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!
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!
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!
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!
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…
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…
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…
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.
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!
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.
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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. 😦
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)!