Working Holiday in Australia

Finally, the day has come. I’ve packed up my life, and headed over to Australia on a working holiday. When the time came to actually step through the security gates at Vancouver Airport and leave the people I loved behind, it really hit me hard. I know I’ve already been on my own whilst I was in Europe last year, but this trip will undoubtedly be a different experience. Working, commuting and living in general will be very new to me.

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The two flights to get to Sydney were absolutely dreadful to say the least. The first flight was from Vancouver airport to Shanghai, which took about twelve hours. At least I had a window seat and a place to rest my head for the most part. It was an extremely long flight and it was followed by a four or five hour layover once I arrived. After that, another ten hour flight and I finally made it. I was greeted by a family friend at the airport whom I’ve never met before. My mom worked with her back at the hospital before she moved out to Sydney. Her family was nice enough to take me in to their amazing home south of Sydney alongside the Georges river, a beautifully stunning beach house that looks out to the water.

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On the first day, I was extremely jet lagged but managed to get myself hooked up with an Australian bank account (commonwealth bank). I then applied for my tax file number – much like a social insurance number in Canada – as soon as I could online, which was actually really simple. That night at the house, I enjoyed an exceptional Australian BBQ with the family and I felt right at home.IMG_2017

The next day, I went downtown to see the harbor bridge and the Opera House. What I didn’t realize though was that on this day, the Australian navy was celebrating its 100th anniversary. There were millions of people lined up everywhere to catch a glimpse of the jets and other planes making huge displays in the sky. The roar of the jets flying over the bridge and maneuvering effortlessly through the sky was amazing; I really picked a great time to go downtown. That night was absolutely packed with people. There was lights and massive displays of fireworks over the harbor, it was a site to see and a great way to start off my time in this great city.IMG_1963IMG_1967

A few days after, I paid a visit to Taronga Zoo across the harbor off of Athol Bay. To be honest, it was pretty satisfactory, I wouldn’t recommend it as a must see thing to do in Sydney. I got the chance to see kangaroos and some koalas but in general, it wasn’t really the most exciting experience, and it was a little overpriced, even with a coupon that I managed to snag on my way out of the airport.IMG_2071

During another day, I took a trip out to Manly Beach which was great. It had a more quiet feel to it, as it felt a bit far from the city. Many surf shops and cafes were lined up across the beach and everyone seemed to be on either skateboards or bikes. A great place to visit for sure.
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The world famous Bondi Beach of course is the place I’ve been visiting most often since I’ve landed here. This beach is huge and has tons of people from all the over the world visiting it all the time. This is where the perfect water seems to be, and there really is nothing like jumping into the water on a hot day and letting the waves just take you.

I’ve noticed that Australia in general is extremely expensive. It’s really important to watch your money here and instead of going out to eat, staying in when you can. The people here seem to be very friendly and welcoming to travelers. It’s been about a week and half and I think I’ve made some pretty good progress here. At some points I feel a bit discouraged but at the same time that was how I felt during the early stages of my Europe trip; and after awhile, it definitely got better.IMG_1983

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Backpacking Lisbon

Nearing the end of my euro trip, I headed far west to Portugal. At this point I was completely exhausted, and the extreme heat wasn’t helping. I remember the train ride down to Lisbon was horrid, hardly any air conditioning and long hours in a cramped space with no chance of catching a few hours of sleep. When I finally arrived, I made my way to the Yes! hostel which was, and actually still is, rated one of the BEST hostels in Europe, and it certainly deserves to be. Extremely friendly staff, very clean and very homey. The hostel even had a group dinner where you paid a bit of cash and got to eat with all the travelers who chose to partake. It was a great way to meet people and find out the plans for the night.10152078906735414To be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot in the city of Lisbon, I actually only traveled specifically to Portugal to visit one of my best friends from back home who, at the time, was visiting his relatives in the city of Albufeira, located way down south of the country. After changes of plans and many revisions to the trains I was scheduled to take, I remember pulling into the train station, getting off and seeing my friend waiting for me. It was one of the most surreal moments I ever experienced walking down the sunlit boulevard with a good friend, knowing we were literally on the other side of the world, but still talking and hanging out as if we were back home in my small town of North Delta. I will never forget that moment, and in that instance, my short stay with him was well worth it. 10152078906470414Let me tell you, the beaches that we went to, were incredibly gorgeous, the best I’ve ever seen in Europe. If I’m correct, we visited Don Ana Beach located in Lagos, a municipality along the Atlantic ocean. I’m glad I was able to snap some good shots of this seemingly flawless paradise that I was so lucky to enjoy for the day. The sand was soft, the water was clear and the temperature was high. At some point, it actually reached 40 degrees and you needed to find shade or else you were toast. I climbed a huge rock face near the shore which was actually pretty unsafe now that I look back. I almost lost grip while scaling this beast and the current was relatively strong, but hey, it made for some epic pics!

10152078912275414It was an unforgettable time even though it was very short. I needed to head back to London all the way from the south of Portugal and only had a few days to make it all happen. This album of pictures I have is a true treasure to me, because it was the only time during my trip where I got to spend it with a great friend from home.101520789105304141015207891167541410152078909635414

Backpacking Barcelona

Besides from apparently being one of the top cities where you can get your valuables taken from you, this place is the ultimate beach city.  I stayed at the St. Jordi Garcia hostel which was a little hard to find, as it was in the middle of a massive maze of side streets. Most of my time here was spent at the beach, it was incredibly hot and the perfect weather for a few days out in the water.10152071551645414One of the most memorable moments I had here was at Barceloneta Beach. This place was massive and was teeming with tons of people. Near the edge of the beach were a whole bunch of cement blocks that seemed to have just been thrown into the water and forgotten. A friend and I from the hostel raced each other across the blocks, jumping and dodging the cracks that would have left us seriously injured if we’d missed a step. On the rocks were interesting graffiti and initials from people around the world. I would definitely go back here.10152071551985414Of course, since I was in Spain, I had to do La Tomatina, a massive tomato fight held in the city of Valencia on the last Wednesday of every August. Luckily our hostel offered trips to Valencia specifically for this. I remember we had to leave the hostel super early in the morning to be able to make it on time, as Valencia was a few hours south-west from where we were. I came with about twenty other backpackers and lost them in a matter of minutes during the tomato fight. This was by far the most intense thing I ever did in Europe. The event was held in the side streets of this little city and the crowd was so dense, people were actually getting suffocated during the action. I had a random traveler next to me with her face bright red and balling her eyes out because of the intensity. I remember cornering her and putting my arms around the both of us to try to get as much room around us as possible for air. To describe this tomato fight with the word “hectic” would be an understatement; it was complete and utter chaos with the entire ground beneath you covered in slimy tomato sludge whilst people around you are getting face washed and covered in juice. Of course, this was all a friendly atmosphere and there was as much smiles and laughter going around as there were tomatoes. People living up high in the apartments above would chuck buckets of water down and yell out to everyone in Spanish. In intervals, a large truck would slowly drive down the alley ways and chuck more tomatoes out of the back, with security around the vehicle to make sure no one was getting injured. I don’t know if I would ever do something like this again, it was just so unreal and felt a little unsafe at some points. I was wearing nothing but swim shorts, barefoot the entire time. This fight is not for the faint of heart, fun, but extreme as hell.8637549908_ac7f63f9cd_hAll in all, Barcelona and the city of Valencia was an alright place to visit. I was also in Madrid for a short time, but that was very brief and only to switch trains. For beaches and a crazy, unforgettable international food fight, visit this country.

  • Visit Barceloneta Beach
  • Partake in La Tomatina

Backpacking Paris

I was a bit skeptical about this city to be honest; all you hear about is that the french are snobby and rude to tourists visiting their “city of light”. However I was completely surprised. The staff at restaurants I visited and locals in general seemed to be very friendly. After a long train ride, I got to my hostel which was situated over a beautiful canal adjacent a quiet city street. This place was called St. Christopher’s hostel and was astonishing. I’ve never seen so many travelers all at once in a common room before. I could tell already that my stay here was going to be great. I found the transit system in this city to be extremely simple and tourist friendly. Everything was clearly color coordinated and it was easy to tell which line you needed to get on to get somewhere.10152071529695414Rather quickly, I became good friends with some amazing Canadian travelers and spent a lot of the time them as a group. It was the first time in my trip where I felt slightly at home again. When I was with them, I felt like I was talking to my friends back at home. I guess it’s true that Canadians do talk and act a certain way. There were nights where we went out to some cool pub crawls and had unbelievably fun times. We stopped at this one pub near a side street which was bustling with young travelers. After meeting so many people in the passed months, I did something I never usually do. There was a bunch of locals sitting at a table near the end of the pub and I just went right in and sat right next to them. Instantly I was introduced to each and every one of them. I felt stupid when I said “Hey, do you guys speak English?” They replied, “Yeah, of course we do.”10152071531415414The only touristy thing I really knew about before coming to this city was of course the Eiffel Tower, typical traveler eh? I remember walking up the tower, with an Australian friend I met at the hostel, and it being absolutely surreal. Looking up from the base was daunting; this was the actual Eiffel tower, the one you see in movies and post cards everywhere. When we got to the top, I have to admit, it gave me some pretty nasty vertigo, which is funny because the Eiffel tower is only about one thousand feet tall. A height like this isn’t really that groundbreaking compared to other buildings like the empire state building or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, (which you could stack TWO Eiffel towers on by the way!)10152071536220414I also checked out the Catacombs of Paris. I didn’t even know about this at all and the tour was a last minute decision. The line up for this attraction took what seemed like hours. After finally entering, we walked down an endless spiral set of steep stairs. When we reached the bottom we were immersed in an underground labyrinth filled to the brim with human bones and the remains of millions of people. It was a little freaky, as we were deep beneath the city in a dark maze surrounded by only shadows with little light to guide the way. I was able to snap a good amount of photos, but at the same time, I just wanted to get to ground level as soon as possible.1015207153985541410152071549730414Paris was actually one of my favourite cities to visit. Parisians seem to be very friendly and the food here is amazing. I tried to speak a little bit of french when ordering food at a cafe once. I’m horrible when it comes to french but they were humored when I tried and appreciated my weak attempts. I would definitely go back to this city, as it’s full of great pubs, clubs and travelers who want to party.

  • Climb the Eiffel Tower
  • Visit the Catacombs of Paris

Backpacking Zurich

The train ride to Zurich was the most remarkable view I had ever seen. I passed enormous valleys, went through small tunnels and overlooked little towns that were surrounded by towering mountains. When I finally arrived in Zurich after a short train ride, it was late at night and I didn’t really know where to go. Luckily someone who was on the train with me pointed me in the right direction and before I knew it, I found my way to Langstars hostel. This hostel was decent; it had a bar near the entrance way and a kind of chill area where there were travelers relaxing and playing guitar. 10152071526390414

I didn’t know too much about Switzerland, but I found out pretty quickly. Everything, and I mean everything, is expensive there. I only spent about two days in Zurich and I probably spent about a weeks worth of money on just simple things. Zurich wasn’t really the best city to visit, as there wasn’t much to do besides walk around and enjoy the rivers that separated parts of the city. Also the fact that I was limited on how much money I could spend there, I would have been out a lot of cash if I had stayed longer than I did. I remember entering an Apple store and trying to purchase an iPod charger. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how much they were asking for one. Zurich seemed to be for travelers that have cash to burn. I even went to a McDonald’s at one point just for some fries and they were asking thirty cents for extra ketchup packets; we throw that stuff around like nothing in North America!10152071527640414I did meet a good friend in Zurich though, and most of my time here was spent with him. We did a lot of walking and just exploring the side streets and restaurants. I kind of compare my time here to the time I had in Warsaw. Not a lot to do, but another relaxing interval in my tiresome journey. I also compare it to Warsaw because it was a city I didn’t do a lot of research on and in turn, taking me to city that didn’t offer what I was interested in. I later found out the city in Switzerland that I really wanted to see was Interlaken. I was looking forward to maybe skydiving or some intense hiking, but none of that was to be found in Zurich. Nonetheless, I had a decent time here, but next time I’ll head south to Interlaken.

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Backpacking Rome

Rome was a huge experience. Visiting the country of Italy, there was no way I was going to leave without coming here. At this point in my journey it was scorching hot weather and I felt I was really going to get the full Italian experience. I decided to stay at the The Yellow hostel. I remember walking out of the train station and heading straight, the hostel was easy to find. What happened next was just mind blowing, my buddy I had started my travels with was sitting in the lounge! I couldn’t believe it, all this time I had no idea where he had been and what his itinerary was since our split. We were excited to have met up again after over a month and were just completely baffled at the chances of reuniting. I signed in at the desk and headed upstairs to drop all my stuff off in the room.10152036043945414I was pretty surprised, as I went around the city I noticed it was a bit dirty. The streets, the train stations and other places were littered or tagged with graffiti. It wasn’t too bad, but I just thought the capital city should’ve been taken care of a little more. The first thing I checked out on my own of course was the Colosseum. It was gigantic, way bigger than I expected. The columns were huge and the structure just seemed so majestic and ancient. I felt this was one of the most impressive landmarks that I managed to visit throughout my travels, besides Chernobyl which was unspeakably remarkable. It was so hot that day, I had my shirt off and was actually told by police nearby to put a “polo” on!10152036043295414That night I decided to see what the nightlife was like but before that, a little beer pong was in order. This hostel had an entire downstairs just dedicated to beer pong, it was phenomenal. There must have been about twenty of us all down there playing games like flip cup and beer pong. At one point we had a relay going where on one side of the table was just Australians and the other side, Canadians. The moment where I brought down my Canadian flag and lifted it proudly in the air for our table is a moment I will never forget. Whoever won the round, their table would belt out their anthem, arm in arm. It was just an extremely friendly and accommodating experience where no one was left out or having a bad time. I can honestly say, I never met an Australian I didn’t like.10152036038970414After all of that, we headed to an outdoor strip that ran along side a river. It was gorgeous, and there was tons and tons of people here, all dancing, drinking and just having a good time. Me and my buddy considered going to a club that was on a boat but decided not to in the end because of how ridiculously expensive it was, plus the boat wasn’t even moving, what fun is that?10152036042990414Unfortunately there was a moment in Rome where I got into some mild trouble with the police. During another night, a group of us decided to walk to the Trevi Fountain. We had all been drinking and I remember it being a very very long walk. After walking for ages, we finally reached it. It was enormous and it was packed with tourists all around. We all took loads of pictures and there was one moment where me and my buddy stood on top of a ledge together near the centre to get a better camera shot. Suddenly we heard yelling from the other side of the fountain. It was police officers, who spoke only Italian. It was obvious that they wanted us to step off the ledge. They came up to us and aggressively grabbed the camera out of my hands. I was so shocked they did this, I angrily grabbed it back. The police officer shoved me back and I did the same. At this point, everyone in the vicinity of the fountain was watching. The police officers were shouting “documentay” to me, which I could only assume they meant “show me your documents, license, passport etc.” I got out the only information I had on me. The police officer grabbed me and tried to put me in the police car. The whole situation was so heated, my buddy had to pull me away from it all until it was calm. At one point, a few Canadian girls that happened to be near came up to me and gave me information on how to contact the Canadian embassy. The whole situation was blown way out of proportion; all we were trying to do was get a better picture. We weren’t trying to hurt anyone, damage anything and there was no risk of anyone getting remotely injured. I remember the police officer describing to me in very broken English, “how would you like it if I went to your country and jumped on the top of your cars?” This was nothing like that, but I just tried to agree with what he was saying to avoid complications. Near the end of all this, I decided to apologize and hopefully move the incident behind us. The Police officer told me I was a good kid but yet gave me a ticket for five hundred euros. There was no way I was paying that, after we left we just trashed the ticket and never headed that way again.10152036040785414Earlier on, I had bought tickets to a theme park in the city of Valmontone. I had seen an advertisement back in the hotel in Florence and had to check it out. The theme park was called Rainbow Magic Land and all the travelers I had told about this didn’t believe this place even existed. They thought the name seemed too fake to be true. I couldn’t get anyone to come with me, so I thought I’d spend some time alone and see what it was all about. Turns out, in a line up to one of the rides, I actually met two guys who were locals. They were really intrigued at how I was traveling alone and enjoyed learning about Canada. After we went on the ride we were in line for, we spent the whole rest of the day together, going on almost every attraction. There was a massive roller coaster there called the Shock that I went on at least three times. At the end of the day they invited me to go to a disco for the next night. I agreed and headed back to the hostel.10152036041340414The night at the disco was one of the greatest nights of my life. I was a bit embarrassed though when I turned up to meet them. As a backpacking traveler, I was wearing wrinkled jeans and a skate t-shirt, while they were wearing nice dress clothes with belts and black shoes. Once we entered the club though, my attire didn’t seem to really matter anymore. This place was called Kabar and it was an outdoor dance club. I lost the guys many many times in the crowd and randomly danced with everyone. I found the vibe there to be really friendly. At one point I was actually on the shoulders of a complete stranger just rocking out and living in the moment. That is a moment I will also never forget. When we decided to leave, it was very late at night and there was no way I was able to train back to the hostel so one of the guys offered me to stay at his place. I agreed and we took a car back for the night. In the morning we played cards in the kitchen with his sister and he taught me how to play an interesting European card game. He showed me the kind of music he listened to which was similar to mine. It was at this point where I started listening to djs like Hardwell and Tiesto. It seemed like a lot of stuff he showed me was just getting popular in Canada.10152036042325414It was hard to part from my new Rainbow Magic Land buddy and I promised him he always had a place to stay if he ever decided to visit Vancouver. I’ve never met someone like that before; someone you could completely trust instantly and someone you felt comfortable with right away. My time in Rome showed me that that is completely possible. I’ll miss my time in Rome. It was a sizzling hot party city with delicious food and beautiful people. Although the incident with the police was rather unfortunate, cultural differences were bound to clash at some point, I’m just thankful it wasn’t anything too serious.

  • Visit the Colosseum
  • Visit Rainbow Magic Land
  • Visit the Trevi Fountain
  • Go to outdoor clubs (too hot for anything else)
  • Try Italian Spaghetti with Tuscany sauce

Backpacking Florence

I arrived at this city at around seven a.m in the morning. It was extremely quiet and there was absolutely no one on the streets. The roads were mostly cobblestones so I had my skateboard hooked vertically to my backpack. I had no hostel booked beforehand like usual, so I spent the first few hours just wondering around enjoying the sites and passively searching for a place to stay. Very early, I ran into the statue of David and a statue of Perseus carrying the Medusa head which was stunning to say the least. They were a lot bigger than I expected them to be.10152036030335414After asking directions from a small cafe, I finally stumbled upon a hostel called Plus Florence. This was a pretty rad place that had an outdoor pool, nice large bedrooms and hookups to evening pub crawl events. The only problem was that at the time, the hostel was all booked up for the night. That wasn’t too much of a problem though, and I decided to spend the night on my own in a hotel for one night. I walked down the street, found a nearby hotel and booked a night right away. It was around forty dollars but let me tell you, after traveling on my own for a little over a month at this point and having to share small rooms with over 8 people, this was a breath of much needed relaxation. I had my own queen sized bed, TV, bathroom and dresser. I literally unpacked my belongings and laid them across the entire room to air out everything and take advantage of the space. The room was completely silent and air conditioned. I needed this evening alone and I’d suggest to any traveler that has been wondering around from hostel to hostel for months to take a night in a hotel; it is complete rejuvenation to the mind and gives you that privacy that can’t be attained from hostels.10152036035200414The next day, I wandered around the city aimlessly and soaked up the atmosphere. The statues, the monuments, the architecture, everything. At one point I asked a girl, who was around my age, for directions. I initially thought she was a local but she told me she was from Argentina. She was fortunately heading my way and we actually ended up spending the whole afternoon together, taking pictures and eating the best gelato ice cream I’ve ever had! This showed me that you can in fact make good friends anywhere at anytime.10152036034165414The next day I finally got settled into the hostel and bunked with a ton a of Australians. We went on the pub crawl and had a great night. One of the pubs we went to actually reunited me with the Argentina girl I met earlier who happened to work there!10152036035475414Near the final day in Florence, I met up with another solo traveler from Sweden. We went on an exciting trek winding up a huge hill that gave an excellent view of Florence.  It must have been around thirty five degrees and fresh, ice cold water at this point was mandatory. It was quite a workout. Why is it so hard to get still water that isn’t carbonated in Europe, I will never know. I found this city to be very calm; not a whole lot to do, but a fair amount to see.10152036037170414

  • Visit the statue(s) of David
  • Eat at any restaurant and experience amazing Italian cuisine
  • Rent a Vespa