Christmas of 2016 was my first Christmas without family and a very different experience to the traditional family Christmas I usually have. I had just got back from travelling South East Asia and was happy to be back in a familiar culture with my new travel buddies. Over the festive period we were staying at Noah’s Backpackers on Bondi Beach in Sydney. We planned to spend Christmas on a beach nearby- Coogee Beach and have a day full of BBQ sausages and goon (the cheap and cheerful Aussie boxed wine).
When the day arrived we all headed on the bus from Bondi down to Coogee armed with pigs in blankets to maintain some tradition. What we didn’t realise was that there was only one BBQ working for the hundreds of people who had the same idea as us, meaning we spent most of the day queuing to finally cook some sausages in the blazing heat.
Looking back, it was such a surreal experience but I wouldn’t change a thing as we had the best time feeling festive and soaking up the sun which was a welcome change to the cold winters we have over the Christmas holiday period in the UK.
During my travels me and a group of friends visited Fiji for a week. As soon as we landed in Nadi we were blown away by the country’s breathtaking scenery and clear blue waters. We had booked to stay on one of the islands in the Yasawa group. Not only was the stay at the island incredible, so were the locals who we found to be extremely hospitable and welcoming as they greeted us with Fijian music on our arrival and supplied us with delicious fresh coconuts.
This has to be one of my favourite places for its serenity and water activities such as shark snorkelling and diving as I love exploring the underwater world.
I would love to go back one day and explore more of the country as it really was the gateway to paradise.
One of my favourite past times while on exchange was sampling the wide variety of brunch spots in and around Melbourne. The brunch scene is much larger in Australia than in the UK much to my delight.
One of my favourite brunch spots was Seven Seeds; a cosy cafe within 5 minutes from uni and my accommodation where my friends and I headed to on several occasions as the food was just too good to resist!
A brunch classic is avo on toast which is always a reliable staple but more adventurous dishes like baked eggs or truffle omelette always surpassed expectations too. While in Melbourne you have to become a coffee connoisseur as the endless list of coffee bean, flavour and milk often left me stumped when all I desired was a simple flat white. This also changed my drink of choice as I am usually an avid tea drinker but this soon changed when living in a city with such a reputable coffee culture.
My time in Australia introduced me to a variety of up and coming Aussie artists such as Flume and Gretta Ray who I saw at the St Kilda Festival in February. Australian artists are making major breakthroughs in the Global music scene as the world becomes more inter connected and access to their music becomes easily accessible.
One of my favourite TV shows I watched in Australia is Married at First Sight. It is based on the Danish show Gift Ved Første Blik which takes concepts of multiple dating shows in the UK, US and Australia combining them to create a very entertaining series. It involves psychologists matching singles based on their personality traits before they meet at the alter having never met their future wife/husband before. The bizarreness of the show kept me hooked with weekly updates on the relationships and how the couples interact with fellow ‘Married at First Sight’ participants. Each week a new hurdle was presented to the couples such as moving in together which was followed up with the couples remaining together or leaving the show if they choose to split.
Other popular TV shows include Australian Kitchen Rules and The Bachelor which are common in the US and Europe also.
I am not a big believer in doing things half way; and when I left for Australia more than a year ago, my biggest goal was to make the most of my time there and take advantage of every opportunity. For me, one of my biggest goals was to travel, with the understanding I may never have the chance to be there again. Looking at the map below of all the places I have been in the last year, I feel as though I have done a amazing job of taking advantage, from backpacking the east coast of Australia, to wandering Hong Kong on a 12 hour layover, I feel as though I made the most of every minute I had. Before I left I made a list of things I wanted to do and see while away and I did it all and more.
What is even more important to me than crossing off things on my list however, is that for each of these trips I did with a variety of people from different walks of life. I know each one of these trips has memories that will last me longer probably than the information I was taking in classes and so that really is the most special part of my year.
List of my Travel Destinations
Sydney, Melbourne, Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Bali, Uluru, Cairns, Mission Beach, Townsville, Magnetic Island, Whitsundays, Noosaville, Brisbane, Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii, US), New Zealand (both North and South Islands), Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road, Perth, Hong Kong.
During my travels in Alice Springs my friends and I were able to experience the Festival in Light- Parrtjima. The festival is held once a year and allows visitors to listen to Aboriginal stories and view artwork which is brought to life under the night sky.
One particular story that has stayed with me is that of the caterpillars. At the festival three largely lit caterpillars were the centre of focus and we learned about the Yeperenye (Caterpillar) Dreamtime story. Aboriginal stories are based on animals and creatures whom created the land, making them sacred to aboriginal culture. The caterpillars are said to have been the main forces in the creation of Alice Springs, having risen from the ground and created the west MacDonnell Ranges, thus they are extremely sacred and symbolic.
The Festival in Light was incredibly interactive, allowing visitors to choose a new colour scheme for the light show on the mountainside which made the event even more memorable.
When I first arrived in Melbourne it was the middle of winter and much to my surprise it was actually cold. Luckily for me, the Queen Victoria Night Markets were offering hot and tasty food and drinks every Wednesday evening.
This became a weekly treat over the winter period as there were a vast amount of food stalls to choose from all offering really good home cooked meals. One of my favourites was the paella and kangaroo burger. As it was extremely hard to choose between the stalls each week I often remained with the safe but incredibly tasty decision of the Spanish stall.
We didn’t have to wait long for the Summer Night Market to offer more of our favourite cuisines and sangria in the summer months!