A Work &Traveler’s Experience Part 2

By Jennifer, Cultural Embrace Work in Australia Participant

Australia = the adventureland of my wildest dreams. Aside from its reputable surfing/ windsurfing/ kitesurfing/ spearfishing/ kayaking/ hiking/ camping spots/ famed beaches, diving and snorkeling the other-worldly Great Barrier Reef and its Islands sprinkled along the East Coast and adventuring through the surreal red outback and crocodile strewn northern beaches more than satisfy the adventure-seeker’s appetite.

June 9, 2010

On the road again!

So this time, it’s Sydney to Melbourne to Darwin to Bali, Indonesia… and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it or not, but for whatever reason, I have a really annoying knack for not planning/booking trips until I’m on a completely different one. This trip I booked (and recruited amongst friends for) while I was in New Zealand, and although it hasn’t completely backfired, it certainly could have used a bit more “outlining.”

Melbourne was perfect; I absolutely could see myself working/ living there happily ever after, and I’m bummed I didn’t check it out before! It definitely has a more Austin-like vibe about it. It’s a laid back, beautiful city with fantastic museums, live music and theaters, great restaurants and shopping (which I plan to enjoy when I return when I’m not broke J) and enough of a beach to attract sun worshipers like myself. It is also so much cheaper and more pleasant getting around via public transportation than in Sydney. The only true downside to our time in Melbourne was the terrible hostel I booked after doing absolutely zero research and having to stick to it/in the one area of the city due to pre-paying. We stayed around St. Kilda, which is near one of my new favorite movie theaters of all time, The Palace, the beach and some great nightlife- all excellent- but we would have loved to stay closer to downtown one night…. And most definitely not in the hostel we’d booked for three nights. Watch out for putting your card down to reserve nights without researching the hostel WELL first… big mistake! But aside from the few of negatives of our trip, I loved Melbourne. It is absolutely somewhere I would check out for your Cultural Embrace Work and Travel Australia experience.

From Melbourne we flew almost directly north to Darwin. Luckily, it was a pretty clear day so most of the way north we could see directly down into the outback. Red sand raked from wind gusts and dotted with the occasional green shrubbery flew underneath us for almost the entire four-hour flight. It was a pretty cool view. And even though looking at a deep red desert would normally cause thoughts of HOT weather, stepping out of the airport was still quite a shocker.

Darwin is way hotter and more humid than I anticipated- it took us a few minutes before we could breath comfortably outside! It sounds dramatic, but honestly I felt dumb not realizing how intense the climate was going to be. But aside from the climate, we also had a few other unnecessary surprises. Although we were working with a pretty tight budget as my friend and I were heading to Indonesia from there, we’d planned on hitting Litchfield National Park and/or Kakadu National Park in the few days we had in Darwin. Unfortunately, the parks ended up being about a hundred dollars more expensive than we planned for. It turned out we were going to have to book day tours due to no access zones for rental cars and so we ended yp opting out of them. It was disappointing, but we made the three days we had in Darwin work for us. We stayed at a pretty decent hostel with a pool (which is more important than I could stress because 1. It’s extremely hot 2. Although you’re on the northern coast, the Northern Territory is known for salt-water crocodiles as well as box jelly fish depending on the season so the ocean may not be the best option), went to the rocky shore for some attempted crocodile watching and trekked it to a local beachside market. Overall Darwin was a pretty interesting place to spend a few days, but next time I head that way I will not be missing the national parks!

One thing we do have to thank Darwin for is the travel pal we met heading out to Bali. Like I’ve mentioned before a billion times, it’s impossible not to meet fellow backpackers while you’re excursioning- and a lot of them will have a pretty similar travel plan as you. While we were in Darwin we ended up meeting a French backpacker who was actually on our flight heading to Bali, so, we picked him up for the first few days we were traveling. It is always great to meet people who’re as into chasing a full and beautiful life as you are.

Bali is home to all-around beautiful people, amazing rice field and jungle hikes, gorgeous beach and volcano villages and Puras (temples) to visit and is now where my “future house” coin jar is directed. Also great to mention, our flight from Darwin to Bali was around $150 and it’s only a 2.5 hour flight- excellent. So if you’re planning to head up to Darwin, check out Jetstar’s flights to Indonesia, or other nearby countries of your interest, they have incredible deals!

As I mentioned before, one of the best perks of Working and Traveling Australia is how cheap and easy it is to hop on an international flight for a few hours and be in another amazing country for as long as you have there. As a backpacker, Australia is a great hub from which to globe trot, and as this stent of traveling abroad is coming to an end for me, I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is being able to look back and know I took advantage of traveling to other destinations, especially since they weren’t in my original plans. My advice is to get out here and check out working in and traveling the amazing OZ, and hitting some neighboring countries in between. Leap out of the box, and explore as much as you can.

Live fully,

Jennifer C Campbell

May 25, 2010

Hello Cultural Embracers!

As I assumed, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was beyond extraordinary. Even our photos, which do the Australian national park little justice, are unbelievable! As I mentioned before, my chances of getting to dive the Great Barrier Reef, one of my lifetime dreams, was up in the air as my sinuses had been malfunctioning (the ultimate no-go in diving) for the last few weeks I’d been traveling New Zealand. But fate was on my side and by game time I was cleared to do a shallow dive and snorkel for hours on end during our two-day stent on the water.

Friends and I booked two separate boats for our trip, a snorkeling boat, which took us to the inner reef, and a dive boat, which took us to the outer reef. I suggest doing both!

The inner reef has far shallower reef spots over a larger area, which means more opportunity to snorkel longer distances to do a bit of unleashed exploring. Only caution: currents can sometimes take you much farther from the boat than you’d realize before popping back up to relieve your face from your mask, so check with your vessels crew for the day’s (ocean) current conditions before jumping overboard. My friend and I only had to be saved once but the ten minutes it took for the snorkel boat’s zodiac to spot us seemed a lifetime of treading in the waves and wishing we’d opted for a life vest. J The inner reef is also is sprinkled with tiny sand islands with the most beautiful and giant seashells I’ve ever seen, which visitors, like myself, leave for others to enjoy or for waves to sweep back out onto the reef where they become a part of the natural reef-growth process. (Don’t forget the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a national park, which means you’re not supposed to leave with souvenirs anyway.)

The outer reef is made up of patches of shallow reef spots surrounded by endless distances of deep water, offering excellent snorkeling with more “untamed” sea life and epic diving – the best of both underwater worlds. Because of these surrounding deeper spots, there’s a much bigger range of larger fish and fish schools, turtles, and sometimes the occasional shark if you’re lucky, right around the reef’s edge. The snorkeling and dive boats come to these spots so often they’re able to introduce you, by given name, to most of the turtles and giant neon fish… however, sharks are a different story…

Unfortunately, shark sightings on the Great Barrier Reef have endured a massive decline mainly because so many of them are killed by fisheries each year. (According to Oceana, the world’s largest international conservation organization standing for the protection and restoration of our oceans, humans kill around one hundred million sharks per year.) And because sharks have such slow reproductive and growth rates, many Great Barrier Reef species are in jeopardy of catastrophic collapse, which would be devastating to the marine ecosystem of the marine park…. generating overwhelming domino effects, obviously. If you head to the Sydney aquarium you can check out the Great Barrier Reef section which holds a dozen live shark species (including a 13-foot grey reef shark which is probably one of the most insane sharks I’ll ever see), but this mock version of the reef is likely the place you’ll see any of them.

Back to it, a quick word to the wise: booking adventure trips through third-party agents are usually okay ways to go, but you’ll probably end up getting a much cheaper rate- and sometimes more reliable plans- if you book directly through the adventure company itself. Friends and I used the travel agent Wicked Travel, and are now on a running list of other Aus travelers whose trips have been compromised due to “casual mess-ups” by the company. Massive and expensive pain!

But if you’re not much of an open water lover, there are still plenty of things to do in and around the reef’s main access regional city, Cairns (which is where most backpackers, including myself and friends, stay for reef adventuring/rainforest trekking on the upper east coast route). Very near-by destinations, including Cape Tribulation, Daintree, and Mission Beach, offer activities such as rainforest and national park explorations, canopy touring, excellent skydiving, sailing, parasailing, jet skiing, just plain beach sprawling, etc. and there are plenty of nightspots to curb your craving for pool, beach side or pub partying. The upper east coast is a fun place to be, and even though you’ll definitely meet way more foreign backpackers than Aussies, it’s almost impossible not to feel like you’re really in Australia out here.

Head out to the upper east coast of Australia if you get the chance, it’s definitely worth the trip. I cannot wait to make it back!

Live fully,

Jennifer C Campbell

May 15, 2010

Happy May fellow Adventure Seekers!

Let me preface by saying I’m writing this entry on a computer I believe is legitimately from 1990… without spelling/grammar check or the working letter “B.” Awesome.

Despite Sydney and the rest of south/south eastern Australia creeping into the fall to winter season, you wouldn’t believe it here on the northern east coast. In the mid 20’s to low 30’s Celsius (upper 70’s to upper 80’s Fahrenheit), the island is sun-soaked and warm with still vibrantly colored lush tropical vegetation. It turns out “Maggie Island’s” weather is much like spring year round. And having just spent an absolutely epic month in New Zealand bundled up in most of the north island (minus a few still warm gorgeous beach spots) and all of the south island (in the mountain and glacier towns, etc.), it’s nice to be bathing suit clad and toasting again.

I originally came up north to complete a two-day scuba recertification course, followed by a road trip up to Cairns with friends for the greatly anticipated Great Barrier Reef dive and snorkel. Unfortunately, I’m “sinus sick” which is the ultimate no-go in diving so I’m S.O.L. for my full certification for now. But great news! Most dive boats on the Great Barrier Reef, including the one friends and I are booked on, don’t require PADI scuba dive certification, offering instead a small dive tutorial the day of. So if I’m all clear in time for our scuba/snorkeling trip, I will still be able to dive and roam free in one of the world’s most prized national parks. And even though I’m stuck on land on Magnetic Island (which, by the way, Magnetic Island is one of the top ten rated locations in the world to get PADI certified, definitely a bummer to miss) I still get to veg out on the beach and explore this tropical island teeming with parrots, wombats, the occasional koala and giant butterflies. Not too shabby!

Changing gears a bit, I want to give you yet another reason to work and travel Australia, one I’ve recently becoming familiar with. While you’re down here working and saving, or working to make rent saving your savings, traveling Australia is just the tip of the roving opportunities in this part of the globe. Mixing Australia travel with trips to other nearby countries is easier, cheaper and more convenient than I would have thought. The Australian dollar is comparable to the US dollar, so you typically get a pretty good to great exchange rate for your earnings/savings, and travelling to surrounding countries is generally pretty affordable and a short plane ride away. Round trip flights to New Zealand, Fiji, Bali and even Hong Kong can be as cheep as $350, Thailand and Papa New Guinea are fairly reasonable as well. And because your Australian Work and Travel visa allows you to escape and re-enter Australia as you please, it’s pretty easy to globe trot a bit and come back and work when you run out of money J. Some causal work positions across Australia even provide you with holiday pay, which means you can earn a set hourly rate while you’re traveling. My bartending job in Sydney did! So after or in between your Australia experiences, hop on a plane for a few hours and go explore a neighboring country. Working and traveling Australia has about 20 million perks… the list just keeps getting bigger. So get out here!

I’ll fill you in on how the Great Barrier Reef is- I’m sure I’ll be reporting nothing short of an unbelievable experience.

Live Fully,

Jennifer C Campbell

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