The first part of a year ‘Down Under‘
In December 2015, my friend Aaron and I embarked on a trip to Australia, heading for Melbourne via Istanbul and Dubai. Arriving a week before Christmas we were excited, knowing we would likely spend the festive season on a beach. We enjoyed the ‘holiday period’ by partying frequently around St. Kilda and the Melbourne Central Business District. These early experiences left me with an indescribable feeling of satisfaction of what the year ahead would offer. Suddenly, I had departed full time employment in Hospitality and landed on the other side of the world.
Melbourne – St. Kilda
After the near day and a half travel through various timezones, we crashed out in our hostel around 7am. We awoke several hours later to begin some errands: setting up bank and tax accounts, and joining Fitness First gym. The next night involved wandering St. Kilda, briefly perusing the nightlife, before returning home for an early night. Certainly St. Kilda was an interesting suburb to visit and being close to central Melbourne was beneficial for our activities. The gym became an enjoyable part of our early routine, specifically the workouts including a range of equipment and the sauna. I felt the beaches weren’t as beautiful as others in Victoria, nonetheless, St. Kilda still had a lively night scene.
Melbourne – CBD and Brighton East
After four nights in St. Kilda, moving to a hostel in Melbourne for Christmas and New Year was an obvious choice. The city was buoyant and we spent Christmas Day on St. Kilda beach with some friends we made in St. Kilda. In the afternoon we assisted in cooking a Christmas dinner at their apartment in Richmond. Further, nights out in various bars and clubs continued between Christmas and New Year before hangovers finally took their toll. Once the parties concluded we moved south to Brighton East, a pleasant, leafy suburb, to stay with family friends. Jan and John kindly accommodated us for several nights while we searched for employment and a rental property. Aaron and I had already taken on temporary voluntary work for the Children’s Cancer Charity, collecting donations in Melbourne CBD.
Richmond – Settling in Melbourne
We located a 3 bedroom house to rent until July, succeeding in our desire to be more centrally located. However, due to a previous tenant vacating two weeks subsequent, alternative accommodation was necessary. We found a one bedroom place above a Japanese restaurant, ten minutes walk from Kent Street, where I stayed for two weeks. Richmond had plenty to offer; bars, restaurants, shopping and sports facilities, parks and regular tram services to Melbourne CBD. We enjoyed nights out in Richmond, Fitzroy, Brunswick and Collingwood, and explored Melbourne when our friend Joe visited. At my temporary job I met Tom and our friend Jai already lived in Melbourne so they joined us on nights out. Visits to Lentil As Anything, a quirky restaurant staffed by volunteers, were frequent. Indeed the concept of solely vegan food and ‘pay what you feel the meal was worth’ was unique.
Australia is renowned for having an immense interest in horse racing and has almost 400 racecourses. Whilst living in East Brighton we joined John, a syndicate owner, at Caulfield Racecourse witnessing a colt run a trial race. This was interesting to both watch and experience the operation at Caulfield, one of four Metropolitan racecourses in Victoria. When the trial concluded we headed down to meet the trainer and colt along with other members of the syndicate.
Great Ocean Road Road Trip
Tom became a team leader at our sales rep job in February which meant he was provided with a minivan. Therefore a group of us journeyed the Great Ocean Road until the scenic Shelly Beach, around 2 hours from Melbourne. We stayed one night in the van at a camp site in Lorne and made various stops between Anglesea and Lorne. Our stops included Eastern View (Devil’s Elbow), Airleys Inlet and Fairhaven Beach, admiring impressive views and taking a swim. Similarly, at Shelly Beach, a hotspot for snorkeling and scuba diving, we encountered rock pools and plenty of marine life. This stretch of the Great Ocean Road had an abundance of beaches and was our first foray out of the city.
Neighbours TV Series Set, Melbourne Outer Suburbs
In May Tom and I visited the Neighbours set at the fictional cul-de-sac of Ramsay Street in the eastern suburb Vermont South. We opted to visit separately from the organised tour and walked from the entrance to the end, briefly browsing the properties. I regularly watched Neighbours from the ages of 9-16 and once arriving in Melbourne, I became fascinated with visiting. The homeowners are paid annually for allowing Fremantle Media to film their residences and a full-time security guard is employed. Above all, the experience was entertaining and those who want to explore further filming locations can visit the suburb of Nunawading. Alternatively, you can sign up to the Neighbours tour.
By the time we moved to Richmond, Aaron and I had already gained interviews from jobs we applied for. Two marketing companies accepted my application, both of which were sales reps for door-to-door marketing campaigns. After group training sessions at their respective headquarters, I opted for KVP Marketing in Collingwood, starting around a week later.
KVP Marketing, Collingwood
I worked on the Plan International charity campaign requiring sponsorship for children in severely under developed countries. As sales reps we would rehearse pitches and influencing tactics before boarding minivans to door-knock in the suburbs. Major challenges included building trust, convincing people to listen and engage, and persuading those interested to provide their bank details. Certainly the role developed my social confidence, communication and marketing skills and every sponsor collected was rewarding. Further, the camaraderie among sales reps was enjoyable and I happened to meet Tom who has become a long-term friend. I have always aspired to assist those less fortunate so the role was pertinent given the crucial resources that sponsorship provides. I continued in the job until March before leaving to pursue further travel.
French Bistro, Williamstown
After leaving KVP, I embarked on a road trip through 4 states before returning to Melbourne. In May I got the opportunity to work at a recently opened French Bistro on the bay of Port Phillip. The role was part time but I received extra hours at various events and appreciated the flexibility. I acquired coffee making skills and assisted with designing drink standards for the menu. I left in July in preparation for our next destination, Queensland.
Locating farm work and leaving for Queensland
A 90-day period of regional or ‘farm’ work is a necessary requirement for a second year Working Holiday Visa in Australia. After examining various job opportunities in different states, Aaron and I elected to travel to northern Queensland. We had applied and been accepted to several farm jobs in the region, eventually settling on a Zucchini farm in Dalbeg, Ayr. Subsequently, we embarked on the 32-hour drive to Ayr not counting stops, so in reality the journey was almost a week.