Things they should tell you when leaving Australia…

  • No matter where you wander, no matter where you roam you will forever compare every city to Sydney and Melbourne. Even in Wellington NZ, the home of New Zealand’s quirk and vibes, you’ll remember the streets of Melbourne, and the suburbs of Sydney’s coolest spots like Newtown and Bondi. 
  • Every traveller you meet, you will urge (almost bully) to visit the land down under as soon as they get the chance.

  • Nobody cares! Nobody at home cares that you’ve been to Australia, that you’ve lived in Australia, that Australia’s the coolest place ever. And why would they care if the inclination to visit that gorgeous country has never driven them to do it
  • You won’t be able to stop talking about it. ‘When I was in Cairns..’, ‘When I was working in Sydney…’, ‘My friends in Australia..’.         But you never should stop talking about it. Because what people don’t realise is that not only does travelling change you as a person. For example, maybe your accent isn’t as strong or you’ve made new friends or you’ve seen new things. But it changes your mindset too. You become more open to new possibilities, you’re more spontaneous, more out-going and open to cultures and people you would never have dreamed of talking to. Suddenly travelling across a country is nothing because you’ve travelled across the world.

  • You’ll miss the little things too. Like Tim-Tams, vegemite, going out without a jacket and arguing if flip-flops are called Thongs. (They’re flip-flops) 
  •  You’ll miss the social acceptability of the word C#%T, and other terms like fuckwit. Better hope you haven’t picked up the habit or you’ll get the wooden spoon to your ass when you get home. 
  • Most of all, they should tell you that you’ll feel homesick for somewhere that isn’t home. No matter how long or short a time spent in Oz, the country, culture and diversity of the people has this  incredible ability of sucking you in. Australia is home to so many different walks of life and for good reason, the beautiful beaches, the welcoming lifestyle, make Australia feel like home. 

Australia’s regional work: Backpacker Exploitation

As a condition of receiving your second year visa in Australia, backpackers are required to undergo 3 months or 88 days regional work in a rural community in order to apply. This work usually involves laboring, fruit picking, working on a ranch or even in an outback pub. Although the giving back concept makes sense considering the wealth of the experience you get travelling this beautiful country, a failure in regulation and supervision has resulted in many young people being exploited by farmers in order to get their visa forms signed off.

It’s amazing the what you are willing to put with when you want something badly enough and many backpackers who have traveled to Australia in search of a better life are willing to go through hell and back to spend another year in the country. Of course, this isn’t always the case, many complete and finish their farm work quickly and without a hitch but for more than a few it can be a desperate struggle.

My Story

I arrived at a working hostel in Mildura Victoria, eager and willing to get my hands dirty. The hostel had already found us work orange packing and everything seemed to be running smoothly. At first the hostel seemed a little run down but after a few days it quickly became home. The orange packing job was however, an absolute nightmare. Eight of us went on the first day, excited to be starting a new job and working towards our second year visa only to be met by a snarling woman who seemed to be hell bent on making us miserable. Four of the girls quit after the first day, but as someone who is pretty stubborn I was determined to continue on and get my days signed off as soon as I could.

We worked for the orange packing shed for five weeks. For the first week, because we were only ‘learning’, she paid us ten dollars an hour, which is illegal, but we needed those days!! The woman berated us constantly about our work, threatened to cut our pay, shouted at us every two minutes and talked about us with her daughter in law, calling us stupid even though we were stood right beside her. All in all we weren’t even human to her. Although the working hostel were well aware of the temperament of our employer and the conditions in which we were working, nothing was done.

After five weeks the job finished as the packing shed were unable to sell the oranges. Unsurprising considering the employer had the same business acumen of a toilet brush. So now I needed another job, but the mindset of the owners of the working hostel was that newcomers got priority. Speaking to our fellow backpackers it became apparent that it was easy to get trapped in the hostel for long periods of time without work. This meant you couldn’t leave because you needed work and you only got enough work in order to pay them rent. Catch 22. Often this work was one or two days, sometimes washing cars or laboring and didn’t contribute to the visa conditions. Girls struggled the most as it was easier for the boys to get manual labor jobs. One girl had spent six months of her visa there trying to secure her 88 days, due to lack of work from the hostel owners and because farmers would refuse to sign the forms.

In all I spent four and a half months in Mildura, and don’t get me wrong I had an amazing time, made some amazing friends and in the end, I got my visa. Others haven’t been so lucky. My friend was unable to complete her farm work even though she arrived in August and her first year visa didn’t finish until February, she still hadn’t completed enough days to be able to apply for another year due to the hostel not giving her enough work. She left Australia bitterly disappointed and let down by how the system works.

The working hostels are mostly at fault for promising work on which they can not deliver and further exploiting backpackers in order to make a profit on rent. It seemed as though we were denied work so we stayed longer as we could only afford rent and not afford to leave. Although efforts are now being invested in changing the terms it seems ironic that the government has allowed this to continue for so long considering that the Australian economy and farming industry has relied heavily on the backpacker culture a lot of whom have turned their backs on this beautiful country in order to explore a much more welcoming New Zealand and Asia.

 

Christmas in Coogee

Eventually leaving Mildura was probably the most anticipated departure of the year and excitement was high when boarding the V Line coach for Sydney in the early hours on the 23rd of December. 

Saying goodbye was somewhat bittersweet; our hostel room that bore an uncanny resemblance to a crack den had become our home over the space of four months. Leaving that happy little comfort zone and heading back to the big city seemed like a daunting adventure. 
  
What was even more daunting was arriving in Sydney and finding out that the apartment we had booked over the holiday period was no longer available and we were none the wiser. It soon became clear that four months in Mildura had severely affected everyones mental capacity because not one of us thought to check. 

Looking on the bright side, being stranded at central station seemed hilarious to me. McDonald’s for Christmas dinner then yeah? 

Fortunately we managed to get another place with an even better deal through ‘Airbnb’ right beside Coogee beach. Couldn’t have asked for better. 
  
True to tradition the spacious apartment for four soon became a cramped apartment for ten with every wharf and stray occupying a comfy space on the beds, sofas. floors. Backpackers eh? 
  
(I slept on a bean bag. Best spot in the house.)

Determined to celebrate the holidays away from home in style, going out to town and getting smashed seemed like the only viable option. Classy! 

So Christmas Eve was spent in Pontoon in darling harbour with strong drinks and good friends. 
Nursing a few hangovers Christmas dinner seemed like a task for some. But with everyone in high spirits and with plenty of.. Well… Spirits. The lads soon got the dinner on while the girls danced around, got drunk and sang Christmas songs, because we all can’t be trusted in a kitchen.  
  
Needless to say they done a great job, dinner was delicious and a Christmas away from family didn’t seem like such a sad prospect when you are enjoying great food with great friends. 
  
Arriving back at the squat house, I mean, apartment I soon discovered that the whole of Coogee beach fancied a party at our place. That all went tits up when the electricity went out. It was also terribly convenient that it was only our apartment that had lost power. Apparently the building attendant wasn’t our biggest fan nor did he appreciate the mess the following day because we spent the next three days apologising and avoiding eye contact with anyone in the lift. Whoops!! 

But it was Christmas Day after all, who invited the fun police? 
All in all Christmas was the best I could have hoped for, spent with the best people in an amazing part of the world. 

  

The Ultimate Writer’s Guide for the Novice Author

Dysfunctional Literacy

If you really want to be a writer, don't let anybody or anything discourage you. (image via wikimedia) If you really want to be a writer, don’t let anything discourage you. (image via wikimedia)

An Ultimate Writer’s Guide is not about giving advice.  Writers can get advice all over the internet.  An Ultimate Writer’s Guide is about discussing what’s in store for novice authors without discouraging authors or scaring them off.

It’s true, being a novice author can be tough.  The money might be nonexistent.  Since most writers don’t make much money from writing, almost all of them have to work full-time jobs, and that means writers don’t have much time for writing.  Even with blogs and social media, there’s no guarantee that a writer will be able to build an audience.  Despite these challenges, being a writer can be worth the time and effort.

The money issue isn’t everything, but it can’t be ignored.  Even with easy self-publishing and ebooks that don’t cost anything to create, it’s still…

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The Citrus Chronicles

Day 24 in Mildura  

The Italian poisoned dwarf seems to have switched tactics. Taking a more modern twist in the good cop bad cop routine, she has switched to the bad cop, even worse cop routine in order to break our spirit. 
We are unsure what her aim is but one thing we do know is that it will not break us. 

Our numbers continue to deplete at a rapid pace. More prisoners arrive at the packing shed for work and then leave! Never to be seen again. We can only suspect that the dwarf has killed them and packed them into boxes, we will pray for our fallen comrades. We believe the only reason we are still alive is because we are still useful to her. We can only suppose that the orange packing is some sort of test of endurance and only the strong shall survive. The dwarf and her minions continue to monitor us closely. We refuse to give up! 

I am still haunted by oranges in my dreams. The citrusy odour continues to follow me. The siren that indicates that we should get back to work plays continuously in my mind. If one day I should gain my freedom from this place, I fear I will never be the same. 

We have 76 more days to plan an attack and hope it will gain us our freedom in this land. However our living quarters seems have had a rapid increase in Italian prisoners. We suspect that they are spies! They have built their headquarters in the kitchen. They must be reporting back to the poison dwarf. The Italian spies have over compensated in trying to blend in by buying too many ingredients. They seem fearful of anything that resembles fast food, therefore our headquarters shall be in KFC. 

If you do not hear from me again you must assume that I have succumbed to the fate of my brethren and have fallen at the hands of the poison dwarf. If this comes to pass we must spread this story far and wide to raise awareness amongst the backpacker race. Cherish your freedom my friends. 

Pray for the Mildura two. 

Oranges make me want to kill myself

Have you ever looked at an orange and wanted to kill yourself? I do… Every damn day. 

  
This is my life now. Living in Mildura VIctoria trying to complete my farming to get my second year visa. Im currently packing oranges… For the devil reincarnated. I’ve never met a more hellish woman. A tiny Italian lady who scrutinises every aspect of your working day wasn’t what I envisaged when I arrived here. 

  
Yes! The work is horrendous. It’s tedious, monotonous and mentally challenging. Who would have thought packing boxes would be so bloody hard. But when your standing with an orange in your left hand and an orange in your right hand and you can’t work out if they are really oranges anymore, you know your in trouble! 

But I always knew this would be hard graft, and it is ridiculously hard graft. What I wasn’t prepared for was the psychopath woman saying, ‘pack faster, pack faster.’ I also didn’t know how bad an orange could be but apparently you need to be some sort of orange guru to get it right. 

  
You must also be prepared for her to pick up the oranges you’re throwing out in order to make sure that they should be thrown out. ‘Don’t pack that it has marks on it’, ‘why didn’t you pack this? It’s only got some marks on it’, ‘why did you pack that orange, it’s ugly.’

Your ugly you crazy Bitch!! 

The straw that broke the camels back was when she took an orange out of a box and replaced it with one that was ten times worse. Then came back a minute later and asked me why the hell I had packed that. I didn’t pack that! You f&@king packed that!! You nutcase! 

It is laughable really, in a I could laugh so much I could cry kinda way. 

I’ve been dreaming about bloody oranges! I smell of oranges! I will never eat an orange ever again!! 

The resemblance to prison here is remarkable. We live in our tiny cell room where people have written on the walls. We wear our prison uniform/ Hi Vis t shirts and pile into the prison van to go to work under the nose of the warden. We then get back in our van and go back to our cell. Lights out at ten o’clock! 

  
Wait… 

Prisons better. You can stay there for free! 

  
So if everyone could say a small prayer for the Mildura Three it would be greatly appreciated. 

Did I mention it’s only been a week? 

P.S. The girl next doors been in psych ward for the last five days… What the hell am I doing here? 

Saying goodbye to Sydney

  So this is my first post in a long time. Originally that was due to lacking inspiration. What a lot of people don’t tell you about travelling are the down days. Days when you wondering what the hell you are doing on the other side of the world. Days where you have no money and you are constantly worrying about how you will pay your rent or where your next meal was coming from. It was those times where my family always pulled me through and kept me moving. The most important thing I learnt during those dark times while I was in Queensland with very little work was that this experience is all about the people you choose to surround yourself with. 

For the past two months I have been living and working in Syndey after I flew back down in the hopes of getting a job. Within that time not only did I get some work in a call centre where I met some awesome people but I’ve been staying in a home away from home and it has been my greatest two months in Australia by far. 

  
When I flew from Brisbane to Sydney on 23rd June, my main emotion was determination. I was determined to make the most of this experience. I was determined to enjoy my trip again. I arrived at the Blue Parrot hostel that evening and noticed a remarkable difference in comparison to other places I had previously stayed. Mostly it was the lovely homely feel of the place. For such a small hostel there were people everywhere. After a few days of becoming accustomed to life in Sydney I had a new job and some amazing new friends. 

The biggest difference was that most people in the hostel were positive happy go lucky individuals. Most of whom were also working in the city and enjoying the vibrant night life in King Cross where the hostel was located. A group of people after my own heart, nights consisted of drinking cheap goon, singing at the top of our voices and partying hard. 

  
When I was in Queensland I had no inspiration to write this blog. Since I’ve been in Sydney I haven’t been writing because I’ve been having too much fun. 

I had soon become a long term resident of the Blue Parrot. No longer needing to spell or explain my ridiculous name to people. Along with the other ‘long termers’ we made the hostel our home. While some other great characters brightened the place up as they passed through. The rooms and halls were constantly filled with laughter. 

  
I’m taking so much away from the past two months, the most important lesson is that you need to surround yourself with positive people. People who can lift you up when you’ve had a rubbish day at work and remind you that you are here to have fun. 

Unfortunately my life at the Blue Parrot is coming to an end and the next step of the adventure is farming in Mildura. I am delighted to say I’m leaving knowing I’ve made some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. 

  

Port Douglas in Pictures. 

Been a while since an update it has been a pretty slow month. Instead I thought I would post some pictures of the beautiful little town I am currently staying in called Port Douglas. 

It strange because I remember looking at photo’s of people travelling and beautiful places in the world and wondering who the lucky people were that got to see such amazing things with their own eyes… And now I’m one of them. 

   
                 

Travel: The one thing you can buy that makes you richer. 

Flying from Brisbane to Cairns was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Not because I wanted to see Cairns so badly that I would willingly miss out on the best bits of the East Coast but simply because I didn’t travel in the car with the four other idiots who thought they could make a 1700 Kn journey in a beat up old ford falcon and not run into any problems. Don’t worry they aren’t dead but after 27 hours driving with one blown out wheel and no petrol in the middle of the outback I’m sure they were glad when they reached their destination.

   

No Cairns wasn’t the top of my list but after waiting out for work in Brisbane which seemed like it would never come we set off in search of farm work in Northern Queensland. Of course when we got here we discovered there wasn’t any work here either. It’s also wet season so the weather quickly moves from a 34 degree blistering heat to a rain storm that leaves you soaked in 0.01 seconds. In short, we f#%ked up! 

Looking for work was never going to be easy, it never is, even at home so we’ve reached an impasse where some days are spent in the hostel applying for jobs we will never hear back from and others are spent exploring the area. One thing I can say for Cairns is that this place is absolutely beautiful. Lack of work equals lack of funds though so Great Barrier Reef tours, bungy jumps and skydives will have to wait. However the most beautiful places can be seen for free in the surrounding national parks. 

Our first visit was to Davies Creek in Mareeba, it wasn’t our original destination (we got lost) but it was an adventure all the same. We spent the day climbing over rough terrain to get as high as we could. It was definitely worth it! 

   
  
We stopped at a lookout point over Cairns on the way back. Photographs couldn’t do it justice. 

   
 

Most nights are spent watching movies in our room and moaning about needing work whilst others are occasionally spent on a night out the town. Cairns nightlife is great, mainly made up of backpackers everyone is out to have a good time. Gillian’s and Woolshed are both great spots and the Irish Bar PJ O’Briens is always pretty lively. 

After a few more days spent around the hostel mostly due to the adverse weather we set off again for another popular location in Cairns. The Crystal Cascade waterfalls, where if you are brave enough you can part take in the popular activity of cliff diving. The highest point being called ‘no fear’, local youngsters braved the steep and slippery climb to jump into the frothy water below while bewildered tourists looked on in awe. 

     
Check this out;

https://instagram.com/p/1uO1nXNH37/

After a few more days with no more luck on the job front we once again set out to Josephine Falls. I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in my life. In the middle of a humid rainforest the waterfall drops with a fast current into stunning fresh water pools. The best part of all is that you can swim in the bottom pool and even go down a natural water slide embedded in the slippery smooth surface of the rocks. 

   
        

Waterfall video;

https://instagram.com/p/1uKbi9NH-L/

The best part about all these adventures is the realisation that even though we are complaining about work and money or lack of it, that there are some things in life money just can’t buy. When you are sitting in a natural fresh water pool in a rainforest in Australia then you must be doing alright for yourself. 
 

Brisbane City  

Arriving in Brisbane we instantly booked into the YHA and set off for Jucy rentals. Although the hostel costs slightly more than any other it really is worth it. You don’t need a deposit for your key or your cutlery and it’s always clean and tidy. By far the best hostel chain in Australia. 

  

We arrived at Jucy Rentals half way across town, the young man who served us unfortunately hadn’t been forewarned that four very angry young women would be dropping off their campervan that day. He seemed slightly perturbed after he suggested that we would need to be filling up the petrol as it was stated in the contract. Evidently he had never faced the wrath of the Irish before and was told in no uncertain terms, ‘I’m not going to lie to ya mate, but we aren’t filling up the tank.’ After a quick word with his manager we were sent off with our refund and probably a sigh of relief from Jucy. The poor guy! 

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day!! It’s better than Christmas, New Year and your Birthday combined. It was a slightly odd affair as this year I would spending it with people who normally wouldn’t celebrate it. We started the morning with a hearty Irish breakfast and a few pints in the pub aptly named Irish Murphys. We ended up spending the majority of the day there with Irish traditional music and others celebrating the occasion. 

For me it was a bit of a roller coaster, with being so far from home and the only Irish person in the group I ended up wishing I was in Belfast again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Paddy Englishmen and if it hadn’t of been for them I wouldn’t have enjoyed the day one bit; but it would have been nice to see a familiar Irish face. I didn’t realise how much I missed the comaradarie of having someone around who completely understands both your accent and your culture. Or even the enormity of the day that is St. Paddy’s Day. We might all live fairly close geographically but our cultural diversity is unmistakable. 

  

The majority of our time in Brisbane has been mixed between, job hunting, apartment hunting and experiencing the nightlife. Along the way though I have grown to like the city. So many people advised me to skip it along the coast but when we all get some work I imagine we will be able to make the most out of what Brisbane has to offer. 

  

The man made beach in the centre of the city is incredible when you are there. Although many would say lack of a natural beach is a downfall we rather enjoyed spending time in some water where you weren’t trying to avoid the crashing waves. Lying on sand in a bikini surrounded by high rise buildings is certainly an experience. 

Another great thing about staying in the YHA or any of the hostels on Upper Roma Street is that the Sunicorp stadium is literally around the corner. So on game day we walked to the ticket office and bought a ticket for the Brisbane Roar game against league leaders Wellington from New Zealand. We were all pretty excited (the guys and myself especially) to get watching some football. 

  

With Wellington leading 2-1 after 75 minutes, only we could have attended a football match in Australia and see it abandoned due to a water logged pitch! Regardless Brisbane Roar are my Australian team whilst I am here. It seems only fair since it was the first live game I’ve seen in Australia and with the stadium practically empty it seems they need all the support they can get.  

 

Hopefully we all can find somewhere to live and work soon and settle for a month or two before continuing our travels; but with a decent nightlife and roof top pool with stunning views I can’t say I am in a rush to move just yet.