Sydney – Part 1

I have been living in Sydney for about a month now! It has had its ups and downs, but for the most part I am loving it. I will say, it has been different actually living somewhere than traveling around. I obviously have not updated this blog in a while as I am doing less than when I was constantly on the road, heading off in new adventures every day. This is an adventure in its own though because this is all new to me. I have never been living in a new place by myself. I don’t count my study abroad experience because that was all scheduled through the University with so many other students (aka built in friends). I have been struggling a bit here making new friends, while working and living in this suburb of Sydney, called Jannali, but I think I have officially started to find my groove (but more on that later).

Let me back up here as I do have a lot to catch people up on. Most of you already know this, but I found a job as an Au Pair in Sydney. An Au Pair is basically a live in nanny, however with the kids in school and daycare, I have a lot of time off. When I first arrived at the end of January, I had already planned to travel to Port Stephens to see some old friends for Australia Day. It was a very brief trip, but a lot of fun. I would describe Australia Day as a slightly less wild 4th of July, but still a ton of fun. We found ourselves at Murray’s Brewery eating some ribs and drinking some great beer! But, before, I knew it, it was time to head back to Jannali and officially start my new job.

Unfortunately, my adventures in New Zealand and the first few weeks in Australia put me on a very tight budget for when I arrived in Sydney, so I had to put my adventuring on hold a little until I started to make some money. I was still able to do a few things, but wanted to wait to really sightsee, until I could actually enjoy it without worrying it would break the bank. Here is some advise to anyone who wants to travel… sell your car before you travel or plan your travels after your car lease is up because having a monthly car payment back home while traveling is a bit of a bummer, although I am making it work. The biggest downside: my car lease is up in August, so I won’t even have the car when I get back, I just get to pay for it while I am here…

Anyways, there were two things that made my first few weeks here awesome, even though I was very tight on money: Number 1. HASHING! The Hash House Harriers’ group that I was a part of back in Boulder, is a world wide group, dedicated to drinking and running. It is literally a built in group of friends wherever you go in the world, which is awesome! Right when I arrived, I got the pleasure of joining the group for a wonderful day of drinking and running at their annual red dress run. I was super stoked since I actually have not been able to attend one of these back home.

Number 2. Seeing Rachel! Rachel is an AMR coworker who decided to do a working holiday visa in Australia as well. Although, we have different plans for our time here, it was awesome that we overlapped a day in Sydney before she set off on her Southern Australia adventure. I did just find out, she will be back in Sydney very soon, and I will talk her ear off to plan my Southern Australia trip coming up in April

The kids I am nannying for are so lovely. Of course, they have their moments, but for the most part, are great kids. The parents are Lucy and Adrian who are actually from the UK and moved here about 10 years ago. They originally came for a year and never left, funny how that happens. They have a 2 year-old son named Jack and a 3 year-old daughter names Emily (who will turn 4 in April).

These kids are the only kids I have ever met who ask for salads and tomatoes for an afternoon snack. Emily’s favorite food is smoked salmon… I am very certain that is not the normal favorite food for a 3 year-old.

Jack likes to eat yogurt with his hands, but you can’t blame him, he’s 2 and once he starts, there isn’t much you can do except let it happen.

Apart from hashing, I have now finally been able to do sightseeing and do some weekend adventures in and around Sydney.

I started with doing the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk a few weeks ago, which was spectacularly amazing.

Last weekend, on Sunday, I was able to be a proper tourist (yes, I brought my selfie stick out) and do a day in Sydney, starting with eating a very over priced avocado toast at the opera house restaurant…

From this restaurant, you also get a pretty amazing view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This was, of course, followed by a very overpriced (but worth it) tour of the opera house. I will say, it was pretty amazing learning about the history of it being built. I think the most interesting fact was, the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon was pretty much kicked off the project before the interior of the opera house was started, following a change in government. Jørn Utzon never even saw the finished opera house. I was a little disappointed seeing the inside of it, as it did not even compare to the beautiful outside.

I am only putting a picture of the inside of the opera house here as I have taken so many pictures of the outside from all different angles, and my 2 favorite ones I will put a little later in this post.

Following the opera house, I took a stroll down the Rocks Market. The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney, where the pubs used to be for sailers on old ships coming into Sydney Harbour. This is also where the convicts were housed a little later. Every weekend, there is a market held here, that is just like a farmers market, but still really fun.

After this, I went to the Contemporary Art Museum. So, I am going to be honest, I have never gotten art; I am bad at interpreting it, and just don’t really have much interest in it. However, I did feel like this museum (which was free), was something I should at least see while I was here, as it is one of the main attractions, so I did. The piece of art I found most fascinating was this one and only because it made me laugh and you will see why…

Needless to say, I am still not an art person, but now I have checked this museum off my list of things to do in Sydney (and it is a long list).

There are many money making tourist attractions in any large city you go to and Sydney is no exception. You can even pay $300 to get harnessed up and walk over the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for, what they say, is the best view of the city and the opera house. Or… you can pay $15 dollars to climb 200 steps up the South-East pylon of the bridge for the exact same view (this is called Pylon Point). This is the option I chose.

Picture 1 of 2 of my favorite pictures of the Opera House

And! you even get a view of the bridge from this lookout.

My day was coming to an end as my feet were killing me (this was a bad day to break in a new pair of shoes). I got some gelato from Messina’s (very famous gelato place here)…

… and headed back to the train station to go home.

I was greeted back at the house by the kids who had been playing with their kiddie pool and the hose…

Welcome home Kali! Luckily I had already changed.

The next day, Monday, I went back into the city for a tour of the Rocks that was also a pub tour. Not only did you get a great historic tour of the Rocks, but we also got a beer at all 4 of the oldest pubs in Sydney. If you are ever here, I would highly recommend this pub tour, with Dave’s, The Rocks Pub Tour. This company also has other tours, which are also supposed to be great.

And regretibally, I was so hungry and of course a little drunk, and my night ended with this…

I am ashamed despite my large smile in this pic

I did however, take my all time favorite picture of the Sydney Opera house on the night of this tour.

I think I am on a sightseeing roll, because on my day off this last Thursday, I went into the city again for even more sightseeing. Rather than go into excruciating detail about every sight I saw that day, which I am sure you all really desperately want to read, I will just show some of the highlights. I did a free walking tour in which they rely just on tips at the end, it is perfect if you are on a budget.

St. James Church                               Royal Botanical Gardens

                                         St. Mary’s Cathedral

I will wrap up this post by telling the wonderful story of my adventures with my new friend Audrey from yesterday. Audrey is also an Au Pair and she actually lives really close to me. I am honestly so excited to have a new friend in the area. Kristen, I really feel like you should have been on this adventure with me as we almost died. I guess it’s both of us that are bad luck, as you are no longer the only common denominator when we almost die on our excursions.

It all began with some miscommunication. Audrey asked me if I wanted to do a coastal walk to a beach with her on an island just a short ferry ride from Cronulla (the town Audrey lives in). Since I had done the other coastal walk a few weeks back, I was assuming it was going to be like that, having restaurants and bars along the way. Boy was I wrong, it was in Royal National Park (which was on my list, I just did not know that was where we were going) and there were no facilities of any sorts around. Luckily I had dressed for a walk, but was not prepared aside from that. I had not eaten breakfast that day, I packed no food and I only had 3/4 of a bottle of water. We started the journey to the beach which only took about an hour.

The views along the walk to the beach were pretty amazing.

We finally arrived at the beach, but this is where the story starts to go south. We laid our towels on the beach, but the winds were high and we were getting pelted by sand. We decide to pack up and go to this fresh water lagoon we knew was around there somewhere. We must have missed a turn because we ended up on a completely different path, taking us over 2 hours to walk back to the main road. With no water and no food, and a temperature of 100 degrees F, we were exhausted. We finally made it back to the road, but unfortunately, it was so far from where we started and it was going to take us almost 2 hours to walk back to the ferry. We ended up hitchhiking back to the ferry, which worked thankfully. Shout out to the awesome Scottish family who picked us up, you rock! I don’t think we would have made the last ferry without them. Well, we ended up shoving our faces with some mediocre Mexican food and margaritas when we finally got back to Cronulla. The good news is, we didn’t die and we live to see another adventure.

Until my next adventure!

Cheers.

Top 10 Things to Know Before Your First Backpacking Adventure

Okay so this is my first post out of (what I hope to be) many posts offering advise to people wanting to travel and backpack around. I plan to kind of break this up into sections. This first one is just general advise for anyone who wants to travel. This is not limited to a specific continent or region, but it is advise on what every traveler should be aware of before they leave.

So, here it is…
The 10 things every traveler should know before setting off on their adventure:

1. Set A Budget: When you think you have a good amount, multiply it by 2. Seriously. It is easy to do a backpacking trip on a budget, but if you are on too tight a budget, it makes it really hard to do some of the things you really want to do in a city. Yes, you can walk around for free, but do you really want to spend (insert amount of travel months here) just walking around every town/city you go to? The answer is most likely no. You want to adventure and not worry if it will break the bank if you decide at the last minute you want to go sky diving or bungee jumping.

2. Be aware of extra travel fees you may not be thinking about when you set your budget. Plans are almost guaranteed to change! If you change/cancel your buses at the last minute, you may only be reimbursed 50% of your payment and a lot of times if you cancel less than 24 hours in advanced, you will not be reimbursed at all. A good way to avoid this, is always do the flexible booking option if there is one when booking transportation. Yes, you may pay an extra $3.00 upfront, but it is better than losing $60.00. Believe me, I speak from experience. The same goes for hostels… Makes sure to do the flexible booking and be aware of all cancelation policies. Most hostels will make you pay the entire cost of the room if you cancel less than 24 hours with or without flexible booking.

3. International bank fees can get you! Be aware of all international banking fees with your specific bank. For example, mine charges me $5.00 extra any time I make a withdrawal from an ATM and that is on top of the normal $2.00 charge for using an ATM not associated with my account. The best way to avoid this is get a travel card. My suggestion is a Charles Schwab account. I personally do not have any experience with them, as I (regrettably) have just accepted the bank fees in the past. However, I have met so many travelers and had so many friends tell me they are the best for traveling. This one you can do your own research on. If you are in a country for an extended period of time, consider opening a bank account there (more on that in a later post). Sometimes your bank will have options for traveling as well and have ways you can avoid international fees.

4. Do not forget to tell your bank you are traveling. If you decide to forgo a travel card, but forget to tell your bank you are traveling, you may be SOL the first time you try and use your card abroad. I know this one seems obvious, but I do feel the need to put it on this list, as it is a pain to try and contact your bank the second you arrive in a new country and your card is declined. Just save yourself the trouble and tell your bank ahead of time.

5. Get $100 or more (depending on how much you feel comfortable bringing) worth in whatever currency your first destination uses. On the off chance you do tell your bank you are traveling, but your card still gets declined you will be happy you had that cash while you get settled. You do not want to be making a panicked phone call to your bank at the airport after you arrive. Trust me, the only thing you will want to be doing is heading straight for the hostel because I promise you, you will be jet-lagged.

6. Get GOOD travel insurance! This one is huge. I would suggest using World Nomads. You do have to pay upfront for however many months you are traveling for, which can get a little pricey. But it is worth having good coverage if something were to happen. I know this is something no one wants to think about, but shit does happen and trust me you will want to be covered for it.

7. Packing. This one is tricky because if you are like me, you do not have your whole trip planned out. This one is honestly going to depend on the region you are going to and the time of year you are traveling. With this, you are just going to have to look up the weather.

If you are planning a trip to do some crazy mountain adventure in Nepal for example, you will be able to rent all the snow gear you need in the larger cities like Kathmandu. So do not take up room in your backpack with snow jackets and snow pants. Pack well before the night before or the day you leave. Anyone who knows me, knows I have not followed this advice for any trip I have ever done, but I should have.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane… Study abroad in Granada, Spain 2014: Me, my mom and my sister were up till 3AM packing for my 6 month study abroad trip. Backpacking trip to Europe 2016: I packed the day I left and forgot my, non-replaceable train pass (friend had to mail it to Europe). Working Holiday trip to New Zealand and Australia 2017: Packed the morning of and forgot my rain jacket and my hiking pants.

So please follow my advise and do not wait till the last minute because you are 100% guaranteed to forget something.

8. Planning your adventure. Unless you have an entire year+ to travel, pick a region or pick the countries you want to travel and stay there or at least around there. If you try and cram too much into a backpacking trip, you will exhaust yourself. There is so much to see in every single country around the world and if you try and go too many places you could really miss out.

The best part about traveling is you are on your own time table. If you like the place you are, stay a little longer. Do not feel rushed to get to the next city. I met this guy traveling in New Zealand and he did the entire South Island of New Zealand in 2 days. He saw all the main points, but I do wonder if he got anything out of it.

9. Cell phones! We all are obsessed with our cell phones these days and for many of us our smart phones are our cameras, so I am sure you are planning to bring yours. However, I know worried parents are concerned with how they can reach their kids while traveling and vise versa. There are a few ways to go with phones while traveling.

Option Number 1: If your phone is paid off, you can contact your service provider and figure out how to unlock your phone. Normally, it is as simple as going online. Once you do this, you are free to purchase pay as you go SIM cards in every country you go to. Most pay as you go plans have some international calling included, but all plans offer you data and with data you can use WhatsApp. If you don’t have WhatsApp, get it now! You can register using your phone number and it allows you to text, call and video chat your contacts who also have WhatsApp (so make all your friends and family download it too). The best part about it is, when you get a new number with a new SIM card, WhatsApp gives you the option to keep your existing phone number associated with it so your friends and family don’t have to keep changing your contact number.

Option Number 2: If your smart phone is not paid off and you are not able to unlock your phone, you can ask about putting an international plan on your phone. This one can get expensive if you aren’t careful with roaming charges, so I would be careful with this option.

Option Number 3: You can take your smart phone as purely a camera and get a cheap phone to use. You can literally get a cheap smart phone at Target . With this option, you are still purchasing pay as you go SIM cards in countries you visit, but you don’t have to worry about the issue of unlocking your iPhone or Android.

Option Number 4.:The fourth and final option is you can forgo any phone plan, keep data roaming off and rely solely on WiFi. This one you have to be careful with depending on where you are going. In Europe, there is free WiFi almost everywhere and this option is probably the best one. However In Australia, there is no free WiFi anywhere.

No matter which one you choose, just remember to keep an eye on your phone in any country. I have been pickpocket at the bars in the US, but it is a lot harder to replace your phone while traveling (again, I speak from experience with this one).

10. Have the time of your life. This is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. You meet so many amazing people doing the exact same thing you are. Enjoy every single second of it. I found a passion in traveling and a happiness I didn’t know I could feel. There will be times you miss home and that is normal, but remember your friends and family will be there when you get back. Live in the moment while you are on this grand adventure and remember the reasons you wanted to travel in the first place.

Cheers.