone whose been on the farm before? Really trust you gut. An by all means, if you’re still reluctant to use Gumtree, you can always do this…

6) Don’t use Gumtree!
There are plenty of legitimate agencies and companies out there offering you opportunities to attain farm work in places they can guarantee to be scam-free for a small charge. The only reason people gravitate towards Gumtree is because it’s free for all and there’s no need for a middle man. Here are a few resources to check out if you’re going the non-Gumtree route. Be sure to also check out any Facebook groups advertising farm work opportunities (of which there are many).

Farm work resources
Willling Workers on Organic Farms 
Australian Government Harvest Trail

Finding a flat resources
RealEstate.com.au 
Domain.com.au
Airbnb
Flatmates.com.au

Are there any other resources or tips you think may be helpful? Did you use Gumtree at all? What was your experience like? Comment below! And make sure to subscribe to get all the new posts straight into your inbox. 🙂

 

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Happy Thanksgiving (reflecting on Oz)

So I’ve been home for just over a month now, comsuming my time with freelance projects, job hunts and Kayla Itsines’ BBG workouts (#DeathByKayla is for real y’all). This last week my mind’s been sifting through my last three years of memories, all the incredible people I met, and the ridiculously hilarious times shared. Three years spent jumping into waves, making lifelong amigos, touring, working fucking disgustingly long hours, and taking on a new lingo… didn’t nail that one (saying “taking a piss” rather “taking the piss”… lovely).

A brief list of crazy crap accomplished… going to Oz solo, working on farms in tropical wonderlands (Byron Bay), living with an Australian farming family in the outback, spending 10 days in absolute silence (Vipassana), meeting the girls for a Saturday morning kick-about, sailing beneath the starts through the Whitsunday Islands, snorkelling and swimming the fresh water creeks in Cairns, riding the sand dunes of Fraser Island, working in construction (what a JOKE that was!), being constantly approached by homeless people for a chit chat at work (one man sang Bryan Adams’ “Run To You” to me because I’m Canadian, Bryan Adams is Canadian… yup), coming home with a bit of money in the bank, and meeting the love of my life.

It was an absolutely incredible adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for nutaaang. And even though I wake up some mornings wishing I was still living down the street from Bondi Beach, or strolling through the weekend farmers’ markets, I can’t forget how much I missed home.

2015 is the first in four years I’m home for Thanksgiving. Home with family, besties and my stud muffin… not to mention incredible autumn views, brisk weather, pumpkins, turkey, stuffing, pie, desserts, more food, food, and more food for good measure. I can’t wait for the leaves to start changing, for snow, for skating, boarding, tobogganing, dog sleds, fireplaces, Christmas lights and annoying month-long Xmas music.

About a week ago I was in line at a Services Ontario office when the man infront overheard me and asked “Why the hell did you leave Australia?” I can see his point. But after being away from home for so long, I grew to appreciate what I left behind, and missed the comforts I grew up with. I missed Canada, watching the Maple Leafs lose, hearing everyone complain about the snow, falling asleep by the fireplace, or the annoying sound of mamacita and padre fighting over what cooking oil’s superior or which butcher sells the best meat. I can’t forget how thankful I am for living down under, as well as finally returning to Toronto, being around those I love, showing my man the sights, and being anxious and excited for the Canadian adventures to come.

Whether you’re Canadian or not, Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you’re all spending this time of year with people you love, and in the place you cherish most. GO Jays GO!

Bondi Beach, NSW
Bondi Beach, NSW
Sisters for life
Sisters for life
Mullumbimby farm crew
Mullumbimby farm crew
Early morning auto theft
Early morning auto theft
View from home
View from home
Byron Bay, NSW
Byron Bay, NSW
Getting a lift over the QVB in Sydney
Getting a lift over the QVB in Sydney
Hey good lookin' <3
Hey good lookin’ ❤

Watch your savings grow while you’re abroad

10.1.15 For those of you thinking of leaving a cash stash at home before going to Australia (or any other country), or those of you simply looking to hop onto the savings bandwagon… this Bud’s for you. Well it’s not a Bud (sorry), it’s a blog post. Enjoy.

If you’ve been following my blog you know I’m a fan of the mighty TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account). A tad over six years ago the Canadian market welcomed the newborn account into the financial game. At that time you were allowed to contribute a max of $5 000 annually to collect interest. In 2015, Harper bumped the max annual contribution to $10 000. What’s the big deal? You’re allowed to make a withdrawal at any time TAX FREE, and you gain that contribution room back the following January.

As of right now I’m sticking to my TFSA with Tangerine (ING Direct). I also still have a Savings Account with Tangerine (no minimum balance or monthly fees). They’re currently offering new customers six months of tripled interest with a new savings account! You can read more about that here. Another promo they have going is $100 for switching your payroll deposits over by the end of October 2015 (click here for more info).

Cherry on top? For those of you interested in opening an account with Tangerine, you could make an extra $50 by using my Orange Key referral number (Orange key: 36234874S1). This would also make me an extra $50. Win win. You can compare their savings accounts here.

After finally coming home from Australia I can tell you this: I am soo glad I left a little Canadian coin here at home. While abroad I hardly touched it, which forced me to get going and make some money when I was running near empty in Oz. If you’re leaving the country for a while and have the opportunity to lock some money up before leaving, you’ll be grateful you did.

Tangerines aside, I was thinking of doing another sweep and comparing the best Canadian banks and their interest rates (for everyday savings accounts, TFSAs etc). As well to look at the best credit cards… namely for travelling, but maybe I’ll throw in a few more (one’s with the best cash back rates and/or lowest interest rates). Stay tuned…

Do you know of any banks offering above average interest rates for savings or TFSA’s at the mo? Comment below!

Kiva Spa (Mullumbimby, NSW)

If you’re in the Byron area and looking for a little recoop and relaxation, then I’ve got your fix. Hidden behind a humble wood gate off Mullum’s main stretch you’ll find the entrance to the Kiva Spa. It’s a a tropical rainforest oasis with a steam room, hobbit-like sauna, various jacuzzis, and my fav, the cold water plunge pool.

The pools are chlorine-free and guests are free to wander between pools in their swimsuits drinking tea and taking in the ambiance. The friendly staff encourage everyone to keep conversations to a quiet whisper to promote relaxation. Prices are incredibly reasonable with various packages to suit. I would encourage couples to give it a look-see. My partner absolutely loved it! It’s by no means a ‘women’s only’ spa, and be sure to check out the massage prices as well.

The prices on the website may be a tad outdated so call in advance for more info. We paid $90 each, which included 2 hours to roam around the grounds and a 1 hour massage, which was absolutely LOVELY! We came out of the spa flushed, relaxed and in a different frame of mind. A DEFINITE FOR ANYONE LOOKING TO EXPERIENCE ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S MANY HIDDEN GEMS!

Click here for the website and contact info.

kiva-spa-and-bathhouse
tripadvisor.com.au
travellingtype.com
travellingtype.com

Getting a job in Admin

If you’re traveling to Australia, having experience in an administrative role (ie. reception, data entry), your chances of getting a job in the same industry should be fairly easy. Any type of experience in an office will work in your favour. For those without any administrative experience, you’ll still be able to find a job, just not as easily as the experienced candidates.

A quick Google search will show you a wealth of any major city’s recruitment agencies. They may be able to help you find a job in administration, but don’t rely on them solely. If you have an interview with a recruitment agency be prepared with an impressive-looking resume/CV and wearing appropriate office attire.

They’ll then take you through an interview and (possibly) a computer quiz to test your computer competency (usually Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc). Also keep a mental note of names of companies they mention that they think you’d be suitable for, and apply to them directly. You could also ask them if they do sick-calls. If they do, this means they could call you at 7am to see if you’re available to cover someone who’s called in sick. This alone gave me temp work at various places in Sydney, including a posh mental institution/hospital, as well a VW dealership. The down side is the short notice. The upside, you get paid and you get a look at numerous establishments. The agency I used was CoxPurtell.

For those who prefer to cut out the middle man, search Indeed and Seek under the appropriate admin category for job opps. Another important point is to talk to people. Tell people the kind of job you’re looking for. Chances are they may know someone who can help you or are looking for someone to hire.

Your likeliness of getting a job in admin will also depend on your visa status and what the company’s looking for. If you’re on a Working Holiday Visa, your chances of securing a job will be more likely at the beginning of your visa. If you have 2 months left on your visa you’ll be less likely to be hired because a company doesn’t want to invest time and money in training someone who can only work for them for a short period of time. A Working Holiday Visa also stipulates that you can only work for one company for 6 months, then you’d have to move onto another. To better your chances look for contract job openings, as well as companies that are open to sponsorship.

Once you have an interview in sight, make sure you have the obvious things crossed of the list: office/business attire (need not be expensive, just ironed!), a copy of your resume/CV, and a list of reliable references.

Good luck!

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! 😉

Gear you’ll need to work in Construction

So you got a job in the construction industry…

The first question your employer will ask is: “Do you have PPE?”

Your answer is “YES.”

He or she will then give you a run down of the PPE required for the job and on the specific site you’ll be working on. Some employers provide PPE for their employees as well.

What is PPE? Personal protective equipment. These are the safety requirements set out by the construction company and site you’ll be working on. These are things you’ll need to purchase before starting work if your employer does not provide PPE: hard hat, steel toe boots and high visibility clothing (high viz). Extras you may find helpful, but may not necessarily need or want: heavy duty working gloves, protective goggles, ear plugs, and a sun brim to attach to your hard hat (highly recommended for traffic controllers!). If you’re starting as a formworker, or other specific trade, you’ll probably need to purchase your own tools (hammers, levels etc.).

Most all your gear, including your hard hat, can be purchased from a hardware store close by. To name a few, there’s Bunnings, Home Hardware and Masters. Search for a location in your neighbourhood. For steel toe boots I would highly recommend skipping Big W and Kmart and going for a good quality pair that will last you a while. You’ll likely be on your feet all day so having a strong, sturdy pair that will protect you is a worthy investment. The site you’ll be working on may also require, that for safety reasons, you only wear lace-up boots, so ask your employer before purchasing.

For high viz clothing (and boots), do a simple Google search for ‘workwear’ in your area. Totally Workwear has multiple locations across Australia with good clothing brands like KingGee. You can get by with high viz from Big W or Kmart as well. For those in Sydney, there’s a stall in Paddy’s Markets (Haymarket) that sells high viz at a good price. They also happen to have a full range of high viz for women which can be helpful. Paddy’s Markets close between 5pm-6pm, and are also closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so make sure you make the trip out on the appropriate day.

Now that you’re suited up, you’re ready to go!

Is there another industry of work in Australia you’d like learn to break into? Let me know below!

Getting a job in Construction

This is for all you men… AND ladies… who are looking to make some good money in Australia and are willing to put in a little sweat. Once you’ve got a bank account ready for coin, as well as a TFN (Tax File Number) you’ll be ready to go. If you haven’t opened a Superannuation Fund (like a retirement savings account) don’t fret. Your employer will give you the paperwork to open the account upon hiring. It will likely be with a company called CBUS.

Get your White Card (Construction Induction)– Every person working on a construction site, no matter what position, will need to obtain their white card. This is a general induction card that preps you for work on a construction site. I did mine online with Allens Training. Just pick the appropriate state according to where you live and off you go. I paid $55 in early 2013. The online course is a power point presentation, followed by a few multiple choice questions. At the end you’ll have to call in to answer 2 or 3 ridiculously easy questions and then you’ll be mailed out your white card. If you choose the wrong state or plan to move around while you’re working, that’s fine. White cards are recognized nationally so you won’t need to get a new one if you plan to work in a different state.

For men with NO previous construction experience- The easiest way to get your foot in the door on a construction site is to start as a ‘general labourer.’ This means you’ll be called around all over site to help out where needed. This will also give you a good idea of what sort of work in construction you’d like to get into via observation (ie. formwork, scaffolding, dogman, crane driver, foreman, health and safety rep). In NSW general labourers usually start at a minimum of around $22/hour. If you work longer than 8 hours in one day your wages should change to time-and-a-half, and after 10 hours, double-time. Weekend rates are higher as well. Look at a few different companies to compare wages as some pay above reward wages. When I lived in Canberra I worked as a general labourer for $32/hour, base rate, so do your research. A note to the ladies: I would never again work as general labourer unless absolutely desperate. The money was good but I was completely battered and bruised by the end of each shift. I wouldn’t suggest it as women’s work.

For men with construction experience- You’ll have to transfer over any licenses obtained from your home country, over to Australian. Depending on your trade this could be expensive, but a worthy investment. After that it’s just a matter of looking for work.

For the ladies… and gentlemen- Become a traffic controller. I especially suggest this to women because the job is not labour-intensive (aside from sometimes having to stand for 8 hours straight), it pays very well, and it’s easy work. Traffic controllers could work on a site, or outside a site. They direct traffic including vehicles and pedestrians in a safe manner while allowing the site to function. This could include directing pedestrians to a different footpath (or sidewalk), or stopping traffic all together for times when construction vehicles need to enter or exit a site. There are millions of scenarios. Sometimes you’ll simply stand on a corner a safe distance from where a crane is operating, directing pedestrians to a different route. Pretty mindless work… as long as you have a bit of common sense. Just as before, you’ll need to obtain a White Card. After that you’ll need a Blue Card which allows you to use a stop/slow bat in traffic. This is a simple one day course at a training facility that you choose. I went with Infront Staffing and Training. As of today it costs between $120-150 for the course. You’ll also need to show your driver’s licence (an Australian driver’s licence or one from your home country is fine).

After completing the course for your Blue Card you’re ready to work. Some companies require that you also get your Yellow Card. I have mine and I would suggest you only get it if you need to. Otherwise, save your money, stick with just a Blue Card and get on the job hunt. Traffic control companies typically pay a starting rate of $25/hour. Rates will also increase after working 8 hours in a day, and after 10 hours as well. You’ll also be paid more on weekends, or if you happen to work overnights.

Where to look for work- Whether experienced or not, if you have friends that are already in Australia and working in the construction industry, you’ll be better off. This way a friend could get you started as a form worker, rather a general labourer, and you could learn as you go while being paid a higher rate. For jobs in general labouring or traffic control, do a quick search on GumTree. You could also try Indeed and Seek. If you happen to pass by a traffic controller on the street (or construction labourer), stop them and ask who they work for and if they’d pass on some contact info. Tons of people have gotten jobs by simply doing so.

Any other suggestions or tips? LET ME KNOW! 🙂

1 week/$100 (Day 7)

The Challenge?

Had a great sleep. That couch is wicked! Walked along the boardwalk last night with roomies JP, J and K, then headed to Wollies for some groceries. Got back to the flat around 10:30PM to find a group of pretty looking lads in the living room who work with JP. Went with them to a night club with free entry. Had an awesome time. Dime spent: nil. Snoozed.

***

Booked my flight to Melbourne for $35 with JetStar. It flies out at 10PM… for that price I don’t mind. Just need to find somewhere to couch-surf. Mom emailed me asking if the plane’s safe to fly with because the price was soo cheap. Told her the aircraft was made of the finest quality Twizzlers and cream cheese frosting. She was assured.

Also remembered I have family in Melbourne! Gonna ask my mom to email me their address and contact info. Give them a shout when I get there and see what happens. Would be awesome considering I know absolutely nothing about my grandfather and his side of the family.

***

10AM. There’s been a Street Football Festival going on in the harbour for at least a week… a floating soccer field on the harbour! Pretty sweet. It’s part of an Australia-wide charity event that goes toward helping the homeless and disadvantaged through a community magazine called ‘The Big Issue.’

Gonna meet the ladies this evening for a little soccer in the park. Can’t wait.

***

Just got back from hanging out with my friend R. We just sat on a deserted beach (Curl Curl) and ate Bounty Chocolate Bars, gummy snakes and Turkish Delights. Lovely. May be seeing each other in a couple days (before I leave) depending on our schedules. We’ll see. I want a burger.

***

Dang that burger was delicious (Summer Sunset burger from Grill’d). The cute Manager at Grill’d was working today. Dinner AND entertainment. I am a happy camper.

***

Met the ladies in Erskinville for a little kick about. Felt awesome to run a little and let out some sweat. The field was also a hell of a lot better than playing in Sydney’s Tech Park. Great time with old friends.

Time to head home for some Chai. Looks like I blew the $100, right? Final thoughts on this week to come… stay tuned. 🙂

Track of the Day:

ILLY feat. OLIVER DAYSOUL– The Chase

Coin:

Burger (Grill’d)- $12

Groceries (water, peas)- $2.73

TODAY’S TOTAL: $14.73

WEEK’S GRAND TOTAL: $147.61

1 week/$100 (Day 6)

The Challenge?

Just bumped into the kid who’s currently playing the role of acting landlord of my old flat I’m squatting in… CRAP. Met on the bridge and I stopped to say hi. No point avoiding the obvious. Said he was doing well and told him I was looking to catch a flight to Melbourne. He wished me a good trip and we went our separate ways. Phew.

Everyone on the dock’s looking up right now…

*** 

A couple of nights ago I met up with R, an English lad I was supposed to hang out with before leaving home for Xmas. We had a really great night. Walked along the harbour, went to a cheap Irish pub and then ended up at a backpacker’s dive and danced it out. Really fun night. He’s sort of a male version of me (education, hobbies, interests etc.) except machine-version. Works non-stop and looks to be a social effing animal. I’d like to hang out again… we’ll see. Also… didn’t spend a dime!

***

3PM-ish. Sitting on a patch of grass in The Rocks. Went to watch The Hobbit this AM. I enjoyed it. I’ll stay tuned for the next installment. Young Bilbo Beggins’ sarcasm definitely made that flick. I’ve coined him my next husband. I could hack the shire nooooo problem. 🙂

View from the Rocks.
View from the Rocks.

***

Saw an awesome balloon ARTIST on my way home today on Pitt Street…

***

6:45PM. Went to see M and O today. M definitely remembered me… it was great. J Changed soo much in 2 months. I brought M a few shirts from home… one with a moose holding a hockey stick. Doesn’t get more Canadian than that! Went to the park for a couple of hours and had a chat with O about other uptight moms—good times. I want a chocolate chip cookie.

***

Bought two fresh cookies from Subway but didn’t feel like eating them. Dropped them off with a homeless beggar on Pitt Street. He shot me a smile. 🙂

***

A Finnish girl moved into my old bed today. She’s so nice I can’t even hate her. Parkin’ it on the couch tonight. Also decided that—for now—Thailand is a no go. No point in spending money I don’t have.

Track of the Day:

TOKYO POLICE CLUB– Nature of the Experiment

Coin:

Movie: $16

Cookies: $2

Groceries (tuna, alfalfa, water): $3.82

TODAY’S TOTAL: $21.82

WEEK’S TOTAL: $132.88