February - October 2014
A 252-day adventure by Paul Read more
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  • Day 1

    The first weeks in the Valley

    February 11, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Brisbane’s most lively party quarter is known to the locals as ‘the valley’. My first hostel away from home was Bunk backpackers, located centrally within this Valley, or Fortitude Valley if you are looking for it on a map. The hostel itself was 5 floors high, with a colourfully painted interior and typically Australian dry humour staff at the reception. I checked in with Amy into a dorm room for a week to settle in and get acquainted with the surroundings. As I’m writing this just over a year after I arrived first time in brissy I can’t quite remember all I did during my first few weeks there other than settle in with the other travelling backpackers and start hunting for a job. I managed to get a working for accommodation position in the kitchen at bunk but this was 26 hours a week, unpaid. Not enjoyable. I didn’t really get on with the main chef either, I don’t think many people did but there was a second chef, another traveller from England called Ben. He was a lot more chilled out and relatable because he had been in the same position as me. Eventually I got to know and hang with the bar tenders and glassies there that ran the place and learnt how a bar works behind the taps. I was asked to work as a glassie myself one evening eventually and got given an actual paid position doing it finally, I realised it was stupid to work for accommodation when you can work for money and pay for a room and still have left overs for food. If you’re not being paid, you’ll still need to pay for your own food and drink etc. And the main hobby that I wanted to pick up was kitesurfing, which wasn’t cheap.

    Working in the bar though was a lot of fun, the music was good enough to dance to most of the time and the staff there were great. I’d not worked in a bar environment before so it was refreshing and new and exciting, nothing like working behind a desk from 8-5, so I loved it!
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  • Day 6

    The Breedlove

    February 16, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    Bunk was great, I met lots of great people there, but it got to the point where the work for accommodation area was too crowded and unclean. It was mostly French people actually, fanny and her friend, and couple of French guys. The guys ended up getting kicked out in the end for stealing bottles of alcohol from behind the bar working in the kitchen there. There was a girl called Penny who worked behind the reception and another girl from the Netherlands I think, she played guitar as well and one night came back from a night busking with 140 bucks! That was enough for a whole weeks rent and a few meals! In one night! I was determined to get my own guitar and keep practicing and work towards busking for my own upkeep in Australia! I did a lot of browsing online and searched in local stores for second hand guitars but nothing felt right. You can tell a great guitar the first time you hold it. It has a certain sound; deep, resonant, warm. Nothing I tried was what I wanted, everything under 200 bucks was good for first timers, but I wanted a guitar I’d be happy to carry the length of Australia with me, and ultimately take home. On Gumtree of all places I found a few options and then one came up for a second hand breedlove. Advertised for $390 it was a little above my original price range, without having a solid income yet and after spending a large chunk on kitesurfing i was running low on funds fast already but I still wanted to get my hands on the guitar. The description was perfect, electro acoustic so good for playing gigs and it looked like no other acoustic guitar I’d ever seen. I arranged to meet the seller and as soon as I held it I knew it was the guitar I had to have, with guitars I always go with my gut and I’m so glad I did. I’ve ended up busking across the entire length of the Queensland coast line with it and it has paid back for itself at least 4 or 5 times over. And I recently discovered that it’s actually worth just over a grand to buy a new one. One day I’ll write an email to Breedlove and let them know how far this one guitar has travelled and how much I adore their workmanship. I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to it. I’ve got to survive riding a bike through Vietnam with this guitar on my back over the next 3 weeks. Wish me luck!Read more

  • Day 10

    The first day job

    February 20, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    I met a lot of other backpackers at Bunk, a lot of fun and friendly people. The more you travel, the more you get to trust other travellers, I’d only been in Australia for a few weeks but I started worrying about the job situation. One or two shifts as a glassie per week at Bunk, I needed to get more funds in order to break even.

    I picked up a couple of manual jobs here and there, a crate unload one day was a nice introduction to Australia's heat (see photo attached, it was hot as hell in there!)

    A few other guys at the hostel were working as removal men so I gave that a go for a couple of days. It’s funny how after managing to move about three houses worth of stuff in one day, it makes moving house seem less stressful than a lot of people make it out to be. It doesn’t take as long as you’d think. Unfortunately though I ended up pulling my back out deadlifting with Ben in the gym and I don’t know what happened to my thumb but I couldn’t put any weight on it and it still bothers me to this day. I got it ultra scanned up in Cairns about 7 months later and I’ve got a ganglionic growth between the bones or something that needs surgery to fix but it’s a really risky op, so 1, it’s expensive and 2, if they fuck up I’ll be a lot worse than I was to start with. You use your thumbs a lot, especially if you only have a phone to type onto when you’re on a 30 hour bus from Vientiane to Hanoi!
    Anyways, back to history.
    At this removal job I spent my first few days working with a crazy Brazilian dude, can’t remember his name but he was fun to work with. We picked up heavy stuff from out of houses and storage locations, it would have been a good job if not for the injuries. I wouldn’t have needed a gym membership at least.
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  • Day 16

    Kite surfing!

    February 26, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Sandgate Beach. Give me flat, shallow waters, and wind in a good direction, and let me kite surf!

    This place is perfect for learning how to fly a big ass kite to pull yourself along the water with. The first time I went was with a couple of guys from Bunk Hostel, and got my first lessons from surf connect. I'd wanted to head to Australia in the first place to pick this hobby up properly, and I can't wait to get back to it. It's one of the most technically challenging and rewarding sports I think I've ever tried. It's also hella frustrating if you unhook the kite with the safety leash unhooked, but that's another story!

    The first lesson was on basic kite control, wind direction and safety. The second lesson was getting out further to sea and getting up on the board!

    The first time I tried to get going however, I ended up giving the kite a little too much power, launched myself a good couple of feet out of the water, and then used my unfinished training to gracefully fail at the landing, and subsequently lost the gopro that was strapped to my head.

    If anyone picks that up, I'm sure they'll have some interesting and exciting footage!
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  • Day 30

    Moving homes.

    March 12, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    From moving other people’s homes to moving my own.
    The work for accommodation job really started to suck.
    24 hours a week with no pay took the energy out of you when all you did when you got off shift was hunt for other jobs. And the free accommodation you got was far from 5 star. Not even 2 star. In fact it was crawling with ants, I had no personal space for any of my stuff and the chef I worked with was a bit of a dick.
    I’d heard about Base backpackers at the centre of Brisbane from a few different people, and they had the down under bar underneath where we went drinking on Wednesdays sometimes (as well as more wet T shirt competitions) I was still working in Birdees as a kitchen hand and a glassie, but I was being paid for my glassy hours. I decided to move out, quit the kitchen hand hours and just do the glassy shifts. So I didn't lose out on the wet t-shirt privileges. I turned out now I potentially had two if I wanted.

    The money from that could just about pay for a weeks rent at Base so I picked up my stuff and checked out. I was 5 minutes up the road before I got picked up by an off duty bus and ended scoring a free ride. Win.

    I remember the main entrance to Base smelt a little stale and the walls were peeling but the reception staff were cool and the people staying there were chilled out so I settled in really fast. I ended up meeting a guy in the downstairs computer / desk area one night after playing Dota 2 with my brother till God knows when and he was just finishing up his work for acomm position in the down under bar kitchen! He told me to go and speak to Oli or curt to take over his time slot!

    The next day I went down and spoke to Oli who took me in for a trial shift on Sunday afternoon. I got there on time and did my thing and secured my place at Base for free! This time only working 15 hours a week!
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  • Day 32

    X Base, Central

    March 14, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    I met two rad Germans while I was staying at Base, Hugo and Max. Hugo was leaving aus soon so was sleeping in the TV room without paying for the first few times I met him and Max was looking for a job at the time I think. One night I remember was daring Hugo to snort salt for 5 bucks which he agreed to without hesitation. If you’ve ever tried it you’ll know he immediately regretted it.

    Anyways Max was working as a solar panel salesman door knocking around the suburbs of the city for a company called biosolar. I wasn’t getting enough hours at Birdees so I asked him to hook me up with an interview.
    I had been to a couple of other interviews, one charity one which seemed more about making money and giving people a career than actually helping the charities. I still donate to the world wildlife fund for nature when I can, and maybe one day I’ll head to South Africa and set up a black market demand for poacher skulls. One day.

    But anyways, biosolar. I emailed in to the contact Max gave me, I thought he was pulling my leg at first because I thought Justin Mabutt was one of those names Moe calls out for in his pub on the Simpsons. But he was a real person, and a genuinely nice guy as well. I got called up for an interview with short notice and I had to ask the chef Oliver to leave early on shift to get to the interview on time. A lot of people seemed scared of Oli because he had a short temper, but when you are a chef you have to get things done right, cleanly and quickly for the satisfaction of customers,but so long as you respected his kitchen he was a good boss. Anyway, he let me go for it.

    The interview was at the biosolar headquarters in wooloongabba, along side a vegan health food restaurant and yoga studio, run by the ceo’s fiancé. I felt like this place was cool already, and authentic. Leather sofas, a water dispenser and a cute receptionist at the desk in the entrance area accompanied me while I waited. They also had a few rows of old solar panels stocked against the wall so you could get close to the technology.

    The interview itself was a simple arrangement. Personal introductions, a group chat, sell us this object as a team in front of everyone. The energy in the room emanating from the main manager, Sunny, was evident and made me feel excited to actually join the company. I think the guys were impressed by my education and accent and confirmed my place after I spoke to them personally after the group interview was over. I’d never felt that getting a job was being like welcomed into a family before but at biosolar, that’s what it was like.
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  • Day 57

    Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

    April 8, 2014 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    While at Base in Brisbane I joined in on the Sunday BBQ one day and ended up winning a pair of tickets to the lone pine koala sanctuary south of Brisbane, the girl that picked my number to win was cute so I invited her to come with me, it seemed only fair. I’m glad I invited her now as well as we crossed paths on Phi Phi island in Thailand and just bumped into each other again in Vienna!
    It was a great day out and well worth going to visit if you’re in the Brisbane area. You can feed kangaroos and meet some awesome birds of prey, as well as some wild rainbow parakeets around 2pm that fly in to get fed! You can even get your photo taken with a koala, there are a tonne of famous people that have been there with their photos on the walls in the main shop, I distinctly remember George R.R. Martins face being one of them!
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