As most of you will know by now, my best friend, Vicky and I set off from home at the end of January. After spending a month in Asia, we arrived in Melbourne, tired, nervous, anxious and excited. Oh, and without phones…both of our phones had been robbed in different parts of Vietnam so we literally couldn’t have felt more disconnected and further from home that day. Even though we had been gone from home for quite a few weeks at this stage, it was only when we landed in Melbourne that the homesickness and reality of it all hit us. Before that, it was just a holiday and I don’t think I really let myself think about it too much until I couldn’t ignore it anymore because we were finally here, on the other side of the world, away from everyone and everything we loved. Everyone always says “home is just a flight away”, which is true but on that first day, it felt like it couldn’t have been any further.
Between that first terrifying day and now, it’s fair to say, we have learnt a lot and it definitely hasn’t been easy. So many people said to us “going away will be the making of you”, but we never fully understood what we would have to go through for it to be the making of us. Before leaving, we tried to research everything but to be honest, there wasn’t much information out there. People only seem to talk about all the good stuff. I suppose they don’t want to scare other’s or put anyone off embarking on the same journey, but I definitely would have preferred to have been equipped with more honest information. I decided to write this post so that anyone who is thinking of making the same journey from home (or anywhere) would have a more truthful insight into what to expect.
Before we arrived, we had booked a week’s stay at United Backpackers for when we got there. We knew we would need a central base to get our bearings of the city and meet people so this hostel proved perfect for that. We were lucky enough, in that we mainly stayed in hotels in Asia, so this was our first experience of a 10 bed dorm. We checked in, cleaned ourselves up and set out to buy new phones and pick up our bank cards (we had set up our accounts online beforehand).
The First Few Days
After forking out for new phones and picking up my card (for some reason, they didn’t have Vicky’s there even though we set up our accounts on the same day), it was time to eat. The first thing we noticed were the prices. Ireland is far from cheap and we had been told Australia would be expensive but we didn’t anticipate a bowl of porridge being $15. We soon learned the less expensive options for eating in the city; sushi is cheap and surprisingly filling, Chinatown does amazing curry bowls for $9, Centre Places off Flinder’s Lane has lots of sandwich bars that are really reasonable and worst comes to worst, there’s always McDonald’s or as it’s known here, Macca’s.
We adjusted to hostel living pretty quickly. In that first week, we made friends, saw the city, applied for what seemed like hundreds of jobs, began the apartment search, drank cheap bottles of wine by the river and tried to block out the night-time noises of our fellow hostel dwellers. I say night time, but some couples would walk into the room in the middle of the day, pull their sheet come curtain around their bunk and get straight to it. I’m a pretty laid back girl but after a week of that, I was ready to pull my hair out. Like seriously, there’s a time and a place people!!
The Hunt For A Home
After a week of the hostel life, we went on a road trip with some of our new friends. Sleeping in a tent in a deserted woods in the middle of nowhere was a welcome treat compared to that 10 bed, action filled dorm. We returned from the trip with no choice but to check back into the hostel. The second time around was worse than the first. We were starting to feel a little hopeless in the apartment and job hunt when finally we came across a flat located in the area we wanted, St.Kilda. It was far from fancy and $400 per week for the room (to share) but it was the best of a bad bunch. We arrived at the viewing to meet another 8 groups who were in the same position as us, all eager to get out of their respective hostels. We knew we had to act fast and thankfully we were successful in getting it. Finally one thing ticked off the list! Unfortunately, we couldn’t move in for nearly another week which meant another few nights in the hostel. Pass the earbuds! We were really at our wits end with the hostel and had two more nights before we could move into the new place, so I asked friends of my parents, who lived here, if we could crash at theirs. Thankfully they said yes and couldn’t have been nicer. I can’t explain how nice it was to be in a home again, where there were kids playing, people coming and going, music playing etc. It’s all those little things that you begin to miss so much.
We landed to our new digs, bags in tow. First things first, was the clean up of all clean ups. I swear, we spent the entire day on our hands and knees, cleaning every surface in sight, the Irish mammy in us really coming out. The majority of places in Australia come unfurnished so we were lucky that ours wasn’t but we still had a considerable amount of stuff to buy for the kitchen and bedroom. Finally though, we were starting to feel like we could breath a little again.
Will Anyone Ever Employ Us?
Honestly, this was the hardest part for us. We have both worked since we were 13 and 14, are hard workers, not fussy and would try our hands at pretty much anything yet finding a job proved so, so hard. Between us, we have years experience in hospitality, admin and retail yet finding work in any of these sectors was near impossible.
Most jobs are advertised on sites like Seek and Joralocal while others are advertised on Facebook groups. Seek didn’t prove very successful for either of us, job advertisements can be on it for months so we found it took weeks for employers to get back to us – not ideal when you’re watching your bank account decrease by the day. Joralocal was slightly better but again, not great. As for the jobs advertised on Facebook, please be wary of jobs advertised looking for sales & marketing executives, as it is a scam we both fell for. The majority of these sales and marketing roles are actually door to door sales positions – of course they will not tell you this until they’ve wasted your time with hours of interviews and days of unpaid training. They quite literally sell you a pipe dream. We stuck at it for as long as we both could, but it was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. You have to be made of seriously hard stuff to have doors slammed in your face repeatedly every door and for it to not effect you. I think I lasted a little over two weeks but by the end, I was at breaking point. Thankfully that’s when our luck changed and we both found the jobs we are in now but it was quite the ordeal getting to that point.
Other things to be aware of are unpaid trials and visa restrictions (because on the Working Holiday Visa you can only work for one employer for 6 months maximum, a lot of employers won’t want to employ you because they don’t want to have to find your replacement again in 6 months time). A lot of jobs here including traffic control, bar work and other hospitality roles, require doing online courses beforehand so if I would recommend anything, it would be to do those before you get here. Places here are constantly looking for baristas too so if you had that up your sleeve, you would be laughing. And of course, if you’re a man you can find work in construction, which pays extremely well.
Settling In And Missing Home
Once we had (finally) gotten sorted with a roof above our heads and a source of income, we could really settle in and get used to Australian living. It’s not that different in the grand scheme of things, we speak the same language and the cultures aren’t a million miles apart. The people are friendly and willing to help, they bloody love footie (their version of GAA) and the winters are freezing so really, it’s just like home. Except it’s not.
I’m incredibly happy to be here but I miss everything imaginable about Ireland. I miss how green it is, how there’s nowhere more beautiful when the sun shines, how everyone is as mental as the next and my god, I miss the craic!! There truly is nowhere in the world better than our little island when it comes to being free spirited and having fun. I miss all our weird and wonderful phrases and slang, which I now use more than ever, for fear of forgetting them. I love how we’re all a “bit mad” but in the best way, how non judgemental we are of each other, and how no matter what it’ll all be “grand”. I miss my family and friends beyond words but I’m grateful of how easy it is to talk to them every day with modern technology. We visited the Immigration Museum yesterday which really cemented how lucky we are compared to those who made the journey before us.
I’m lucky that I made this journey with my best friend. There is no way I could have done this without her. A lot of people say that travelling with someone can be challenging on your relationship but I can honestly say it hasn’t with ours. If I’m having a shit day and it all seems too much and home seems further away than usual, then Vicky’s the stronger person for both of us, and vice versa. It’s a complete partnership. If we both didn’t sadly love men so much, then I’m pretty sure we would be married by now.
As much as I miss home, I know that it will always be exactly that, and that I need to enjoy this adventure while I’m here. Melbourne’s an amazing city – it literally has something for everyone. It really reminds me of San Francisco so if you’ve been there and enjoyed it, you will love it here. It’s a city of music, street art, diverse culture, good coffee, delicious brunch spots and plenty of rooftop bars. Melbourne has me for now but home will always be the end game so for now I’m looking forward to all the adventures Australia has to offer me in between that.
I hope anyone who is thinking of following in our footsteps and coming to Australia, doesn’t find my honesty off-putting and instead helpful. If anyone has any questions, please shoot them my way, I’d be delighted to help in any way I could!