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’ ❤
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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!

What’s next for IWTK!

9.20.15 For all the readers and those who’ve commented and sent me emails and questions… THANK YOU! You’ve made it super easy to come up with blog posts and I appreciate the support.

As for a little update…

I’ve returned home to Toronto after 3 years travelling and working in Oz. Also brought home a studly Irish man to introduce to the fam (who we’re living with until we get back on our feet and working again).

So we’ve been in Toronto 4 weeks to the day and for that time I’ve been thinking about what to do with this blog. Here’s where you (yes YOU… you absolutely beautiful thing you) can help!

I’m going to continue posting free tips and helpful information for those of you thinking of heading Australia-bound, while working on an extremely detailed ebook that delves more into the ins-and-outs of Oz and how to make the most of your working/travelling adventure.

As for right now, if you could continue sending me your questions, as well as topics you’d like me to divulge, then comment on this post or shoot me a message (check ‘Contact’ tab for info on how to reach me).

Also, for any readers with tips on writing ebooks, hit me with it! I’d love to hear from y’all. Until next time!

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 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

1 week/$100 (Day 5)

The Challenge?

Sitting by the Harbour. So far the cheapest flight I found to Thailand was $1000. Pricey. Thinking of heading to Melbourne and Adelaide instead.

Feeling a lot better since Saturday’s binge feast. Tomorrow I’m going to see O (old boss) and M (her 16-month old) followed by a Skype date with former roommate J who’s in Taiwan.

I’m thinking—economically speaking—that the best thing to do would be to stay in Oz, move in with my Filipino friend A, make money and then travel outside Oz. I’ll be meeting up with A today. Hopefully I could convince her to look for a place around the North Sydney Beaches… we’ll see.

Couch-surfing (CS) looks awesome. I hope someone gets back to me about Melbourne. That would be sweet (UPDATE: CS-ing right now in Melbourne and loving it). Why not couch-surf in Thailand? It’s possible. Although Asia is cheap enough.

Feel like being shamelessly annoying right now. Just put my text alert volume to the highest possible decibel and texting friends with random messages. Cookoo! cookoo! ’s chiming every  0.7 seconds. These looks I’m getting are making my day. 🙂

***

Sitting by Circular Quay in the only available space I could find shade. Eating some greens mixed with a can of tuna. Also been wearing the same pair of shorts for 3 days straight. Exciting stuff.

This afternoon was AWESOME. A soccer mate asked if anyone was interested in going ice-skating. Helllllll YES! K and her friend A picked me up from Redfern Station. Another interesting conversation ensued while I was riding the train. An idiot saw me and decided to introduce himself. Apparently God thinks my type to be short, bald, drunk, stumbling South American men…

Short, bald, drunk, stumbling South American man: What up shorty.

Bettina: Sorry I don’t feel like having a conversation right now. Thanks. (smile)

 

SBDSSA man: Damn. You bitch!

B: Yes, thank you.

(Bettina exits left)

 

*** 

K, A and I headed to Canterburry Ice Rink. Had the best time. Cost of the outing came to $22 but well spent! Even if that means going over the $100 budget. 😦

Canterbury Ice Rink
Canterbury Ice Rink

***

Met up with A, talked future plans, ate some din, a little chit chat about boys then went out for drinks. We decided that if we were to move in together it’d be better to go for somewhere closer to the CBD. It’d be easier for me to find work and her to attend class.

We met up with our Irish friend F who we became friends with when we both first landed in Sydney back in August. It was great to catch up and I couldn’t say no—although I tried—to the free-flowing free drinks coming my way. Thanks laddy (PS: Century Bar on George Street in the CBD… $3 drinks)!

 

Track of the Day:

KINGS OF LEON– Mi Amigo

Coin:

Dinner (Mad Mex) – $11

Drinks- $6

Skating- $22

Groceries (peas, tuna, beans)- $4.82

TODAY’S TOTAL: $43.82

WEEK’S TOTAL: $111.06

 

 

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.

Pg 75

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 3)

The Challenge?

Round 9:30AM and sitting by the rubber ducky again. Today will be a scorcher. It’s humid as fu*k and not much sun shining. Think I’m going to skip Manly Beach today. And at the same time I wouldn’t mind a refreshing ferry ride. I’ll think about it. 

I love Darling Harbour in the AM. The water’s risen high enough to drench the boardwalk. I’m going to find out when’s high tide… give it a Google and come check it out before leaving Ultimo.

An adorable Chinese baby was walking down the boardwalk with his dad just staring at all the people walking by. What a cutie!

*** 

Aside from a tad bit of brain freeze, I never enjoyed something more in my entire life! Tall Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream. Licked that spoon CLEEEEEAN. Also entertained by Starbucks’ 32nd rendition of my name. I’ve been promoted to Piscine’s estranged Caucasian half-sister in Life of Pi… featured in the deleted scenes of course.

A+ for creativity.
A+ for creativity.

So I arrived in Manly after all… IT’S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! A lot better than Bondi in my opinion. It’s a beautiful long stretch of beach. I walked up and down the main strip, indulged in my crack of choice for the day (see below) and sat on the beach for a few hours before heading back to Circular Quay.

How to make my crack of choice:

1. Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups.

2. McFlurry (I mixed the Caramel Cookie and Double Chocolate Fudge flavours).

3. Comfy spot to sit. Find one with a great view and preferably crowded… then you’ll attract heaps of dirty looks from the many pleasure-deprived fools out there. 🙂

4. Unwrap Reese’s and sprinkle sprinkle into McFlurry.

5. Mix.

6. Dive in.

7. Nom nom nom nom nom.

8. NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

AAA-grade crack.
AAA-grade crack.

Got back to Darling Harbour around 8:45PM… just in time for the fireworks. Darling Harbour puts on fireworks every Saturday night at 9PM on the dot. I found a spot between 2 families and waited patiently while chatting up to a kid about how excited I was to see the free show. He concurred. 

Awaiting the show.
Awaiting the show.

***

They were AMAZING! After the show I plopped myself beside an Asian family sitting on the edge of the dock. The family was feeding the jelly fish Wonder Bread… didn’t know jellies were on high-carb.

I need nourishment!
I need nourishment!

Track of the Day:

NOAH AND THE WHALE– Five Years Time

Coin:

Return ferry to Manly Wharf – $15

Frappuccino – $5.25

Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups – $2.95

McFlurry – $5.25

Can of tuna- $1.09

TODAY’S TOTAL: $29.54

WEEK’S TOTAL: $52.69