It feels strange to say that we’ve been travelling for a year. Because, I suppose, we haven’t.
It’s a year since we left the UK, sure, but we’ve made a little home for ourselves in the sub-tropical city of Brisbane, and while we’ve been making various trips around Australia, it’s not been the full-on travel that you’d associate with a trip around the world.
That said, I have many, many memories to look back on over the past year. Let’s delve in, shall we?
We embarked on our trip on the very last day of February, so this will be a short one!
However, the night before our departure was pretty unconventional. In December, our favourite band (Fightstar) had scheduled two shows in London, but one of them was cancelled for what I’m sure was no particular reason. Amazingly, and by pure chance, it was re-scheduled for February 27th.
This meant that we’d be in London late on a Friday night, and we decided to book a hotel room next to Gatwick airport to make it easier on Ash’s folks.
It was a very fitting goodbye, especially considering the band are the very reason Ash and I met. We got to meet the guitarist (above) although we did very, very nearly miss the last train to Gatwick because of it. Only me!
We landed in a very, very hot Saigon for a few hours of layover time before our flight to Hong Kong. Little did we know that despite our sweaty arrival, Vietnam would go on to be our absolute favourite country in the world.
After a week of bad weather in Hong Kong, staying around the centre before visiting family in nearby Sai Kung, we were headed back to Vietnam to delve in properly!
Where it also rained almost the whole time we were in the north.
We spent three weeks, nowhere near long enough, falling in love with the north (Hanoi is one of my favourite cities ever!), being taken aback by the charm of Hué and Hoi An, and mixing it up in the south with the beaches of Nha Trang, the laid back vibe of the Mekong Delta, and the hectic metropolis of Saigon.
We moved on to Cambodia for ten days. We arrived with nervous uncertainty about safety and scams, and left wishing we had given ourselves more time.
Cambodia is a beautiful country, and we barely scratched the surface with visits to Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and our favourite town despite its mainstream popularity: Siem Reap.
Our day at Angkor Wat was undeniably a highlight, though we preferred both the faces of Angkor Thom and the tree-ridden Ta Prohm. However it was the following day that really stole the show, when we took a tour to a temple with a monk and we were blessed by the head monk! This was one of my favourite experiences from our entire trip.
Our time restriction was mostly due to Songkran, the New Years festival in Thailand. We can go back to Cambodia; Songkran was absolutely unmissable.
We arrived in Bangkok with a couple of days to explore the city before the madness hit. Half way through Songkran, we flew up to Chiang Mai to join in the festivities there. It was equally insane.
We had a few days to explore Chiang Mai and then it was time for my number one travel highlight: volunteering with elephants for a highly anticipated week at Elephant Nature Park! I’ll pretend I’m sorry for posting so many photos, but I’m not.
The second half of our Thailand trip was spent island hopping. We took the overnight train to Bangkok, spent a day in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, and after a couple of days headed to Koh Phangan for the famed Full Moon Party. It was not a success but we loved the island and I’d happily stay longer next time. But we were off to Koh Tao.
Koh Tao was our favourite island.
Or was it Koh Lanta? I just can’t decide.
We also loved our very short time on Phi Phi – who doesn’t love that view?!
And of course, there was the time we visited the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen – Railay West and Phranang on the Krabi coast.
Oh, and I climbed 1,237 steps to a temple and thought I was going to die.
Too soon, it was time to leave Thailand and head south to Malaysia for a few days and on to Singapore. We spent far too little time in Penang, and “enough” time in Kuala Lumpur.
And then we flew to Australia.
We found jobs within a week, taking us south from the Gold Coast to just outside Sydney, where we worked on a horse racing yard. As I’ve said in a few previous posts: we were NOT living the dream. It was the worst company I’ve ever worked for, and we swiftly left after three weeks.
We road tripped from Sydney through Victoria to Adelaide, making the mistake of camping in winter. It’s Australia, how cold can the winter be? Very, it turns out!
Onto Mildura then, where we were worried it wouldn’t get any better.
The jobs we applied for appeared to be non-existent, however I was slowly gathering some hours in a warehouse packing mandarins and the boys were working for very little pay on vineyards. We were all having too many days off because winter is not a good time for farm work in Mildura, and we considered leaving more than once. I was promised a good job starting “very soon” and with my income at least breaking even, somehow I stayed. This was our worst month of travel, purely because nothing happened.
Apart from some really nice sunsets.
I got the good job! It started off with few hours, and I carried on working at the mandarin farm. Three weeks later, I was getting more hours and Ash got the job too. We were planting vegetables, picking pumpkins, doing anything else the farmer required of us.
Including driving tractors. And picking up sticks. And looking like a ghostbuster.
Towards the end of the month, I decided to leave the farm job, which was a bit silly because the season was about to kick off properly. But I needed to get back to civilisation, and we had been in Australia for almost four months and had barely seen anything.
So I booked a flight to Brisbane and we gave ourselves three days to explore Melbourne before we headed back north.
I loved Melbourne, and I can see myself living there, but I won’t be devastated if it doesn’t happen.
We were staying with a friend for our first few days in Brisbane while we searched for work, but not wanting to outstay our welcome, we moved into a hostel in the CBD. I was extremely lucky; I found a job after about a week, working on a bakery counter of a little supermarket.
We also visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which has been one of my favourite experiences in Australia so far.
Another slow travel month, unfortunately. We did, however, move into our current hostel, which we absolutely love! We have made a ton of friends here, and although there’s not a lot to say on the travel front (except for a quick visit to the Gold Coast to visit Wet N Wild water park), I definitely have a lot of memories over this time.
I worked a LOT because, you know, Christmas. Over the holidays we went to Noosa for Christmas which turned out to be all sorts of stress but as it turns out we fell in love with Noosa a little bit, so swings and roundabouts…!
And then we drove down to Sydney for New Years, finally visiting Byron Bay on the way! We had a really good time on this trip for the most part, though I wish we had spent more time in Sydney as there isn’t much you can see in one place on NYE.
But that one place will always be where Ash asked me to marry him. 😀
We began the year by Sydney harbour before sleeping in a tent at a free rest stop just outside the city, and woke up in the morning to go and swim in the sea at Manly beach. Not actually a bad New Year’s Day, when you think about it!
We made our way back up the coast, stopping at Port Macquarie, a random waterfall in the middle of absolutely nowhere on a ridiculous detour off the highway, and eventually Springbrook National Park which was really rather pretty.
And then it was back to reality, involving Ash frantically searching for work and me having my hours cut post-Christmas.
Our only “breaks” were a trip to Australia Zoo for my birthday, and Australia Day where we went to some cockroach races (yes, really) and then went with a friend to a retro car showcase event.
Thankfully, my hours have doubled and even tripled some weeks (this is a large contributing factor to why I haven’t been posting on here). Sadly, Ash is STILL struggling to find work. It’s made our future travel plans very uncertain – although I’m saving, I don’t know if I’m saving enough for two people.
That said, the last month has probably been one of my favourites for a while. We visited Sydney and actually got to see things!
We relaxed in the harbour instead of making a pit stop for photos. We went to Chinatown, Paddy’s markets, did the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee, and met up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages. It was a really good few days, and the gigs we went there for were brilliant!
However, things are hopefully looking up! We are trying to find more farm work to finish off our time in Australia and save as much as possible while we still have our visa – so what are our future travel plans? To celebrate our year of travel, we’ve booked our flight to New Zealand!!!
Well, we have to leave Australia somehow. New Zealand seemed logical.
The way things are going money-wise, we may have to do it on a REAL budget, and I think I’m going to turn that into a challenge.
We will then return to Australia for a month as tourists to do our east coast road trip before we fly on to America/Canada! While we’re not expecting to do a huge US road trip any more, we would like to at least visit my family in Canada and hopefully some friends in the USA before our flight home.
I am hopeful it will all work out! Year one has been absolutely incredible despite some of our shortfalls! Bring on year two, let’s do this!