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Brisbane and Hostel Living

It’s time to get this blog back up and running. It was my intention to start this and keep it going as I pursued my travels in Australia but it seems that life has just gotten in the way.  Or my own excuses which we as people fall victim too far too often.

Quite a bit has happened over the past few months since I left the horse farm in the Yarra Valley.  It was beautiful out there, but far too cold! So I made my way back to the beloved Brisbane.  This city, although some don’t see its charm, has been the highlight of my trip over the past six months,  The truth is, it’s not even the city that has been the best part, it’s the people I’ve met here that have made it so memorable.

Over the past two months I have been living in a hostel in the cozy, vibrant area of West End. This hostel is not your typical hostel, there is some magic that takes place behind the white gates on Vulture Street and that magic is the family and community that exists inside. From big family dinner nights, field trips to the Gold Coast, nights out on the town and many meaningful conversations, this place has truly felt like home and with it I will take amazing memories and friendships no matter where my travels take me next.

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Gold Coast Field Trip 

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Hostel 80s/90s theme Party 

Australia has been my longest trip away from Canada and it amazes me the connections you build with fellow travelers along the way.  You leave your country on your long quest excited, fearful and not quite sure what to expect as you venture off into the unknown.  From what I have seen and experienced, as well as heard from many others, you are never truly alone.  Every traveler in some way or another is in the same position and you really find yourself and others taking the time to speak with people and learn about their culture, where they are from and just generally listen.  It’s amazing the stories you hear and what you can learn from each other.  I never envisioned myself living in a hostel for so long , but its been one of the best experiences traveling so far with some of the most amazing people.  If you ever find yourself in Brisbane on you travels, I highly recommend you find yourself at the white house which you swear can’t be a hostel from the street, and that place is Gonow.

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The Travel Adventures Begin

Hi everyone!  My name is Lori and I have created this  blog to share my travel stories and new found passion for travelling with other like-minded individuals and hopefully inspire those who dream of travelling to just go and do it.  Life is too short to regret not taking the plunge of adventure.  I am currently in Australia on a working holiday visa and will be here for the next year at least (hopefully two) as I am completing rural farm work to extend my stay in Australia.  More about that later if you are not familiar with the Working Holiday Visa rules.

Like many other people who dream of travelling and just think they can’t afford it, I am here to show you that it is possible.  I didn’t believe that it would be possible to quit my full-time job, leave my apartment, life, family and friends behind in Toronto to head down under especially at the age of 30!  Well it is possible and much easier than most people think.  I will share some tips in a later post on how I planned my trip and saved up for it in just 6 months.

It sounds scary and can be intimidating to leave everything behind and head off to a foreign country for long-term solo travel, but it is well worth it and I have not regretted my decision one bit.  I would have regretted not doing this and know I that I would be sitting in my office day dreaming of what my life would be like if I had done it.  Well I don’t need to do that now as I’m living in my dream and sometimes I still need to pinch myself knowing that I am actually in Australia so far away from home.  The beaches are beautiful, the weather is warm, the people are friendly and the list goes on. I look forward to sharing my posts with you and hope you enjoy them and get inspired to travel as well if it is something you are thinking about!

 

Milla Milla Falls

Milla Milla Falls, Queensland, Australia

Australian Road Trip

Hey fellow readers!

I am currently writing this post sitting in the kitchen of my new Auckland flat reminiscing on my time spent in Australia as I stare out the window on this rainy Monday morning.  What better way to relive those moments than by writing it out.

It’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve been living in Auckland and this is the home base for the time being since sadly my visa in Australia came to an end in January.  I didn’t feel fully ready to head back to Canada yet so figured let’s do another working holiday in New Zealand!  And what is the best way to end your time in a country? By doing a giant road trip in Australia to fully experience the vastness and beauty of the country, and that’s exactly what happened and I’m so excited to share it with you!

So follow along as I am going to be writing a series of posts of major stops along the way.  15,000 km, 7 weeks, Darwin to Brisbane!

One thing to keep in mind when planning a road trip no matter what size is to be flexible with times and not be set to an exact schedule.  Every day is different and you may decide you want to go in a different direction than originally planned.  The whole idea is to enjoy and have the time of your life.  Anything can happen and you have to be willing to accept that good or bad, just go with the flow!

Our itinerary as originally planned from Darwin to Broome as the first part of the trip looked something like over 10 days.

  • Darwin to Litchfield
  • Litchfield to Kakadu Natiional Park
  • Kakadu to Katherine
  • Katherine to Kununurra
  • Kununurra to Fitzroy Crossing
  • Fitzroy Crossing to Broome

First Stop Darin!

We left Brisbane on the 27th of November and flew to Darwin, home to some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The plan, pick up the rental station wagon and begin the fist stop in Litchfield National Park.  After spending a few lazy days in Darwin in the insane heat, we were ready to hit the road.

Darwin Sunset

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Darwin sunsets

The station wagon, which was to be home for the next seven weeks was rented through a fantastic rental company called Travellers Autobarn. They provide great service throughout the entire length of your trip and any issue with the car is fully covered given you go with the full insurance package.  I couldn’t recommend them more.

The feeling of driving down the highway knowing you are about to embark on a 2 month road trip is so freeing and exciting, it’s hard to put into words.  But, every trip comes with its ups and downs and the first night was definitely a difficult one.

Litchfeld Park – We left Darwin a little too late heading to Litchfield and it didn’t leave quite enough prep time to get the car set-up for camp for the first try. (Note: give yourself ample time to set-up camp each night stopping before the sun sets to avoid animals on the road, mossies, and to just plain know what you are doing!)

The goal was to set-up the air mattress in the back of the station wagon and sleep in the car, that first night we learned hard and fast this was not ideal.  Northern Territory is HOT, HOT, HUMID and HOT.  You can’t have the windows too far down for sleeping (unless you have really good bug nets) as the bugs are insane and you want to avoid the chance of someone breaking in.  The car was suffocating, I never sweat so much in my life and was seriously missing that nice hostel with the pool in Darwin.  Lesson learned, the tent was going to be the new bedroom.

Minus that crazy first night, Litchfield National Park is a beautiful and wild place roughly only an hour outside of Darwin.  Filled with breathtaking waterfalls and watering holes to swim in, trails to hike and the famous giant termite mounds.  Beware there can be fresh water crocodiles in the watering holes so swim at your own risk, I opted to just take in the beauty from land 😉

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Florence Falls 

We camped at Wangi Falls campsite which is a great spot close to Wangi Falls.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls 

After leaving Litchfield Park we headed over to the Adelaide River for an experience everyone must do in the Northern Territory  – Crocodile Tour!

We found a great deal through a company called Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise.  The cost for one hour was $40 dollars and worth every penny!  The staff are well educated and experienced croc tour guides and have been operating on the river for many years.  This is the best way in my opinion to get up close with nature and really see how amazing and powerful these creatures are. Truly magnificent and terrifying at the same time!

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Some tips I learned for starting out a road trip in the Northern Territory at the beginning of the wet season

  1. Make sure you have a tarp as it can rain really had at any time and you want to stay dry in your ten.
  2. If you have a station wagon, avoid sleeping in it unless you have proper bug netting and can roll the windows down enough if you feel comfortable doing so.
  3. Be aware of crocs that can be in the rivers nearby
  4. Aim to get to camp early enough to allow proper set-up before the sun goes down and all the mozzies eat you alive, also so you can see what you are doing.
  5. Bring lots of bug spray
  6. Portable USB fan to keep you cool while sleeping in your tent. Best invention ever!
  7. Make sure you are aware of where the 2WD drive and the 4WD tracks are depending on the car you have.  (Our station wagon was 2WD and limited us to a lot of places we could go.)
  8. Be flexible and open to new things and have fun, you are on an adventure!

 

 

Next post – Kakadu National Park!

 

 

Bali and the Gili Islands

I haven’t traveled for a little while and I guess that is why my posts have gone a little stale. I have been so fortunate to really expand my career here in Australia in events planning. That being said I have been dormant in Brisbane for the past few months except for some work travel which was such an experience to see some cities I’m not sure I would have made it to otherwise.  That in later post.

Recently I went to Bali with a friend of mine I met here in Brisbane at the hostel I lived at.  Marzia had already booked her trip to Bali back in May and asked if I wanted to come along. I was a bit hesitant at first but decided this is why I was here to experience life and travel so I booked my ticket on the same flight and eagerly counted down the months till Bali.  The time came up fast before departure date and since my job was insanely busy, she is the absolute best and booked everything.  Thank you Marzia 🙂

Our trip was planned for 7 days, 1 in Kuta, 3 in Ubud, 2 in Gili T and last day in Seminyak before coming back to Brisbane. This was my first time really travelling to a country like Indonesia and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I can tell you Eat Pray Love is not at all what the real Bali is.  Movies…

Day one we arrived quite late and didn’t see much of Kuta except the hotel and of course what is a first night without some Bingtangs. If you have ever been to Bali you know Bingtang, the local beer that always seems to be slightly warm, it’s pretty much the only thing you will drink there.  The next morning we ventured off for breakfast and spent some time on the beach before heading to Ubud for 3 days which we were so excited to do.  Kuta is known for the clubby area and not the best place to visit in Bali. It’s insanely busy with scooters and traffic.  Pretty sure it’s also an Australian party mecca.

We arrived in Ubud and the hostel we stayed at was just lovely.  It was family owned, breakfast and coffee every morning and the brothers who worked there even drove us into town one night on their scooters.  It was more of a bed and breakfast/home stay than your typical hostel.  We thought Ubud was going to be quiet, but were we ever wrong.  Even though we stayed outside of the city, the scooters and traffic were insane everywhere.  One day we hired a driver for the day which I highly recommend and it cost about $30 Australian each.  We visited 6 locations and really got to experience the sites of Bali.  We saw the Monkey Forest where poor Marzia got bit by a monkey (not to worry they are all treated for rabies and there is a clinic on site so they claim.) We went to Ubud Palace, The Tegalalang Rice Fields, Goa Gajah,  Tegenungan Waterfall and Tirta Empul Tampaksiring.  It was such an amazing day and we got to see and experience so much.

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The Rice Terraces 

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Tirta Temple where you can cleanse yourself in the sacred waters 

After Ubud, we left for Gili T, part of the Gili Islands.  To get there you can take the fast boat which is about 1.5 hours and be warned it can be a terrifying ride. The boat drives fast and there are no seat belts.  You almost feel like you could die on this trip or injure yourself in what feels like intense airplane turbulence.  That summed up with fellow passengers suffering sea sickness in buckets makes it really luxurious.  To the Bali boat drivers this is normal and to the regular folk this can be a horrible experience especially if you suffer from  motion sickness and anxiety when it comes to these kinds of trips.  This is all part of the travelling experience that tests you.  Once you finally realize you are still alive and arrive on the glorious beaches of Gili T, you can’t even remember the boat ride because you are overwhelmed with pure beauty of white sane, crystal clear water, the chaotic crowds of backpackers and horse drawn taxis. There are no motorized vehicles on the island so if you want to get around, renting a bike is probably the best suggestion and you can rent one from almost anywhere.

Gili T

Gili Islands 

Gili T is an amazing and beautiful island.  I almost can’t explain how magical it is.  From the crystal clear water to the beautiful sunsets and beach swings, the free-spirited seem to flock here and I will be honest when I say I felt a connection with the island.  Two days was not enough.  Beach drum circles and bonfires at one corner, reggae music and dancing at the next, one head turn and the techno beach parties are going into the night.  You can truly find your place on this island no matter your preference.

Our first night we drank happy hour cocktails on the beach and watched the sunset while posing for the popular swing picture that Gili is known for, trust me you go there and you will do it too.

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One of the famous swings Gili T 

The next day we went on a snorkeling trip around all of the Gili islands and it only cost $20 Australian each roughly.  The tour was on a glass bottom boat and we got to see turtles and sculptures hidden underwater.  The boat stopped for lunch on Gili Air and after that our group headed back just in time for sunset. It was an amazing experience all around except when I threw my shoulder out jumping off the boat.  For someone who is usually not that accident prone, this trip proved me wrong.

In Gili T there is a fantastic night market with so many mouth-watering options for food, it’s hard to decide what to satisfy your foodie-loving taste buds with.  I highly recommend you check out the night market if ever on the island.

There is a very common phrase you may hear when people talk of Bali and that is called “Bali Belly. ” A lovely gastro that can hit you out of nowhere.  I was so lucky to have gotten it twice.  Watch out where you eat and don’t drink the water.  I think I fell victim to cheap Mojitos.  I was soooo sick of Bintang at this point and I payed for it.  My guess is this is why the warm beer is so popular.

Last day in Gili T and I did not want to leave, especially knowing we had to take the death boat back and then another shuttle for 3 hours to Seminyak.  We arrived at our hostel at 10 pm after attempting to catch the 11 am death boat. Since it was full we had 4 more hours at the beach.  Not a bad layover!

Once we arrived at the hostel we were beyond starving and exhausted.  We ventured down the street to get some cheap JFC (Bali’s version of KFC.)  As we were finally ready to head back to the hostel for a good night sleep and Seminyak exploring the next day, I was in for a nice surprise that falls into the Bali can be a minefield category.  Mid conversation with Marzia and I had no idea what happened except I was in intense pain, 5 feet below the road, covered in sewage water  and unable to climb out.  In the pitch darkness of the road and clearly not paying attention, I managed to fall straight into a sewage ditch on the side of the road, slammed my knee on concrete and scraped my right arm on either concrete or the giant piece of wood that was sticking out the side of the ditch.  As I panicked not quite realizing what happened and if anything was broken, we luckily were able to wave someone down who drove by on a scooter and they stopped to help pull me out. BLESS!

The ditch

The ditch I fell into in Seminyak (we went back the next day to see what it looked like in daylight.  Scary!)

 

Not sure whether to go to the hospital or back to the hostel, I realized nothing was broken and the lovely locals took us back to the hostel to mend the sewage wounds.  Bali people are some of the loveliest people I have ever met.  The main thing I was worried about was getting some weird flesh eating disease from the sewage water. PANIC!!!  Mass amounts of rubbing alcohol and a trip to the doctor the next day, I hoped the flesh eating disease chance was minimized.  Inner anxiety got the best of me.   It’s been just over two weeks since the fall and I still have some Bali war wounds.  I can’t help but laugh at the situation.  Makes for a good travel story and adds to the overall experience.  Travel will always have its highs and lows and anything can happen.  These situations help shape you as a traveler and as a person.  I was so fortunate to have amazing people around to help (shout out to Marzia and the locals) and luckily not injure myself more that I did.

Bali was an incredible experience and it has only  made me want to travel more.  Do I want to go back?  Probably not, as I am still temporarily scarred by sewage ditches, Bali Belly and scooters. But the Gili Islands are still on my radar for another visit.

Safe travels and lookout for those ditches 😛

Lori

Cairns

Happy Easter!

This post is dating back to over two months ago.  First pit stop in the land down under!  The tropical Cairns in Northern Queensland.

After days of literal anticipation to arrive in Australia, the minute the plane hit ground on Australian soil my heart jumped a beat and my inner self was crumping! I couldn’t wait to land down under, especially after 6 months of eagerly waiting to finish work and begin a new life of travel.

The flight from Narita, Tokyo landed in Cairns (pronounced Cannes) in the early hours of the morning close to the end of January.  My Canadian friend Eric and I (who I ended up travelling with for 5 weeks in Australia) eagerly arrived at the hostel in Cairns and wanted to see the sunrise on what we thought was going to be a beautiful ocean sunrise.  To our dismay, Cairns has a waterfront lagoon, not a waterfront beach.  Still quite pretty, but not what you expect when you think of the portal town to the Great Barrier Reef.  So we drank duty free vodka and watched the sunrise at 7 am in the classiest of ways hiding ourselves from early morning joggers, bikers and people who were doing proper adult things, not crazy backpacker things like drinking vodka at 7 am on a pier overlooking a lagoon.  Stay classy my friends.

cairns

The sunrise was still amazing to see and I knew I was finally in Australia, where I was meant to be.  Let the real adventure begin! Now this is my first post on Cairns, but it will not be my last as I do plan to go back and see the Great Barrier Reef and more that Cairns has to offer.  It was a stop over before Brisbane so I only spent 4 days there and what a wild 4 days it was.

We booked the Gilligan’s Hostel which is considered as THE party hostel in town.  I figured, why not, let’s have a few nights of party fun to begin the real trip.  And party hostel it was!  The place was fully set-up with a bar/club, pool and all.  I stayed in a mixed dorm room and that was my first time ever doing that.  Traveling, you meet people of all different age groups and from all over the world. Mixed dorms sometimes tend to be male dominated from my experience and I was the only girl in an 8 bed dorm.  There happened to be some guys from the UK who were spending their last few days in Australia going all out.  Not sure you have ever experienced this, but picture small, cheap bunk beds and young drunk people “sleeping” ya enough said.  It was pretty bad and I vowed to never stay in a party hostel again lol.  The group of guys who were all so-not- respectful slept through their GBF tour hey paid a pretty penny for.  I always say “Karma is a BITCH”  the Truth.  I don’t want to out the place to sound bad, it was actually really fun. We met a lovely UK couple who we spent quite a bit of time with and ended up meeting them again at a hostel in Brisbane!  The overall experience of Gilligan’s was good and just know if you go there it’s a party hostel and expect just that. Beds are clean and the bar was really fun.  It’s more like a hotel with a pool and night club if anything else.

Since we were only in Cairns for a few days, excursions were limited.  I had been aching to do the The Atherton Tablelands tour where you can see beautiful waterfalls,  crater formations and swim in clear natural water holes.  For $109 AUD this trip is completely worth it! We booked though Waterfall Wanderers and our tour guide was great!  The day begins at 7 am where the tour bus will pick you up from your hostel.  From there, you drive for a bit through breathtaking rain forest county side before stopping for biscuits coffee and tea. From there we ventured to our first destination, Josephine Falls.  Normally this is a beautiful watering hole with a natural rock water slide you can do down!  Unlucky for us, it was raining a lot over the past few days so flash flooding was in high risk and the water slide was not happening. Dreams crushed!  Luckily there was still lots to do and see throughout the tour. Next stop was Milla Milla Falls, this is where they filmed the famous hair toss Herbal Essences commercial. Herbal Essences will not be calling me for a modelling shoot, those days ended the day I tried to hair flip – resulting in a face of pure anguish or constipation?!  Don’t Judge!

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After Milla Milla, we stopped for lunch and proceeded to head to Dinner/Crater Falls. This location has 3 great spots to see,  A huge volcanic watering hole which is 61 metres in diameter and can be viewed from 58 metres up on a lookout point.  After the impressive volcanic crater, there are two more waterfalls to see.  Dinner Falls and Crater Falls. Both offer amazing swimming locations with cool, fresh water which is a welcoming break from the dense tropical humidity.

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Volcanic Crater 

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Dinner Falls 

After Crater/Dinner Falls we went to the amazing Curtain Fig Tree that is famous in these parts. The tree is hundreds of years old and its aerial roots drop down 15 metres from the canopy to the ground creating a gigantic curtain which is not only huge but incredible to see.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  It looks like something from Fern Gully or Avatar.

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The last stop on the tour is Lake Eacham which is a beautiful volcanic crater lake home to fresh water fish.  The water fares around 23 C and is roughly 65 metres deep.  There are signs for fresh water crocs but we never saw any and no one seemed to mind as swimming is highly recommended.

lake eacham

Overall for four days in Cairns it was an amazing experience and I know I only touched the surface. I can’t wit to go back and experience more of Northern Queensland and all the beautiful tours and excursions. One thing I love most about Australia is no matter where you go, every area and experience is different. No view is more beautiful than the last. Breathtaking, absolutely!

Happy Easter and stay tuned for the next post!

Lori

Making Long-Term Travel Possible

I am writing this post from the beautiful Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia where I am currently completing my 88 days of rural work on a horse farm.  Reliving my girlish love of horses on a daily basis.  Bless!

horse farm

I wanted to share some insight on how I planned for my long-term trip to Australia and how I went about saving.  The funny thing is that it wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought it was going to be, which I believe many people struggle with sometimes when trying to plan for travelling.  Especially something long-term. I know I did.  In June of 2016, I decided I wanted to do something different as I felt something was missing in my life.  I had a decent job, amazing friends, an apartment that I loved in one of the best cities in the world (in my eyes, Toronto or as we say “Turonna” 😉 ) but I still felt something was missing.  It wasn’t the fact that I was single or could have been making more money, it was that I had turned 30 in the beginning of June and as I really began to evaluate my life, I realized that I wanted to see and experience more before life became tied down with work, owning a home, a family, you name it.  I was always the person who felt that I couldn’t afford travel. Limiting beliefs.  The thing is that I was also going out a lot in the city and spending money on food, drinks, live music and the list goes on.  I never thought about myself as a huge spender but when I added it all up, let’s just says it adds up.  Come on! What’s a single girl in the city supposed to do?  Sit at home and watch Netflix all the time with her cats?  (I have nothing against people who do this, I am just not one for a) cats and b) staying in alone all the time)  Too social for that. Shout outs to the people who do it – you do you!  I just crave people and going out like a dieter craves sugar.  That’s just my Gemini ways.

So getting back to my point, when I decided that I was going to Australia, it almost didn’t seem real.  I said to myself I was going to save for 6 months, apply for the visa and see what happens.  It was also Summer which can make saving really hard with sunny patio days but luckily park hanging is a big thing in Toronto.  And so I began to cut back where I could.  I put myself on a tight budget for 6 months all while still paying rent, contributing to my RRSP and paying off my credit card and student debt.  I was astonished by what I was able to save when I cut down on going out, trying to stay in a little more or have nights in at friend’s places. This was the first time I had ever really had a major goal to save for versus just saving for the heck of it so the determination was strong. By the time December had rolled around I had hit my savings goal a month early.  I gave myself  big pat on the back and most likely bought a nice bottle of wine to celebrate. If you are anything like me and sometimes find it hard to stick to goals (Gemini fickle ways) then you really understand that amazing feeling of actually accomplishing them.  By the time January of 2017 rolled around I was on my last week of work, had over my savings budget for Australia and still managed to buy Christmas presents and celebrate New Year’s Eve in a budget friendly way.

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It is now April and I haven’t had a steady pay check in 3 months. I have managed to see a decent portion of Australia so far, spend a few nights in Vancouver before coming over here with an impromptu trip to Tokyo.  I’ve experienced, traveled and seen more in the past few months than I could have possibly imagined and I have no intentions of ending it anytime soon.  I look back on the time I’ve had so far and feel so thankful and fulfilled as well as a more rounded person.  That gap of what was missing is becoming more and more full.  So many people seem to be getting married, buying homes and having children or really succeeding in their careers at this age and if that is what you truly want and what makes you happy, then all the power to you! But, if you are doing these things because you feel the pressure of society to be a certain way and you want to go explore the world and are able to, then there is always a way to make it happen and I hope you do it!  We only have one life and it’s meant to be enjoyed so get out there and explore. The world is a beautiful place.  If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen.

Cheers!

Lori