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The Rainbow Coast, Western Australia.

And who was it that said Seattle was rainy? Try the Great Southwest of Australia. It's called the Rainbow coast for a reason. Our 5 months in Albany, Western Australia.

Okay. First of all, I will apologize. Forgive me for forsaking my blog entries for the last 3 months. It may not be a decent excuse though, but I have been working my - now very much in shape - butt off, thanks to biking several kilometers in and out of town everyday for work.

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What can I say about Albany? The first words that pop in my head are grey, rainy.. and windy. But I'm not doing this town any justice at all. It has a stunning coastline and after all it is winter here. And what a mild winter it is in comparison to what I'm usually used to. I can hardly complain. It just makes me miss home more. That's all.

We lucked out basically. Five months in a wonderful house, stocked with all the herbs and spices and basic cooking supplies that I could ever need. With a magical veggie garden in the back, where all our daily needs for fresh greens are met. The two chooks, who don't really need looking after at all. They already realize, they are living in paradise. They've stopped laying eggs for a months or so, but now one of them is getting back on track so who could blame them for anything? And then there's the orange tree... even if there's no sunshine most days, the tree is making us feel loved at least. Never tasted such fantastic freshly squeezed orange juice in my life! But the best perk about this gig is.. the three boxes in the back room filled with VHS's from the nineties. What better way to spend your dark, cold, lonely nights?

So this house-sitting thing is working quite well for us actually... probably better then we could ever have hoped. We knew when we arrived in Australia, running out of money was going to happen at one point (it being so expensive here and all). When we figured out this overly expensive country came along with equally high wages, we knew we were going to take advantage and soon. But how to go about all of this you ask? No worries. Working Holiday Visa? Check. And that's all you need. The rest just takes a bit of smarts and effort and maybe some persisting as well. We were initially worried about a place to stay while we would be working. Rent prices were scaring us quite a bit to be honest. So we came up with two options. One: Find work that would include accommodation and maybe also food or.. Two: find a house-sitting gig in a place where finding jobs would be easy - easier. Both are equally as hard to find. So when we found this ad online for a 5 months long house-sitting job in a reasonably sized town along our planned travel route, we jumped on it immediately. We managed (somehow) to convince a 70 plus year old couple, who spend the winter up north every year, to let us take care of their house while they were gone for 5 consecutive months. Needless to say we will be eternally grateful to Harry and Val. They are the ones responsible for us putting away large amounts of money on our bank accounts at an extremely fast rate.

So work, work, work.... What does it feel like? After a couple of years of indulging ourselves in a rather relaxed way of living - traveling the world and not having to worry much about money. It feels a bit numb to be honest. People might think of us as the escapist kind. Not wanting to settle down, not wanting to tie ourselves down to certain responsibilities. Some of you out there would call us cowards for not wanting to deal with the real world (as they would call it). Which I understand. Completely. But see it from our point of view. Why not take advantage of the limitless possibilities out there? Why not get to know this planet for real before it's too late? We just want to have fun and experience all what is out there as much as possible. What's so wrong with that? We'll get tired of it at one point. We'll settle down. Just not yet though... It's way too much fun being a global nomad..

One place where I work at is the Royal George Hotel. A bartending job will stay the same wherever in the world you may find yourself. So it's a good skill to fall back on. This bar in particular has an immense amount of history. This whole town does by the way. What makes the George a different kind of pub to work at is the old fellas. It's a good old local kind of pub. Nothing fancy. I've got my regulars that come in everyday and they are amazingly entertaining and splendid company. The times they have made me giggle with their wild stories from the good old days. I've heard Robert Plant and Neil Young anecdotes from a former musician suffering from severe tinnitus. Or how about this other fella that one day decided to fill me in on a certain part of his past. "That time I almost went to the slammer for nearly killin me own brotha." That was one of the more heartfelt ones. There was still sadness and pain to be read on his face while he tried to explain. In his defense, his brother did take off with his fiancee while he was at sea. Most of these guys once used to be fishermen or working on the rigs or for the Navy. Now most of them are retired and meet up with each other in the pub almost every day. Every single one of them is adorned with plenty of visible tattoos and even though they might look like rough oldies not to be messed with to an outsider, to me they all are cuddly bears with a heart of gold. To see them all lined up sitting at the bar next to one another, mumbling and cursing a lot (ooh yeah... they curse a lot) with their free hand (the one not holding the beer) cupping their ears trying to catch what their neighbor just had said, because the batteries in their hearing aid might have run low again. You just have to see it for yourself, it's very endearing.

Albany was the right choice to make. Even though I did run into some trouble with a local business owner thinking, because I was a backpacker, that must mean he had a freebie to take advantage of me. Well guess what? I might be a backpacker but I'm not a stupid one. Shame on those who try to scam us out of our hard earned money. Luckily I caught on to it from week number one and made my way out of their as fast and confrontational-free as possible. Karma will have it's way.

So yes. I would recommend to every young backpacker looking for another adventure to come to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa and to work their butts off. If they are smart about it, they will walk away with a huge sum of aussie dollars to spend nice and slow in less "dearer" countries.

3 months down. 2 to go.... then it's back to singing my favorite tune. "On the road again..."

Love and Peace,

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 09:41 Archived in Australia Tagged winter australia work north money western_australia orange orange_tree working oranges aud albany exmouth couchsurfing cira's royal_george_hotel housesit housesitting chooks veggie_garden mild_winter working_holiday_visa whv

A little something called a hostel.

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One thing you might not have known about Australia but you definitely need to is the standard of living here is quite high. Think Scandinavia. A month’s wage for an average nine to fiver down under will be triple yours. So automatically everything becomes more costly. Backpackers will return home having had to cut their trip short or having spent a whole lot more than originally anticipated. That’s where the extremely popular Working Holiday Visa comes in. Australia has it down!

Bring in young travelers from all over the world and allow them to stay in the country for a whole year. You can even earn points by working some time in agriculture and get an extension for a second year. So Oz has all these foreign youngsters running around spending their hard earned cash at a faster rate than they would have if they didn’t have the opportunity to just get a job whenever they were running out. Plus they will go for all the shitty jobs Australians don’t want to do anyways. Make them pay taxes like anybody else and voila… they can go spend again.

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And Australia scores! This could only be considered as a win-win situation, wouldn’t you agree? Now, where are all these backpackers going to go. Who’s going to help them find a job? Where are they all hanging out while looking for employment? Where do they go to make friends and have a good time? The answer is very simple. It’s a little something called a hostel. Hostels are the gateway to anything you could need. Even more so here in Australia because of the huge backpacking culture. Hostels in the major cities for example are thriving and therefoe an extremely lucrative business. Enormous buildings with endless hallways filled with one muggy dorm room after another. Grubby carpets and slow rotating fans. Buzzing vending machines in lonely corners. How much for one night you ask? Let’s say about 25 AUD per night and there’d be a minimum of about 100 beds in your standard hostel. You do the math! You can be sure to be booked full during summer as the northern hemisphere is trying to escape the cold of another icy winter.

There’s a reason why I, personally try to avoid staying in hostels. For one, I’m getting older and I do not wish to be kept up during half the night because this 18 year old can’t hold his liquor and is puking his guts out right outside my door. When I was still single and traveling by myself I got my use out of hostels but nowadays I’ve got everything I need right by my side. So when I do stay in a hostel, it feels without a doubt more like an inconvenience. This time around the necessity of finding one of these impersonal crowded places was because of the rain. It’s has been coming down non-stop for about a week now. We were supposed to go camping in one of these gorgeous national parks, but let’s be honest. That’s not exactly a whole lot of fun in the rain. We decided to cut our hitchhiking slash camping trip short. Being miserable and drenched was not on our list. We could have gone couch surfing but that requires a couple of days of emailing back and forth. Especially for big cities like Melbourne. So here we are..

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If I was asked to write a review for this particular hostel, it wouldn’t be a very positive one. It obviously has grown out of proportion and has become exactly what every hostel should try and strive not to become. There’s nothing welcoming or pleasant about a place like this. A lobby crammed full with cute little Asian girls chatting away on their laptops. A kitchen lounge area where packs of single young males are loudly displaying their testosterone levels. A bar and restaurant with so called cheap prices, but in reality they charge more than the pub next door. Staff that moves around like zombies. Wireless internet access should be free, but this one charges 10 dollars a day. Towels should be free as well, but here they charge 2 dollars and a 5 dollar security deposit. The kitchen area should be accessible to anyone, should they ever need to use it at any given time. It closes between 10pm and 7am. And the list goes on. Every aspiring hostel should do their utmost to not become such a soulless place.

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I must admit that the thought of starting a business like this crossed my mind a few times by now though. I would envision a more secluded place like the Big Island of Hawaii where we just were or maybe an elusive, beautiful country like New Zealand. It would have the maximum capacity of 20 guests. Five rooms with 4 beds. Each room would be decorated differently with memories of all of our travels in mind. There’ll be no MTV playing on a flat screen in the back ground, but there will be a extensive library and tremendously comfy couches. There’ll be colorful inviting hammocks in the backyard hanging in between our fruit trees. A wide porch surrounding the building for socializing over drinks during the most gorgeous sunsets. No curfew and no extra charges. I could daydream all day, every day about a potential little paradise like that…

Signed,
A Flemish girl down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 16:26 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne city hostel dorm backpackers beds aud

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