Nine Month Travel Reflection – Living in Australia
As I stretch my gaze over Lavender Bay and across the Sydney Harbour, I can’t believe that it’s been nine months since we touched down in Australia. Travelling and living in Australia has been one of my biggest dreams ever since I can remember. I could never express why but I just felt drawn to come and explore the wonder that sits over ten thousand miles away from home.
Year upon year I would plan out my visits in my imagination. But as each year rapidly passed by, and then another one, followed by another one. I found myself wondering if I would ever make it onto Aussie soil. So, last year as I climbed the stairs to board the flight from Manchester to Brisbane I couldn’t have felt more proud of myself. I had reached a goal that nobody thought was anything but a vision of my dreams. And I’m even prouder to say that, after living in Australia for the past nine months, has been proof that Australia has always been calling.
The last time I sat and composed a reflection of our time living in Australia was back when we were just about to leave Brisbane. We’ve achieved so much since then. From driving over 5000KM of the Aussie road down the East Coast to relocating to Australias most famous city, Sydney. It’s been fun and sometimes challenging. We’ve battled in our heads about whether or not we were prepared to go and get down and dirty on a farm, just to stay living in Australia another year. I got offered and then turned down a sponsorship opportunity and now we are on the big countdown until my Mum arrives in April (T-minus 4 weeks!) So in case you were wondering a lot has been going on down under!
Living in Australia: Leaving Brisbane aka Home Behind
Since I haven’t written a post like this for over eight months I can’t promise that this won’t be more like a thesis than a post. I’ll try not to ramble on too much! Leaving Brisbane in October was a little like leaving home. When we arrived in Australia we just fell into the Brissy way of life almost instantly.
We made an incredible friendship with some friends of mine from the UK and just felt at home. Since leaving we’ve been back to Brisbane twice and I can’t help but get a sense of warmth and familiarity every time we visit. Needless to say, as much as we loved Brisbane with every bone in our bodies we love Sydney even more! Sydney has been the ultimate wow factor of Australian cities so far, though it has amazed me in so many ways I still can’t put it above New York (Sorry, not sorry). So what was it like moving from Brisbane to Sydney? Well, it was a little like moving from Sheffield to London. Brisbane is a big city but Sydney is bigger. We went from knowing our way around the complete CBD in Brisbane after a few weeks, to still needing the power of google maps to navigate us around Sydney, eight months later! The suburbs all merge into one and I can’t decide where I love the most, the Northern Beaches or the Eastern Suburbs?! It’s all so wonderful. But before we landed in the big city we had our magnificent road trip down the East Coast!
One Month of Van Life
The drive from Cairns to Sydney is the most famous and popular amongst all backpackers here in Australia. Racking up over 5000KM in just one month it’s fair to say we covered a fair amount of ground and had some life-changing experiences. To swim in The Great Barrier Reef was one of the most memorable experiences that I have ever had! And yes in case you were wondering we met Nemo and a Sea Turtle!
The Great Barrier Reef wasn’t the only jaw-dropping moment, sailing the Whitsundays and exploring Fraser Island are up there with some of the best times of my life. In fact, this road trip was so memorable that when my mum comes next month we are doing the same route PLUS The Great Ocean Road and Melbourne! If you’re thinking about doing a great Australian road-trip then the East Coast will open your mind to the beauty of Australia that you had no idea existed. Over the last nine months, I have to say that our road trip was the ultimate highlight. You can read a little more in detail here! We learnt so much about ourselves during our time living in a van and no one was more surprised me than how happy I was living in the midst of nature with hardly any ‘stuff’. I think I’d go as far as to say that stuff really does just clutter our lives.
When we disposed of the stuff we thought we needed like fancy furniture and all the latest trends we were the happiest, laid back versions of ourselves I had ever seen.
I cannot think of a happier time than when we were singing our way along the road, curled up reading our books in the trunk and waking up to a new place every. single. day. I’m actually so excited to test out this theory of mine on our second road trip. Was I really the happiest I’d ever been without all the clutter in my life or was it just first time excitement? I guess only time will tell.
Living in Australia – An Emotional Goodbye
After bidding a very emotional goodbye with our beloved camper van. We headed for the bright lights and big city life once again, little did we know that Brisbane was in fact extremely small. When we pitched up in Sydney we had a gorgeous little granny flat that we discovered on Air BnB located in Willoughby in North Sydney. It was quite far out from the city but the amazing price for a place to ourselves was worth the forty-minute bus commute. If you’re looking to save some extra cash on your next visit to Sydney then stay north of the harbour bridge.
Our first days in Sydney were spent exploring and standing outside the Opera House, jaws hitting the cobbled street beneath us. I never thought the Opera house would have such an effect on me. How wrong was I? I wrote this is my journal that evening when we returned to our temporary home and just rereading it now gives me tingles.
‘We’ve arrived in Sydney to feel like we’ve transported back 10,000 miles to the UK because it’s chucking it down! Nonetheless, we pulled on our rain macs and headed to see Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, The Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House. I didn’t think I’d be overly bothered about the Opera House I’m not a huge performance goer and I knew I was just seeing it because of how famous it is. I don’t know why but the moment I saw it in the distance my face lit up with the biggest smile that I couldn’t wipe away. As we got nearer I felt such excitement as I saw the building take form and I was filled with such awe standing before it. My heart is so happy at this moment’
I’ve walked past this iconic landmark almost every day since being in Sydney over the last six months and it still has puts a smile across my face. Although I don’t think I can say the same for Dave who works at Opera Bar and has to deal with many a drunk customer stumbling out of the Opera House. Watching a show ourselves at the Opera House is still on the list before we leave Sydney. In fact, we still have a long list to get through before we leave this city behind. Sydney has so much to offer it’s near impossible to get through everything! But let’s go back to the memories, we have already made here in Sydney.
Living in Australia – Moving to Sydney
As we arrived and began the draining task of finding somewhere to live we followed every other English, Irish and Scotsman to Bondi. Yes, we went to the most touristy place we could find. We quickly found and rented out a room becoming totally engrossed in the ultimate Bondi bubble. We didn’t live directly on the beach but in Bondi Junction. Bondi Junction was a pretty awesome place to live in because you didn’t need to go anywhere else. From Westfield shopping centre to weekly markets, a huge park, a swimming pool in our apartment, yoga around the corner and Coles just across the road, we literally didn’t need to go anywhere else for anything. The great thing about living in the Eastern Suburbs is that everything is on your doorstep which why I think people get wrapped up in their own little bubbles amongst the Sydney suburbs.
The Cost Difference Brisbane-Sydney
Now, I want to talk specifically about living in Sydney compared to Brisbane because I know many of you have probably got one burning question. Is it more expensive? Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt, Sydney is more expensive than Brisbane but you’d be a fool if you didn’t expect that. Sydney being the famous most city in Australia, sure it isn’t the capital but it 100% priced like it. Rent will be higher, utility bills are higher, eating out is more expensive, BUT I wouldn’t let that put anyone off living in Sydney. Even though we are paying out more I don’t feel like we’re any worse off. I think I’ll do a separate post on how expensive living in Australia really is but I’ll add that one to the bottom of long posts ‘waiting to be written’ (I’m sure I’m not alone there!).
Though the cost of living is higher in Sydney, the number of things to do and places to explore compared to Brisbane is overwhelming. Sorry Brissy but Sydney wins on this front. The best thing hands down about living in Sydney is the beaches, there’s a beach around every corner you turn from the Eastern Suburbs all the way up to the Northern Beaches!
You could live here for a year and still not get to every beach that Sydney has to offer. From long stretches of coastline to secluded bays hidden around the city. Sydney has some of the best beaches in Australia to explore never mind some of the best coastal walks too. We spend our days off enjoying a new walk from one beach to another or exploring a new coffee shop. Sydney is full of free museums too. If we have a rainy day, which we often do here in Sydney, we head to the museums to take in the art on display. Living in Sydney never leaves us wandering around with nothing to do. In fact, we often struggle just to take some downtime and relax!
Living in Australia – From Bondi to the Northern Beaches!
Since we arrived in Sydney I have ended up working at a new hospital in the Northern Beaches. The commute from Bondi was over an hour and I’ll admit exhausting! So when the lease came to an end in Bondi we decided to bite the bullet and move to the Northern Beaches.
If I could have my time in Sydney again I would come straight here! Living in Manly is the most settled and at home, I’ve felt in Sydney since arriving. Sydney is a huge city and it can sometimes feel lonely. Small aspects like still not knowing our way around after six months can just go to show how big it really is. So moving across the water has felt like a move from the hustle and bustle of the city to a small town BUT the best thing? We are still in Sydney and still only a short ferry or bus ride from the city. The Northern Beaches are full of beaches (obviously), dams where you can take walks, hire kayaks and enjoy slower activities compared to the city. It feels like we are living the ultimate Aussie outdoor lifestyle and we are loving every second!
Living in Australia – Finding Work in Sydney
After falling into work so easily in Brisbane I was a little apprehensive coming to Sydney. Would it be just as easy or were we lucky in Brisbane? Successfully for us, our luck wasn’t out and we found work within the first week of being in Sydney. Dave managed to transfer from River Bar in Brisbane to Opera Bar in Sydney because they are part of the same company. He was literally working within a few days of arrival which was amazing because we well and truly spent up on our East Coast Road Trip!
For me, it was a little slower but nothing major. The agency I worked for in Brisbane covers the whole of Australia so I just transferred to the New South Wales team. There were a few extra forms and a little wait but it didn’t take too long. By the way, If you’re a nurse reading this then just be aware that Sydney hospitals, especially the public sector, don’t use much agency so work can be a lot slower. It had just so happened that a new hospital had opened up giving me all the shifts and more than I needed here in Sydney to keep that bank balance afloat!
Living in Australia – Do We Stay or Do We Go?
The last nine months have been a whirlwind of an adventure and the highlight completely lies with our trip down the East Coast. A new experience for both of us leading to exciting new plans for the future. I personally came to Australia with the impression that I would never leave. But to my surprise since arriving I’ve never wanted to travel the rest of the world more, especially Europe, how crazy?!
Australia has allowed me to recognise ideas about the world and myself that I never questioned before. I’ve come to understand that Australia really is on the other side of the world and getting anywhere takes very a long time. You can fly from Manchester to New York in the time it takes you to get from one side of Australia to another! I had no idea how much we took living so close to mainland Europe for granted! With that in mind, our plans for the next few years have completely changed. We’ve abolished doing our farm work to extend our working holiday visa! After a lot of backwards and forwarding, we’ve officially made the plan to move to New Zealand for at least a year! I’m not saying any more than that because we both know that in another year our travel plans will have definitely changed!
But this particular plan wasn’t an easy one to make.
Due to tight immigration rules here in Australia, it isn’t easy to stay full time. You basically have two options, to get sponsored by an employer or apply for permanent residency. Both can be hard visas to get. The cost for employers to sponsor people now is on the rise and the points to qualify to even apply for PR are getting harder to obtain. Whilst working in Sydney I was fortunate enough to be offered a sponsorship which I very almost took. In the end, I decided to choose myself rather than the country of Australia.
Yes, it has everything and more to give us an amazing life for the next four years but with a sponsorship that comes at a price. A price I wasn’t willing to pay. The inability to make money doing anything else, which puts my writing and blogging dreams on hold. The inability to move to different hospitals if things don’t go to plan and the inability to just go home when I want. For us, it wasn’t enough to persuade us to stay. As for working on a farm for three months, I simply ain’t cut out for that shit! So New Zealand here we come! The moment we made this decision the pressure and worry of knowing whether we would stay in Australia lifted almost instantly. It’s amazing how many stresses we carry without realising.
In the more short term even though it feels like we have no time left living in Australia at all we still have so much to explore! My mum arrives in just over 20 days and we are heading back in the van for another road trip! This time we will be starting off on The Great Ocean Road making our up to The Whitsundays. After that Dave and I will be back working for a matter of weeks before taking the whole of June off work to explore Western Australia. The plan will be to drive from Perth to Broome and hopefully get a weekend break in Adelaide too! We have so much to see in such little time but we will be making the most out of our time left on Aussie soil!
I hope you enjoyed this long overdue update of life in Australia! For more updates on our life as travellers, new blog posts and travel freebies every month make sure you subscribe to our newsletter via the form below!
Let’s carry on the conversation in the comments. I would love to know if you’ve lived in Australia maybe even Sydney? Let us know how you found this country and whether or not your a lover or hater of this foreign land down under!