Holy hell in a kangaroo pouch, y’all, we’ve made it! More than 8,000 miles and 1,000 days after our very first (combined) move from Texas to Costa Rica, we are now happily living it up in our 4th worldly destination on ‘the Goldie,’ also known as Australia’s Gold Coast.
After living in Bali for 8 months and generally splurging on all things life, we decided it was time to move to a place with more legal job opportunities (and in turn, more legal money). And since it was a relatively inexpensive, relatively quick journey from Bali, we naturally decided to move to one of the world’s most expensive countries, henceforth making our bank accounts cringe but our exploring hearts happy.
Two months into our one year Aussie adventure, here’s what we dig, what we don’t, and what’s up with the loveable land down under.
Australia: What We Like
Clean Drinking Water
Sliced bread can suck a turd, because clean drinking water is the best thing since clean drinking water. Not only am I generally better hydrated when water is free and readily available from the nearest spout (you’re welcome, hangovers), but it also makes for less plastic waste, and therefore less trash in general. Brushing your teeth and being able to chug tap water at 3am are tiny gems of luxury that I no longer take for granted, and am very appreciative to have in Australia.
First World Problems
At least for the time being, we no longer have to worry about typhoid, chikungunya, rabies, dengue fever, Hepatitis A, methanol poisoning or scooter accidents. While we thankfully didn’t encounter any of these in Indonesia, it’s nice when the possibilities are exponentially smaller. Despite its high number of deadly animals and plants, Australia is a safe, clean and easy place to live, and we’re back to worrying about superficial shit like strong wifi connections, not having enough $2 coins to buy a bottle of wine and the bus running 4 minutes late.
While I love road trips and spontaneous scooter rides as much as the next bloke, there’s something to be said for public transportation, which Australia thankfully does a lovely job of anywhere that isn’t the middle of goddamn nowhere (see: the entire middle section of the country). While we’d love to save up and buy a van to cruise around and camp in, it’s nice to be able to rely on the bus system to get us around fairly easily in the meantime. Though it’s definitely not cheap – the local Go Card on the Gold Coast offers no unlimited monthly passes or local resident discounts – it’s probably a better option than dropping thousands of dollars on a car or scooter, at least when you first arrive.
Compared to Costa Rica and Indonesia, obtaining visas to legally live and work in Australia was a total friggin’ breeze. As expected, it’s not cheap (I’ll break down the exact visa costs and process in a later post), but in my opinion, the benefits of the visa outweigh the somewhat pricey investment. Under our visa stipulations, we are allowed to leave and re-enter Australia as many times as we want within a 12 month period (something we couldn’t do on our single entry visas for Bali), as well as take up any type of employment, and optionally even take a class for up to 4 months. While you have to be under 30 years old to qualify for this type of visa, it’s one of the best options for travelers looking to spend a year abroad while also making money.
Opportunities for Adventure
You could spend a lifetime in Australia and still have more to explore. It’s huge, full of stunning scenery, crazy cool wildlife, fascinating cultural sites, and seemingly tons of people who are equally as excited to see it as you, locals included. It’s home to the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, Great Ocean Road and a shit ton of outback, for God’s sake! And as if that weren’t enough, you can also hop on a quick flight to reach exotic places like New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Indonesia, the Soloman Islands and Fiji.
Is this real life?! Have I actually stopped sweating, or am I just dreaming?!? While living in tropical locations over the last 3+ years has been a total blast, it also meant reaching my all-time personal limit of daily sweat production. Since we arrived in Australia just in time for our first real winter in years (if you can call a low temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit “winter”), my sweat glands now thank me on a daily basis, as does my antiperspirant. We’ve heard that summertime in Australia is terribly hot and humid, but I have my doubts about it being more brutal than the skin-torching sweat fest that is Bali. I’ll provide an update in a few months.
Australia: What We Don’t
Cost of Living
It probably goes without saying that the biggest bummer of living in Australia is the cost of living in Australia. While not everything is outrageous – rent, cell phone plans, wine, the occasional fish & chip stand – most everything else absolutely is. At $25+ for a pack of cigarettes (set to be $40 by 2020), $100+ for a month’s worth of bus and tram riding, $8 per locally-made beer, and $18 average-sized cheeseburgers, it adds up quickly, and terrifyingly. Ouch.
Finding Long Term Accommodation
Though the exchange rate with U.S. dollars is on our side, and I’ve certainly paid more for less in other cities around the world, renting here is, at least from my perspective, an absolute shit show. Though the Gold Coast is filled with places to live in every direction you look, actually showing up and finding a place to live is much more difficult than it should be. First off, lots of people refuse to rent rooms to couples. Also, Australia pays their rent by the week (huh?) and bills by the quarter (but why?), but no one actually wants to rent rooms by the week, or even just for the month, instead opting for long-term renters only. This is especially difficult if you’ve just arrived and don’t know which area you really want to live, led alone where will be nearest to the job you don’t have yet. And as if that weren’t enough, it’s absurdly competitive (even perhaps more so than Maui), and requires a constant refresh on the Gumtree rentals page and whole days dedicated to nothing but home-searching. Gross.
First World Rules
With first world problems comes first world rules. Alas, there is no more drinking beers (openly) on the street, riding scooters on sidewalks, hosting beach bonfire parties or buying my own alcohol outside of a bar later than 8pm (seriously!). Sigh. At least I can drown my first world sorrows in clean drinking water.
The first 7 seconds of any interaction with an Australian mostly come with a startling amount of confusion. While I’m fairly certain we are speaking the same language, it’s nearly impossible to understand what anyone is saying because Americans and Australians use completely different words for seemingly everything. Schooners (measurement of beer), jugs (pitcher), fairy floss (cotton candy), salvos (salvation army), wetties (wetsuits), togs (bathing suits), icy pole (popsicle), chardy (chardonnay), hinterland (backwoods), and on and on. When in doubt, think of the closest-sounding word you can, then replace the end with ‘ie’ or ‘o’ and see if it makes sense. Or just ask them what the hell they’re talking about.
If one more person on a bike – always riding on the sidewalk, mind you – clips my elbow or slowly rides behind me without saying the appropriate verbal warnings of ‘on your left!’ I might lose my shit. Use your words, people in Australia on bikes! You do at every other opportunity except this one, and it’s weird.
Overall, we dig Australia and have met some really fun, funky and excellent people we’re happy to call friends. Our time here has really just begun, and although Australia was never particularly high on my list of must-see destinations, I’m certainly glad we’re here and have the opportunity to call this crazy, massive, gorgeous island our temporary home.